At either the beginning or the end of every year, I am usually asked a couple of standard questions. Question 1 is typically ‘what are the key learnings of the year just gone?’ Question 2 tends to focus on what the Customer Experience theme for the following year will need to be. In my last column for CustomerThink in 2015, I am going to look at answering the first question by sharing my 5 key learnings for the year.
Over the last twelve months, I have worked in twenty countries with businesses in five different industry sectors. I have interacted with organisations who are just starting out on their Customer Experience journey and with others who are much further evolved in their mission to become more customer centric. The themes I have observed during all of my experiences are common to all – wherever they happen to be in the world and whatever industry they operate in. So let me take you through my summary of the themes one by one:
A business cannot become a more customer centric one without strong, clear leadership. Whilst we would all like to benefit from being led by a Jeff Bezos type, customer focused champion, the majority of us are quite simply not! Too many leaders are still just TALKING about the need for greater customer focus without actually making it happen. It is still so common for employees within organisations to have no common sense of purpose; no understanding of the ambition of their company; little empowerment to do the right thing for the customer; a list of business focused tasks to fulfill that do not benefit the customer; an inaccurate perception of how the customer feels about them – I could go on. At the end of the day, until leaders at all levels in all industries recognise the importance of ‘balance’ – balancing commercial goals with the needs of PEOPLE – both employees and customers, there will still be far too many who are steering ships who will constantly switch between sink and swim.
No business has ever ‘finished’ on the journey to be continuously customer centric – leaders need to understand this and acknowledge the need to develop skills and competencies of themselves and their teams to make business transformation an ongoing, never ending activity.
There is still confusion all over the world with regards to how best GOVERN Customer Experience. Whose responsibility is it? Is it the CMO, the CCO, the CXO or the COO? Is it the role of Customer Service or Sales & Marketing? There is no right or wrong way to govern Customer Experience – what is not up for debate though is clarity of WHO in your organisation is accountable for it and who in the organisation is responsible for it.
Having someone at the ‘top table’ – the ‘c-suite’ – who is accountable for ‘holding up the mirror’ when it comes to Customer Experience is advisable. The guardian of Customer Experience (CX) measurement, all organisations need someone who will ensure that CX is always prominently on the agenda and that strategic decisions are made with a conscious awareness of the effect they will have on customers. However, it is vital that EVERYONE in the organisation from top to bottom recognises their RESPONSIBILITY in delivering the intended CX – the role they play in continuously improving every touchpoint in the customer journey and every step in their business processes.
One of my clients has spent a lot of time developing ‘employee HEROES’ – the equivalent of a customer persona for employees – a brilliant way of ensuring that all employees know the role they play in delivering the CX this particular organisation wants their customers to have.
If you are unclear as to who is leading your CX charge – how your organisation is doing – what your customer focused priorities are – what role you and your team play in delivering the CX – your business is crying out for much greater governance.
It still amazes me how much time and effort is being put into the subject of CX – all over the world – for such little reward. There are so many who have great intentions to transform their businesses, but either fail to commit to making change happen, or fail to get the commitment of others to do so. Getting people to acknowledge the importance of CX is relatively easy. Gaining acknowledgement of the need to change is also not that difficult. In fact, diagnosing what is causing the problem is also not too great a stretch.
HOWEVER… seeing businesses actually COMMITTING to doing something about the things that are causing customers most distress is where the wheels are falling off. I still hear too many companies saying, ‘we know what the problems are’ – if you know what they are, then why are you not addressing them?! We are living in a business world that is swamped with data – most companies have KPIs coming out of their ears – yet when it comes to actually committing to fix the known drivers of customer dissatisfaction, PROCRASTINATION seems to be the norm.
If a business truly, authentically, genuinely wants to become more customer centric, it must make a firm COMMITMENT to understanding what its top priorities are and actually FIXING them. It needs to make a commitment to its customers and colleagues that is never ending. Customer Experience is not a fad. It is not a project. It is not a one off event. It is infinite.
I recently wrote about the need for developing further EDUCATION in the field of Customer Experience. I believe that one of the great issues we are still facing is the fact that there are too many people who do not actually understand what CX is. Businesses assume that everyone knows what CX is and what their role is in delivering it, but too few ever provide people with real education in the subject.
CX is now recognised by many as a profession. It is a skillset as well as a mindset. Unless you invest in giving your people the understanding of it – the skills, methods and techniques that define it – it will be very difficult to see any demonstrable change in the experiences your customers will have.
I have also written about and spoken a lot about EMOTION throughout 2015. Understanding how it FEELS to be an employee and a customer of your organisation sounds so SIMPLE – yet it I still find it astonishing how many people in businesses do not know. I have asked hundreds of people this year how it FEELS to be an employee across their ‘current state customer journeys’ – far too many have struggled to answer the question. Quite simply – they do not know.
Other CX commentators are echoing my sentiments about the importance of reconnecting emotionally with customers. It is only when we understand how we make customers feel that we are able to empathise with them. Empathy leads to advocacy. Advocacy leads to loyalty. Loyalty leads to growth – who wouldn’t want that?
So there you have it – just five themes from 2015 – I am sure you may be able to add more. What is clear is that there is still plenty to do!! The world is a very long way from being truly customer centric – and is likely to be for many years to come. However, the journey continues. One thing that will never change is the fact that all of our organisations have customers. Those customers will always have needs and expectations. The better able we are to meet their needs and expectations, the more likely it is those customers will want to keep interacting with us. The more this happens, the greater the likelihood our organisations will make more money. Simple right?
Many thanks to all those who have read and supported my column in 2015. May I wish you a very happy holiday and a successful, customer focused 2016!