Lance Webb, Head of Customer Experience, AsureQuality
Ever booked travel or purchased a product and thought ‘WOW they truly went out of their way for me, they cared about every single detail and nailed it’. Yes? I bet it felt great and you would go back and tell a friend. If you haven’t, wouldn’t it feel nice to experience that? Unless businesses build an exceptional experience around their companies’ brand, they risk losing the most important thing in 2019, customer loyalty. Almost every executive team has customer experience on their radar as a strategic initiative and if it’s not, it will be.
Until the robots take over, we will continue to have a vibrant conversation on all the advancements in customer experience like Artificial Intelligence, 24/7 self-service chat bots, and intelligent analytics via machine learning just to name a few. So, where do you even start? How do you deal with the constant and ever-changing demands of customers? The good news is CX isn’t just for the big corporates like Apple or Samsung, it’s also for start-up companies, small to medium enterprises and even for those young entrepreneurs selling lemonade outside the front gate on a self-made stand with Mum and Dad in tow hired as executive supervisors. With many starting points, tools available and technologies to deliver a customer experience vision, it can get overwhelming and its importance diluted unintentionally.
Here are five steps to kick-start your customer experience strategy no matter what size you are.
Understand your organisation's Customer Experience maturity.
Using the support of a Customer Experience Maturity Model eliminates the guesswork and gives companies a clear view of where they excel and areas where they need improvement. Some possible questions asked of me during a maturity assessment have been (with a choice to rate as never, occasionally, usually, almost always or always).‘My company regularly examines whether customer interactions are living up to its brand values’, ‘Senior executives support decisions to trade-off short-term financial results for longer-term customer loyalty’, ‘My company actively solicits and acts upon employee feedback’. By evaluating your maturity, it can tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are and provide suggestions to what you can do effectively execute your customer experience strategy.
Ensure customer experience leads your business strategy.
First and foremost, let’s do some myth busting. ‘Customer experience is just customer service’. That’s a big fat, nope! Customer Experience is so much more than having a great customer services team. For many, customer service and customer experience are seemingly interchangeable. Yet, one is a single touchpoint with a brand, while the other impacts feelings and emotion, and encompasses the entire customer journey from acquisition, on boarding to the final product. The customer experience impacts all areas of a company. If you book a vacation on the phone and the person you are speaking with is friendly and helpful, that’s good customer service. Yet, if your tickets arrive early and the hotel upgrades your room, then that’s a good customer experience. That’s how the two are different!
A good way to create a vision is to create a set of values or mission statements that act as guiding principles. Once these are in place, they should drive the behaviour of your employees and organization as a whole.
The first step to creating a customer experience strategy is to have a clear customer-centric vision that defines what customer experience means to your organization.
Don’t think like a customer, be a customer.
If your company is to really understand what your customers need, want and desire, you need to connect and empathise with the interactions and situations they go through on a daily basis. There are a few ways to do this;
Create customer personas- personas reflect and represent a customer segment or audience detailing demographics, key traits, goals, tasks, pain points and an overall personality. By creating customer personas, marketing teams can create campaigns targeting a specific persona’s and your customer services team can recognize who they are and understand them better. By deeply understanding your customer’s persona, you will be better equipped to manage all that comes with their personality. You can start will creating one persona, but ultimately you should end up with a stack of personas as your customers evolve and grow. They are also a great tool to use internally for training and development and a very important step to truly becoming a customer-centric organization.
Customer Journey Mapping- To deliver a unified and memorable experience for your customers you need to understand not only your customers’ expectations, goals and problems, but the steps they need to go through to get there. This will require observation, listing touch points, utilizing your customer personas to make it real and even experiencing the journey for yourself. Focusing on your customers’ journey will create ‘light bulb moments’ and have significant flow-on effects for customer loyalty, satisfaction, retention and the ability to act with urgency and accuracy if something goes wrong. Customer journeys can be broken down into specific products or customer moments so teams can focus on areas that will have the most impact.
Act on customer and employee feedback.
How do you know you are delivering a great customer experience to your customers? You ask them and while you’re at it, ask your staff too. Both are critical! When aligned, it allows you to see trends and focus on the things that will create the biggest impact in the shortest time. But when not aligned, you run the risk of focussing on the wrong things at the wrong time and feeling like you are fighting fires the entire time.
Your frontline employees play a key role in the customer journey, delivering your services and gathering vital customer and process information on what could be improved. At AsureQuality, we deliver an annual employee survey where we capture important feedback on how engaged our people are and what we can do to enable them to deliver better experiences for our customers. To support the action planning process off the back of the employee feedback and to put things into perspective to what your teams go through on a daily basis, I would highly recommend to any senior leader to spend a day in the life of a front line staff member. It can be truly eye-opening.
Another way to get feedback is by sending a survey to customers post interaction measuring customer effort and get insights into what processes could be potentially automated. Of course, by making a phone call it would create the ability to gather deeper and insightful feedback. You can also then easily tie back feedback to a customer services agent or equivalent to show the value they bring to an experience.
To show the value customer experience brings and to justify investment into technologies, process improvement and customer experience teams, a lot of organizations use the easily implemented NPS (Net Promotor Score) to gather feedback based on one question ’Would you recommend this company to a friend or relative?’. It is a credible way to benchmark the customer experience and be sure to include this metric in your business case to the executive team. A successful customer experience strategy will align and inspire an executive team and it sure does help when you have the executive team on board supporting.
Invest in a Customer Relationship Management tool.
As good as you may think your memory is, we are all human and our memories are not perfect. CRM is a system for recording and storing all information related to customer interactions and their behaviour. It has become a very important tool for engaging customers, managing relationships and even predicting their behaviour.
So do you CX? Embrace the experience.
Customer experience is here to stay and customer expectations are louder and higher than ever. The experience you deliver needs constant nurturing and attention. With an increased focus on delivering a customer experience strategy organizations will see the benefits of customer loyalty, higher retention and increased revenues. It’s got to start from somewhere and someone, why not you.
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