In my previous article If a toothpaste can, then financial institutions can too, I outline the necessity for a brand to identify, live by and market its key differentiation factor. Based on my analysis of over 150 brands across 20+ industries, the detrimental effects of not having a strong and strategic customer experience program are clear:
This might seem like a logical thing to happen and anyone in business understands the importance of customer experience. I agree wholeheartedly with you that:
The roadblock however lies with How can a brand execute a strategic CX program that helps it grow from strength to strength.
There are 10 major reasons why CX programs fail which I will be sharing on my social media handles soon, but let me outline the four major influences on a CX strategy execution:
The team that is closest to the core idea of the business and understands its strategy the best is the leadership. In an effort to enhance business via building a strong CX program, the leadership chalks out a wonderful strategy. However, they are unable to translate the CX strategy into a meaningful roadmap for staff. This disconnect between what the leadership wants and what the staff understand is a huge deterrent for the execution of any CX program. But flip the situation over where the leadership not only takes a keen interest in developing a CX strategy, but also involves the staff in its creation and execution, and the business simply slides to the other end of the quadrant, rising to spectacular heights.
Let me explain this with an example.
The café down the road from you sells the best coffee in town. Coffee at no other shop tastes as good as the one here. Serving this high quality of coffee is probably the best product that the café can provide for its customers. And the café runs successfully for many years until…
A few months back, a new café was established by a competitor a few blocks away. The ambiance here is schmick, there is a large variety of coffees being served, and there are umpteen snacks on sale as well because the coffee quality isn’t as good as the old café’s. Customers understand this difference in quality, yet they throng the new café just to experience the smart and sophisticated environment, and taste a variety of coffee flavours.
Let’s go back to the old café. The dwindling number of customers begins to trouble the café owners. They realise they do not have the resources to provide a variety of coffees like the new café serves, nor do they wish to modernise the ambiance at their café as it would rob them off their image that they have built over the years. Hence, the owners get together with their small team of staff and together they decide to spruce up a few things with ideas pouring in from everyone – the owners, the bakers, the cashiers, the baristas and the helpers.
Every customer was now being served a couple of complementary cookies of their choice with their coffee. Customers were being greeted with a pleasant smile and orders were delivered at a faster pace. Even better, the café began organising open mic nights and jamming sessions on weekends for local talent. The same old coffee was served, but it was served along with some interesting conversation between the staff and the customers.
Within weeks, the café regained its numero uno position. The ones responsible for reviving the café were the staff. That is because they understood what the owners wanted and put their heart and soul into helping them achieve this goal.
Now, break this scenario up to understand how the café revived itself.
In short, staff feel committed to a CX program only when they are involved in the process.
Hence, it is extremely important that whatever be your CX strategy, ensure that all your staff are on board with it, understand the finest nuances of your strategy and are engaged in taking the business towards its end goal. Ensure that your staff align with your goals, have the resources to work towards the business’ CX goal and are appreciated for their efforts in the right forum.
Nearly every organisation today conducts its own form of customer feedback data gathering. But what does one do with this massive and important data if the insights are not easy to understand?
CX strategies are not meant for the leadership or the frontline staff alone. It is a holistic program that involves every staff member. For instance, the frontline team of a superannuation fund for senior citizens may be extremely polite and courteous to their clients. But somehow the customer experience doesn’t seem to cross the 8-mark on a scale of one to 10.
A strategic CX measurement tool can help point out details at a granular level, such as:
Any or all of these above situations can be likened to the effort of one batsman battering a bowler to add a high score for his team; but his fellow batsmen drop like bowling pins and contribute just a miniscule number of runs, thus taking a winning streak towards an annoying loss for the team.
One needs to join the dots strategically to understand insights at both a macro and micro level to create strong actionable programs.
Customer feedback is a great opportunity to better your organisation’s functions. But that is not the end of a CX program. While feedback is a great way to smoothen your functional aspects, it is important to think outside the box and innovate ways and means to improve what you already offer. A good example is the mobile phone industry.
There was a time when Motorola cut through the chase and became a preferred mobile phone brand because of its sleek design compared to other chunky phone models. Then came Nokia that promised to provide seamless connectivity and great signal reception. Samsung’s innovation of affordable smartphones to take on the high-end iPhone club took the world by storm. Today, it is not just about phone memory but more about the camera resolution, cloud space, 5G compatibility, free memberships to entertainment apps, safety and security of data, etc. If one brand includes a new feature, the others follow suit. Yet, it is the differentiation in the customer value proposition that makes one brand win over the others in the rat race.
The most successful customer experience strategy has been the one that focuses on the customer journey, and I can vouch for this from my 30+ years of experience in the CX industry. When customer feedback is collected at every touchpoint of the customer’s journey with your brand and acted upon, I have found that it not only helps iron out the functional aspects, but also makes the customer feel valued. Let me share a personal experience in this regard.
A few years ago I was at Orange County resort near Bangalore. From caring for the comfort of every guest to ensuring minute interests of individual guests were taken care of, the service here was amazing. When I had a chat with the customer relationship manager, I learnt that as a culture, Orange County collects feedback from their customers at every interaction point – after a meal, after a cultural event, after a spa session, etc. While this may seem like an overkill, these short surveys ensured that staff received immediate feedback. More importantly, every negative feedback was acted upon immediately and corrective measures were recorded and incorporated as and when required into the functioning of the resort. Such high commitment resulted in the brand receiving great feedback, which acted as a powerful and free advertising platform.
Just imagine the economic benefits in such a CX-committed organisation:
It is important to remember that having a value proposition and delivering a value proposition are two different things. There is no doubt that in this last decade customer service has become the key competitive differentiator over price and products. A good place to start would be to engage with an expert outside of your organisation who can provide an objective view and help you chart a strong strategic CX program designed to help you grow from strength to strength. Ideally, this consultant must be someone with a track record of achieving significant CX improvements, because CX is easy to understand, but extremely hard to execute.
Managing Director, Engaged Strategy