Companies are putting more and more effort into identifying and addressing the trials and tribulations customers encounter when interacting with them to create the best possible buying and use experience. Referred to as customer experience (and often abbreviated to CX), it’s inclusive of the customer’s journey from initial brand awareness to purchase, the customer’s interactions with the brand’s many touchpoints prior to and during use, and the environments the customer encounters during use of and interaction with the product or service. Brands find the greatest success and differentiate themselves from competitors by focusing on delivering an effortless experience that ensures each of those touchpoints and experiences are consistent and contribute positively to the customer’s overall journey.
It’s by no means an easy nut to crack. There are many scenarios to consider. And while it would seem much of the effort goes into what the customer sees, the truth is there’s just as much to consider and get right that the customer will never observe. In fact, if the behind-the-scenes activities aren’t working, there’s little chance of having a positive CX, let alone improving it.
Alignment and Teamwork
I’ll start with probably the most important piece of the puzzle. It would seem obvious, yet despite a lot of research and discussion on this topic, not all companies have put the customer first in their approach to doing business. A focus on the customer is critical, and to truly adopt a customer-centric culture it needs to come from the top.
Executives must consistently place the highest value on the customer experience. As Dan Hesse, former Sprint CEO, stated in the Forbes article “the customer experience became the first subject on our team meeting agendas.” In actions such as these, not only is the importance of getting it right for customers demonstrated, but it helps to tear down the work silos that exist in the company.
Cooperatively Solving Problems
Aligning the company to focus on customers is a good first step, as is removing the silos in the business. The next step is to get customer issues solved properly and permanently.
When customers encounter problems–in tracking and receiving their shipment, in getting started with it, or something related to its use–they will contact customer service. Customer service is ground zero for customer issues that affect CX–they see and hear it all. They are the detectives uncovering the clues as to what is creating problems in the customer experience.
But customer service can’t really address the reasons problems occur. Billing issues stem from finance. Product quality issues reside in manufacturing or engineering. Shipping issues are owned by the warehouse and fulfillment teams. Customer service can capture the customers’ problems but these other departments own resolving the underlying issues.
Working with customer service, these other departments must take ownership of the issue, identify the cause and potential solutions, and agree to the best solution with customer service. With an agreed-upon solution, customer service can notify the customer of its availability and get the customer back on track.
The thing to remember is that though some customers may experience an issue, a fast and cooperative response to addressing it will lessen the CX impact for that customer. The bigger win results from addressing the root cause; this ensures later customers won’t encounter the issue, resulting in a positive CX improvement.
Exercising Proactive Service
We have established a perfect customer experience is challenging. There will be bumps in the road. Sometimes a problem only affects one customer but often it involves a subset or even all customers–and that’s where it becomes critical to quickly identify the root cause and to provide a resolution. And when a company knows or suspects a problem will affect a subset or all of its customers, this will seriously affect CX. What can they do? The answer is simple: the company must notify customers they are aware of the problem and have (or are working towards) a solution.
Facing a problem with a product or service is frustrating. Customers spend valuable time trying to find a solution themselves or contacting customer service. CX is affected. But by preemptively notifying the customer of an existing or pending solution, there is an opportunity to demonstrate good customer service and salvage the situation.
Putting It All Together
When most consider the concept of CX, they are thinking about those moments when a customer is interacting with a product from first awareness of it and on to purchase and use. But this isn’t the complete picture. There is critical orchestration necessary outside what the customer sees to provide the best possible experience.
Ensuring the best possible CX must include building and maintaining a customer-oriented culture within a company. When problems occur–and they will!–customer service must take the lead on triaging issues and working with other departments to solve problems permanently so other customers aren’t also confronted by them. And when possible, the use of proactive service does wonders to mitigate customer frustration.