Everything is in the Design

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I am irritated by companies who say they are giving excellent customer experience, but their promise is like an empty box.

Creating an authentic customer experience in service involves:

A holistic approach to service design ; considering every service aspect from end to end, including the user experience and organizational processes.

It’s about looking at the bigger picture and understanding how a service’s elements interact and influence each other.

This approach should involve the following: (this list is not exhaustive)

  1. User-Centered Design (Customer-Centric):

Putting the needs and experiences of users at the forefront of the design process to ensure that services are intuitive, effective, and enjoyable to use.

  1. Understand your Customers:

Example: If you’re an e-commerce, analyze customer behavior on your website. Understand their preferences, purchase history, and pain points. Spend time doing proper market research. To understand your customers, go in the field, talk to potential customers, and visit the competition. If you are a hotel, visit other businesses to see what they are doing.

  1. Define Customer Personas:

Create detailed personas based on demographics, behaviors, and needs. For instance, if you’re a tech company, differentiate between a tech-savvy user and a beginner. For a fast food restaurant, distinguish between takeaway customers and eat-in customers.

  1. Map Customer Journey and Create a Service Blueprint:

Plot the customer journey from awareness to post-purchase support. Identify touchpoints where you can enhance the experience, such as a seamless checkout process. Remember that customer segments are different as each customer has different purchasing behaviors.

Once your customer journey is finalized, create your Service Blue Print. Always start with the customer actions part. After that, you can fill in the other sections:

-Line of interaction, line of visibility, and line of internal interaction

– Front-stage actions, including employees’ actions and technology. For example, in a restaurant, the service is the front-stage action.

– Backstage actions. For instance, in a restaurant, the kitchen is the backstage action. However, if you have live cooking, the kitchen can be considered both front and backstage actions.

– Support processes can also be linked to logistics. Without logistics, no business can function. For example, purchasing, payment processes, and IT development can be part of support processes.

– Physical evidence

  1. Have a Cross-functional Collaboration:

Bring together stakeholders from different departments or disciplines to ensure that all aspects of the service are considered and integrated seamlessly. A proper customer journey mapping and service BluePrint design needs cross-functional collaboration. Cross-functional collaboration is to work together and involves breaking down silos between departments or disciplines within an organization to leverage diverse skills, perspectives, and resources. Effective cross-functional collaboration can improve innovation, problem-solving, decision-making, and organizational performance. Critical elements of successful cross-functional collaboration include clear communication, mutual respect, shared goals, and a collaborative culture that values diversity and inclusion.

  1. Cross-collaboration helps for better Systems Thinking:

Systems thinking is an approach to problem-solving and analysis that views systems as interconnected wholes rather than a collection of isolated parts. It emphasizes understanding how different elements within a system interact and how these interactions create patterns and behaviors over time. Instead of focusing solely on individual components, systems thinking considers the relationships, feedback loops, and dynamics that shape the entire system’s behavior.

For example, in a restaurant, the interconnectivity of the kitchen and service is critical for customer satisfaction.

This perspective is precious in addressing complex issues where multiple factors influence outcomes. By considering the system as a whole, systems thinking helps identify underlying causes, anticipate unintended consequences, and develop more effective solutions.

We can compare the system thinking approach to an orchestra. In an orchestra, all musicians should play the same harmony. If you have to play Mozart but during the concert, out of the fifteen musicians, one musician starts playing Beethoven, one Bach, and one Brahms, it will be a cacophony. That applies also to companies.

  1. Use and Iterative Prototyping approach:

Iterative prototyping is a development approach where a product or system is built incrementally through a series of iterations, each involving feedback, testing, and refinement. Rather than attempting to create a perfect final version from the start, iterative prototyping acknowledges that requirements and understanding evolve and embraces a continuous improvement process. Overall, iterative prototyping is valuable for developing products and systems in a dynamic and uncertain environment, allowing for constant improvement and innovation.

If we take a hotel/restaurant example, once your property is ready to operate, you should have a one-week soft opening to ensure that all systems function correctly for guest satisfaction.

Iterating is good, but remember the continual improvement approach (Deming Wheel – https://www.lean.org/lexicon-terms/pdca/).

Based on analytics, customer feedback, and market trends, continuously refine your customer experience strategy. Collecting feedback through surveys or reviews and actively implementing changes based on customer suggestions will show customers that their opinions matter and that you stay adaptable and ready to evolve. In a changing VUCA environment (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous), you must be agile to act quickly.

  1. Create a Seamless Omnichannel Experience by leveraging technology:

Leveraging technology for customer experience involves using digital tools, AI, and platforms to enhance every touchpoint a customer has with a brand, from initial awareness to post-purchase support.

“Omnichannel” refers to a marketing and sales approach that provides customers with a seamless and integrated shopping experience across multiple online and offline channels. An omnichannel strategy focuses on creating a cohesive experience for customers regardless of the channels they use to interact with a brand or make purchases.

Example: If a customer starts a purchase on your website, make sure they can easily continue on your mobile app. Maintain a consistent experience whether they interact through social media, email, or in-store.

  1. Investing in your employee by hiring, onboarding, and training :

Empowerment and engagement are crucial for ensuring that they can effectively contribute to delivering exceptional customer experiences. Employees who feel supported and motivated are better equipped to meet customer needs and exceed expectations.

Employees are your Brand Ambassadors. Employees who are passionate about their work and believe in the company’s values can effectively represent the brand. Their enthusiasm can influence customers positively and create a lasting impression.

Well-trained employees possess in-depth knowledge about the products or services they offer. This expertise enables them to address customer inquiries, instilling brand confidence effectively. Consistency is critical in delivering a seamless customer experience. Employees who adhere to company standards and guidelines ensure that customers receive consistent service across all touchpoints.

Positive interactions with employees can foster customer loyalty and increase retention rates. Customers are more likely to return to a company where they feel valued and appreciated by the staff. (Do not forget the Service Profit Chain Model – https://www.questionpro.com/blog/service-profit-chain/)

And we should remember that no customer experience can see the day without authentic Leadership.

Leadership plays a critical role in creating exceptional customer experiences by:

Vision Setting: Effective leaders clearly envision the desired customer experience and ensure that it aligns with the organization’s values and goals. This vision provides a guiding light for the team to follow.

Empowerment: Leaders empower their teams to make decisions and take actions that prioritize customer satisfaction. They trust their employees to do what’s right for the customer, which fosters a culture of ownership and accountability.

Training and Development: Leaders invest in the training and development of their teams to ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to deliver exceptional customer experiences. This includes ongoing coaching, feedback, and opportunities for growth.

Communication: Effective communication is critical to ensuring that everyone in the organization understands the importance of customer experience and their role in delivering it. Leaders communicate the vision, expectations, and any changes or updates related to customer experience initiatives. Leaders should have an open door policy and walk the talk.

Lead by Example: Leaders set the tone for customer-centric behavior by modeling the desired behaviors. When employees see their leaders prioritizing the customer, they are likelier to do the same.

(Remember the fish stinks from the head)

Feedback Loop: Leaders establish mechanisms for continuously collecting feedback from customers and employees to improve the customer experience. They use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.

Culture Building: Leaders cultivate a customer-centric culture within the organization by recognizing and rewarding employees who go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer experiences. This reinforces the importance of customer satisfaction and motivates others to do the same.

Nothing happens by miracle. Remember, creating a real customer experience is an ongoing process that requires dedication and a customer-centric mindset. It’s about building relationships, meeting needs, and exceeding expectations.

Aristotle used to say.

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives. Choice, not chance, determines a destiny.”

Alain Najar
Alain Najar: EHL Business Hospitality school graduate, MBA-BSL Lausanne, certified trainer HES-SO-Switzerland, Certified Hospitality Educator-USA, EFQM expert, LQA mystery shopper. Worked 13 years: Hilton-11years, Sheraton, Accor, in Kuwait, Dubai, Madagascar, Syria, Egypt. He joined EHL as a senior lecturer for 30 years, teaching F&B management and Service Quality Design related to Customer Experience-CX. Currently, at the head of Najar Hospitality Consulting, he still share his knowledge as a visiting professor, delivers seminars and certifies hotels schools around the world.

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