5 Ways to Advance Your Customer Experience Effort in 2011

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Align the organization around customers as an asset to drive change and get results.

2010 was the year when business embraced the term "customer experience." There is now a frenzy inside organizations to make this a priority.

Many organizations say they focus on their customer "experience" but few do the hard work to define the stages of their experience from the customer journey point of view. In the absence of this, all of the operating areas do their own thing, driven by their internal tasks and agenda and scorecard. Much work is done, often in the name of the customer, but it doesn't add up from the customers' perspective to deliver a unified experience. The big things don't get systemically fixed.

Here is a simplified breakdown of five steps to make customer experience stick inside your organization.

1. Align your operation from the silos to customer experience

Here you define the stages of the experience and the moments of truth that comprise all of the experience touchpoints. This includes both the obvious touchpoints, such as "when the customer places their order," and opportunities that might be missed, such as "when the customer places their 100th order" or "when the customer has contacted customer service three times in a month."

Identify the top 10 to 20 moments of truth to help prioritize the touchpoints, and then work on improving reliability and weaving in "wow" moments. This is the basis for a customer experience transformation journey, because once it is agreed to you can

  • Align where you gather customer feedback on the experience
  • Connect cross-silo operational metrics to created shared measures
  • Establish reward and recognition that reinforces key behaviors
  • Give leaders a manner in which to hold the company accountable

2.Build experience-based customer listening

Where we get the information to inform what we solve and fix is frequently tied to when and how we get and interpret survey results. Surveys are important, but there are many opportunities-e.g., during support calls, at the point of sale, in the social sphere-to get close to customers and really "listen" in on what they have to say about the experience you are delivering that is driving them to buy more or driving them away. If we wait for survey results, or rely only on the data within them, we miss the most easily understood and passionate feedback available to help us understand the customer experience in real time.

The work here requires committing to three alignment action items:

  • Agree on the categories of customer issues that you will collect information on in a unified manner across the operation, so that you can consistently trend feedback.
  • Agree to start reporting customer listening feedback by customer experience stage.
  • Agree to stop handing off the experience issues to one department - identify the multiple silos that impact the experience and from there drive accountability.

3. Establish experience reliability and accountability metrics

This part of the work is about reliability in your experience, by proactively managing the key touchpoints with shared accountability across the silos. First, identify and establish key operational performance indicators (KPIs) for your top 10 to 15 customer experience touchpoints. Next, bring cross-functional teams together to take experiences from "broken" to "reliable" to ultimately a differentiating moment. Once you've got this process down, you can move past the top 10 to 15 touchpoints. But start with just these few; otherwise, it will become overwhelming.

Then, establishing what the forums should be for driving accountability.Something I recommend is a "Customer Room." In a customer room, depict the stages of the customer experience across the walls. Beneath each stage, show the artifacts of the experience that customers physically receive; the packing slip, hang tags, materials, overstock notices, etc. Also list beneath each stage, the complaints received, the KPIs for the key touchpoints, and the survey results related to it. On a quarterly or monthly basis convene the Customer Room to learn where you're letting customers down and to determine cross-functional fixes. This brings the organization together to think "experience" rather than "my silo."

4. Make customers an ASSET of your business

I call this "'customer math." It's about building passion across the organization and establishing a simple rallying cry for leaders. It goes like this:

Rather than talking about customer retention, let's begin each meeting with the raw numbers of:

  • Incoming customers - outgoing customers = net growth (or loss) of customer asset in that period
  • Customers who recommended us
  • Top five reasons why customers left

For many companies, just putting together these simple articulations of "incoming" customers requires an alignment in definition and in data. This is essentially the outcome of the experience you are delivering to customers. I have found it very powerful to always begin meetings with this simple report card of "earning the right" to customer growth.

5. Culture: delivering a "one company" customer experience

The companies that are most successful at customer experience work address the efforts across the silos, as well as how leaders enable the organization to collaborate and what behaviors and results they reward and recognize the staff for.

This begins with creating simple and clear actions for leaders, the middle management, and the frontline to enhance collaboration. For leaders: How do they remove roadblocks? For middle management: How do they work together across the silos and eliminate policies and procedures that get in the way of a united experience. For the frontline: How do we hire people congruent with our core values, and then enable and train them to bring the best version of themselves to work? And how do we involve them in the customer experience work?

To kick start your customer experience work in 2011, commit everyone in your organization to do one thing that you require customers to do once a month. Buy a product on your site as customers do. File a claim as they do, redeem a coupon, etc. Then talk about the process. Fix what doesn't make sense and makes you wonder why a company would treat customers in that manner. And do customer math; talk about lost and gained customers in every meeting. Then talk about it all as experiences - and start driving accountability in cross-functional teams to fix experiences, not silo problems.

+ + + + + + +

About the Author: Jeanne Bliss is president of Customer Bliss and author of Chief Customer Officer and I Love You More Than My Dog