Are we asking the right question?
Do you want to know the number one question I’m hearing today from executives, professionals just like you, that want to improve their company’s customer experience?
“Michel, where do we start?!”
Customer experience is a growth strategy. I firmly believe that most of us now understand this. We are now trying to determine the best foot to put forward to bring us closer to creating a customer experience that not only delights our customers, but that also helps us financially.
If a superior customer experience has worked for companies like Starbucks and
ZenPayroll Gusto can it also work for your organization? Of course!
[bctt tweet=”Customer experience isn’t agnostic to a specific industry or size of company. It’s for every company!”]
But first we need to reevaluate how we are spending our operating budgets.
I see it every day: companies from around the world claim to be customer-centric, but their operations don’t show it. If they are truly customer-focused then why is their call centre understaffed? Why are customers waiting on-hold for 60 minutes to speak to an employee? Why aren’t their social media channels monitored 24/7 like their phone lines are?
I believe we would rather invest in traditional marketing before we invest in improving our customer experience for two key reasons.
Marketing is tangible
We can touch print marketing. We can see television ads. We can hear radio campaigns.
Being able to touch, see, or hear our investments provides us with a sense of immediacy and allows us to show our boss that, yes, we did manage to create value out of our operating budget. After all, I don’t disagree with traditional marketing. I still believe it can help your business; I just think there is a time and place for it. That time and place isn’t before improving your customer experience.
If you’ve ever invested in improving your customer experience (for example, by hiring someone to facilitate training for your frontline employees), you know that the ROI isn’t instantaneous. Often, you can’t touch, see, or hear the immediate impact of hiring an exceptional trainer for your team, other than your employees saying that the training was valuable. But, for the executive who is able to think long-term, you know that an investment in the development of people is always a winning bet.
Is it all we know how to do?
This reason is unfortunate. I know of companies that neglect to improve their customer experience because they don’t know where to start.
A recent conversation I had with a Vice President who works for a large, recognizable company humbly said:
“What keeps me up at night is that I don’t have the answers to improve our customer experience.”
He had recently attended a conference and all the rage, at the event, was to invest heavily in social media. While I won’t argue that a social media strategy isn’t important (it’s terribly important), it might not be the greatest priority for his company.
To create a world-class customer experience, we must be willing to let our guard down and admit that we don’t have the answers and need help.
This is why I’m writing this post.
After studying and being a practitioner of customer experience for nearly ten years, I believe I know the first three steps to improve a company’s customer experience.
Before I get to that, let’s review the research my team compiled after surveying 1,000 entrepreneurs and executives from small, medium, and large-sized companies from industries such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and professional services. I encourage you to share these statistics with your team.
We asked these executives five questions.
- How do you define customer experience?
- How important is a superior customer experience to the success of your company?
- Does your organization have a customer experience strategy?
- How likely are you to invest to improve your customer experience within the next 12 months?
- What would you be more likely to invest in to improve your organization’s customer experience?
The results were both shocking and optimistic.
How do you define customer experience?
Only 3% of the executives we surveyed were accurately able to explain what customer experience is, according to our definition. This took us by surprise. How are we supposed to begin to improve something if we don’t know what it is? That’s like an untrained mechanic trying to fix a car when he has no experience.
Our definition of customer experience goes like this:
“Customer experience is the design of the interactions your customers have with you from beginning to end.”
It emcompasses everything. From the moment they recognize they have a need or desire to purchase your service or product, to receiving your customer survey after the purchase has taken place, and everything in between.
How important is a superior customer experience to the success of your company?
74% of executives we surveyed said that customer experience was “very important.” After all, whether it’s in your personal or professional life, isn’t taking care of people “very important”?
These responses told us what we already knew: that we tend to understand that customer experience must be a top priority.
Does your organization have a customer experience strategy?
82% of responded said “no.”
While it hurt to hear this, it did validate what we believed was true. As I mentioned earlier in the post, and our data confirmed, we, as executives, know that customer experience is important. What we don’t know is where to start, which, in turn, leaves us without a strategy.
How likely are you to invest to improve your customer experience within the next 12 months?
I was more optimistic after seeing the responses to this question. 78% of executives replied, “very likely”! You see, we know that we need to do so, we just need some guidance along the way. The business world doesn’t need another marketer or salesperson; it desperately needs more customer experience professionals. Together, we will make our businesses stronger. We must be willing to take action and not simply acknowledge this need from the sidelines.
What would you be more likely to invest in to improve your organization’s customer experience?
For this question, I provided respondents with three options:
- Train better
- Hire effectively
- Survey customers efficiently
The results were as follows:
I’ve met some executives that want to run straight to surveying their customers. I would never say that is a bad idea. However, I do believe that there are some other subtle refinements that can be made to improve your customer experience first. Actually, there are three affordable ways to do so.
And now, what you came here for.
Based on my experience with coaching companies of all sizes, across many industries, there are three ways for a company to improve their customer experience (almost instantly).
Affordable Strategy #1 – Build a Bulletproof Hiring Strategy
Here’s an exercise for you to complete. Locate the hiring template your company uses to host interviews. Take the questions and copy and paste them into Google. After clicking search, if you are able to find the answer to your question, guess what your candidate is doing 24 hours before their interview with you?
We must make the way we hire bulletproof and make it difficult to earn employment with our company. If we are going to trust our employees to deliver a world-class customer experience that will grow our business or department, we must ensure that we are inviting the right candidates into our business, similar to how we meticulously analyze who will attend our wedding or housewarming party.
Stop asking the predictable questions like:
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Instead, consider asking these two questions:
“How would you explain the difference between customer service and customer experience?” and “What is the temperature of the sun?”
To understand why I recommend asking these two questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tell you.
For those who may be asking themselves:
“I want to improve my company’s customer experience, but where do I start?”
The answer is clear: you must start by evaluating the way you are hiring customer-focused employees before you pursue anything else.
Affordable Strategy #2 – Training Isn’t Expensive; Bad Training is Expensive
I charge clients in the five-figures to host training programs. I command a high price because the value of the training I provide exceeds the cost of hiring me.
In 2014, I was hired by an auto group that owns four franchises (Toyota, Lexus, Volkswagen, and Scion) to host customer-focused training for an entire year. What did this make me think?
“This company gets it!”
The company got it right from when they made the decision to have every single employee on their payroll go through the same training. The training wasn’t only reserved for their receptionists or customer service team. We welcomed sales staff, the finance team, technicians, general managers… everyone! They understood what I preach: in order to deliver a seamless customer experience, every department must receive the same education.
[bctt tweet=”Customer experience training isn’t only reserved for customer-facing employees.”]
My first job, if you were to exclude the paper route I had when I was seven years old, was at McDonald’s, which has a fantastic training program. They taught me to be efficient, be friendly, and to make eye contact with customers. While these training tactics are still important today, they can’t be the only thing we teach our employees to do.
Our employees, the people who will speak to more customers in one day than the CEO will in an entire year, must be the most educated people in our business.
Take a moment to review your current training program. What type of material does it include? If it doesn’t include the following two pieces of content, then you have an opportunity to improve.
- What is organic growth?
Organic growth is defined as the revenue that a company earns through referrals and repeat purchases from existing customers. Ask any CFO about the importance of organic growth to the bottom line. She will tell you that organic growth is vitally important to the success of the business because the cost of acquiring these customers is low, if anything at all. You see, if a customer returns or refers a friend or family member to your business, you didn’t have to spend any money on traditional or digital marketing to acquire that new, highly profitable customer.
Organic growth is powered by customer experience. Sure, your product might be fantastic, but if your customer experience is subpar then the success of your business will be in jeopardy. Imagine if Apple had the same great products but was supported by poorly trained Apple Geniuses in their stores. They might not be the most valuable company in the world, as they are now. It’s the Apple Geniuses that provide that memorable customer experience.
Your employees must understand that it’s their efforts that contribute to the success of the bottom line through organic growth.
- The Three Customer Personality Types
You know that your employees can’t deliver the same type of customer service to every customer, right?
Some customers react differently to certain conversations, while others have different definitions of a successful customer experience. You’ve probably overheard a conversation that one of your employees was having with a customer. He may have said:
“Hi, terrific weather we’re having, don’t you think?” and the customer abruptly said, “Yes,” and didn’t engage further.
If this same question was asked to another customer, one who is willingly converse with employees in off-topic conversation, then perhaps that conversation may have been more successful and meaningful.
The three customer personality types are:
- The Director – this customer has shorter conversations, is direct with their desires, won’t willingly engage in off-topic conversations, and appreciates efficiency.
- The Socializer – this customer loves engaging in off-topic conversations, can be easier to build rapport with, and appreciates employees who will take the time to ask them about their day before conducting business.
- The Passive – this customer may seem guarded, unwilling to divulge much information about their motivations in doing business with you, and seem unenthusiastic. But, keep in mind, that this personality type may be doing this as a way to not be sold to.
Review your training program today and see if you can implement these tactics to improve your training program tomorrow!
Affordable Strategy #3 – Does Your Employee Engagement Strategy Create Meaning?
If you’re hiring correctly, and getting the right people into your organization, then they don’t always want to be recognized through money or electronics, like free TVs or iPads.
Don’t get me wrong, your employees do need money to secure their livelihoods, but if they are focused on growing within your company then they will sacrifice a small wage increase to have a stronger relationship with the organization.
Some of the best ways to keep your employees engaged and have them continuously delivering a memorable customer experience doesn’t involve money or incentives. As a practitioner, someone who takes what he knows and applies it, I have found that the following two strategies work exceptionally well.
- Lunch & Learns
Your employees want to learn. Some of them may want to grow a business of their own one day, while others may want to rise through the ranks of your organization. Whatever their motivation is, help expedite their growth by providing them with education. Lunch & Learns are monthly, 60 to 90 minute workshops hosted by the organization around specific topics. For example, the Lunch & Learn in September may be focused on digital marketing, hosted by a marketing manager within your company. The following month, your finance team may host a workshop on how to read financial statements.
Not everyone is going to volunteer their time to attend Lunch & Learns, but that’s not the goal. Pay specific attention to the ones who do reserve their time and attend because they are your rising stars. These individuals will be the ones who may replace you as the next leaders.
- 30 Minute Recognition Sessions
Every executive should reserve 30 minutes a week on their calendar as recurring meetings that don’t get cancelled. During this time your only responsibility is to find an employee, in your department or a neighbouring department, and thank them for their service to the company.
The reason that you are recognizing them could be for a number of reasons:
- An outstanding accomplishment (i.e. delivering amazing customer service or setting a sales record)
- Helping your department with a special project
- A work anniversary
During this 30 minutes, take the employee out for coffee or lunch (keeping with the theme of affordability), but limit the amount of ‘business talk’ that takes place. Of course, you want to outline why you have invited them for lunch, but then turn the conversation over to them. Get to know them an individuals, not as an employee. Ask them questions about their passions outside of work and what their hobbies are. You will find that the employee will willingly share information with you once you begin talking about what makes them excited.
At the end of the conversation, ask this:
“What can I do to help you grow within the company?”
Record what they respond with and deliver on it!
I want to hear from you…
We know that customer experience is important. It’s not going to become unimportant… ever! Part of the reason why we don’t know what to do next to improve our company’s customer experience is because business school never taught us how to develop customer experience management strategies.
Knowing this, my team and I set out to build an online course we called Experience Academy. We didn’t feel that the business world has been given the opportunity to learn the strategies that go into building a world-class customer experience, so we built a six module online certification course. You can learn your first eight lessons, for free, by clicking here.
I believe this post has given you some things to think about and look into (i.e. hiring, training, employee recognition).
Do you agree with my three suggested strategies?
Is there a better way?
Have I missed something?
Let me know in the comments below.
Don’t forget! You can also download my FREE ebook, “28 Actionable Strategies to Grow Any Company Through Customer Experience,” to learn other unique tips to improve your company’s customer experience.