Customer by Design - The Centre of Everything!
By Andrew Crabb, CIO, TR Group
The concept of customer experience and for being customer centric is by no means a new concept but what does it mean to you and where does it start and stop.
The role of managing and enhancing the customer experience isn’t just the role of the Account Manager, Relationship Manager or service personnel. It’s not even constrained to the contact points within your organization.
Customer Experience must be considered in every part of an organization, from product development through to process design. In pre-sales—gaining an in-depth understanding of the actual needs of your customer (as opposed to what they ask for), methods and frequency of communication and ensuring these discussions are delivered in a way your client relates to.
By way of example, at TR Group when a customer approaches us about leasing a truck, we seek to understand the actual use the vehicle will be put to. The answer to these questions will be to ensure that the vehicle proposed is suitable for the task—which may or may not be the brand or type the customer enquired about. This is a journey we take the customer on as knowing trucks in-depth; we can explain why and take the customer through our rationale. We also walk through the configuration options and ensure the final product is one that will do a great job for the customer.
We also look at options to satisfy any gap in product delivery or customer need. Heavy vehicles take time to build and configure to spec, but that doesn’t mean it’s not required now. Are there options to satisfy their need in the short term while the final solution is being built? In our case, we look to provide a rental vehicle with similar spec/capability to satisfy the immediate need while their vehicle is sourced and configured. Keeping the customer informed of progress is critical, and every touchpoint is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship.
On delivery of the product or service, stand behind it! Knowing that what you have provided is the right solution for the customer means that all parts of your organization are primed to ensure that the customer’s experience with their purchase will be a positive one.
Customer experience must be considered in every part of an organization, from product development through to process design
A lot of emphasis should be placed on the handover which is the first time the customer sees and touches the finished product. This means ensuring what has received matches what was ordered from the customer perspective as well as ensuring they are familiar with the product and know how to use it to extract the greatest benefit. This takes many forms including product specific familiarisation or operator training as part of the handover. Post-handover, the relationship really kicks into gear with regular reviews, access to information, servicing and repairs, and other services to ensure that your customer remains informed and completely comfortable with their purchasing decision. This not only ensures that the customer’s use of your products and services is an enjoyable experience, but it also ensures the customer extracts the maximum value out of your products. The outcome being that not only is your customer happier with their decision but also increases the likelihood of future business.
A key element in designing with the customer in mind is a continual focus on the customer reflected in the ongoing changes to products and services. For example, on a heavy vehicle lease arrangement, providing added benefit to support the customer in times when vehicles may be off the road for extended periods or working with them to reshape the arrangements if their business circumstances change. Looking through the customer’s eyes and ensuring your products and services are focussed on making this as easy as possible for them becomes part of an organizations DNA and reflects a discipline where the customer is central to everything.
Technology and IT solutions play a critical role in all elements of the delivery of this absolute customer centric focus. Embracing programs like ‘Lean’ to generate a program of continuous improvement ensures that key processes and efficiencies remain front of mind.
Technology is a key enabler to the business but is also looked at for thought leadership on what is possible. With the advent of new offerings from SaaS providers, the emerging needs of an increasingly mobile workforce and increasing demand from our customers for data and information in near real time, the various heads of the business cannot be expected to keep pace with technology advancements. IT solutions deliver a large part of what customers see and experience on a daily basis. Our business doesn’t necessarily know what can be done, so part of the CIO’s role is to lead our internal people on this journey.
The end game is never reached, however. For every system that is delivered or improvement that’s made, another three arise. The discussion I have with my peers around the business has turned from one of what is required to one of what is possible.
The requirements and expectations of our customers are increasing, and we need to stay ahead of the wave if we want to continue to excite and satisfy their growing needs. The challenge is juggling the ever-increasing opportunities—the satisfaction is in seeing it materialize and really changing the game!