How to make your organization customer ready

Senior leaders committed to building a superior customer experience will need an achievable plan that can be delivered while carrying on with day-to-day business. Companies that fall short of expectations they’ve set usually fail to bring their people through the change, largely due to two blind spots. First, they push initiatives without understanding the many other tasks people are juggling. Second, the mere prospect of change can be quite unsettling; employees justifiably worry about their own role, resist the change and get distracted from their work.

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Just as devising a winning experience starts with the customer’s priorities, an achievable plan shows empathy for employees—senior leaders put themselves in the performer’s shoes—and assesses the organization’s state of readiness by answering three practical questions:

Which groups are the most critical in order to carry out the required changes? It’s useful to map a matrix showing the importance of the change to each group and the expected effect of the change on them.

How can we equip each group for success? Improvements will come slowly if people have to battle outdated practices and policies. So companies may have to invest in process changes or technologies that will to help their people succeed, as well as hire people with new skills in, say, digital design.

Who can best support and influence the groups? Given that a customer’s experience touches multiple parts of a company—which in turn depends on support from other departments behind the scenes—success hinges on having sponsors of the plan at all levels. This “sponsorship spine” sometimes tracks direct reporting relationships, like a call-center agent, his supervisor, her manager and so on. But it often also includes respected advocates in other units, people who have influence by virtue of their earned authority and reputation.

In many cases, a complete transformation of a customer experience takes place over 18 to 24 months and comprises several phases:

  • Installation of the Net Promoter System, including working out the economics of greater loyalty as part of making a strong case for change, combined with a compelling customer vision.
  • Realization of the intended outcome by using the inner and outer loops and the advocacy of sponsors throughout the organization, while concentrating on the must-win battles.
  • Mastering the discipline of repeatability. In fast-moving markets, the half-life of any customer experience has grown shorter. Successful companies thus develop capabilities to make the experience design process repeatable, either to apply to new products and markets or to adapt to the inevitable shifts in the marketplace. Building a repeatable model allows companies to rapidly adapt to change without succumbing to complexity. The outcome is a customer-centric culture that delivers exceptional experiences, time after time, to create lasting competitive differentiation.

The four secret tenets to creating exceptional customer experience

Creating great customer experience comes down to having great people and treating them well. Looking after your people makes them feel more engaged with your organization and more committed to your service goals. But how do you put principle into practice?These are the four tenets adopted by the best companies.smilepeople7846fyListen to your employees

If you want your employees to take good care of your customers, start by taking good care of your employees. Treating them respectfully and fairly goes without saying. But go a step further, and get personally involved in tackling their issues and needs. Ensure you have formal mechanisms for employees to express their concerns, either at regular open meetings, through anonymous channels such as internal surveys, or via an ombudsman. Then take action. Communicate what you are doing and how long it will take, and involve the employees themselves in the solution. Clearly there are limits to what management can do, but by taking tangible action to address employees’ concerns, you demonstrate the strength of your commitment to your front line.

Hire for attitude, not aptitude

If you want friendly service, hire friendly people. Put another way, you can train for skill, but you can’t train for attitude. Imbibe this conviction in the front-line hiring process. To recruit individuals with a natural service bent, use group interviews. Watching how applicants interact with each other enables the interviewer to assess candidates’ communications and people skills to an extent that wouldn’t be possible in a one-to-one setting. Having hired people with the right attitudes, leaders need to ensure they reinforce the behaviors they want to see.  Leaders actions are visible to all and every leader is telling a story about what they value.

Give people purpose, not rules

To ensure consistent execution across all their operations, large corporations need to define standard operating processes. However, rules and guidelines go only so far. Front-line employees participating in infinitely varied customer interactions won’t always find the answers in manuals. Besides, mechanically following a script saps interactions of authenticity. Instead of detailed lists of process steps, the best companies supply front-line staff with common purpose backed by clear quality standards. Common purpose – a succinct explanation of the customer experience you are trying to create at an emotional level – motivates employees and gives their work meaning. They choose to go that extra mile through personal passion, not passive compliance.

Tap into the creativity of your front line

Giving front-line employees responsibility and autonomy creates a sense of ownership that inspires them to do everything they can to improve the customer experience. When they see a problem, they fix it without waiting to be asked. The best companies recognize that front-line staff are also a rich source of customer insights. They can help leaders understand what customers want – and how to provide it – without the time and expense of market research. To get the most value from these insights, organizations need to build good and robust channels to get information up the hierarchy to leaders who can act on it.

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