Five Steps to Walking the Customer Experience Talk

Companies want to deliver an incredible customer experience.They also want to turn a profit, increase market share, and engage their employees.

If those goals don’t seem surprising, it’s because they shouldn’t be. Forrester’s latest Customer Experience Index report finds companies that outperform their peers in customer experience are likely to turn customers into repeat customers, and repeat customers into loyal brand ambassadors.

Unfortunately, there is no ‘better customer experience’ switch. In most organizations, the structure, hierarchy, and culture are obstacles to improving the customer experience.

“Organizations need to re-evaluate the organizational structure,” says Josh Linkner, CEO of Detroit Venture Partners and author of Disciplined Dreaming. “Who’s the king? Is it the hierarchy? The bureaucracy? The shareholders? Or is the customer the king?”

Business leaders must dig into the fabric of their organizations, revamping structures, processes, systems and mindsets to create a consistent customer experience. This takes more than writing a new mission statement.

Here are five steps to turn customer experience aspirations into reality.

1. If it’s not broke…
Improving customer experience doesn’t mean ripping the organization apart. Sometimes it just means looking at information you’ve already collected. UK toy retailer The Entertainer is a great example of using existing data and information to drive new outcomes. By combining its view of inventory for online sales with that of its bricks-and-mortar stores, the retailer delivered two new services which transformed its customers’ experiences and increased online sales by 32%:

  • Click and Collect. Customers can place orders online and pick up in-store, in as little as 30-minutes if products are in-stock.
  • 90-minute delivery. Customers in applicable postcodes can have their online orders delivered to their home via a delivery service called Shutl.

2. Map the Customer’s Journey
Too many companies follow an “inside-out” approach to their operations – making decisions based on what they believe are the best interests of their customers (think JC Penney’s ill-advised move to eliminate coupons), instead of building their processes outside-in, from the customer’s perspective.

Customer journey maps can help an organization capture the interactions between your customers and brand across time, channels, and touch points. Kerry Bodine, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester, has taken the concept one step further with what she calls ecosystem mapping, which helps companies identify the complex relationships that shape these interactions.

3. Remodel Your Metrics
Many organizations say they want to reduce average call times in their call center. This may be operationally efficient, but it’s not really customer-centric. Instead of measuring how quickly a call center rep helps a customer, try tracking how frequently the customer calls back. This incents an agent to take a little extra time to ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” Experiment by measuring customer experience based on lifetime value, not transactions.

4. Add Glue
Every organization needs a champion to ensure silos are connected, or better yet, destroyed. I’ve written before about how one of marketing’s core responsibilities is being a force multiplier that transforms a bunch of departments and titles into one, holistic entity. Rather than completely reorganizing the structure, marketing should be the glue.

5. Form a SWAT Team
Employees generally want to do right by their customers – but often don’t have the support to do so. “There’s a huge untapped resource among employees who wish they had some way to help solve customer issues, but they can’t because so many companies have a huge infrastructure with boundaries that no one is supposed to cross,” Bingham said. These types of bottom-up “SWAT” teams could help organizations deliver a seamless experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, as customers and professionals. What is the future of customer experience?

Please follow me on TwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.

Jonathan Becher is chief marketing officer at SAP.
This story originally appeared on LinkedIn Today on April 29, 2014.
Photo: Olivier Le Moal / Shutterstock

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