Moving from Customer Experience Laggard to Leader
Being able to deliver a superior customer experience can potentially transform your company’s business. It can help to differentiate you from competitors, increase customer loyalty and ultimately help to drive sales and boost revenues. So how do you go from being a customer service laggard to achieving a leadership position – and then ensuring you remain there?
Delivering a top notch customer experience is a tough ask. If it was easy, wouldn’t everybody be doing it? Even those who have achieved excellence in this area can never rest on their laurels because customers are continually demanding more and better service – whilst new channels are emerging.
For example, between July 2014 and July 2015 John Lewis and Amazon – amongst the top 5 performers in the Institute of Customer Service’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) – saw their scores fall slightly while retaining their leadership positions – so there can never be room for complacency. You need to be continually innovating – especially as your competition will be working hard to catch up and surpass you.
When it comes to managing and improving customer experience Gartner believes there are ten top challenges that get in the way of CX success:
- Multiple sets of customer data and information existing in disparate systems
- Organizational change
- Creating a customer experience vision
- Getting a grip on customer data and information
- Understanding the extent to which IT is/should be responsible for customer initiatives
- Developing a CRM strategy
- CRM technology deployment
- Process definition
- Poor or inconsistent understanding of strategy
- Getting marketing, IT, and customer service to collaborate on customer programs
Building on this, and based on the experiences of organizations that regularly win awards, there are number of key areas that seem to come up repeatedly when benchmarking excellence in customer experience:
1. Establish a clear vision
Management should set a clear vision that recognizes the importance of customer experience, making it a core objective and defining the key aspects of the experience that the organization considers most important to its customers. After all customer service is everyone’s responsibility, not just a department within an organization.
2. Lead from the top
To instill a belief in the importance of customer experience into the culture and mantra of the organization, senior management should be seen to be leading from the top. Staff should see the company leaders actively supporting plans and initiatives and taking part in decision making in the area. After all, if management doesn’t care, why should they? Great customer experience comes as a mixture of top down and bottom up – but it probably starts at the top.
3. Collaborate and communicate
For customer experience to become an important component of any company, it must touch and motivate all key stakeholders throughout an organization. A variety of business departments and teams, from customer service, to IT, marketing and HR, are important in creating and managing the customer experience. Everyone needs to pull together towards a shared vision.
4. Invest in your people
The people you employ are fundamental to delivering a superior customer experience. You should recruit knowledgeable, engaged, helpful and friendly staff that have an interest in supporting customers. Ensure you continue to develop their skills and keep them engaged by investing in training.
5. Challenge existing practices and assumptions
As already stated, you can’t afford to stand still when it comes to customer experience. The best companies innovate and disrupt their market— which means that sometimes you have to challenge the status quo in order to improve. By continually questioning your customer experience processes your company can keep improving and refining what it is doing to help it stay ahead of the competition and become a leader in your industry.
6. Measure, measure, measure
It is difficult to manage what you can’t measure. So you need to monitor and track the customer experience from multiple sources in order to generate an accurate assessment of how your organization is performing and identify insights and changes to help you continue improving. Of course the most important metrics are the ones directly associated with the customer, but also review the input provided by customer facing staff, as they are on the frontline, talking to consumers every day.
Customer experience has probably never been more important, but also never more difficult. It takes vision, teamwork, persistence, flexibility and an attitude of never being satisfied with where you are. Otherwise even if you are a leader today, you could easily become a laggard tomorrow.