Many industries resemble the local bazaars of Turkey. Rows of stands compete to sell an array of embellished products which are pretty much the same on the whole. Picky customers walk around, searching for the best option. It’s not an easy competition for anyone, and everyone is looking for a way to differentiate themselves.
The key to a competitive business advantage resides in providing an excellent customer experience. Across industries, the value for the customer rests not only in the product but also – and arguably more- in how the product is served to the customer. In today’s business environment, companies can distinguish themselves only by providing a seamless, omnichannel and delightful product.
There is no silver bullet for excellent customer experience. However, there are key components – listed below- that will help to deliver an ambitious strategy and a range of capabilities across dimensions; most notably leadership, governance, and culture.
Data analytics: Be Insightful, Relevant and Convenient
An accurate and rich database cultivated with advanced analytical capabilities allows companies to generate valuable insights about their customers. A better understanding of customer needs, preferences and behaviors lead to providing relevant offerings through the right channel at the right time. This is highly valuable in today’s market, as people are bombarded with offers. The majority of which is nothing but noise.
In today’s fast-paced environment, using real-time data for immediate action and prescriptive analysis is highly valuable for superior customer service. It both creates opportunities to pinpoint customers’ exact preferences and protects them from going through a disappointing experience. The former is likely to create brand advocates and fans while the latter serves to prevent incidents that could cause customers to search elsewhere.
The business value of leveraging data for customer experience lies in lowering costs-to-serve, increasing sales and establishing profitable, long-term customer relationships. Research shows that high performers achieve 5-10% greater revenues and reduce costs by 15-25% within three years. (See The CEO Guide to Customer Experience, August 2016, McKinsey.)
Human-Centric Design: Empathise with Customers and Craft Personally Significant Solutions
While being relevant and convenient are important value propositions, an excellent customer experience reaches beyond these elements to offer enjoyable and significant interactions. Providing a superior customer experience often starts by identifying aspirations like making sure that you care for the customers and put in your best effort for their sake at all times.
Once the company has a clear aspiration, the most important customer journeys are identified. For many companies, there is a set of key journeys that contribute extensively to customer satisfaction; be it taking out a bank loan, getting a pension scheme, changing travel dates or returning a pair of shoes.
After the key trajectories are identified, the steps of the journey are refined by multidisciplinary teams with an agile methodology. The key at this stage is to always keep in mind what the customer wants to get done and what her feelings are. After some trial and error, tests and iterations are run for optimization.
Overall, research and data are key ingredients of the design process, serving to identify key journeys and understanding the customer. Additionally, collaboration, an omnichannel approach, and a mix of digital solutions and human touch are key to designing superior solutions for customers.
Studies show that companies who use human-centric design methodology and work with agility in multidisciplinary teams can deploy major service improvements in less than 20 weeks. This way, these companies can significantly outperform their competitors. (See The 2015 Customer Experience ROI Study, Watermark Consulting.)
Metrics: Measure and Management for Continuous Improvement
Setting and measuring key indicators of meaningful customer experience is important for continuous improvement. Various ways of measuring customer experience, from granular service level indicators to broad customer advocacy indicators, all cater to certain needs. However, if there is no overarching customer experience vision, measurement efforts risk going fruitless. Therefore, to make sure metrics are interlinked and serve a holistic customer experience strategy, key customer journeys need to be identified and in-journey metrics need to be linked to a top-line experience indicator.
By making sure that customer experience is an active area of attention in a company, it is useful to create dashboards that monitor customer experience metrics. Role-specific dashboards that integrate data from a system that can capture customer feedback from multiple channels – like comments from frontline staff, survey results, social media posts, and operational data, for example – enable everyone to keep up with the customer pulse.
Overall, getting the key components right is necessary for superior customer experience. Leveraging data, utilizing human-centric design and monitoring performance metrics all align with an effective, 21st-century strategy. However, it is no easy task to seamlessly position customer-centricity at the core of business functions. Real progress and excelling at customer experience depend on a mixture of capabilities across dimensions including leadership, governance, and culture.
Customer experience should be owned by the leadership. Aspirations should be organized. Employees should work happily, and the frontline staff should be empowered to deliver excellent service as a daily routine. The result: delighted customers, happier employees, and better business performance health.
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