Providing a level of customer experience that ensures your customers ‘feel’ the difference between your business and competitors is crucial to success.
Effective business leaders should always know that they are building a culture and understanding with all employees that the customer matters. This cannot be achieved through empty words, sound bites or a shallow attempt at driving a customer-centric organisation.
Customer Experience (CE) can be incredibly complex and very simple at the same time. Taking meaningful steps based on a company-wide strategy that is reinforced through leadership, technology and action is core to starting to build a culture where the customer is seen as important. I have been surprised by the apparent desire to exceed customers’ expectations expressed by many organisations, yet the processes and business practices often do not lend themselves to supporting this strategy.
Gathering customer experience data
Developing an approach and understanding of what your business is trying to achieve through the gathering of CE data and insights is important before making decisions. Key questions to ask include:
- What does success look like?
- How do you achieve improved results?
- How do you establish the right culture to balance employee, customer and business needs?
- How do you use the extensive quantities of data available to real advantage?
- How do you create employee engagement, empowerment and buy-in that mean your customers feel the benefit?
Data and insights in themselves offer little value. Collating and filtering CE data into meaningful trends is essential. Businesses typically are challenged in using data to advantage. It is a real skill and should be part of your process and strategy, but is not always the case.
Usually a business measures itself through internal metrics, KRA’s and KPI’s that make sense to the managers and employees (usually!). The question to ask is: Are these internal measurements the same standards and expectations that your customers feel are the most important?
The answer is often an emphatic…No!
Customer experience should be a culture
Unless your business sees Customer Experience as a culture, not a tool, then your customers will feel the pain of what is not being provided by your front-line team members. I am convinced that engagement, morale, culture, sub-cultures and the impact of leadership on these can be felt by all customers.
The link between providing a high level of consistent customer service and the satisfaction of your employees has been proven.
Extending this concept further, an organisation’s employees are significantly influenced by the leaders within it. Many businesses will look for process, system and technology fixes and assume that more and/or better internal communications or more surveys will increase engagement. It might.
Big data and customer experience
It is a mistake to think that more data in itself will make the difference. Very few employees, who are the people in the actual position to make the difference, are even privy to this data, let alone provided with a summarised view that is presented in a way that makes sense and is usable.
It is this point that is the most remarkable. Greater technology advances, Big Data, information flow and accessibility are all the potential positives with modern Customer Experience Management. They are also its greatest flaw!
Unless your organisation can make sense of the incredibly vast amount of information and present it in such a way that your leaders can easily decipher the key insights / trends AND the leaders are skilled to be able to provide this information in a way that their team members will care about, then CE insights and data collection has little value.
The most interesting part of all of this, it is no different for your customers – they will also become frustrated if feedback is sought and then commitment to change is not followed up with action. If you don’t want to know the answer, then don’t ask the question.
What is clear is that setting up a false set of expectations either internally with your employees and/or externally with your customers, that is not followed through in a way that the stakeholders ‘feel’ the difference, is often more damaging than not asking in the first place.
The benefits of a focus on insights
A focus on insights and development based on CEM has three major benefits, amongst other key points:
- You are able to learn about individual businesses processes, what is working well and what can be improved.
- Crucially, seeking Voice of Customer and identifying themes enables you to know what your customers are thinking and saying about your business – not assuming to know how they feel.
- These insights can be used to design and run developmental programs at an individual and team level, including workshops and 1:1 coaching, aligned to specific trends and customer needs.
Knowing what is wrong with your business and doing something about it are not the same thing. The danger here, as with so many other critical factors in business, is that acknowledging flaws, both personally and organisationally is a difficult thing for most of us to do.
The most effective leaders have developed a skillset and attitude of ongoing development and a willingness to influence culture. Part of this philosophy is the ability to see things for what they are, not what you would like them to be.
If you want to see change, you must lead for change. If dissatisfied, speak up.
If your customers are unhappy, ask them why and what they would like to see differently – and take action to remedy.
Most importantly, don’t accept mediocrity! By actively challenging the status quo, you will take the first steps to influence change and differentiate yourself from other people and your business from other organisations.
Your employees will love your for it, and so will your customers.
References: The Link Between Customer Experience and Employee Engagement: More Art Than Science: Adrian Swinscoe
Steve Riddle - Head of Customer Service & Complaints, Toyota Finance
Steve Riddle is an experienced leader providing consulting, coaching and facilitation/training to organisations of all sizes. He has a career spanning over 25 years, primarily in leadership roles, including Head of Customer Service and Complaints for Toyota Finance Australia and National Customer Experience Leader for GE Money.