As 2016 nears, have you started to map out your customer experience strategy for next year?
Will 2016 be the year that you fully commit to improving your customer experience?
I don’t mean that you continue to tell your customers, employees and business partners (i.e. vendors) that you’re customer-focused. I mean, will you actually invest, in dollars and time, to create a customer experience that is worth seeing again and again?
This year, my team and I surveyed one thousand CEOs and determined that only 7% of their companies had a customer experience strategy – a strategy that is meticulously designed, discussed and ready to be deployed across the organization.
Know that your customer experience is only going to get better with action and it deserves the exact same attention that marketing and sales receives. Assuming that your customer experience strategy will develop on its own is wishful thinking.
There are three key questions that you must answer before building your 2016 customer experience strategy.
What is the current state of your customer experience?
Before you can heal or improve something, first you must diagnosis it. Doctors do it to heal an injury. Relationship therapists do it to mend struggling relationship. And, likewise, you must do it to understand which actions to take for steps 2 and 3.
So how do you audit your customer experience?
Anecdotally assuming that you know the current state of your customer experience is wrong. Speaking only with your executive team about it is wrong. Going with your gut instinct is wrong as well.
You must look internally AND externally to properly audit your customer experience.
Voice of the Customer (VoC)
If you’re familiar with customer experience and its strategies and processes then you are familiar with VoC. But what if you’re not? VoC is a way to better understand your customer experience directly from your customers. This can include both customer surveys and customer advisory boards.
Your company’s management team should review year-over-year customer survey results and be able to identify trends. To begin, identity the top 3 reasons, or categories, why your customers say they are loyal to your company or would recommend you. To serve as an example, let’s say you operate a chain of grocery stores. Your top 3 promoter reasons might be competitive prices, clean stores and accessible parking. The next part is the tougher part of this exercise: understanding why your customers wouldn’t recommend your service or product. If you are in banking, you top 3 detractor reasons might include inflexible banking hours, high monthly fees and long lines.
Whatever your “top 3s” are, your entire management team must understand them and be able to recite them like their telephone numbers.
Have macro and micro conversations with your employees
Your customers get a voice, right? How about your employees?
The voice of the employee is an intimate way for you to receive feedback from your team. Now, I would never suggest a roundabout way for surveying your employees (i.e. sending a long list of questions). I’ve seen employee surveys done well and, more often, done poorly. But that’s okay (for now). Today is the day that you learn how to properly do it to build your 2016 customer experience strategy. After all, your employees may speak to more customers in one day than the CEO might in a year. It’s only fitting that we learn from them too.
Macro employee listening
The macro way to listen to your employees is to survey them. But doing so is slightly different than surveying your customers. Not only do you want to understand what customers are saying about your service or product, to your employees, but you also want to understand how they trust team members and feel in their roles as employees.
- Do they have the tools they need to succeed?
- Do they need more education on how to perform their job well?
- Are they consistently motivated to excel? If not, why?
- Can your company be doing anything more to help them improve the customer experience?
There is plenty of light, affordable software to help you survey your customers. In fact, many of the VoC software programs will allow you to survey your employees as well. A company called TinyPulse, software that I recommend in my online course, Experience Academy, allows you to ask your employees one question at a time. Employees love it because it’s simple and submitted anonymously.
Before you decide to purchase software, or sign up for a free trail, determine what questions you’re going to ask and what you will do with the feedback.
Micro employee listening
During my time as a call centre team member at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, before I moved into Operations, Patrick Louis (someone that I’m still in touch with today) created a new layer of management. These employees were known as Team Captains and they reported directly into call centre management.
What this new layer of employees were responsible for, amongst other things, was to keep a close ear to what customers and employees were saying about the current state of the customer experience. I can tell you, firsthand, that it worked magically! Not only were Team Captains able to provide useful information that the management team could use to better the business, but it also gave them a sense of accomplishment, pride and promotion (as this new designation came along with a modest raise). Team Captains and management would come together weekly to discuss the current state of the customer experience. This form of micro employee listening works extremely well and I highly advocate it within medium and large-sized businesses. If you’re a small business, but plan on growing, start building the blueprint for this to happen now.
Who will do what by when?
In my last post, I outlined that your customer experience needs a Single Point of Accountability (SPA). Who within your business will lead your company’s customer experience? I outlined in that post that the CEO can’t do it. While your CEO must be a proponent of your efforts, she can’t be doing the work. Your company must appoint someone to lead the strategy, build the team and execute on the plan.
An emerging role within companies of all sizes and industries is the Chief Customer Officer. Munchery, the ventured-back delivery company, recently recruited Pascal Rigo to become their Chief Customer Experience Officer after he sold his company La Boulange to Starbucks for $100 million. When I read the article, I was elated because I, and many others, have been promoting the need for this role within companies for years.
Whether you’re a venture-back company, valued at a billion dollars, or a $25M company, your customer experience needs a SPA. One of my clients, one of Las Vegas’ largest HVAC companies, recently appointed their customer experience SPA. This company, in an industry not immediately recognized for their customer experience strategy, understood that their customer experience needs a leader within the organization with me even having to make a case for it.
Do you have a customer experience SPA within your company today? Do they have everything they need to succeed, including the education, the budget and the software required to thrive?
If you don’t have a SPA, do you know someone in your company that could take on that role and succeed? If not, do you know how you will recruit this individual?
What role will you play?
You could be the CEO of a recognizable company. Maybe you’re an executive or manager for a multi-million or billion dollar brand. Or you could be the entrepreneur that is looking for new ways to grow their business. Whatever it is that you do, you’re going to need to assist in creating your company’s 2016 customer experience strategy.
I remember being 23 years old and being asked to sit in on my company’s strategic planning meeting to give my thoughts on the organization’s customer experience initiatives that were being deployed the following quarter. It was during these type of meetings that I was able to support the company’s customer experience strategy before I even had the authority to lead.
If you’ve follow my blog, visited my YouTube channel or follow me on social media, you know that I spend 3 to 4 hours each day studying the inner workings of customer-focused companies. When I was developing my career in customer experience, I would regularly share articles, case studies and interviews with colleagues to continuously remind them of how important customer experience was to the livelihood of the company. This was another role I played early in my career that yielded value and one you can do as well.
If you’re a CEO or executive, the role you must play is twofold:
- Champion the customer experience à la Richard Branson – talk to the media about your customer experience, preach it in every meeting, and include it in your company’s internal newsletter
- Allocate the necessary resources (i.e. time and budget) to always improve your company’s customer experience. Your customer experience won’t improve unless you invest in it. Believe me, I’ve seen it firsthand: an investment in customer experience always pays a favourable ROI.
As I make plans for 2016 (I’m working on something REALLY exciting and I can’t wait to share it with you) some things I’m asking myself are:
- “How will my customer experience improve in 2016?”
- “Where did I fail last year in delivering a customer experience that my customers would want to see again?”
- “What do I need to do to take it to the next level?”
Yes, customer experience consultants and keynote speakers also need to survey their customers, conduct customer journey maps, and identify strengths and areas to improve.
We probably haven’t met in-person before, but allow me to make a personal challenge, perhaps even a plea: go out and give your customer experience a 2016 strategy. Start now! Don’t wait because it will not build itself.
Have you downloaded my free ebook yet? Learn 28 customer and employee experience strategies that will help you become a world-class company. You can download it by filling in the form directly below this post.