Turning CX ambitions into action: How to operationalise your customer experience strategyby
Gerry Brown explains the steps you need to follow to translate the blue sky ambition of your customer experience strategy into reality.
You’ve listened to your customers and colleagues, been to the conferences, read the books, attended the webinars and now you’re ready to implement a customer experience programme that gives you a compelling competitive advantage.
Your business has made excellent progress designing and socialising a customer experience strategy that addresses the most important needs of both customers and colleagues. You’ve nailed employee engagement and the key role that it plays in developing and sustaining a truly customer-centric culture. You’ve eliminated the dumb rules and archaic policies that drive customers and colleagues mad. And all of this has resulted in a customer experience blueprint detailing the customer experience journey, that almost jumps off the page in anticipation of an exciting birth.
But where to start to bring it to life and to make sure that it survives?
Should you surprise and delight your customers, or just make it easy? Do we need another existential threat to the forests of the world with more Post-it note journey maps; do we ask customers for even more feedback that we won’t action; buy some whizzy new technology; hire more people, find new measurements? Or should we just put it in the “it’s too hard” drawer till next quarter?
While there are no easy answers or quick fixes that last, customer experience improvement isn’t so daunting as to not be worthy of investment for all businesses, irrespective of size or market segment. It does mean taking a truly holistic view that combines strategy with procedural and operational elements involving the whole company to make operational execution a reality.
A recent report by Tallyfy supports this approach and includes the following findings that can inform and guide your approach to execution.
- Business and customer experience professionals perceive the top three stumbling blocks to customer experience improvement to be departmental silos, “lip service” from top management, and resistance to change.
- Engaged and empowered staff and top management commitment were seen as the two major ingredients contributing to the ability to operationalize exceptional customer experiences.
- Improving processes and IT systems were seen as critical to not just supporting the customer experience but also providing staff with the tools to serve customers better.
Here are some ideas that I think will help.
Experience journey service design – what good looks like
This is the first stage to operationalise your CX strategy, and there are a number of moving parts.
Firstly, a “big picture” view of the experience journey you are seeking to create, which is the first step in service design. This is very much driven by the output from your earlier strategy sessions that created the blueprint, when you looked at company purpose, customer expectations, current state, obstacles and success criteria. (You did, didn’t you?)
This will provide the foundation for how you plan, design and deliver CX. It means bringing together diverse internal and external teams that can uncover deep customer needs and insights, review and redesign business processes around those needs, and quickly create dynamic applications and capabilities that respond to them.
Then you’ll translate that into operational activities, procedural changes and technology enablement. This will lead us into the second stage which is a more in-depth process using experience journey mapping and a thorough gap analysis of any customer pain points and friction that can interrupt a successful contact flow.
Experience journey mapping, alignment & gap analysis
This begins with aligning your experience journey map with customer and colleague feedback to understand who your customer is:
- What tasks they’re looking to achieve?
- What challenges do they have now?
- What are they saying to you?
- Where is the data about them?
- How easy is it to use?
- Can anyone find it?
- How do we collate and present it?
Then focus on mapping an appropriate experience journey to the tasks, the feedback and the outcomes that came out of your service design exercises.
Some more ideas:
- Recognising customer needs and wants and knowing the differences between them.
- Understanding their sentiments and what drives them to make the decisions they do.
- Accurately view the key touchpoints in the customer journey and the efficacy of a joined-up enterprise.
- Finding the pain and friction pinch points in the journey. What’s causing them?
- Deciding what procedural, operational and technology changes and enhancements can address them?
- Recognising technology shortcomings (High level observations – A complete review should follow as part of the evaluation and procurement process).
- Starting with some small changes to a single touchpoint or market segment that can demonstrate the benefits, and gain support and momentum throughout the organisation.
Are we reading from the same page? The same book?
Here are some key elements that will help to inform and develop your customer programme:
- Measure consistency – Customers expect to receive the same, consistent service regardless of which channel they choose to use. Are you easy to do business with? What are you doing to reduce customer effort? Are your colleagues really engaged and empowered to deliver on your CX promises?
- Finding customer contact data – Collating the right information is critical to contact strategy success. What are customers saying about your products and services? What information do you need to help you improve performance? Traditional contact centre metrics – such as average handle time, speed of answer – don’t provide the insight needed to meet customer expectations.
- Evaluate demand – Understanding why people are contacting the organisation is vital to providing better service and plays a key role in helping to manage demand effectively. Often you can deliver a better overall service by actually reducing a customer’s need to contact you by predicting responses and/or providing information to basic queries via automation.
- Introduce automation – But do it with regard for both customers and colleagues. Balancing automation with care is the right thing to do, but also maintains loyalty and reputation. Well-designed automation gives customers choice and flexibility, and leaves skilled contact centre staff free to handle those interactions that are more complex or require a human touch. Humans and machines are good at very different things. Keeping humans in the loop is a key to successful intervention - but please make sure that it works. The world doesn’t need another dumb chatbot or IVR!
Perform a technology audit and gap analysis
Evaluating the present state of your existing technology and processes will provide you with an accurate picture of the gap between what your interaction centre currently provides and what the customer expects.
This exercise will demonstrate gaps between what your company is promising in terms of service proposition, and the reality.
The process of evaluating your present technology, especially if it contains ageing legacy systems, and how you interact with customers, will also give you a clearer indication of where investment is required, and where the existing infrastructure and systems are fit for purpose.
Here are some key ideas to explore:
- Gather colleague and customer feedback on current technology efficacy, gaps and customer friction points.
- Omni-Channel or Multi-channel – There is a difference.
- Must everything be digital? Start with the channels that most customers need.
- Customer Interaction Platforms – They can be the main technology foundation.
- Investigate cloud-based systems providers that can deliver a Proof of Concept (POC) for faster evaluation and deployment.
- Best of breed or totally integrated? Built-in APIs can make the former more flexible.
How do we know we’re getting it right? Measuring what matters to customers
This stage will focus on how to evaluate, design, deploy and action new customer insight methods that measurably improve customer experience (CX), employee engagement and overall profitability. In doing this you need to start by developing and nurturing cross-functional relationships with shared goals across departments to support collaboration and uncover points of friction.
- Clearly identify the business problems you want to solve, i.e. what do we need to measure.
- Be able to quickly pinpoint where you are both succeeding and failing in CX delivery.
- Be able to analyse and evaluate different feedback and insight mechanisms/solutions.
- Be able to identify the most relevant & valuable solutions to improve the bottom line.
- Be able to integrate the new methodologies and technologies into daily operations.
- Be able to align feedback and insight with specific, measurable remedial actions.
- Identify the consequences of inaction or latency to customer issues.
- Design your interaction system, just as if you were starting from scratch.
The communication network – is everyone plugged in?
Thomas Fuller said, “Charity begins at home, but should not end there.” The same is very true of communication. When you first start on your customer experience journey, the communication network may not be as universal or as a finely developed as you may wish, but creating a foundation and mechanism for dialogue, both internally and externally, is critical to the long-term success of your strategy.
Companies like Four Seasons, Zappos, John Lewis, Southwest Airlines and HomeServe all feature regular two-way feedback sessions, employee briefings and customer councils, that give all employees and managers a voice in any decisions, or issues that positively affect the quality of customer care. When employees have been involved in defining and developing the culture and committing to its delivery, having them act in harmony with the values and principles they helped create and communicate becomes second nature, and nobody has to tell them what to do.
So, don’t assume that everyone in the organisation is tuned into information about the customer experience strategy, either formally or informally. Establish a regular and flexible communication network that ensures regular updates and good news stories, and that makes the headlines for all the right reasons!
This has been a quick trip, but one that will identify some of the key stops along the way and ideas that will stimulate debate, sustain innovation and that will help you reach the right destination. Here are the key takeaways:
- Align your service design with operational reality.
- Identify gaps and be honest in your appraisal of the current state.
- Evaluate your technology capabilities and don’t be afraid to part company with old friends (legacy systems) and bring in new ones (chatbots called Gladys).
- Develop meaningful and relevant metrics and ways to track and share them.
- Share the good news with customers and colleagues.
Just keep this in mind - If enough people care you can change everything and anything
Gerry Brown, is on a mission to save the world from bad customer service. He helps businesses save customers at risk of defecting and breathes life into their customer service operations and customer experience strategy. Gerry has provided organizational leadership on people development, business transformation, customer engagement and...