Every organization strives to make each customer experience a positive one. What’s often missing is the organizational infrastructure to ensure that it happens effortlessly.
Designing a Customer-Experience Transformation
As consumer demand continues to increase in sophistication and individualization, enhancing and adapting the customer experience will become paramount for successful businesses. There’s a whirlwind of activity in today’s corporate environment as firms rush to implement new initiatives that will allow them to engage customers at a higher level.
The problem many organization face, however, lies within the cross-organizational nature of customer journeys. Consumers rarely just interact with one area of the business, with the typical journey taking customers through multiple touch points that involve every area of the company, from the marketing department, to sales, customer service, the supply chain and even IT when something goes wrong online. This inherently interconnected path requires a cross-functional solution, one that is not bounded by departmental boundaries and can provide seamless customer journeys.
A solid strategy is the most significant component of this customer-experience transformation, and decision-makers will have to make a committed effort to changing the culture of their organizations to meet the expectations of the future.
The Importance of Architecture
Every organization strives to make each customer experience a positive one. What’s often missing is the organizational infrastructure to ensure that it happens effortlessly. The architecture of an effective customer-experience transformation is underpinned by three cornerstones:
- A detailed blueprint of the customer-experience initiatives and functions being deployed.
- Executives and leaders with a clear vision for the new company culture and unambiguous objectives.
- The development of key performance indicators to gauge both hard metrics and soft, people-centered benchmarks.
- Building upon this framework is a highly subjective matter. Organizations must evaluate their financial and technological capabilities, as well as their capacity to make changes from the top down.
Establishing a Strategy
Drawing the road map for a customer-experience transformation is a two-part process.
Organizational leaders must first decide whether they want change to be driven from individual functions or across functions with a focus on the entire journey. Taking the singular route often seems like the most prudent option, as many companies are already set up to talk tasks one by one. In these circumstances, the impetus for change is typically customer feedback, analytics and other insights, which are then used to identify specific opportunities for improvement, such as decreasing wait time on phone calls or improving landing page turnover. This approach can work in the earliest stages of a transformation because it uncovers smaller-scale issues that have the potential to derail the entire enterprise.
Alternatively, concentrating on the overall customer journey will establish a cross-functional atmosphere that envisions optimal customer journeys across all channels and then designs the organizational structure around those ideals. Taking this route from the beginning may seem like an arduous task, but organizations that can pull it off will be ahead of the game in the coming years.
Timing the Impact
The question here isn’t so much choosing between easy, low-impact and more difficult, higher-impact actions. Instead, organizations need to think about initiatives that have the quickest impact, such as those that reduce costs or affect revenue growth. This creates the momentum needed for a successful organizational shift and starts creating value right away. Going for the nearest impact is also helpful for gauging the effectiveness of an organization’s strategy so that any necessary changes can be made before the transformation kicks into high gear.
The best customer experiences are developed through a linked, employee-led organizational structure and proactive management of performance parameters.
Empower the Front Lines
Exceptional customer-experiences are built from the bottom up, starting with customer service agents, sales people, retail workers and other public-facing staff. There needs to be a culture of not just meeting, but exceeding customer expectations at every interaction. In some cases this is as easy as handling a difficult billing situation with empathy and professionalism. In others it will involve the collaboration of multiple departments to ship an order out ahead of schedule. For the latter approach to succeed, however, executives and other decision-makers will need to establish the requisite company philosophy and structure, as well as cross-functional team leaders who can identify opportunities to drive collaboration between departments.
The least complicated way to initiate a transformation effort is to determine which areas both leaders and employees feel need to change. To accomplish this, organizations must draw from the expertise of front-line staff and mid-level management in terms of customer praises, complaints and demands. Employee ownership of the results of organization-wide changes is key, so they must be allowed to propose and implement their own ideas in order to feel that they are truly a part of the process.
Customer-experience transformations require organizations to utilize analytics initiatives and benchmarking of their current state to begin the strategy process. The specific performance indicators a business uses depends on their structure and customer base, but the variables should establish what customers want, how well the company is meeting those needs and what’s stopping it from making every customer interaction a great one. Once areas for improvement have been identified, leaders can design customer experiences that emphasize what the company is getting right while patching weaker areas to build upon.