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If you’re in business, whether as a local mom-and-pop corner shop or a global Fortune 100 corporation, you are facing the consumerization of experience. Technology, whether cell phones or laptops, are shaping customer expectations during every phase of their engagement with your company. A great experience is what attracts customers and keeps them coming back.
Recent research from McKinsey found that improving the customer experience helped businesses increase sales revenues up to 7 percent, along with influencing profitability and overall shareholder return. That means today’s leaders must work hard to deliver a great customer experience. Here are three priorities to solve for as you examine the customer experience at every touchpoint.
1. Become truly customer-focused (instead of paying it lip service)
Most organizations operate in silos throughout the sales cycle. Pre-sales starts often starts with an online product catalog, pricing, then there’s promotion, purchase, logistics, shipping. And don’t forget post-sales support. While the teams may share a goal of great customer service, each group works independently and interprets that goal differently.
The questions to ask: Are you delivering a unified customer experience or are functional seams being exposed to your customers? Can you truly rally around a customer regardless of where they are in the sales cycle? Is one person empowered to bust through the silos to create a frictionless experience?
Whether a customer walks into a store, orders online or calls you, it’s time to examine every engagement to ensure that you are easy to do business with. That requires a reorientation of what the customer experience means inside your organization, into places like pricing and logistics that go beyond those that have direct customer contact.
Which begs the next question to ask: Who owns customer experience at your organization? The CEO? Chief customer experience officer? Without ownership, there isn’t accountability. Without accountability, there’s no mandate to make the customer the center of everything you do.
To deliver a great customer experience, accountability at the executive level is vital. Each leader is then charged with modeling the desired behavior and cascading it down through their teams. A tangible metric, like a net promoter score (NPS), when embraced at the highest corporate levels, can make customer experience a shared goal of everyone in the company.
2. Prioritize frictionless service as an organizational North Star
Delivering a frictionless experience should be an important weapon in the war for talent and for customers. Achieving seamless customer service is not easy, but the benefits are real. That means that every interaction–regardless of channel, product or service, issue–is as effortless as possible for the customer. Technology is useful in overriding these functional boundaries and helping teams break down the silos to focus their efforts on the customer.
This is certainly true in economic downturns where happy customers can define a make-or-break point. Satisfied customers buy more products, increasing revenue and more than compensating for the customer acquisition cost. Customer retention or loyalty, whether you measure it in terms of churn or total lifetime value, increases as the experience improves.
As you focus on delivering a unified customer experience, ask those most familiar with the process, your employees, to find and suggest ways to address all the touch points where a customer can get frustrated or confused. Fix the big rocks, then focus on the smaller ones. This initiative is not one and down. You are after continuous improvement, driven by the employees who are the experts.
3. Focus as much on people and process (and the interaction among them) as you do on technology
When it comes to improving the customer experience, one of the first solutions organization think about is technology. Machines can improve efficiency and productivity. But the reality is that technology is now democratized; organizations all have access to the same underlying technical components. If creating a great experience was as simple as combining different technical components, then everybody would do it. You wouldn’t stand apart.
So why do some companies accelerate faster than others? What differentiates those who excel from those who don’t? Companies that turn technology into a competitive advantage pay close attention to defining the people and process needed to deliver a great experience. Other companies with access to the same technologies often wind up creating complexity, redundancy, and barriers to efficiency.
People and process are more important, if not as equally important, as technology. Figure out the people and process needed to deliver a great experience for the customer, whether they are browsing products online or seeking tech support. Then look at what technologies support delivery of a frictionless experience throughout the entire customer journey. Technology always follows.
Knitting together the threads
Taking an outside-in approach requires asking hard questions: What do customers need to engage with me? How do we remove the friction that is inherent in their interactions? How do we make the process enjoyable?
The beauty and the challenge of creating a great customer experience is knitting together all the complicated stuff behind the scenes and making it effortless for the customer. A reorientation is needed at every level of the organization for a great customer experience to become something that employees care about, internalize, and act on every day. But the result—satisfied customers and high NPS scores—are worth it.