This article is the third and final in a three-part series on creating a culture of customer experience excellence. To start from the beginning, please read, “Making a Great Customer Experience into a Great Business Experience” and “Hello, My Name is…Customer.”
"Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value." — Albert Einstein
Leaders have the power to make or break your organization’s customer experience. A strong leader will reinforce the importance of focusing on the entire customer journey, not merely specific tasks to accomplish on a daily, monthly, or quarterly basis. Ultimately, it’s the leader’s responsibility to continuously reinforce positive customer experiences — and provide feedback when the organization’s high standards aren’t fully met.
With that in mind, here we’ll explore four things an organization and its leaders can do internally to effectively move towards a more customer-centric approach.
- Take an Objective Look in the Mirror
Initially, an organization should look inside and objectively audit the current status quo. What are the main barriers to a greater customer experience? There could be operational, cultural, or technical walls in place at different levels, whether intentionally or accidentally.
What does the ideal customer experience look like for your organization? How drastically do things need to change to achieve success? How much resistance may leaders face along the way as they drive employees towards this change? Managers confronting many obstacles may need to take a long-term view and phase in changes gradually over time, possibly years.
Modifications can be especially challenging where a corporation has multiple independent business units or silos, and information or cooperation fails to flow easily between groups. While divisions may make sense internally as they relate to distinct business functions, from a customer perspective, those walls don’t exist. Only their needs exist and the company is a single entity to help the customer.
- Break It Down and Map It Out
At the beginning of this process, leaders should have employees map out the complete customer journey so that the entire organization can clearly see how their actions directly and indirectly impact customer experience — not to mention the bottom line.
Clear, tangible metrics, customer-focused technologies, regular feedback and an ongoing, articulated commitment towards improving customer experience will encourage and reinforce participation over time. In large entities, leaders would be wise to target specific business units initially to conduct pilot programs and collect real-time feedback to help improve future initiatives. Positive results from one or two teams can spur other divisions to get on board with a new way of looking at their work and their purpose.
- Reimagine Established Processes and Roles
When facing complex, deep-rooted issues, some organizations hire a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) responsible for implementing a single vision across every action relating to customer contact. This leader devotes their focus to deeply understanding and promoting the customers’ agenda internally, as well as encouraging flexibility to ensure customers’ evolving needs are constantly and consistently met. A CCO can also help establish important customer metrics that an entire organization will incorporate into goals and targets.
To create innovation regarding customers, a smaller pilot program lead by a CCO can incubate and test new processes and demonstrate value for the rest of the organization. Formally and informally, leaders must recognize and reward customer-centric actions by their team, linking praise and bonuses to specific accomplishments to set the example.
Employees should also be given authority to provide the kind of sustained customer support that is needed, including overtime pay to problem-solve and discretion to award discounts or reimbursements without supervisor approval. Whether they are frontline or in the back office (for example, IT, Finance and HR), all employees should have a sense of ownership when it comes to the customer experience. Training, education, and clear communication from leaders regarding mission and core values all play key roles in spurring widespread organizational change, while measurable rewards and meaningful acknowledgments provide added motivation.
- Embrace Creative Solutions to Get the Job Done
Looking externally, management should identify and create cross-industry strategic partnerships that will show understanding for customer needs (not just push sales for in-house products) and demonstrate flexibility for outsourcing whenever necessary to satisfy and support customers.
Organizations should also implement and prioritize their own ongoing, external communications for customer support and needs. Embracing social media like Twitter, Facebook, chat platforms, and other solutions provide immediate and significant opportunities for connection and problem solving where customers are already present, engaged, and active.
As Peter Drucker noted, “The purpose of business is to create and keep customers.” With so many available options at a buyer’s fingertips, business leaders must focus on what it means to satisfy a customer long-term and keep them happy, using all the power inside the organization to create and continue positive, innovative customer experiences.