Focusing On Customer Experience Is No Longer Optional

Customer Experience

Ready or not, the customer experience (CX) game is on. No matter what size or industry you may play in, you are now competing based on the experience you provide to your customers. Government agencies, this applies to you as well. So, if you’re not thinking that customer experience is something that you need to be concerning yourself with, you may be digging your organization into a hole that you may not be able to climb out of.

Why has CX become such a fundamental component of brand success?

While certain brands that have understood the power of the customer experience for many years and have continued to refine their CX delivery in new and profitable ways, the notion that all organizations need to consider the experience that they provide to their customers as a competitive driver has really only become something of note over the last decade. One primary reason for this is due to the great leaps and continuous improvements that these CX leaders make to their customer experiences which continue to raise customer expectations.

Brands like Amazon, Apple, and even Uber Eats have provided customers with the ability to engage in experiences that are designed around their specific needs and wants- and they like it. As expectations around experiences evolve those brands that are unable to deliver will undoubtedly lose the affection of their customers. This reality creates the need for organizations in all sectors and industries and of all sizes to ask themselves what they are doing to both understand what their customers want and need and what steps are they taking to be able to evolve their experiences to deliver on those expectations.

The experience that a customer has with your brand, positive or negative, can have a significant impact on your organization. Several years ago, I wrote a column about my experience at Walt Disney World- a trip that I was not looking forward to. To my great surprise, the experience that Disney created at every touchpoint that I had with their brand completely won me over. Since this experience and my reflection on it, I find myself continuously taking mental notes of the way in which my experiences with other brands live up to my expectations (or fail to do so).

A study published in 2018 by Forrester Research compared the stock prices of a sample of CX leaders and laggards to the S&P 500 and found that leaders significantly outperformed both laggards as well as the S&P. The message is clear, those organizations that are better positioned to meet and exceed the experience expectations of their customers in a consistent and repeatable way and those that are best able to adapt to the changing needs of their customers are those who will continue to outperform the competition.

The performance benefits of improving CX make it hard to ignore. From increasing customer engagement, trust, and likeliness to forgive a brand for making a mistake, to improving voluntary compliance to requests, CX has been shown to make the delivery of services more cost-effective. Oftentimes, in fact, the savings gained by improving CX delivery can make the financial arguments against the investment moot. Many organizations that embark on improving their CX delivery find that the effort becomes, in effect, a “self-funding” activity where the savings they see from improving CX delivery outweigh the investments to improve.

Who is your customer?

For many, day-to-day contact with end-user customers is rare. If this is the case for you, it doesn’t mean that CX is not important. Support, or back office, personnel may find themselves serving multiple customers though they may be internal customers. The same principles that serve organizations well when enhancing the end-user customer experience can be applied internally to your internal customers to help facilitate your interactions.

I asked David Hicks, CEO of CX advisory firm TribeCX to weigh in on what differences may exist between improving CX delivery for end-user customer versus internal customers. “There really aren’t significant differences, CX is a way of thinking. Seeking out, what is it that I do in my job that really makes a difference for colleagues/customers and then being fanatical about persistently and consistently improving on it and delivering it can benefit customers regardless of who they may be,” Hicks suggests.

CX in government agencies.

Recent research by McKinsey & Company shows clearly that government agencies, particularly those in the federal government, are lagging behind when it comes to the level of customer experience that they provide. Government organizations have their own, sometimes unique, challenges that make delivering high levels of consistent CX a challenge without a doubt. Many subject matter experts are retiring, draining critical institutional knowledge. Legislative and regulatory rules can make collecting data from customer difficult. Agencies may collect a great deal of data but a lack of integration of legacy systems can make drawing insight from this data a real nightmare. In addition, the role of CXO seems to still be something akin to seeing a unicorn in the public sector indicating that CX has not been at the forefront of managers.

What the most successful organizations do.

McKinsey’s (2018) research on the topic found that the most successful organizations do three things exceptionally well and consistently:

  1. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers. Really, truly taking a hard look at the brand experience through the lens of the customer can be tough but opening the curtain to understand the realities that exist is critical to understanding the opportunities that exist.
  2. They understand their end-to-end customer journeys.
  3. Isolate the moments that disproportionately shape the experience.

Where do you start?

Understanding that you have an opportunity to take a long, hard look at your current customer experience and committing to improve that experience over time is a good first step. David Hicks suggests that leaders begin by, “… buddying up with a front-of-house colleague for an entire day and to listen carefully to them and to the customers with whom they interact. Ask them what the single most important thing is to focus on first. This sends a powerful explicit and implicit message to your staff.”

Regardless of your sector or industry, customer experience is a factor of organizational life that is here to stay. Those that are best able to adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers and that are able to continuously increase the ease of interacting with their brand at key touchpoints are those who will enjoy a substantial and sustained differentiator over their competitors. As customer continue to get comfortable with their newfound new-found power to choose when and how they interact with brands, those that are unable or unwilling to make the effort to truly understand what their customers want and need run the very real risk of becoming irrelevant.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

5 Important Aspects for Improving Customer Experience

5 Important Aspects for Improving Customer Experience

Guest article by Brooke Cade

Today, social media and other digital platforms are allowing brands a unique opportunity to connect and communicate with their customers in a way to get their voices heard. Instead of simply talking at clients, businesses can now talk with them—which, as more millennials are becoming consumers, is the best way to connect and build authentic relationships with them. Because authentic relationships are becoming more important when interacting with your customers, social media helps to open the conversation and allows companies to actively engage and strengthen those professional relationships. This is why it is important to collect as much customer data as you can through cdp (customer data platforms) to that you can strengthen your professional relationship more with your customers.

Read More…

Customer Experience And The Hidden Dangers Of The Comfort Trap

customer experience and the comfort trap

The comfort trap. It happens all the time and, to a great extent, it goes unnoticed—to everyone but our customers. We don’t do it intentionally and we don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do. We do it because we are continuously trying to find ways to make our own work lives easier.

In fact, it happened to me just recently at my local fitness club. Upon checking in, the host issued me a locker room key and I proceeded to change into my workout clothes.

Now, I’ve been around long enough to know that there’s not much in life that one can count on, but men can be reasonably confident that they’ll be assigned a locker directly next to the one other guy who happens to be changing at the same time, even when the entire rest of the facility is empty. Nine out of ten times this mysterious coincidence results in a joke between the two people who are stumbling over each other to cram their gear into their lockers while the other fifty feet of locker room sit empty. In fact, this has happened to me and everyone else I know so many times at multiple fitness centers over the years that I began to really try to understand what was behind it.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it, actually. In an effort to stay organized, the person at the front desk issues locker keys in numerical order. It keeps things orderly and efficient for them. What they fail to understand is the impact this has on the customer.

customer experience and the comfort trapHere’s another example: Many years ago I was working with the members of the student counseling center of a large university. During our assessment we came to the realization that staff members were decorating their offices to suit their own style and comfort in an effort to make themselves feel more at home. Unfortunately, the effect on their student customers was anything but. Students felt uncomfortable entering these spaces because they felt as if they were trespassing into someone else’s personal space. The counselors obviously were not intentionally trying to cause distress for their clients. In fact, this ran exactly counter to their goals.

For everything you do, ask yourself; is it for your comfort or theirs? These are two minor examples of how our drive toward efficiency and order in our work may have unintended consequences on the customers that we are trying to serve.

How to Avoid the Comfort Trap

Here are a few things you may want to consider before patting yourself on the back for your perfect, and fully optimized process.

  1. Analyze it from multiple stakeholder perspectives. Just as the examples above highlight processes that work for employees but not for customers, there are just as many examples of this working in reverse. Processes that work very well for customers may leave employees having to leap tall buildings in a single bound to deliver day-to-day. A great way to help ensure that you take into account diverse perspectives is to ask these stakeholders to help you develop the processes from the start. It may take a little longer initially but it can help you avoid costly unintended consequences down the road.
  2. Create continuous feedback loops. Organizations that are able to obtain in-the-moment feedback from their stakeholders and adapt their ways of working quickly are at a distinct advantage in the market. These organizations are able to correct deficiencies and move to a vantage point where they can anticipate future challenges and preemptively address them before they have a chance to sour the experience of a key stakeholder group.
  3. Create a safe space for soliciting feedback. While some organizations have established enough trust with their stakeholders that this isn’t an issue, others may not be able to get the feedback they need if they take this on themselves. In the case of the student counseling center, it took an unbiased third party investigator to create a safe enough space for the students to feel comfortable voicing their discomfort with the décor of the offices.
  4. Immortalize your processes but don’t die by them. These key processes for delivering on your brand promise to all of your stakeholders are not something you should leave to chance. By capturing these processes and expectations, training your team to deliver in a consistent way and holding people accountable to it, you will help ensure that everyone clearly understands their role and responsibilities in the bigger picture. Job aids can also be a great way to help people remember the standards and to be sure that nothing slips through the cracks.

Nobody said business is easy. In our best efforts to drive efficiency and to help reduce the burden on ourselves, we may be inadvertently altering the experience of our customers in ways that we’ve never even considered. Without bringing together the diverse stakeholders that impact or are impacted by your processes, there is no way to ensure that you’re not falling into your own comfort trap.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.