Why Customer Experience comes before the strategy
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." -- Warren Buffett
CS or CX or CE are not just buzz words. Customer Service-Customer Experience-Customer Engagement all require differing strategies for each despite the obvious crossover amongst them. There is growing evidence to support that business strategies (whether sales, IT platforms or marketing) ought to be built on customer experience first and not the other way around. To achieve the ultimate customer success solution and platform, it vital to learn from historic outcomes of negative consequences where new strategies were launched and how these impacted the business of a company.
It is too late when implementing a strategy (with all good intentions) that ends up upsetting both customers and the frontline staff. Usually, the implementation holds an investment behind it, so abandoning the strategy is not the best option. Caution should be taken as it generally paves the way for excessive NPS and KPIs with controlling dashboards that do little more than micro-manage the frontline staff - resulting in disengaged employees and unhappy customers. All is not lost though, there are ways of re-engaging frontline employees who can act as ambassadors for the customers.
Nothing wrong with NPS or KPIs either - but they should not be implemented as a knee-jerk reaction to a customer crisis. They are great tools that could enhance the relationship with with the customer. Before embarking on that - I would suggest its better to start with customer complaints, and look to mitigate the impact by gathering the intel so that milestones and actions are prioritised. If done right, it will halt the service issue with actions to reverse customer perceptions. Not ideal, but confirms a case for taking customer experience more seriously in order to achieve true customer success.
Deploying a strategy without assessing customer experience?
Customer service is all about the required responsiveness (help, advice, support etc) provided by a company to its customers. Customers are interacting with the company because they want something. Interaction occurs before, during and after the desired transaction.
It is fair to say that a significant proportion of customer experience is heavily influenced by the customer service interaction. It is also fair to say that a significant amount of the interaction and approach CS teams can take is dictated by the tools and framework of processes used and other influential departments around them.
Customer experience (CX) is about the product of the interactions between a company and a customer throughout the duration of their relationship and how customers perceive these interactions.
The overall customer experience is what stays with the customer and will ultimately decide if they will come back to you or recommend you. Customer service clearly plays an important role with the key difference being that customer service can be pinpointed to a specific department or individual. Customer experience however, is the responsibility of everyone at the company.
Customer experience is an emotional connection of how the customer perceives your brand. You can try to shape that experience into a positive one by engaging with the customer. This could be through social media, surveys, ad campaigns or direct interaction. This customer engagement is what helps you keep a customer and gets them coming back to you on a regular basis.
These are all the aspects that ultimately make you feel something and can include everything from the way a product arrives, interaction with a customer service agent - or receiving a notification email. CX involves the integration of physical, emotional and psychological processes that occur throughout the customer journey.
Customer engagement is a communication connection between a consumer and a company through various channels. It is the means by which a company can create a relationship with its customer base. Traditional marketing methods are becoming less effective which makes customer engagement a vital area where companies can measure their effectiveness. Again, this could be classed as a specific area of customer experience and is usually more focused on sustaining and growing your audience. Customer engagement is the process of actively building, nurturing and managing relationships with customers. The more engaged your customers are with your brand the more likely they are to remain loyal and increase their lifetime value.
Create a successful strategy
Easier said than done. Everyone has a definition of what 'success' or 'good' looks like. None of it matters if your customer and client base are unhappy. The success will be short lived. It is a known fact that improving customer experience increases profit - same for improving employee engagement - it delivers increased productivity and reduced retention.
From personal experience (and I have 20+ years), CS, CX and CE are not considered technical disciplines and therefore open to numerous subjective views across the business - this makes the job hard for CS professionals. Everyone has an opinion on CS and more so where there is an in-house operation. The outsourced operations are generally more understanding as they operate across multiple verticals and have broader frontline skill sets.
Nothing wrong with in-house CS operations. They are a great way of building long term relationships with customers and have a greater chance of achieving true customer success.
If this was a blank sheet of paper, I would suggest starting with complaints and address the issues that customers are telling you about. No point venturing into external customer surveys if customers are contacting you and giving you the information. In parallel, collate the feedback from frontline - they are the ones who talk to customers and know better than senior management what the state of affairs really is.
Develop a strategy that includes input from frontline teams, engage customers as well and above all, make sure the process is stress tested before rollout.
Author: Renee Kalia