Serving Up Customer Delight

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Think about the last time you dined at your favorite restaurant. What made it a delightful experience? A combination of many elements: the food, service, and ambience, supported by references and reviews in the newspaper, with multiple people (chefs and prep workers, maitre d' and servers) working in concert. You probably received a warm greeting when you walked in the door. The place was immaculate; your table was ready; the server promptly brought beverages, skillfully described the specials, and delivered a wonderful meal prepared just the way you like it. This thoughtful, carefully orchestrated focus on you is what makes you a repeat customer. The same could be said of any business that is truly customer-centric. All its functions work together seamlessly and consistently to deliver a customer experience that delights. In a world where feature and price advantages can be quickly matched, if not bettered, by competitors from virtually anywhere in the world, a company's best source of sustainable competitive advantage may be the customer experience it delivers. Yet while many organizations understand and even embrace the concept of customer centricity, many fall short when it comes to executing customer-centric agendas in a way that delivers sustainable results. The recipe for success is to consistently deliver a differentiated experience designed to satisfy the intentions and preferences of your target buyers--a feat that can only be accomplished with a deep understanding of the customer base and market; distinctive capabilities that enable a company to execute on the basis of customer insight; and the processes and systems to enable high performance. As you consider the proper ingredients to combine, it's clear that insight gleaned from actionable customer segmentation and analysis is essential. Customers have distinct values, preferences, and intentions, which often vary significantly across geographies. But with these variables taken into account, doing a detailed analysis of individual customer segments enables companies to create services, products, and offers that are truly relevant to the most valuable segments. After forming a plan for differentiated customer treatment, customer-centric organizations then deliver this experience using a synchronized approach across marketing, sales, and service, and supported by a supply chain that readily adapts to changing opportunities and customer requirements. In today's networked economy, the customer experience is increasingly influenced by workers outside the core enterprise: suppliers, distributors, field personnel, outsourced labor. Customer-centric organizations learn to manage this entire workforce ecosystem to help optimize third-party performance. It's critical to instill a customer-oriented culture that rallies the extended team to give your customer their personal best. Successfully executing customer-centric strategies also requires customer-centric performance management -- identifying organizational and individual metrics that are customer-focused as opposed to internally focused, and monitoring and measuring progress accordingly. A company will have an even better indication of what's important to its customers if it engages them in the innovation process. A new generation of customers today wants to be involved and heard. To produce an offering with greater customer appeal, consider involving actual customers in the product design, marketing campaign development (messages and channels), and associated service packages. To keep the communication lines open, use a feedback loop to stay abreast of customers' needs, preferences, and wishes to maximize your opportunity and ability to delight them with each encounter they have with your business. Achieving high performance requires a consistent, differentiated customer experience -- getting it right will help boost customer loyalty and, by extension, growth, profitability, and shareholder value, much like the fine restaurant continually appeals to its patrons. Woody Driggs is the global managing partner responsible for the CRM service line at Accenture. He can be reached at CRM.Woody.Driggs@accenture.com.
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