July 14th, 2016
Is it working now?
Ask your customers and front line staff (with a promise of not shooting the messenger) or try the process as a customer would and you will find out if it is working or not and if there are any gaps. So why do organisations find it so difficult to get it right? At a detail level the reasons may be many and varied, but at the top line they probably boil down to a fairly short list, typical reasons include inward looking, not understanding the whole journey, systems and bureaucracy.
How to fix it
Decide it needs fixing or improving and undertake the following:
1. The Groundwork
There’s no quick fix to taking customer experience from buzzword to valuable business strategy. You’ll need to identify and address issues along the ‘customer journey’ to deliver an improved overall ‘customer experience’. So, before starting out, it’s worth coming to terms with the idea it will probably take 2 years or more to complete. Some sections will pay off quickly and have a dramatic effect and some will need a longer term to implement and pay back.
Appoint a sponsor and a project champion
It doesn’t have to be absolutely the first action but it will need to be done early on to get people’s attention. It’s a good idea to have a senior level sponsor, a board member or even the CEO or Chairman, to ensure people take it seriously and stay focused.
Then a project champion can be empowered to take it on and drive it forward. With senior sponsorship, he or she will have everyone’s attention and will be able to ask for support across the organisation as required to move the project from one milestone to the next.
Choose the segment/segments
It’s likely there’ll be a number of identifiable customer segments being addressed; it’s quite likely that the segments will have a number of things which are important to all of them and a number of things which are specific to each segment. It’s a good idea to start with the most valuable segment, since getting it right for the most valuable segment will most probably deliver the biggest ‘bang for the buck’. Once you’ve got things organised for the highest priority segment you can decide whether to repeat the exercise for other segments.
But whichever route you take at this stage, the principle is the same for all segments.
Get the information straight from the horse’s mouth
Listening to your customers unconditionally is the starting point for success. It sounds like stating the obvious perhaps, but organisations don’t always do it; it’s often easier to measure the success of current processes and work on improving those. It’s also much easier to gather points of view from within the business than go to the effort of talking to customers about it.
Try being a customer of your own business and see what it is really like.
All well and good unless the internal view misses the point with customers. It’s best to find out about this before doing anything else. This is the vital point on which success is based: the description of the ‘customer journey’ reflects the journey customers think they are on – direct from the customer and in the customer’s own words.
This way you can be confident you’ll get a description which matches the way the customer sees things – not just the company’s perception of what is important for the customer.
It’s quite possible there will be things which are important to the customer which have never been spotted by anyone in the company – and equally possible things which have been recognised as an issue, but have been pushed to one side for one reason or another.
Be completely objective
It’s important, when this comes to light, to avoid the temptation to push uncomfortable findings to one side. Take the bad news on the chin and set about fixing the issues.
Trust your front line staff – they often know better than anyone else in the organisation.
Front line staff are a great source of information about what needs to be done differently and how it could be done. They’re often happy to talk about it. So don’t shoot the messenger, treat your front line staff as a valuable asset. Map the way your front line staff see the customer journey and get their feedback on what’s good, bad and ugly and you’ll start identifying the gaps between what matters to your customers and how the company sees it. Back that up with the same approach further back into the organisation and the strengths and weaknesses start to become more and more visible.
Make sure the whole organisation is on the same wavelength
Communicate the findings and the plan throughout the organisation. It’s important to build a common understanding and sense of purpose to support the changes that will be necessary.
Once a clear picture of customers’ requirements and the organisation’s performance are clear, it’s time to move to the next stage.
2. Redesign business processes
Start with the most important customer journey
This might seem self-evident but it’s worth pointing it out because it is so important and it doesn’t always happen. But get this one right and everything else gets easier. Establish a priority list, start with the one at the top of the list and build better processes where it matters most.
To do it reshape the journey starting from the customer viewpoint and work back into the organisation. This is not easy but can win substantial benefits. It is important to explain and inform all the customer touch points what is happening, why and the rationale. Often at this point you will get feedback from the team to make it even better.
Don’t force the pace on this as it’s important to reduce and remove the customer ‘pain points’ and replace them with positive points along the journey. Then repeat the process working down the priority list one by one.
There’ll come a point where it makes sense to stop adding new redesigns until you know the ones you’ve done are working.
3. Get the whole organisation lined up to deliver
Be disciplined with the execution
You’ll need to establish governance across functions to drive progress. It will help keep people focused, help engender a continuous improvement mind set and reduce the danger of silo thinking and turf wars. It won’t kill siloes and turf wars completely, that’s the sponsor’s job.
Measure the output
Start measuring customer feedback, do it regularly and act on findings that emerge.
Give praise where it’s due!
Reward front line staff with the recognition they will deserve by this stage, after the help they will have given the process already.
Empower them to do the very best by customers and they will very likely deliver beyond expectations.
Tell the world how well it’s going
While all this is going on, make sure every opportunity is taken to tell everyone how well it’s going, how much good it’s doing and how much value it is delivering.
Without enough effort on communicating the benefits there’s a chance the effort will stall.
Continuous communication will help continue to build commitment throughout the organisation and support continuous improvement efforts over the longer term.
If you want to make tangible progress with your Customer Experience programme drop me a line at email@example.com or call me on 07538 035532 to find out how we can help.