Through the Eyes of the Customer: Transformation Begins at Home

Studies invariably show that customer experience transformation provides a good return on investment. In fact, across sectors, McKinsey estimate that organisations offering exceptional customer experiences can exceed the gross margins of their competitors by 26%. But what makes a good customer experience? And what is the barometer for it?

Despite often having the good intentions to transform customer experience, finding the best answers to these questions can be a struggle for many organisations. In this, the final instalment of a series of posts, find out why you need to look through the eyes of the customer in order to transform your customer experience, and 5 ways to do this.

An outstanding customer experience (CX) strategy is more than just optimising products or services, but rather ensuring customer interactions function seamlessly and journeys are simple, efficient and easy to understand.

Organisations are increasingly recognising the benefits of customer-centric strategies, including increased revenue, reduced costs and stronger customer loyalty. However, an often overlooked element of CX strategies is the importance of engaging the whole organisation, from the boardroom to support functions, from managers to front line staff. For customers to see a difference in the journey you’re offering them, it is important that all facets of an organisation are pulling in the same CX-centric direction.

If you’re looking at external customer experience transformation, you could be forgiven for focusing on the specific interactions a customer has with your business. On the face of it, improving your contact centre interactions, for example, would appear to have a greater impact on your customer experience than ensuring that the back office is optimised.

However, devoting attention to internal processes and structure is equally important. Here’s what you need to do internally to optimise your external CX strategies.

1. Ensure aims and values permeate the whole organisation

If your company culture itself doesn’t recognise the importance of satisfying customer expectations, then your goal to improve CX is doomed to failure.

Your senior executives have a key role to play in instilling customer-centric values throughout the organisation. A shift at the top is important if a cultural change is to trickle all the way through to your front-line staff.

Without this high-level commitment, there is little impetus for management teams to promote the new culture and, as a result, staff are not encouraged to apply it to their daily roles and customer interactions.

In order to ensure those aims and values permeate the whole organisation, you need to be clear internally on why a CX strategy is important and what you want to achieve.

Appointing sponsors or champions who meet regularly to discuss the success of your initiatives and reinforce the new purpose within their teams can help your customer experience transformation bed-in within the organisation, especially if these people span a range of different departments.

Equally, being ‘customer-centric’ must be more than just a tagline. You should ensure that the new customer-centric aims and values form part of the decision-making process at every level.

For example, although your HR team don’t play a significant role in your customer journeys, they determine the people your customers interact with and so it’s vital that they hire the right calibre of staff. To achieve this, they must be fully onboard with your CX strategy.

The appointment of ‘customer happiness directors’ in some companies shows that the importance of customer experience is being recognised. However, it’s only when this is supported by internal behaviour changes that your customers will notice in an enhanced experience. Without communicating your CX vision, employees can easily venture off track and focus on tasks which aren’t critical to what you’re trying to achieve.

2. Engage your employees

Richard Branson famously claimed that customers come second at Virgin. The rationale behind this is that if you look after your employees, they’ll look after your customers. After all, an unengaged workforce is unlikely to go the extra mile to help a customer. In principle, this seems straightforward, but identifying what motivates your employees can be a challenging task.

Just as different customers want different things from their experience, not all employees will be motivated in the same way. It’s therefore important that organisations approach employee engagement from multiple angles and identify several strategies to implement.

Some employees might appreciate training programmes as they feel they are being challenged to grow. Others might work better through collaboration, e.g. setting team targets rather than individual goals. The list goes on.

What’s clear is that creating a ‘one size fits all’ rewards system isn’t likely to help you succeed in fully engaging your employees or realise your aim of creating a totally customer focused organisation.

Often ‘reward’ systems don’t align with what an organisation is trying to achieve. For example, you might identify that customers value a quick service and so reward the customer service agent with the shortest average handling time (AHT). However, in this instance, you’re essentially encouraging the agent to hang up the phone as soon as possible.

You aren’t achieving your desired outcome of improving customer experience and the engagement is hollow as your agent isn’t truly excelling in their role (click here to find out what you can measure instead of AHT).

3. Involve employees in feedback loops

Finding the right way to measure the success of CX strategies can be a challenge for businesses. But by tapping into the insights from your front-line staff, you can fine-tune your customer journeys, since they know more about the customer experience than any other person in your organisation. 

Front line staff spend their days speaking to customers, so who better to help you identify your customers’ expectations? They’re also likely have a good idea about how you can support them in their roles to meet these expectations.

Back office employees will be able to provide an insight into where processes can be streamlined and inefficiencies eliminated. Involving your employees at the start of a new customer journey is likely to have the added benefit of increasing their long-term engagement, since they are applying the same principles of customer excellence which they helped to identify. 

The job of middle and senior managers is to make sure everyone is working as one team, providing an overview to create a fully connected, end-to-end solution.

4. Give your staff the right tools

Identifying the pain-points in your customer journeys is only useful if your agents have the tools to be able to fix them. With growing customer expectations across sectors, it may be that your staff simply don’t have the tools to be able to serve their needs. In these instances, technology can provide an augmentation to agents to allow them to streamline journeys.

Processes that can easily be automated should be automated. This means your employees can focus their attention on more complex (and likely more stimulating) areas, and can cut the cost of your journeys by 25%. But for some journeys, human interaction is still required. The question is therefore how to optimise these channels.

A good example of this is the telecoms provider O2. O2 recently identified a problem in their customer retention journey. Industry regulations meant agents were required to read lengthy compliance scripts, which were unengaging for customers and resulted in inflated drop off rates.

To solve the problem, they provided their agents with a screen-sharing solution that enabled customers to send, sign and share documents in real time as part of the call. This eliminated the problem for both agent and customer as well as having the benefit of improving business performance (see the full case study here).

5. Get departments talking

Silos between touchpoints and channels are key issues affecting many organisations. Your employees may be very aware of their customers’ experience within the touchpoint they operate, but not have a great deal of understanding of where that customer has come from and how their journey will progress after the interaction is over.

This can cause substantial confusion and frustration for the customer, who may feel that they have been passed from pillar to post without any guidance or clarity over their journey.

To create simple and intuitive journeys, it’s key that you view customer experience from the customer’s perspective. ‘First call resolution’ should be a key aim, as it not only benefits the customer, but also the business through a reduction in call volumes, an increase in conversion rates and an improvement in customer satisfaction.

In order to achieve this, businesses need to place as much of the journey as possible into the hands of front line staff to solve the customer issues. Silo walls need to be torn down, as the customer does not care about what happens behind the scene, but rather about what impacts their journey.

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