Customer experience ecosystems are complex and multifaceted, with multiple moving mechanisms across many organisational silos – each with their own set of values, beliefs and key performance indicators. Carefully curated customer experience initiatives synchronise and steer these cross-functional team efforts towards a specific business goal – perhaps the most critical one of them all, the customer.
You see, customer experience begins with a brand promise. A brand promise is an organisation’s commitment to its customers. It is the ethos around which a brand is built and should be something everyone within the organisation is extremely proud of, and are always willing to be held accountable for.
Entrenched within this brand promise, is a set of core brand values that generally sets a brand apart from its competitors. It is through these elements of differentiation that a brand would have described unique brand attributes that customers can expect when they engage with them.
For example, if an organisation is in the business of supplying mobile internet, they may promise their customers ‘always-on’ connectivity and ‘high-speed’ mobile data. Their customers in-turn, will naturally develop expectations of always being connected to the internet, at high speeds of data transmission. Anything short of that will render their cumulative customer experience initiatives baseless and should be something they go to great lengths to avoid.
In fact, in the context of the South African telecommunications industry, one of our pan-African mobile network providers incurred more than R300 million ($17 million) in costs for back-up power supplies to their mobile network infrastructure in 2018, to honour similar brand promises and keep their customers connected during our rotational ‘load-shedding’ or planned disruptions in our local electricity supply.
These expectations that customers develop leads me to the first of the six core competencies of customer experience and as my mentor has been famously quoted for saying
“A jigsaw puzzle is an extremely good analogy for the customer experience, you can only see the picture if you put the pieces of the puzzle together”
– Ian Golding
Please allow me to explain.
1. Customer Experience Strategy
A brand’s customer experience strategy is a carefully crafted narrative, developed to respond to those customer expectations that were created through a brand promise. This should ideally describe the intended experience, the emotional response a brand intends to elicit from their customers, and mobilise the resources required to deliver these experiences across all customer touchpoints consistently.
Success with this core customer experience competency is highly dependent on cross-functional team alignment and will inevitably form the backbone of all customer experience improvement initiatives.
2. Customer-Centric Culture
This cross-functional team alignment will involve high levels of employee engagement and dedication to a common cause. In the context of customer-centricity, this involves displacing customers from the outer spheres of business influence to the epicenter of a brand’s existence – where a brand’s technologies, people, products and processes are harmoniously aligned for ease of their customers use.
The tell-tale signs of mastering this core customer experience competency are having engaged employees, who understand their roles in the end-to-end customer journey. They are familiar with the attitudes and behaviours necessary to deliver empathy-rich customer experiences. They have the appropriate tools, readily available at their disposal to do so, and are also rewarded for delivering these intended experiences consistently.
3. Organisational Adoption and Accountability
The journey to true customer-centricity is a financially rewarding, albeit, disruptive one. Legacy business practices are usually the first to be updated and improved on and this core customer experience competency manages the transformation from old to new.
Success with is core customer experience competency lies in a brand’s ability to manage change efficiently. We recommend clear communication of the organisation’s objectives before, during and after transformational activities. Create internal accountability by assigning specific tasks to specific people, with prescribed business processes to follow to manage these activities, and provide immediate support to all those who have been impacted by these changes.
4. Metrics, Measurement and Return on Investment
According to research done by well-known advocates on brand loyalty, 80% of companies believe they delivered ‘superior experiences’ to their customers but, only 8% of their customers agreed. Customer experience metrics like net promoter score* are deployed to solicit customer feedback, to measure delivered experiences, and researched insights inform business decisions on prioritising ongoing improvements in customer experience.
By combining this experience data with operational data – the hard numbers like sales, revenues, and profits, we are able to produce live dashboards to prioritise and track customer experience improvements and the returns on customer experience investments. It is not uncommon for these dashboards to evolve over time but remember to keep it simple, relevant, and easy to understand.
5. Experience Design, Improvement and Innovation
Get to know your customers. Allow them to complete their own brand-specific goals with your organisation – with minimal effort and ensure that the emotions they experience whilst doing so, are consistent with those feelings your brand intends to deliver.
If a customer experience strategy is the backbone of all customer experience improvement initiatives, this core competency will give those initiatives it’s heartbeat. Human-centered experience design, improvement and innovation involves delicate combinations of process improvement methodologies to eliminate common pain points in the customer journey, to personalise product and service offerings for specific customer segments and create dynamic, inspiring and memorable moments of magic at every customer touchpoint.
6. Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight and Understanding
A comprehensive voice of the customer programme is designed to acquire insights on customer attitudes and behaviours by collecting solicited and unsolicited feedback across a variety of listening posts. Reliable research mechanisms mine through customer and employee feedback and these findings inform strategic initiatives in customer engagement.
By listening to what customers are saying about an organisation, we are able to understand how they feel when they interact with a brand’s technologies, people, products, or processes and we use that data to predict customer wants and needs. With this information, we can further tailor product and service offerings to meet or exceed these customer’s ever-changing expectations.
Now back to Mr. Golding’s analogy.
Each of the six core competencies of customer experience may pack a punch but in isolation, will not prove to be effective – even with the best of attempts to create memories that tell your brand story.
To truly engineer and deliver extraordinary customer experiences consistently, combine the powers of each of these competencies into a comprehensive, well-articulated customer experience ecosystem that delivers the business results of brand loyalty by focusing on customer success, customer effort and customer emotion.
*The Net Promoter System®, Net Promoter Score® and NPS® are registered trademarks and service marks of Bain & Company Inc, Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems Inc.