LACK OF STRATEGY IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES TO IMPLEMENTING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PRINCIPLES TO KEEP IN MIND?
- Be clear about what you stand for and stick to it – you cannot be all things to all people; that way lies mediocrity. So be clear about what you promise and stick to it.
- Take a holistic view of the business – what you stand for, the operational choices you make, the culture you foster, the experience you deliver, and how you deliver it through your people and processes have to work in harmony to mutually support and reinforce the brand. Each element must work with every other in order for the strategy to work. This means that customer experience needs to be viewed holistically.
- Don’t gold plate your customer experience – customer experience is a neutral term and does not imply gold-plated service. Ritz-Carlton offers a great customer experience but so too does Premier Inn. Yet their business models and price points are very different and delivered in distinctive ways. Be careful not to upgrade your customer experience beyond the point that target customers want and are willing to pay for.
- Treat your customer experience and employee experience as one and the same – it follows then that if your strategy is to be low-cost, innovative and simple, your culture and values must reflect that. If your strategy is to offer premium service then you need the very best people who are highly trained and who want to stay with you long-term
THE WORLD OF BRANDING HAS BECOME SO COMPLEX THAT MANY PEOPLE FORGET THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF WHAT MAKES A GREAT BRAND. THERE ARE SIX BROAD PROCESSES TO FOCUS ON:
- Developing a differentiated point of view that is credible and relevant to customers – understanding the mindset of your customers and how to appeal to them begins with an understanding of what makes you different.
- Creating a differentiated visual identity consistently applied across every aspect of the brand – great brands do not just think differently, they look different.
- Communicating powerfully, consistently and empathetically with EXTERNAL stakeholders – great brands develop communication that is not only creative in style and content but also in the choice of media and tone of voice.
- Communicating powerfully consistently and empathetically with all INTERNAL stakeholders – brands that earn their customers’ loyalty are characterised by employees who understand and identify with the brand.
- Aligning processes, training development and management structures and style with the brand promise – this is where the difference between great authentic brands and the great creative advertiser is seen. Great brands put their promise to the customer at the heart of their operations.
- Measuring what contributes to brand value, not short-term sales – businesses that care about their brands, take into account not only the lagging indicators (historical performance) but also the leading indicators which predict market behaviour – such as customer satisfaction, brand equity and brand value.
CREATE A MEANINGFUL AND VALUABLE EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR PEOPLE IF YOU WANT THEM TO DO THE SAME FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS.
Service development or training is often something done TO people and not WITH people – curious when you remember front line staff are closest to your customers and best placed to hear what customers want, need and value from your brand.
Here’s a few things to consider when designing your customer experience training.
- Focus on what customers value – base your learning solution on the actions and behaviours customers expect and value from your brand and your people, not on what you think they need. Then engage your people on how they can develop and strengthen the skills and knowledge they need to deliver your brand – and pay attention to how you’ll manage, motivate, support and reward them for doing so.
- People own what they help to create – involve your people in the design and development of their learning; and involve team leaders in owning and supporting success so this becomes ‘how we do things here’ and not this year’s initiative.
- Head, heart and hands – if people don’t first understand, and believe in, what your brand stands for and the value they can bring to customers, they won’t be inspired to bring your brand to life through their actions and behaviours.
- Integrate and align – if learning is to deliver sustainable results, it has be hardwired into every HR process that supports people performance and development such as hiring, onboarding, performance management and recognition. Stop thinking about training your people and start developing your organisation to live your brand.
MANY BUSINESSES SAY THEY WANT TO BECOME MORE CUSTOMER-CENTRIC IN ORDER TO OUTPERFORM THEIR COMPETITORS. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF KEY STEPS TO MAKING THIS HAPPEN
- Leadership – the leadership team has to believe that customer centricity is core to driving outperformance. They must be prepared to ‘walk the talk,’ as all the company’s employees will observe their actions, not their words, for proof of consistency, day in and day out. For this belief to be created, there must be a business case which is founded on strategic customer insight, demonstrating the link between delivering improved customer experience and improved rates of acquisition of high value customers and/or improved levels of loyalty.
- Purpose – employees need to be driven by a clear sense of purpose or brand promise which goes beyond the company’s own immediate financial self interest. It’s all about ‘working for the mission not the salary’ and it’s this type of discretionary effort which underpins sustainable outperformance on the dimension of customer experience.
- Customer Promise – there has to be a way of translating a high-level purpose into specific direction for those running operations. One way a customer-centric business does this is with a customer promise. Based on great insight about what really matters in winning and retaining customers, this defines what customers should experience at all the brand’s most important touch-points.
- KPIs – what gets measured is what gets done. In order to ensure the wish to be ‘more customer-centric’ is executed, the company’s KPIs must be focused on the ‘inputs’ – those aspects of the customer experience that can be managed and improved and not, as with most businesses, the ‘outputs’ of the end result ie the financials. This approach must start with the scorecard of the executive team.
- Quick wins & momentum – inevitably, big organisations need time to fully implement significant changes in approach and so it’s essential that any form of turnaround is fuelled by early evidence that both the leadership is serious (eg symbolic changes in the way the company is run internally) and that new initiatives are being quickly taken to market, achieving great results.