Though customer experience will never go out of style, customer strategy often falls behind the times. Companies try to stay in line with the latest trends, yet most fall victim to lackluster engagement tactics. But, as lagging strategies come to threaten customer satisfaction and loyalty, leaders recognize that building and sustaining an optimal experience remains the only true differentiator in an era of stagnation.
Success, however, depends upon the entire organization's willingness to change. Here, we speak with former 1to1 Media Customer Champions and industry analysts to determine how businesses can generate and maintain enterprisewide momentum with regard to customer experience strategy.
In this discussion, we feature insight from:
- Sheryl Kingstone, director at Yankee Group
- Bruce Temkin, customer experience transformist and managing partner at Temkin Group
- Gavin Woody, vice president, operations at A Place for Mom
- Anna DiGregorio, director of marketing for Marketplace PHL at Philadelphia International Airport
1to1 Media: What steps must leaders take to build momentum around their customer experience strategies in 2015?
Anna DiGregorio: Leaders must clearly understand and define what the customer experience should be and make sure it's consistent throughout the entire company.
Gavin Woody: To create a better customer experience, leaders must take three steps-
- Listen and/or observe numerous calls and customer interactions. Before you can define a better experience, you must understand what's happening today with actual customer interactions. Data from customer surveys and NPS scores will help paint the picture of where opportunities exist, but nothing beats immersing oneself in real situations to understand customer pain points.
- Define a better customer experience. Depending on your business, you may have to define a few different experiences based on customer segmentation. Put yourself in the shoes of each customer segment-how would you want to be treated? Define the outcomes you'd like to achieve with each experience and build those into your quality monitoring process.
- Test the new experience to see if you've achieved the desired outcomes. Ideally, you will run the test against a control group with a statistically significant sample to validate your results.
Sheryl Kingstone: Mobile customer engagement is a huge opportunity for businesses to improve customer acquisition and loyalty. New strategies across the customer journey can increase engagement and help customers learn about products, make purchases, request service, or earn rewards. Businesses today are struggling with ways to create differentiated customer engagement that ensures personalized, transparent customer experience where all interaction channels work seamlessly together to seize every revenue opportunity while delivering consistent service anywhere, anytime. Businesses need unique ways to acquire, serve, maintain, and grow customer relationships.
Bruce Temkin: Leaders need to commit to change, not just hope for improvements. Customer experience is the reflection of an organization's culture and operating processes, and those things are not easy to change. It's hard to ask your organization to make major improvements without being willing to change how you operate yourself. Leaders need to be prepared to shift investment priorities, assign resources to implement lasting changes, and focus on customer-centric metrics.
1to1: What sort of mindset must leaders occupy in order to achieve this momentum? How can they ensure employees will follow suit?
AD: Leaders need to hire the right people who will be able to execute the customer experience at every level. Train them and empower them to take on the customer experience by making it their mission in every aspect of their daily jobs. Allow employees to have a certain level of latitude when it comes to solving issues with customers. Give them the tools needed to resolve issues so that they don't need to go to their managers for approval.
GW: Fundamentally, leaders must lead by example. Take the time to listen to calls. Talk to actual customers. Engage in the details of the customer experience. Leaders must watch the numbers, but offering guidance to employees on how to handle specific customer experiences will have a significant positive impact. For example, I hold a weekly meeting with my leadership team where we pull random calls and have an informal discussion: "How do we think the customer felt after that call?"
SK: Delivering an optimized mobile customer experience will be the ultimate game changer. With the device growth tied to consumer demand for native mobile applications, apps are great strategies to not only acquire new customers, but also enhance loyalty campaigns. Yesterday's world was about one-way customer interactions; today's is about engagement anywhere on any device to ensure a positive experience. Any device can be tuned to its user, but true mobile context should encompass much more, including an individual user's location, stated preferences, behaviors, and social interactions. By capturing this data, businesses can gather analytical insight while delivering a customized experience.
BT: Leaders must learn to master a competency that we call "purposeful leadership." It's about being clear and consistent about the vision for customer experience and continuously reinforcing that clear message. Employees need to see and believe that leaders are acting consistently with the desire to achieve that change. If leaders try and fake it, then the employees will see right through it. They can tell what's important by the way that leaders behave. Leaders need to understand this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."
1to1: How can leaders sustain this momentum throughout the year?
AD: Leaders can sustain momentum by making sure they reiterate their message and goals for the customer experience with each employee every chance they can. Training and motivating employees provides great rewards for not only employees, but also customers. Employees should be rewarded for consistently achieving goals when it comes to the customer experience.
GW: "What gets measured gets done." We've all heard that mantra and most leaders have the traditional tools-customer satisfaction, NPS, etc.-at their fingertips to measure the customer experience. But, to really make an improvement, one must get specific. Instead of the broader customer satisfaction metric, what are the five pain points you're trying to solve this year? Put specific metrics around these, assign team members responsibility for each one, and review them on a regular basis to hold them accountable for improvement.
SK: Leaders must think mobile-first, even in an omnichannel world. Additionally, the need to support more sophisticated customer interactions will only increase the complexity of delivering superior customer experiences. When we look at customers' top preferences for interaction, it's clear new channels have gained in popularity during the past four years. Preferences for traditional channels, such as home telephone, email, and desktop Web have declined significantly compared to newer mobile channels, such as mobile self-service apps, mobile chat, mobile Web sites, or even using the mobile phone to speak to a customer service agent directly.
BT: Leaders need to make sure that customer experience is a recurring item in their staff meetings and that they incorporate the topic within all of their ongoing communications. They should set goals for the change that they want to see and then keep track of how effectively their organization is getting there. If a leader keeps asking about what's going on and expects his team to provide status on the progress, then it will stay near the top of their priority list. Leaders will also need to look for any barriers getting in the way. They can't just rely on what's being reported to them. They need to look for ways to chat with employees across the organization and ask them if they understand why there's a need to be more customer centric and if they believe that the company is heading in the right direction to get there.
1to1: Which customer experience strategies will garner the most attention and development in 2015?
AD: Understand your customers' wants and needs. Listen to what they're asking for, as this will ultimately create loyal customers. Loyal customers will also tell others about you, expanding your customer base. This can lead to a customer loyalty program, which will reward them for their continued support.
GW: Personalization and seamless experiences are increasingly important. With more customers sharing information publicly on social media, they expect that the companies with whom they interact will know who they are and create a more personalized experience for them. They're also more impatient than ever and hate to waste their time with navigating through a complex maze to solve their issues. Companies should invest in technology to capture and then infer information about their customers.
SK: Geolocation-enabled mobile platforms can completely change an experience based on proximity. Mobile marketing automation strategies also provide actionable insight. At the heart of mobile marketing initiatives is proximity marketing that takes advantage of the power of location. While mobile is just another channel in marketers' toolkits, many companies are moving to a mobile-first marketing strategy that demands a rich range of variables and conversions to not only measure mobile app performance, but also create marketing campaigns to ensure active engagement. Communications that put relevant, timely information right on the user's home screen can often increase engagement by 30-60 percent. It's also crucial to move beyond reactive customer response to more proactive customer treatment to not only strengthen brand loyalty and retention, but also lower the cost of customer service.
BT: This year will be a busy year for customer experience in lots of areas. In particular, I expect to see a lot of effort around mobile and online experiences, revamping voice of the customer programs, and an increase in the use of customer journey mapping.