It’s widely known, and too often forgotten that brands stand or fall based on the customer experiences they create. If your customer experience is in free fall, one or more of these seven mistakes are most likely to blame.
1. Lip Service Leadership
Leadership is vital for any significant organizational change yet all too often leaders fail to commit. Senior executives, having concluded that the brand is under-performing, decide that it is the result of customer-facing staff behaving in ways that are ‘off-brand’. They then issue a directive exhorting employees to ‘put customers first’ or something similar. Executives then return to the important business of focusing on the financials.
Our own work and research have shown time and time again that the most significant factor in creating strong companies is having leaders who take personal responsibility for communicating, demonstrating and rewarding brand or company values.
2. Silo Thinking
In many organizations the customer experience is fragmented. For example, one function owns the contact center; another runs the retail operation; whilst marketing communicates new propositions, forgetting to first ensure that the front line can deliver them. Worse still, the board announces a new customer experience initiative only to backtrack at the first sign of pressure on the share price.
To be successful the senior management team must own the customer experience. Each function has its particular part to play but the functions must operate in what we call a ‘triad’ to optimize resources, efforts and budgets to create an organization-wide strategy for delivering the brand Aligning marketing, operations and HR is critical to getting the internal commitment needed to deliver our experience.
3. Assuming All Customers Are Equal
The starting point for our work is collecting customer data to inform the definition of a promise and to design the new experience. The most frequent client response to this suggestion is: ‘We already have lots of customer data and research so you don’t need to bother’. In reality, whilst organizations undertake customer research and collect mountains of data, relatively few know who are their most valuable (not largest) customers. The fact is that a few customers will typically represent the significant proportion of your profit and these are the ones to focus improvement efforts on.
It is all very well knowing who are your most profitable customers, but you also need to know what these customers value and the three or four most important attributes that drive their intention to repurchase. Without the answers to these questions you may have data, but you do not have insight.
4. Assuming All Touchpoints Are Equal
Whether you are bidding for new business, selling a product, delivering a service, dealing with complaints, submitting proposals, operating your call center or negotiating contract renewals – each touchpoint will create an experience that either builds value for your brand or destroys it. Increasingly, brands are realizing that the entire customer journey must be seamless across different channels. But seamless does not mean that it should be the same across all touchpoints.
Where many organizations go wrong is to assume that all touchpoints are equally important and therefore they should try to excel in all of them. In fact, some are more important than others, either because they represent greater value to customers or because they provide the opportunity for you to differentiate your brand or dramatize your brand promise. Trying to excel at every touchpoint will either drive you out of business on cost grounds or create confusion about what is really important.
5. Thinking Training Is The Answer
So many organizations ‘do’ customer service training. Yet so few deliver a great experience. Most often, it is because organizations rely on undifferentiated training to deliver a differentiated experience. If you cannot bring your brand alive during training for your people, then you cannot expect your people to bring it alive for your customers.
The other issue is that all too often training is done ‘to’ your people rather that done ‘with’ them. Bringing in external consultants to conduct a two-day workshop may have a short-term effect but the benefit is rarely sustained. But the greatest mistake is to think that training is all you need to do. We have seen many companies invest a lot of money and time in training their people, but fail to change any of their other HR processes. The ways you recruit, motivate, measure and reward people all need to be aligned. Most importantly, the employee experience has to mirror the experience you wish to deliver to your customers. That is why starting with your leaders is vital.
6. Putting Technology In Charge
One Bearing Point report (Insight Executive Report) estimated that 55 per cent of CRM systems drive customers away and dilute earnings. This is because most CRM systems are installed before organizations are clear about the customer experience they are supposed to enable, and without any thought about how they might add value for the customer.
Letting technology dictate your customer experience is a bad idea. You end up with customers feeling hunted rather than wooed. Our definition of CRM is ‘Constantly Receiving Mailshots’, because so often the systems are used as a blunt instrument to sell rather than create value for the customer.
7. Measuring Satisfaction Rather Than Experience
Peter Drucker’s famous maxim that ‘what gets measured gets managed’ is still true today. Yet many organizations focus exclusively on end-result measures. Market share, profitability and earnings per share (EPS) growth are all vital measures of business performance but they are all lagging indicators; they are a result of differentiation, customer loyalty and brand preference.
Nor is measuring customer satisfaction enough. Smith+co research found that 80 per cent of customers who switch suppliers express satisfaction with their previous supplier. Satisfaction has become the price of entry not the way to win. The only true customer measure that correlates with improved business results is advocacy. We define this as those customers who give top-box ratings for their experience. Nothing else counts – yet we see many organizations adding up the percentage of customers who give ‘somewhat satisfied’, ‘satisfied’ and ‘very satisfied’ ratings and then congratulating themselves that ‘87 per cent of our customers are satisfied’ or, even worse, ‘delighted’.
Excerpted in part from: On Purpose: Delivering A Branded Customer Experience People Love by Shaun Smith & Andy Milligan, in partnership with Kogan Page publishing.
The Blake Project Can Help: The Customer Experience Workshop
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