Las-Vegas-Dice

Do you like to make the odd wager?  Consider yourself a fan of potentially risky propositions?

Well launching a Customer Experience program could be for you.

(OK… enough with the clickbait… I should have put the title up as the “Gamble” of Customer Experience – but where is the fun in that?  I’m not yet at Buzzfeed levels of unnecessary hype — but need to drive site traffic some way, right?…)

Now, what is not up for discussion and can be taken as fact by this point – investing in launching a Customer Experience program is probably one of the safest and “sure bets” in business.

By now, we’ve all been privy to the statistics about “CX innovators vs laggards” – and when deliberating the need for getting CX involved in a company’s thinking, we’ll all cite the usual Fortune 500 CX winners – Amazon, Home Depot, Costco, etc. ad infinitum.

But what do you need to launch a successful one?  Well, I’ll list some of the structures, traits and people (although I’ve recently covered the single most important aspect required for success.)  This subject may turn out to be another series of articles – as I have a feeling that I’ll have a number of thoughts on the subject – but we have to start somewhere…so the initial foray into the topic commences here.

Getting outside your comfort zone

Good customer experience requires the ability to be flexible from the start of the process, one has to come to grips and understand that new ways of doing things may be “scary” – but they are necessary to be successful.

There is an age-old standard business adage that “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” – and most businesses have extrapolated that credo across the board to handling every endeavour with a “safe pair of hands” – be it an employee, project or business viewpoint.

The problem is that they have over-corrected and shifted from the expected “safe” setting to “terrified to do anything new” mode. Most Fortune 500 companies have for some reason become risk-averse to the point that they are no longer willing to try something new – which is exactly the opposite of what good CX requires.

Good Customer Experience often relies on “giving things a go” (although the current parlance in corporate speak it would come out as “comprehensive and on-going testing to understand the expected (and unexpected) outcomes”) and see where you end up.

Channelling your inner entrepreneur

Some might refer to it as the “entrepreneurial spirit” – but if you look at a perfect example – Richard Branson (and jaysus, do I know he is cited left, right and centre on these types of discussions – but for good reason); one wouldn’t call him risk adverse in any sense of the phrase.

Branson has dipped his toes into a number of different businesses – airlines, trains, music, banking, gaming, telecommunications, health clubs, etc. – even space travel (seriously, go look at the number of companies he has been a part of.)

Having yet to personally discuss this topic with him (Sir Richard – give me a shout – could be an interesting chinwag session) I would think that the mindset exists for all of his companies.

Provide the goods and services in a manner that your customers are not only happy to purchase them, but that you provide enough of a customised service that they’ll not only be repeat customers, but become evangelists for both your company and your brand.

If you do happen to screw up, acknowledge the mistake and do everything in your power to not only resolve the problem, — but most importantly, make sure the customer leaves with some level of satisfaction over the resolution.

Never settle – always look for new ways to improve – be it through the use of new technologies, incorporating criticisms from not only customers, but also employees, testing new ideas in market to see the reaction, use feedback to develop the next generation of products and services – and roll them out quickly, etc.

Rinse and Repeat for each company started or acquired.  With a huge explosion of PR-related activity in everything you do in life to fill in the “quiet moments” and keep yourself involved in the news cycle.

A Pattern emerges

If someone thinks that Branson/Virgin is a one-off – take Jeff Bezos/Amazon as the next example.  They started as a book seller, then sold other items online.  Then created (in no particular order — and not limited to) a highly successful loyalty program (Amazon Prime); a new line of hardware (tablets, Fire TV, mobile phones, e-readers, etc.); Amazon Web Services – the world’s largest cloud computing platform; digital distribution of content (Amazon Music, Amazon TV, books, etc.); Amazon Local; and is now moving into new areas likedelivery via drone (be it for actual improvement on solving supply chain and distribution efforts – or a Branson-like PR masterstroke – it remains to be seen.

Excellent customer experience requires almost constant evolution and change — simply because the needs of your customers evolve as their lives progress.

Taking a minute to look at it from a consumer level, no one’s life is completely static – you change jobs, cities, countries; you get married, have kids, buy a dog or cat; buy a house and/or a car; send kids to schools, university; retire, etc.  Lots of life events listed there – and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

With all those changes, people’s needs are going to transform – which means you are pretty much guaranteed that you’ll need to evolve as well.

I feel the need…The Need for Speed

The major problem that global companies seem to have adapting to this constantly shifting modern landscape is the speed of it.

Fortune 500 companies seemingly love to ponder, debate and consider all options from every considered viewpoint (and in my experience, a lot of the problem comes from the overly-cautious legal departments.)  This self-imposed type of corporate anxiety causes rollouts of new ideas and programs to timeframes of months and years – where some CX process benefits from days, if not hours.

CX benefits from the fact that if something seems like the “right thing to do at the time” – and it usually is (barring the law of unintended consequences that grips companies to creating unnecessary committees, focus groups, conference calls, and novel-length email chains to debate and discuss ad infinitum – to the point that the benefits disappear into the ether.)

Companies have to figure out how to get the balance of compliance vs speed that is required to have an effective Customer Experience program.

I’m pushing a 1000+ words here at the moment (which I’ve been told is a tad long for a blog post) – so I’ll get into potential ways to solve that issue with the next installment.

In the meantime, I look forward to your thoughts, ideas, comments, criticism on the subject – and bid you adieu! (But glad I worked in a “Top Gun” quote too.)

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