In a world where companies have to deal with rapidly changing customer expectations and instant sharing of their experiences via digital channels, being able to meet and even exceed customer expectations at any given interaction point has become a critical requirement.
By putting customers into the very DNA of a company and organising people, process and technology around them, your business can create a customer-centric experience. Customer Experience is a proven methodology and the results are impressive – increased brand preference, purchase intentions, and customer loyalty. According to research by the Aberdeen Group, companies deploying a Customer Experience programme increase customer lifetime value by an average of 21.4 per cent year-over-year compared to a 2.6 per cent decrease for Customer Experience laggards.
Designing Customer Experience isn’t a process confined to multi-national brands. It’s actually quicker and easier for SMEs to implement, as they are more agile. It also makes a greater relative impact due to lesser developed brand equity. And you don’t need consultants or a three-week training course in Hawaii either.
There are four steps to deploying your Customer Experience:
- Customer Insight: You need to know your customer segments and satisfaction levels. If you are a larger company, customer satisfaction analysis, marketing research, big data and business intelligence are your tools. For the smaller players, it’s time to look at your CRM (or customer list spreadsheet!) for segmentation and use a simple tool such as a Net Promoter Score (NPS) – which is a two question email survey – for satisfaction measurement and insights. Your outputs for this stage are: a) Customer Insights; and b) Customer Personas
- Customer Experience Strategy: Yes, it’s the S-word, but it is important. When you boil it down, consumers only care about Access, Product, Price, Service and Emotion. To define your Customer Experience Strategy, choose one attribute to be the one you are ‘famous’ for, one attribute to differentiate on and aim for parity on the rest. Companies that try to excel across every attribute either fail or over-invest. For example at http://messagebase.com we have chosen to be famous for Access (immediate responses, always available etc) and differentiate on product (we are committed to creating any bespoke telephone answering service that our clients ask for, however complex or challenging). Our customer promise at MessageBase is giving out clients “freedom from phones”. Your outputs for this stage are a) Strategic Positioning and b) the Customer Promise
- Customer Journeys: Defining the journeys and path taken for each Customer Persona enables you understand how to best design your organisation, processes and technology to make the customer’s experience excel. Taken all together, the collection of different journeys is called the Customer Lifecycle. A generic customer lifecycle may look like: Awareness, Discover, Purchase, Receive, Use, Get Help, Cancel/Renew. Each of these is a separate journey that is taken by the customer. Remember that different personas will use different channels and interaction points for the journey. For example, a potential MessageBase customer who is a startup will take a very different journey to buying our service than a big blue-chip corporate would. Each Customer Journey will expose moments of truth, which are interaction points that are considered as most crucial by customers; these are the moments that companies should strive to wow their customers. Your outputs for this stage are a) Customer Lifecycle; b) Customer Journeys; c) identification of customer interaction points and channels; d) identification of Moments of Truth/’wow’ moments; and d) assessment of gaps in the current customer experience
- Customer Experience design and implementation: Once the mapping and analysis of the customer journeys has taken place, then it is time to redesign how people, processes and technology are deployed within your company to improve the customer experience. Typically improvements and opportunities that are identified though customer experience design fall into one of the five following categories: removing barriers, simplifying processes, alignment and consistency, providing content and creating ‘wow’ moments. For example, many of our customers use MessageBase to improve their customer experience: they identified that missed call, or an inconsistent/unprofessional phone service which was dragging their customer experience down. Conversely, using MessageBase’s 24/7 telephone answering service creates a ‘wow’ factor for clients ringing during the evening or weekends. Your outputs for this stage are: a) identification of improvements and opportunities; b) implementation of the improvements and opportunities; b) impact on the customer.
Making Customer Experience happen requires real team work. By its very nature, Customer Experience straddles all elements of a business and therefore requires cross-functional working. Commitment and decision making from the leadership team is critical. Because of these requirements, most organisations have not optimised their Customer Experience, so it is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Even better for SMEs, the cross-functional requirements of Customer Experience makes it a slow process for tanker-like corporates. SMEs should seize this rare opportunity to outshine the big boys and win themselves a greater slice of the pie.
Nicholas Ashford, www.messagebase.com
Image: Customer service via Shutterstock