As businesses continue to transform their customer experience delivery, they learn it is much more than talking the talk; it must be walking the walk. However, the challenge still facing many companies is how to further enable customer engagement and the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.
Let’s face it, in many companies service delivery has become a primary revenue source. These companies find the pressure is on, the competition more challenging, and the customer central to everything. Success comes on the road to being “best in class.” The challenge is the desired outcomes, understanding how the customer views these outcomes, and delivering customer success by including, as Bruce Temkin would put it, “the elements of Purpose and Emotional connection.”
There are many attributes to being a best-in-class organization that have always interested me, particularly the ability to focus on understanding what defines customer success. Beyond adding technology and developing strategies like customer journey mapping, I am convinced that true customer success can only come about when management understands exactly what their business is about and how they can properly deliver the outcomes their customers expect. Yet, today, so many companies still don’t get it.
Recently, I had disappointing customer experiences while dealing with two major cable/satellite companies, for both myself and my mother-in-law. Not only was I subjected to unacceptably long wait times, continuous repetition as I was transferred from one support station to another, and a perceived absence of employee engagement or care, but both of these companies managed to repeatedly miss their arrival time commitments.
I read almost daily about how more businesses are focusing on the customer experience, and I see survey results putting CX among the top three leadership goals. According to Gartner, 89 percent of the companies they survey are already investing in resources that will help them improve in this area. So looking back at my cable company experience, I have to wonder: Why it is so difficult for many organizations to meet even the basic expectations? Well, in my mind, these companies are clear examples of ones that talk the talk but end up not walking the walk.
I want to believe, as executives, that we are able to recognize what is truly of value to both our business and our customers. If that’s the case, why do we fall short? My take is we move on too quickly to the next shiny object before the current change is properly in place—like framing a house before the foundation is set—and this approach ends up falling short on both ends. Or like failing to properly on-board customers and upselling them before they have fully adopted what they recently purchased.
Why do we do this? Perhaps it’s because we have so many items on the list of things to accomplish that we become too eager to cross each one off. If we take the time to properly develop and nurture a customer-driven culture, there's no doubt it will help deliver value to our customers and reward our companies with continued growth and profitability.
Below are five steps to help you up your internal culture and create a take-charge-and-get-it-done environment within your company, one that will help you with the all-important goal of improving your customer experience. But it doesn't come without some hard work and, most importantly, having the right people in place. Here are my walk-the-walk recommendations:
1. Get to know your internal leaders and key “go-to” individuals. These are the individuals you can rely on to be there, to participate, and to execute—to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
2. Approach these achievers with new processes or plans early on so they have the opportunity to understand their roles in implementation. It’s important they see the value in what they will be doing for both the company and the customer and understand the organizational impact. This will allows you to utilize their talents for success.
3. Empower these people to use their best judgment for when and how far to go with their responsibilities, as well as determining what they will require for maximizing effectiveness. If you can’t trust them, you have chosen the wrong people. Provide them the training and tools to allow them to create an emotional connection with the customer. By the way, I have often hired for passion, along with skill.
4. Check and recheck for alignment and completion. Rely on feedback from both your employees on front lines, as well as your customers on the actual experience. These people are in the proverbial “fox hole”. They see the battle first hand. What better feedback is there? They provide the candid evaluation. This is the actionable insight. But do not react impulsively. Change and realignment are healthy, but, going back to my house analogy, wait until you are sure the cement on your foundation has dried before moving on to the next step.
5. Finally, focus on gathering that unique information about each of your customers and use it to create a personalized experience that delivers that emotional connection.
These steps worked for building a customer-first culture within my own organization—they allowed us to define our customer experience in a more complete manner, leading to improved customer success. Only you know for sure what improvement will look like for your business, but this five-step plan can help get you there.
Dennis Gershowitz is the founder and president of DG Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in driving service revenues and profits through the development and implementation of customer experience management (CEM) strategy and service operations improvements.