How are you driving your Customer Experience?

In reading this article recently published by Harvard Business Review, it only confirmed my thoughts that I’ve had over the past few years in working with my clients.  Finally, large corporates are moving towards taking the views and needs of their customers into the context of how to run their business as a whole — and it’s about time.

Now the HBR article is pretty much standard thought for those deeply ingrained in developing and delivering customer experience for their clients (or at least I would hope) as it is written by academics who seem to want to confirm a certain hypothesis.  That being said, there are some stimulating points to consider for those interested in successfully driving customer experience within their organisations.

The highlights:

  • It takes a fair amount of time for customer experience to be implemented within a company and its structure, and then in turn, show positive results of those implementations. The thing is, when done well, it can be a “beneficial two prong attack” on deploying customer experience across the company. The returns can be exponential in terms of both revenue growth, as well as a cost saving to a company.

As I explain to our clients, this is not a sprint, but a marathon to develop a successful customer experience strategy and implement it.  To do it correctly, you have to be committed to the process as a whole (but that process can be broken up into easily digestible chunks to do over a period of time and drive value from those pieces to each business group affected); and it is a process that never “ends.” As your customer’s needs change, you have to adapt as well.

There is no greater display of this than on the digital sides of things where companies typically lag behind the needs of their customers – particularly in the mobile arena – as technology develops at the rate of a jet boat (fast and agile), global corporates tend to be a super tanker – slow and hard to turn around in a reasonable amount of time.

  • The CEO has to be the driver for the organisation to be successful.

When I gave a keynote address at the ad-tech Australia conference in Sydney this past March, I was fortunate enough to sit down with a CEO of a major media conglomerate while I was in town.  I mentioned to him that he needed to “drive” the efforts we were discussing across the company, he mentioned he didn’t have time to do that, he was busy “running the company on a day-to-day basis.”  At that point, I knew it was a lost cause on my part.

I did attempt to clarify it for him over the next few minutes of conversation, but he couldn’t see it past that initial point of having no time to devote to it, and his thought was that it was best left to another department to look after.  Perhaps that is on me for a poor choice of words at the time, but there are some people that will never see the benefits no matter how you try.  Best to move on to those who are receptive of the benefits of change and help them reap the rewards.

  •  The article states of the obvious in terms of “first to market” strategic deployment works even in the customer experience discipline – if you get to a place of optimal customer-centricity before your competitors, you are more than likely able to capture market share from them.

If you step into developing customer experience in a crowded field, you are more than likely going to lag behind the competition until you develop a point of differentiation from them to attract new customer and keep your existing customer base.  It is a staple of the “first to market” strategy that a number of tech companies have tried to exploit over the past couple of decades.

The problem that large corporates continually face with this timing issue is that they tend to put customer experience on the “back burner” – something that they want to do eventually, if only there weren’t more pressing issues at hand to deal with — and continually push efforts at reform off until these “critical issues” are dealt with.

The stark reality if that businesses will always have “fire drills” that need to be dealt with – companies who do customer experience well (Amazon, Home Depot, Costco, etc.) also realise that they need to meet the needs of their customers on a day-to-day basis and that has to remain a business priority as well.

  • The closing argument of the article is something I wholeheartedly agree with though – before one dives into working on customer-centricity within your company, you have to come to some blunt realisations beforehand about how you operate as a business; and how to best affect change with both the different business units, and more importantly, the people that work in those areas.

It is not a cookie-cutter process – what works for one company in their way will not work for another company without taking an evaluation of how your particular company operates and modifying it to suit your particular needs; and how you need to adapt to meet not only the needs of a number of different processes but also the needs of both your customers and your employees. (I’ll have another post on the importance of employee engagement to the customer experience process soon…)

The CEO needs to be deeply involved as he will have to “marshal the troops” (the employees, business units, needs of different geographies, etc.) going forward to be successful as well.  It is a collective effort – but it pays off in the end….

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