13 steps to getting your customer experience right

OPINION / 20th August 2018

Regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, your customers will want a good customer experience akin to the services they’re already receiving from the likes of Uber, Apple and Amazon.

Customer experience (CX) demands are percolating from these leading companies to the rest of the business community and as a result, customers are becoming more demanding. Like it or not, they are comparing your services against those who are excelling at the customer experience game.

Above all CX is about putting the customers’ needs at the centre of your business and ensuring that all the touch points they have on their journey with you are relevant.

Report after report shows that good customer experience not only leads to happier and more satisfied customers (who in turn become more valuable as they promote your company to their family and friends), it also reduces operational costs, lowering your cost to serve them.

But how can you transform your business and turn it on its head to put the customers’ needs at front and centre of your strategy?

Start by looking at your customer and how they interact with your business. Typically, your customers will interact with your company on multiple channels. In other words, they’ll access more than one touchpoint to fulfil their need, interacting with physical and digital elements of your business along the way.

This is where it can get complicated, especially if you’re an incumbent business born before the digital era, as it’s likely that your departments are organised in silos.

Throughout the years, and for many different reasons such as new IT systems, new legal requirements or industry regulation, you will have added new layers of complexity to your business which make your end user’s customer experience clunky.

Yet your customers have simple needs. They want to interact with you as quickly and seamlessly as possible, receive the service they expect and then get on with their day. They don’t care what the internal workings of your business look like, they don’t care that your IT doesn’t interact with marketing, or that your sales team are at loggerheads with compliance.

So, in order for you to meet your customers’ expectations your business will need a shift in perspective, and there are several best practice steps you can take in order to make this happen:

Here are the steps in more detail:

Step 1

Firstly, you need to adopt a top-down approach to change. Your CEO right down to middle management needs to understand why the customer is so important. These people then need to propagate this conviction across the rest of the organisation, especially to your frontline staff.

Step 2

Then create a cross-collaboration, multi-disciplinary team, from multiple areas of your company – everyone from sales, marketing, operations, customer services and include support areas such as IT and finance, to commit to working jointly to improve the customer experience journey across along the various touch points.

Step 3

Conduct a CX maturity audit – this will enable you to identify the things you need to do to encourage an organisation-wide cultural and behavioural shift. The results of the audit will also help to feed into your CX strategy and guide the formation and eventual delivery of the service across all touchpoints/channels.

Step 4

Undertake a service gap analysis. This will show you how well you currently communicate with your customers across all channels (the customer perception) and how it aligns with their expectations (customer expectation). If gaps exist, then you need to determine why – is it due to knowledge, policy, communication or delivery?

Step 5

Next, put yourselves into the shoes of your customer. Use a number of research methods, such as online or face to face interviews, diary studies and surveys to find out where they’ve had problems interacting with you and what their pain points are.

Step 6

Seek to understand your customer’s perception of your business using an 'expectations model', which will show you how your customer expectations are being met or not. Use the research you generated in step 4, as well as your customer satisfaction scores and/or Net Promoter Score (NPS), and any other analytics you may have. What are they telling you? Compare your current performance against your customers' expectation of your service.

Step 7

Follow this up by identifying your customers’ basic needs. What do they want from you? When they interact with your company what is it they want to achieve – do they want to buy a new product / service that you’re selling, or do they want to complain that something they’ve bought from you is broken or wrong?

Step 8

In addition, conduct a 'touchpoints and transitions' analysis. This helps you to develop a picture of your existing customer journey map and identify where the gaps are. Look at a defined set of touchpoints and through a mixture of research activities observe how your customers transition between them. Ideally, this should cover different periods in a customer’s lifetime with you, for example pre-purchase, in-purchase and post-purchase / return, as well as a variety of different touchpoint types, for example person-to-person (say in a call centre or instore) and person-to-machine activities (like using your website or an app).

Step 9

Now create an end-to-end view of your customer experience. This could be in the form of a journey map or a service blueprint. A journey map can be very one dimensional as it is only concerned with the user, their journey and behaviour (called 'frontstage' in Service Design) and doesn't consider the tools, systems, people or processes required to support this (known as 'backstage' in Service Design). This is where a service blueprint comes in, as it allows you to map out all of these things together, and how they influence or impact on each other. It also enables you to assign responsibility for different areas, allowing stakeholders to take ownership of specific areas.

Step 10

Prioritise your customer journeys. Identify the most important customer journeys to focus on, such as those that are most costly or are creating the most problems and address these issues first. You may find that it might be something backstage that will have a bigger impact on improving the service or experience for customers than something within a specific journey. This should be identifiable from the service blueprint (which could be an 'as is' blueprint, or a 'to be' blueprint) which you developed in Step 9.

Step 11

Appoint a customer journey lead who should identify which parts of the customer journey affect the new service blueprint. They should engage and liaise with your various departments that are responsible for each touch point. Here you’ll need to decide whether you need to change internal processes to accommodate new journey changes.

Step 12

Create a feedback loop system to ensure the success and widespread adoption of your new customer-centric approach. Employees on the front line – those interacting with the customer – should ask for satisfaction ratings or comments at the end of your interaction with the customer. And digital or automated channels can also have customer feedback surveys or NPS questions built into the journey. All this insight can be fed back into your system.

This insight can be presented as a dashboard for everyone to see, as well as to individual stakeholders, i.e. those in the field such as sales reps, call centre staff, etc, or the team managing a digital channel. Everyone who interacted with the customer should receive feedback about the experience they’ve delivered, and how it can be improved.

Step 13

Enjoy the benefits of taking a customer-centric approach. Within a year of adopting this new approach, you will see significant links between improving the customer experience and the bottom line.

By focusing on customer experience you will witness side benefits such as lower cost to serve, arisen by simplifying processes. When you improve the end to end customer journey you will increase your chances of getting your first-time interaction with your customer right; this helps to avoid repeat (costly) interactions.

How improving the customer experience saved one company 20 million Euros

In the last five years, Sunrise telecommunications in Switzerland has moved from being the Swiss telecom laggard to the leading alternative telecoms provider in the country.

Back in 2013, its service was known for its low quality, low price, poor customer service, and it even had low employee morale. Sunrise was losing market share and its revenues were in decline.

Then, the Sunrise leadership took a deep look into what needed to be done to turn perception and business operations around. One area that surfaced quickly was customer dissatisfaction and the correlation with long-term revenue. The other was not having the right processes in place to consolidate and channel feedback to the right people within the organisation.

The CEO led the change by personally making daily calls over a period of six to eight weeks to customers to understand where the company could do better. It also built a customer feedback loop into the company to serve as an integral part of their sustainable business strategy, geared toward long-term retention.

By 2015, the customer-first strategy had reportedly saved 20 million Euros in reduced employee and customer churn, with 80% customer satisfaction.

Clare Lambert Clare Lambert Senior Account Director Clare Lambert