The notion that "the customer is always right" has existed as a central business tenant for over 100 years. This principle has never been more relevant than it is today, especially in a world where customers can air their grievances on social media. However, the idea has also evolved and is now manifesting in a new way-the push for fantastic customer experiences.
Customer experience is critical to acquiring new customers, as well as retaining existing ones. Nearly 70 percent of new business is generated, or at least influenced, by word-of-mouth, and the quality of customer experience directly affects whether an individual or business will recommend your offering to others. Strong customer experiences are also essential in driving revenue (reducing churn rates by just 5 percent can increase profits by 25-125 percent).
The stakes are clearly high and this is fueling a trend in the workplace: hiring "customer experience managers." These hires are supposed to help executives think outside the box, identify low-hanging fruit, disrupt the ecosystem, and produce synergy across an organization. While the problems this role was invented to address are real, simply hiring someone to fill this role is not an actual solution. There are better ways to deliver the best possible customer experience, no "manager" required.
Leverage Existing Resources
The impulse to hire a customer experience manager is a good one, likely motivated by real breakdowns and bottlenecks that cause customer frustration and churn. However, is adding another layer to the organization really the answer? Most companies already have a customer support organization in place that is equipped to manage customer relationships. While "customer experience" involves more than strong customer service, the latter certainly plays a large role. Seventy-one percent of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service. Before hiring a manager or forming a new team, executives should look at how existing customer support teams can be empowered and improved.
Use Existing Customer Data
As anyone who has made a customer service call knows, there are few things more annoying and time-wasting than having to repeatedly tell people who you are, what products you use, what your problem is, and how you've already tried to resolve it. Data is a powerful tool for gaining insight into every customer and making the customer support process more efficient.
The wealth of analytics and communication technology means no organization should be in the dark about what is going on with their customers. Every interaction should be tracked and synced so as to create a seamless and proactive support system. With real-time information, support staff can understand a customer's needs from the second they get on the call and make smarter recommendations for how to address them. Customer data is also a powerful way to identify larger problems, like those breakdowns and bottlenecks mentioned above, to identify trouble spots before they negatively impact the business.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review discussed how providing a truly great customer experience requires top-notch interactions at every point along the customer's journey, from product development to sales. People who promote "customer experience teams" typically frame them as the best way to achieve this goal. These teams are intended to broaden internal focus on the customer by reaching across to other business units in order to manage customer relationships from end-to-end.
The "need" for customer experience managers often stems from the inability of internal departments to work together on solving customer problems. The prevailing mindset says that a customer currently on the phone with an issue is a ticket to be resolved, rather than a relationship to be managed. It does not take grafting an additional layer onto the organization to change this mentality. A better approach is to focus on building a collaboration platform that makes it easier for people to work together across departments.
Customer experience management is a philosophy, not a position, and it does not require a dedicated person or team to spread these ideas. Companies must embrace that every customer interaction represents one piece of the larger relationship and that every employee is responsible for maintaining customer relationships in their own way. Think of your entire organization as the customer experience team, and give them the resources they need to do their job well.