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Quick tips for getting more from less to improve the customer experience

26th May 2009
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Be bold, be savvy and focus: these are the three steps that can help firms get more from less to improve the customer experience, according to David Williams. He explains why this mantra is so important if you don't want to be a rabbit caught in the headlights!

By David Williams, H2X

In these tough times one thing is for certain, everyone needs to get more from less. As a customer experience consulting business, we knew we wouldn’t be immune and sat down last year to think about what our clients would need and how we should respond. We identified three things and then set about 'eating our own dog food'. We concluded everyone needs to: Be bold, be savvy and focus. Here’s how:

Rabbits in the headlights

As the economic juggernaught continues to head towards people, we have seen many clients and agencies alike get caught in the headlights. As it heads towards them, the lack of available budget fixes these rabbits to the spot. They know they need to move, but in which direction? With the best of intentions, the tendency is to make small incremental improvements - doing what we currently do but slightly better. But this approach ends up with roadkill. We all need to make bold moves if we are to survive and thrive.

Be bold: Assemble whole solutions quickly

The first thing is to come up with new propositions and solutions that fit with a whole new set of customer needs. You’ll need to triage your new product development process - Not 1-200 ideas but a couple of tangible things that will really connect with customers and their core needs. One way to do that is to look at delivering whole solutions - not the small part of the value chain that you currently offer, but meeting the whole need. That way you can serve unmet needs and avoid competing directly in a narrow category solely on price.

Nice idea but difficult and expensive? The answer is partnerships. Working with suppliers in a different way to gain capabilities can help assemble these whole solutions. If managed well, they can also help you reach into the target markets in more efficient and effective ways. It might not give you all the margin if you’d built the capability yourself, but you’ll avoid the capex and be able to move quickly to market with unbeatable new products and services.

Be savvy: Build coalitions to deliver end-to-end effectiveness

When we do our customer experience mapping work, which invariably identifies opportunities for huge savings at the same time as delivering a better customer experience, we encourage clients to look left and right. Servicing costs are always adversly affected by activities and cuts in other areas. To get more from less, everyone needs to look not just at functional or channel efficiency, but also to be bold and look at end-to-end effectiveness. In going to market, we know the biggest and quickest lifts in performance, whether it be acquisition, retention or growth strategies is to combine and sequence channels - swiftly followed by using real-time, event-driven data to drive these strategies.

Furthermore, poor retention is so often driven by poor acquisition and on-boarding, yet this is one of the most difficult things for organisations to pull off technically and organisationally. Delivering step-change improvements requires our bunnies to use one of their most important assets: their knowledge of the internal power structure and decision-making process. Savvy operators optimise the whole system, not the individual pieces, and use their knowledge of how to get things done to build the right coalitions to get the improvements or new services implemented.

Focus on the vital few

The successful businesses that get more from less will be those that focus on the vital few activities that really make a difference. Organisations need to focus on creating revenue streams, not delivering projects and reassembling resources around these streams. Sounds trite but it creates a whole different focus and moves people from 'tick box' to really evaluating whether the initiative will make the difference. And in delivering these, that means focusing on activities that create win, win, win. The Tesco adage of 'better for customers, simpler for staff and better for the corporation' couldn’t be more apt.

Finally, you have to focus differentially on those customers with the most value/potential. Lining up sales, service and marketing resource with a diffferential approach is the single biggest lever a business can make to transform profitability. Just be clear that these customers may not necessarily be the same now as they were before.

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David Williams is CEO of How To Experience. He has led over 50 customer strategy and brand experience transformation programmes with many large blue-chips, including American Express, British Gas, Vodafone, and Royal Mail. He is a regular writer and industry speaker.

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By Daryl Eicher
23rd Jun 2009 19:06

David’s points are timely and directly relevant across industries and globally. Even in some of the worst hit sectors, a philosophy has emerged that basically assumes a winnowing of weaker, less customer-centric players that is fueling bold, market-building strategies. The story of two retailers – Circuit City and Best Buy – during the last economic downturn remains a cautionary tale for businesses who expect to survive not just this perfect storm, but the competitive aftermath. In the face of extreme margin pressure and revenue drops, Circuit City cut back on innovation and waited it out while Best Buy revamped the customer experience and invested in new programs such as the “Geek Squad,” which not only changed the perception of Best Buy as a more full-service provider, but created a whole new, high-margin aftermarket revenue stream. When the downturn ended, Best Buy emerged a far stronger competitor with brand and revenue advantages that Circuit City could not counter.

Converting traditionally expensive, manually intensive customer on-boarding processes into policy-based, automated workflows with a heavy emphasis on self-service across the lifecycle of the customer experience for new services brings both focus and the need for speed together. Leading companies will come out of this economic turbulence leaner, cleaner and with new customers and services to compete with. Now, more than ever, “don’t be the bunny” is advice worth acting on!

Daryl Eicher
VP, Industry Solutions
Axway

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