Customer Experience 101 – The Five Must Haves for Successful Transformation

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The phone rings. The call comes from the CEO. He has been reading again – this time it is the Time magazine article “Could 2013 be the year that customer service gets better”. He wants these loyal customers, he wants them to try new products and services. And he wants them to become advocates spreading good news about his company. He has seen a bright, sunny future – improving customer service is clearly a no-brainer.

“There is a whole world of opportunity out there. We need a customer experience strategy and we need it quick!”

Emphatic and he’s not finished, “We need a digital strategy. I want webchat, and twitter, and facebook. And we need forums”.

But here’s the rub “the City expect us to remain efficient so lets not lose sight of the metrics and for goodness sake remember that our speed to market is what brings in the profits!”

Hours are spent in the Boardroom with version after version of Powerpoint. The strategy is carefully designed and deployed with the speed that the business is renowned for. Months pass and the contact centre productivity measures are rock solid, employee engagement has dropped back a little but the customer satisfaction metrics have not moved an inch.

“I have invested in training and we have decorated the contact centres. Why isn’t this working – do the advisors simply not care about our customers?!” And right there is where most customer experience strategies fall over.

For customer experience strategy to land successfully it has to be built into the DNA of the business and not be “A Project” or even given the heady label of “A Strategic Project”. It has to be more intrinsic than that; it has to be believed in. We think that the FIVE must haves to enable a positive environment for customer experience to thrive are:

1 Co-create the strategy with advisors and customers. They know what is wrong now and what needs fixed. If you involve them they become part of the cultural transformation. If you don’t involve them it is just another passing fad from the corner office.

2 The cultural transformation can’t be kept in silos. It must be designed-in and embedded everywhere from product development through to marketing – no-one should be immune. Inconvenience to a customer should be considered an organisational failure.

3 Customer experience isn’t about widgets (as us old guys say) or apps as the kids are calling them. Bolting a fancy web solution onto a bad or broken process doesn’t fool a customer for a second.

4 The old metrics don’t work. Focussing on productivity measures in customer operations means that there is no headroom for advisors to just “do the right thing” for the customer. Operational headroom and empowerment are what separates the great customer focussed companies from the wannabes. It is true that you can manage what you measure – but how about a wild ride to see if doing the right thing for customers pays back

5 You need to trust the front line. Trust pays dividends and customers can feel it in their conversations. Train what “the right thing” looks like and leave the rule book in the drawer. These empowered advisors, treated like adults will deliver for you.

The customer experience battle could be lost, but won’t be won in the Boardroom. As management guru Peter Drucker said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with what you’ve described. Much like with performance management, there’s talk and lots of activity and virtually no change. I anything customer service has worsened, or at least that’s what the research seems to say.

    I think your five points are good ones, and I suggested some twenty years ago, in an article entitled Gathering Customer Satisfaction Data Every Staff Member A Researcher, that there’s gold “down there”. (http://work911.com/articles/custres.htm )

    But when I see things stagnate in areas where it’s clear WHAT needs to be done, I always look to whether there’s WILL to change. Incentive. It’s not there.

    Why? The truth is you don’t have to offer stellar customer service to succeed in most businesses, and in most niches. I wish it were not so, but it is. Companies aren’t making the investments because they don’t have to, and doing so does not necessarily make them more profitable.

    Some (very few) companies will elevate profits via customer service. Most will not. Some WILL die as a result of lousy service, but not very many, depending on industry (e.g. high end restaurants and hotels MUST have it). Motel 6, no.

    There isn’t the will, and there isn’t the incentive.

  2. Many thanks for the comment Richard. I agree with you to an extent.

    Firstly, a lot of companies have no incentive at the moment because it is not hurting them. So many industries have poor service and no imperative to change as all there competitors do too – I am thinking about car rental in particular as I write. But what if a competitor or new entrant tightened up their service – instantly the dynamics, profitability and survival prospects of the industry transform.

    And secondly, companies are struggling with the maths – they are getting 2+2=5. For years as a commercial financier I built cost of failure models that I didn’t really believe – costs were real, future benefits were nebulous – the status-quo was safer. But when I parked the scepticism I saw a different paradigm. What if staff turnover was lower, what if customer churn was lower, what if there were less complaints, less compensation, what if you needed lower management ratios as your people were motivated? When I looked at 10/10 differently I could see opportunity for higher profits from a service approach.

    These benefits won’t come just by wanting them to though. They need a laser focus, consistent execution and engaging the whole team.

  3. Wow. you said it better than I did. Love: “costs were real, future benefits were nebulous”. That’s a very profound statement.

    You’d think we’d have more companies stepping up so as to stand out from their competitors as you mention, and while it’s possible, a lot will depend on the industry. I’ve stated elsewhere though, that contrary to popular belief, customer service does not often, or even usually differentiate a company in the marketplace. Sometimes. Not often.

    Why Customer Service Won’t Differentiate Brands In The Market Place. And It’ll Get Less Important In The USA – http://customerservicezone.com/art/differentiator.htm

  4. Thanks for sharing Robert – that is a really interesting article. I don’t think we are miles away – I’m not a big fan of wow’ing the customer either – I advocate getting the basics right and ensuring that customers feel valued.

    From my past life I KNOW the costs of failure – if you get the basics right and embed the culture those costs WILL go away. Customers will probably buy more from you and are less likely to buy from your competitors. Price doesn’t need to go up for good customer service if you eliminate the waste – but eliminate it in an orderly manner.

    The companies that give poor service now and make good profits have no imperative to change. The graveyard of broken corporates is littered with companies like that – it tends not to be a traumatic passing but rather a slow wasting away of their relevance and power.

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