I am sure there are many executives who continue to read about the topic with a sense of skepticism, or maybe even “arms length” commitment. Is it really important, or is it yet again another passing buzzword.
This question might be best asked to the taxi industry, the hotel industry or even a former executive at Kodak. Perhaps even more recently a discussion with a few airlines might be warranted. As Sam Walton puts it quite succinctly, there is only one that has the power to fire the whole company from the Chairman down, by simply spending somewhere else – the customer!
So what is the driving force, and perhaps even better, how do you set the wheels in motion, whether it is culture, transformation, innovation, employee engagement or all of them and more. As Customer Experience requires focus on people, it is the critical and usually the most challenging element in the journey for excellence in this space. Because whether it is digital, face to face, voice or by other means, it comes down to people managing, engaging or designing those experiences to customers.
There is another point here to note, with the recent explosion of Innovation and entrepreneurship happening across all industries – is your disruptor the one building the new technology, or the one with whom you have failed to meet expectations and address the problems of?
If you think about it for a moment, did the idea of Uber appear because of groundbreaking technology, or did it arise because people were fed up with the perceived poor experience with the tax industry, and someone decided to act on it?
The customer experience topic has evolved at groundbreaking speeds, somewhat consistent with that of Innovation and the Startup world. However today customer experience is not unilaterally understood by most executives, and has an even poorer record of moving the tide of change in large, complex organizations.
Customer Experience Needs To Be A Strategic Core To The Organizations Vision And Direction, A True North For It To Aspire To
A common definition is not widely used, but leveraging one that I believe resonates closest is:
The perception that customers have of their interactions with an organization
(Temkin Group and Forrester)
And this is the first hurdle for many, to gain that perspective one must interact with, observe and become wildly curious about customers. As Steve Blank quite aptly puts it, one must “Get out of the building”. A term revered for startups and how they empathize with customers and understand and validate their problems.
Customer experience needs to be a strategic core to the organizations vision and direction, a true north for it to aspire to. Without that clarity, it will be cornered into one executive’s performance management plan and expectations that the customer game will be moved by the power of one.
First, bring the organization together around a common aspirational vision and a deep understanding that the customer is front and center of what we are and do. This practice at the very top of the organization and across the verticals, the chance of success has already increased dramatically at the kickoff.
I have seen time and again many organizations preach, “We are Customer Focused” or “Customer Centric”, but are they? How many are spending time with real customers, with employees serving customers and getting a true understanding. This practice at the very top of the organization and across the entire business is what is vital to set the wheels in motion correctly.
Anchor this with a focused strategic ambition and a journey towards a higher state, will be the next challenge. It will closely be followed by the execution of the plan, whether you are maintaining, transforming or innovating. All of which requires clarity and commitment augmented by behaviors and skills that learn, develop and deliver the right changes that adds value to the interactions of your customers and your organization, as your customer perceives them!
And when you are innovating, the depth of intimacy with your customers only increases, with the use of new technologies, new ways of interacting or even new business models will only be valued if they are truly driven at and for the customer.
The future developments for customer experience and how innovation will be leveraged as a differentiating capability will be best seen by those who augment their core business, and provide reach in personalization and predictability for customers to give them ease, success and an emotionally positive experience better than anywhere else.
Whether you are leading, involved in or about to be involved in customer experience, take a deep breath and be ready for an adventurous journey. It brings high and lows and some bumps along the way. Remember, keep your focus on your people. Whether they design it, build it, shape it or give it, they will be the difference between sustaining it (customer experience) to drive business growth or perhaps it may just be your competitors’ success story – that is up to you.