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The 5 BIG challenges to becoming customer-centric

9th Apr 2018
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During the past ten years a great deal of momentum has gathered around the business benefits of delivering a stepped change in customer experience (CX). An area often seen as “fluffy” or impossible to link to hard numbers by hard-nosed operators is now beginning to flourish and demonstrate impact.

New roles have been created to manage CX. Multiple award ceremonies have been created to recognise CX excellence. New CX focused conferences spring up each year. You can take an exam to prove your CX capability. New metrics have been created to move thinking from customer satisfaction to advocacy, effort and value. Industry-wide CX measurement tables are created yearly to demonstrate who does it better than others. Loads of books have been written about the subject. None of these things really existed ten years ago.

I am a seasoned operational leader and customer experience professional, but as a consumer myself every time I start an interaction with a brand I hold my breath and expect the worst. This is especially true when a product or service has failed. I am then surprised when the service I receive meets my expectations. Why is that considering the amount of focus and effort CX now receives?

There is no simple answer and there are often multiple reasons. However, in my experience there are 5 BIG challenges brands face when they look to become customer centric.

  1. The leadership team don’t live it. Whilst the leadership team may talk openly about the need to be customer centric and what that means, in reality they revert to type and don’t live it. Sometimes this is because they are being driven by quarterly results so have a near term view of what is important. Often the initiatives their teams are driving have not been linked to the numbers so they find them difficult to support. Other times whilst they believe in building a customer centric organisation they don’t know how to do it.
  2. The strategy has not been translated into the practicalities of delivery. People inside the business feel disconnected from the strategy and are unable to translate it into practical actions they can deliver to support it. The strategy remains too theoretical for them and they can’t decipher how it fits into their daily deliverables.
  3. There isn’t a guiding CX light. The end to end customer experience has not been developed collaboratively with target customer needs, motivations and feelings in mind. Therefore there is little cross functional buy-in and each department does what it believes to be best to improve their piece. That often has knock on impacts in other parts of the customer journey and still results in a poor experience.
  4. Multiple projects with the best intentions drain resources. Projects haven’t been prioritised appropriately, often resulting in a scattergun effect that causes conflict, stretches resources and strains budgets whilst everyone attempts to deliver everything and they deliver nothing well.
  5. Internal KPIs drive the wrong behaviours. The ongoing monitoring of data and individual performance KPIs drives the wrong behaviour and results in a negative CX.

My recent car catastrophe blog discussed my suffering of multiple poor experiences when my car was destroyed in a fire on New Year's Eve and highlights where simple improvements would have helped. Thankfully I have a project management background, which was fortunate, as I needed it to manage my way through 8 companies to get my car replaced.

Despite such experiences many brands do get it right when their products fail, so let’s focus momentarily on some positive experiences that demonstrate what success can look like.

Targus, effortless experience (2018). After years of racket sport abuse my shoulder is in constant pain. So to help remove the strain I bought a Targus laptop bag for work that I could pull along. I bought it brand new from eBay. Eight months in and the Velcro handle grips had lost their stickiness and one of the wheels had split in two. I decided to contact Targus and explain. I completed the form on their web site and waited. They responded promptly the same day asking for various bits of info. I supplied them and they replied the next day to say a new bag would be posted and would arrive in 14 days. 4 days later it was delivered! Superb.

Amazon, Omnichannel perfection (2012). I still roll this example out today despite it being 6 years old. My daughter broke the screen on her kindle. I logged into Amazon, selected the device and completed some triage drop down list questions. They provided me with 3 contact options and highlighted the one they recommended. Unusually this was to call them. A call is probably the most expensive contact option but based on what I’d told them they knew this would ultimately be the most efficient method for both of us and therefore the right thing to recommend. In fact they offered to call me immediately. I input my number, the phone rang immediately. An agent on the end knew exactly who I was, what the issue was and the device concerned. I was asked to perform a quick troubleshooting exercise, it was confirmed as broken, so they sent me a new device. As with Targus, I was told a number of days, but in this case it arrived the day after with jiffy bag to return the broken one for free. It’s still rare to this day to find a large brand that connects their digital and physical customer contact channels so well.

Actions that can be taken to tackle the 5 BIG challenges include;

  1. Live it Leadership. The Leadership team can lead by example in the decisions they make. Change the mindset of their teams by challenging them to demonstrate why and how the work they are doing moves the customer experience forwards and the value that will deliver for the business.
  2. Bring the strategy to life for individuals. Help everyone understand what the strategy is, why it’s important and how their role contributes towards it. Make it practical by aligning their SMART objectives and rewarding their achievements. Provide regular updates on progress and support and guide individuals when they go off track.
  3. Collaborate to design the aspirational CX of the future. Collaboratively create aspirational customer experiences to achieve buy-in across the organisation and ensure any business activity can demonstrate the incremental step towards the end goal. If business activity doesn’t support the delivery of the aspirational CX why waste time and money doing it?
  4. Prioritise activities. Try not to tackle everything at once. Develop a roadmap of activity in line with budgets, resources and required delivery speed. The delivery of early successes will drive positivity and the demand for more even amongst the most sceptical of people. Success will breed success and more people will want a piece of the action.
  5. Measure the right measures and publish a balanced scorecard. Create a cross functional performance dashboard that demonstrates progress towards targets. The dashboard should track the critical internal KPIs and link these with the Voice of the Customer (VoC) to demonstrate any correlation and business impact as key CX initiatives land.

As we’ve seen, when it works, it works brilliantly. When it fails it goes horribly wrong. Crucially delivering a customer centric transformation takes time and should evolve continuously with customer insight at the heart. If it doesn’t all your great work can quickly unravel.

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