As CX professionals are we too linear in our view of experience management? For example, service blueprinting, process documentation and journey mapping all tend to look at the customer experience in sequential steps. We describe experiences as the customer’s journey when buying our products and services. Journeys imply getting from point A to point B, often in the shortest amount of time possible by the straightest route available to us. Rather than looking at the customer experience a step at a time, perhaps we need to broaden our thinking about experience management as being a never-ending circle of experience that customers have with our products and services.
Perhaps you’re asking, what difference does it make? Whichever one we choose, don’t we eventually repeat the same process when delivering the experience as do our customers when they interact with us? That may be true. However, I believe the second approach provides us the opportunity to think differently about the customer experience as not one point in time but points of interaction over time. Creating a 360-degree customer experience that is continuous and never-ending creates an environment where everyone participates in delivering better experiences. Our reaction to handling customer inquiries, identifying broken processes, correcting order errors, or managing customer feedback might be more effective knowing we are working in collaboration with our partners standing in the circle surrounding our customers.
Using the information, data, and learnings from each step in this process can help employees improve the experience in real time. They don’t need to wait for a supervisor to tell them what to do, they can listen to the customer, identify the problem, fix it and communicate the resolution back to the customer as a single point of contact and in much less time than traditional problem resolution channels. Mistakes are going to happen, the question becomes, how fast can we recover from the mistake, not repeat it again and restore the satisfaction and loyalty of our customer.
I recently touched base with a client, Scott Eichstadt, SVP, Operations for The Sportsman’s Guide in St. Paul, Minnesota. Scott shared with me a recently executed 360-degree customer model that provides a great example of the approach I’m suggesting for an optimal customer experience. During the last several years, The Sportsman’s Guide, under Scott’s leadership, has been transforming the way it delivers support to its many customers. Like many organizations, it was impacted by the pandemic having to move its support organization remotely within days while continuing to support high demand for the products it sells. Undeterred from the impact of the pandemic, Scott and team maintained their focus on continuing to improve the customer experience despite the challenges they faced daily. Labeled as the “360 perfect form customer communication”, this straightforward and powerful tool quickly and effectively addresses customer concerns. It creates a closed-loop system by listening to the customer inquiry, empowering impacted functions within the business to take quick action and contact the customer to let them know the immediate resolution. Most importantly, it collaboratively involves all departments in resolving the customer issue and correcting the root cause of the issue.
Even when the customer may be at fault for ordering an incorrect a color or size, the Sportsman’s Guide remains relentless in pursuing a resolution that satisfies the customer rather than assigning blame. As Scott stated, “we wanted a way to acknowledge customer issues, resolve them quickly and to the satisfaction of the customer, while ensuring our internal processes were corrected. And most importantly, we closed the loop by contacting the customer directly in response to their inquiry at minimal cost. Customers have shared their surprise at our response and let us know we are outperforming our competition”. This is a great example of a win-win for customers and employees of The Sportsman’s Guide.
Here are a few tips for creating a 360-degree customer response:
1. If you’re going to collect the voice of the customer, be prepared to do something with it! Ask yourself and others in the organization, what actions have we taken to date with the feedback we’ve received”. The answer may surprise you.
2. Have a process in place to handle complaints and respond directly to customers. The time you spend now creates better customer retention and loyalty in the future.
3. Don’t just solve the problem once – ensure it doesn’t happen again by identifying where, when, how and why it happened – as part of a continuous process improvement approach.
4. View your processes as circular rather than linear to create a more engaged workforce across all functions helping to deliver your products and services.
5. Look beyond the cost of calling customers and to the long-term positive impact of creating relationships with your customers instead of treating them like transactions.
It’s not complicated to create a 360-degree customer experience, but it is beneficial to your customer’s experience and your employee’s engagement. If you’re already collecting feedback from your customers, it’s time to start acting on it, much like The Sportsman’s Guide and stand apart from your competition in the eyes of your customers!