Great companies are like beautiful clocks; they’ve got a lot of moving parts that all have to work together in order for the whole to be successful. Again and again I’ve found, however, that they can be distilled into three key categories: people, process and technology. Getting these to align and synergize requires a clear roadmap centered around the customer experience.
Why customer experience is critical
You can measure customer experience with a variety of perception, channel and business performance metrics, such as satisfaction, net promoter score and profitability by customer and segment. Depending on the industry, some metrics might be more important to hone in on than others, but the customer experience influences virtually every aspect of a business, from product development to risk management to inventory. Analyzing your experience data effectively means that you can differentiate customers based on value (current and potential), allocate resources accordingly and grow based on these insights.
Putting customers first results in dramatic changes to both process and company culture. For instance, thinking becomes less siloed and more collaborative; empathy-based learning always trumps a mechanical approach, and employees need to be actively engaged in improvements to the experience rather than just hearing that they need to “be better”. Instead of simply coping with difficulties and not really understanding the solution process, workers should enjoy an open, unified environment, and truly use their expertise to evolve the business.
How to improve your customer experience maturity
You can view customer experience as being on a spectrum. On one end is a business which is customer-oblivious — has zero interest in customer complaints and lacks a sufficient system to track them. On the opposite side is a company that is customer-driven — one that responds with zero latency, sports sophisticated and automated feedback management, and has a highly intelligent and intent-driven process platform. The goal is to be as close to the right side of the spectrum as possible, which hinges on four key areas of activity:
Customer behavior can sometimes seem mysterious, as if they’re speaking an entirely different language. But good listening, which utilizes a full range of qualitative and quantitative measures — such as direct customer observations, retention, customer service metrics (e.g., trust score), data aggregation, analytics and reporting (e.g., complaints) — helps translate customer actions into better-focused service, as well as new opportunities. For example, you can figure out which service or product offerings to explore, or which communication platforms will reach customers most effectively. Technology is an increasingly integral part of this listening process, with options such as AI making data collection and analysis easier than ever.
Every employee, regardless of role, has a direct or indirect influence on the customer experience, so needs to understand their impact and agree to individually and collectively focus on the customer. Strategies such as cross-functional conversations (e.g., customer experience summits), best practice sharing and communication (e.g., codifying policies) and customer advocacy (e.g., steering committees) all help staff members to collaborate, create new processes and structures and achieve accountability.
Employees are always your best brand advocates. They interact with customers at virtually every step of the business journey, so are the people with the greatest potential to sway what buyers think and do. When workers are highly engaged, customers have a better experience, and your organization’s relationships with those buyers become more profitable. This is why you should select, train and reward staff members based on the customer experience perspective. Communicate a clear experience strategy, so that they are empowered and committed, no matter what role they play.
This is where you take all the customer insights you have and use them to change the business. In a “quick start” model, you can transform an organization in just 90 days, divided into three one-month phases.
In the first month, everything is about figuring out goals. Learn what regulations you need to follow to meet those objectives and work to get people initially committed. In the next month, identify which metrics you can use to best decode listeners’ language. Make short-term plans for how you’ll communicate and socialize, and build a business case for your strategies. During the last month, execute and bring these discovered metrics into your regular operations. Get some quick wins and design your engagement model, then shift to long-term planning and work on model improvement. Every department and process should be audited to ensure that it enforces this new vision, from the way your company is structured to the technology utilized to listen and deliver.
Keep in mind that listening to customers is an ongoing process, and that the work of designing new service delivery strategies is, too. It is acceptable (and arguably necessary) for your organization to adapt multiple times to better serve customers over its lifetime, provided that you stay connected to the brand voice and story.
With a zoomed-out view, a brand stays competitive
Improving the customer experience isn’t just a project or program. Rather, it’s about fundamentally shifting how everyone in an organization thinks and behaves. Although customers need to be part of the process, they are not the only people in the stakeholder universe. Lawmakers, trade groups, analysts and vendors are stakeholders, too. So, as you try to implement the four areas above, make sure you are zoomed out enough. Get everyone involved and collaborate, with complete transparency. When everyone is committed and connected, you’ll have a strong, heightened sense of collective ownership for the business that will inspire innovation and protect and grow your brand.