Developing a customer centric culture means nailing what your customers really want and responding to that in a way that your people can deliver.
Zappos, the world’s largest online shoe retailer, bought by Amazon for nearly a billion dollars in 2009, has 500 employees in a call center in Las Vegas who have all received seven weeks of intensive training on how to make customers happy.
The stories are legendary and include Zappos customer service reps doing everything from sending flowers to a woman who ordered six different pairs of shoes because her feet were damaged by harsh medical treatments to overnighting a free pair of shoes to a best man who had arrived at a wedding shoeless. There’s also the small matter of the longest ever reported customer service phone call coming in at 10 hours and 29 minutes.
The point of the story is that Zappos is a great example of a company who publish a customer service mantra - “to deliver WOW through customer service” - and who then align the organisation to deliver on it through comprehensive training, empowerment to act and customer metrics focused on ‘wow’ (i.e. satisfaction) not efficacy.
It takes more to make a success of Customer Experience than implementing isolated initiatives like a customer feedback process, responsive call centre staff, interactive technology or measuring NPS improvements. These things may seemingly allow improvements to the customer experience – but they are likely to be incremental and the customer may not even notice. Often what’s most important to the customer, what they really value and more importantly what’s of greatest value to the organisation, is missing. (Think back to our lady with damaged feet and our shoeless best man).
To be powerhouses in customer service, organisations need to explore how well positioned they are to deliver on their key customer drivers - in other words how aligned the needs and dreams of their customers are with the culture and capability of their company, now and in the future.
We’ve been Customer Experience practitioners for getting on 15 years now and have been involved in numerous Customer Experience design and change projects with many clients in various sectors all around the world. There’s usually two scenarios we come across.
1. Those at the very start of their Customer Experience journey - they know they need to do something but they’re not sure where to start
2. Those who have begun on a Customer Experience programme but are not seeing the improvements and value they hoped for
In the first scenario, we find organisations are usually overwhelmed with deciding on how to establish with absolute clarity what their customer needs and how well the organisation is currently set up to deliver it.
In the second scenario, we find companies have been quick to implement a whole host of initiatives based on customer feedback and NPS scores without taking a step back to look at what organisational factors are currently preventing them from delighting their customers.
In either case, we recommend the following simple principles:
Companies need a shared vision for what they want their customer experience to look like and an understanding amongst all employees of how that adds to the bottom line
All Customer Experience activity should fit within a clear framework that people can understand and relate to, with a line of sight from each initiative to the overall customer promise
Communicating clearly on how Customer Experience will be measured is key to driving the right behaviours. Remember our Zappos customer service reps on the phone for ten hours, delivering flowers and replacing faulty goods free of charge? Metrics are focused on customer delight and consequent loyalty not sales call volume and efficacy
Clear empowerment and accountability for customer smiles. This means motivating and empowering people to do the things you need them to do to make your customers happy, with clear accountability and recognition.
Developing a customer centric culture means nailing what your customers really want and responding to that in a way that your people can deliver. Organisational structure, processes, information and insight, people and critically, the overall vision all need to work together in one total customer experience. If just one of these elements is out of kilter, your customer will be too.
would suggest that companies should not focus exclusively on efficiency, simplicity and optimisation of the rational and functional elements of the customer journey; they alone do not make up the whole customer experience.
Sometimes, change and customer experience optimisation is about baby steps. Sometimes, small steps can result in bigger leaps, or compounded marginal gains. For some organisations, this is a more realistic and successful approach than the implementation of a big CX transformation programme with a well-constructed business case, where the results may be similar in the end.
first direct have recognised that what set them apart for many years – their superior customer service, is not enough to stay ahead. first direct are constantly seeking to improve the basics and at the same time invest in innovation centred on the customer. Customer work, at first direct, is never done.
Taking a value based approach to CX and designing customer research that can identify the value within each journey, will help provide the business with a graded shortlist of things to focus on, fix and improve. It can also use it as a framework by which to judge existing initiatives around the business that impact on the customer experience.
The airline industry is a highly competitive one. Technology, hand in hand with a human touch, will deliver better experiences for customers. The challenge is in the alignment of the culture, processes, systems and capability of the organisation, with the needs of customers in a way that employees are empowered and engaged to deliver. That goes for at any point in their customer experience, but is even more of a priority in times or disruption.
Customers need their experiences to be seamless and without friction. Importantly, they also hope that any problem will be proactively owned and resolved quickly and satisfactorily by the company or organisation with whom they are interacting.
When talking about touch points and channels, we refer most often to those within our control e.g. the call centre, email, the physical store, social media. We don’t often consider those which are delivered by another organisation for example a business partner. Companies seem only too ready to hand over responsibility for the customer to their partner. Yet some seem quick to blame them when things go wrong and act as judge and jury when their NPS scores, say, are not up to scratch. Delegating companies often seem to want it
What Alamo have done is they have not only managed to improve the customer journey and eradicate pain points or friction but have succeeded in elevating the customer experience and at the same time, become more operationally efficient. Smiles all round.
If we were to compare the energy sector to that of aviation, Richard Branson summed it up very well: “Look, I think that when we started Virgin Atlantic 30 years ago, we had one 747 competing with the airlines that had an average of 300 planes each. Every single one of those have gone bankrupt because they didn’t have customer service. They had might, but they didn’t have customer service, so customer service is everything in the end.” What will the energy sector look like in 10, 20 or 30 years if things don’t change?
AI in its current form is only part of the solution. AI requires a deeper understanding of customer needs so that it is an enabler rather than the answer for its own sake. The balance of AI vs. human interactions in the Customer Experience needs to be carefully orchestrated.