GUEST POST -- Customers first. It’s become the mantra of the modern business era but what does it really mean and how can you put it into practice?
Businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes are scrambling to find out.
From Australia’s biggest banks such as NAB, which describes customers as its ‘lifeblood’, to small concerns using digital technologies to build connections and drive loyalty, trying to keep the customer satisfied has become the overriding business imperative.
Research suggests organisations which don’t make it a focus will see their days numbered.
A report commissioned by management consultancy PwC in 2016 examines the birth of what it dubs ‘the intelligent experience economy’.
As mobility, artificial intelligence and the cloud impact on the relationship between companies and customers, offering convenient accessible service will no longer be sufficient, the report notes. Instead, organisations will be judged by their ability to create valuable customer experiences at speed. Most will need to make big changes to their modi operandi, in order to thrive in this much altered environment.
Executive support matters
It’s impossible for an organisation to become ‘a little bit customer-centric’. It’s an all or nothing thing and it can’t begin to happen until the senior leadership team is on board. If yours is alive to the importance of customer experience, you’re ready to get started. If not, building a business case for change, which includes the potential return on investment and the risks of not acting, should be your next step.
Once executive support is established, it’s time to develop an organisational structure which can turn policies into outcomes. In enterprises of sufficient size, a chief customer officer should be appointed to drive results, while creating a stakeholder group of champions from across the enterprise will help ensure transformation initiatives are understood and supported by staff at all levels.
Find and fix gaps
You can’t improve customer experience until you understand the customer journey and have identified the stages and touchpoints where it’s necessary to lift your game. It doesn’t do to rely on guesswork or gut feel when you’re working this out. Customer journey mapping software and user feedback tools can help you develop a reliable roadmap.
Once you understand how things work now, you can begin the transformation or enhancement process. Having a team of employees from across the organisation work together to map the ideal customer journey, based on the feedback you’ve received, is a good way to ensure nothing is missed.
Create a framework and an action plan
You can’t fix everything at once. Prioritising the issues and shortfalls identified in the journey mapping process and writing an action plan to address them will ensure you move towards ‘customer first’ status methodically and at speed.
Training and empowering employees should be an essential component of any action plan. Defining customer first behaviours and rewarding those who demonstrate them consistently encourages people to hone in on what matters most – creating great customer outcomes.
Don’t let these behaviours be something new employees pick up by osmosis. If you’re serious about having your team make customer experience a priority, you’ll ensure learning about the customer journey and customer first behaviours is part of the onboarding process for new hires.
Ask for feedback
Becoming customer first isn’t a one-time exercise – it’s an ongoing process. If you want to know how you’re travelling and where you could improve further, there’s a group of people who’ll be happy to let you know. They’re your customers. Creating a feedback process which makes it easy for them to share bouquets and brickbats will increase your understanding of the customer experience you deliver and help you determine where ongoing efforts should be focused. Listening, learning and iterating, not once but again and again, is the key to continual improvement and a steady increase in customer engagement and satisfaction.
Measure and improve
How can you tell when you’ve upped your game? The answer is, you can’t, unless you find ways to measure your success. Developing satisfaction metrics, and celebrating when you meet and exceed them, helps staff appreciate the importance of providing a better customer experience.
Customer first culture
Developing a company culture which places your customers at the heart of every action and decision is a long-term commitment, not a finite project. It starts with a desire to change for the better and results in the creation of a team of employees who are empowered to meet and exceed customer expectations at every stage of the customer journey.
By Patrick Elliott, ANZ Regional Vice President at Anaplan