Cutting through the fog to improve customer experience
There’s no shortage of information on how to improve your customers’ experience and plenty of models and frameworks to simplify and codify an approach. Rather than add yet another framework I am pulling together a set of what might be termed hallmarks of good customer experience practice. I call these ‘foglights’ as they illuminate what it means to be a genuinely customer-centric organisation.
Here’s the initial cut – with more details to follow via posts on the blog:
Customer-centric organisations use data about their customers (and potential customers) to gain deep insight into their to current and future propositions. They ensure their antennae are tuned in to both the positive and the negative – with complaints in particular providing a rich source of information.
If strategy is the big, important stuff that an organisation needs to do to be successful then a customer-centric organisation makes the customer a central part of their strategy: mission and vision statements will include powerful statements of how customers are treated and strategic initiatives will most likely include areas such as journey simplification and improving ease of access to services.
A desire to provide an outstanding experience is embedded deep in the cultural DNA of customer-centric organisations. Visible manifestations of this can include, internally: celebrations of customer success, leaders articulating what customers value open discussion of areas that need to be improved and, externally, a reputation for outstanding customer service.
Leaders have a key role in shaping the culture of an organisation to be more customer-centric, through what they talk about, what they celebrate, and the ‘rules’ they underline in their dealings with colleagues. This doesn’t just come from the top: leaders at all levels ‘walk the talk’ by keeping customers in view day in and day out, whether they are in the front line or buried deep in the operation.
Culture emerges through stories that the organisation tells about itself and, more importantly, through the stories that customers tell – i.e. the public reputation it enjoys (or not). One low-cost airline has become famous for providing a mediocre service to its customers but now recognises – perhaps belatedly – that having a set of customers who grudgingly accept poor experience as the price of a low airfare is not beneficial and has set about changing the perceptions, and is now attributing recent success to this change.
Moments of joy
Organisations attempting to be customer-centric often identify ‘moments of truth’ or ‘magic moments’ – referring to outstanding customer experiences. The first of these suggests that most of the time the organisation is engaged in deception and the second invokes some kind of supernatural force. Frequently the would-be customer-centric organisation then attempts to institutionalise these moments through training or other programmes.
I like to use the term ‘moments of joy’ where customers feel a positive emotional connection with the organisation as a result of a particular experience. Whatever you call them, these moments are more likely to happen where people are enabled to be human in their dealings with customers.
Respectful approach to feedback
‘Your feedback is important to us’ is an old cliché and I’m observing an increasing amount of important feedback that I am requested to provide. Truly customer-centric companies have a discerning approach to feedback and recognise that over-requesting feedback is likely to be a turn-off for even the most enthusiastic advocate. They will balance satisfaction and NPS surveys at the point of contact with other techniques such as focus groups and comparative surveys.
Proactive complaint management
Ah, complaints, if only we could be like the cobweb-strewn complaints department of a well-known lager brand in an advert from a few years back, life would be great, no? Well no, actually it wouldn’t, as the moment when things go wrong for the customer is the moment when a) we get free advice on what’s wrong with our processes b) we get a chance to create a delighted customer.
Truly customer-centric organisations are proactive in their approach to managing complaints and that means three things:
- Predicting the likely areas of complaint before they occur.
- Managing the complaint quickly and providing adequate and appropriate redress.
- Getting feedback from the customer and from the process about complaints performance, and using this as input into 1.
There’s always more to be done in improving customer experience, and the problem that most organisations face is there’s always more to be done in improving IT systems, operational processes, organisation structures and countless other things that any enterprise will face to stay in the game. The hallmark of a truly customer-centric organisation is that it will prioritise customer improvement not to the exclusion of all else but either alongside or integrated with other programmes – in the latter case these programmes will have to be able to demonstrate meaningful improvements that impact customers in order to progress.