Not so long ago, customer expectations were fairly siloed. Customers didn’t really compare the way they banked to the way they shopped for cars or were treated in their local hospital. To compete, all you needed to do was keep an eye out for the competitors in your market and be better. While challenging, this was conceptually quite easy.
Today, this has changed. Once customers had a certain experience anywhere, it will become their expectation everywhere. Regardless whether this is fair or realistic. If CitizenM can get me through check-in in 30 seconds, why do I have to stand in line in my medical centre? If Coolblue can tell me EXACTLY when my dishwasher will arrive at home, why can’t my vendor do the same for the widgets that are due in my warehouse?
Customer expectations are increasingly driven by the sum of all customer experiences a person has. Anywhere. Anytime. So if you’re selling B2B widgets, suddenly dishwashers matter.
I’ve been looking into this a bit as part of the upcoming Customerfest. It led me to formulate three areas in which you might want to look at the customer experiences you offer. I’m sure there are more, so if you have idea, do share below!
Shorten the customer journey
The simplest customer journey is the one that doesn’t happen. Places like Amazon or AirBnB have taught us that you can buy things in one click and get all the services to match. The more this happens, the more we start expecting shorter journeys everywhere. Every inefficient step, every address detail re-entered, becomes an irritant.
ACTION: Rather than improving your customer journey, look at eliminating complete steps. Can you do what Warby Parker eyewear did, and let customers take their vision tests at home? Can you create your version of the one-click-buy or Amazon Dash ?
Virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, combined with the AI that powers them, are teaching customers to think about the ways they interact with brands. As a result we'll grow increasingly irritated when navigating that IVR or working through 3 call-centre agents that can’t seem to get our problem solved. Instead, we want our answers fast, accurate and with as little hassle as possible. Even if we’re not asking the question.
ACTION: Explore ways in which you can make your products and services more intelligent. Solve customer problems before they occur. Take inspiration from examples like the Pirelli Connesso system that proactively manages a car's tires through a mobile app. Or Nudge for Change, which helps consumer’s spend money at establishments which align with their beliefs.
We are living in the on-demand decade. Think Netflix. Same-day delivery. Soon even our cars will appear when we summon them. These developments are rapidly reducing our tolerance for waiting around and committing ourselves when there is no immediate need. We want our solutions instantly, and if we don’t use them, we’d preferably not pay..
ACTION: Think about the places you are making customers wait. Not just for delivery, but for answers. Service. Information. Payment. Take a look at Avvo, which gets you on the phone with a new lawyer within 8 minutes, or Verifly which has just launched drone insurance by the flight. Whether any of these services actually become a business success, is irrelevant. They are changing expectations, one customer at a time. This will eventually affect your business.
So get going, and look at the way other industries are changing your customer’s experiences. But remember. It's not because technology can be used that it should. Empowering the customer doesn’t equal digital force-feeding. Personally, I love gizmos that make my life easier. My wife, on the other hand, just wants to talk to another human that makes her problems go away. If you want to do business with our family, you have to keep both of us happy.
Just to keep your life a challenge :-)
B2B is going digital. Processes get automated. Self-service models introduced. Some firms are reducing the amount of human contact to the point of non-existence.
To a degree, we like this. As professional clients we want to be efficient with our time. We have developed a culture which considers email to be more efficient than calling. In which we prefer to pick up a phone over meeting face-to-face. Especially if the latter requires travel. In short: we achieve more, talk less and we like it that way.
So, whenever a client comes to your head office or showroom a unique opportunities arises. To build relationships. To open your clients' eyes to new avenues of business. To give them stories to tell when they get back home. To create a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, many B2B companies squander this precious moment. On the process front they pursue the latest in digitalisation. But in face-to-face meetings and hospitality, scripts haven't changed since my first job. 30 years ago.
Clients check in at reception. Someone brings them to a clean, but non-descript, meeting room. They get a cup of coffee or tea and a cookie. After some small talk, it’s on to Powerpoint and paperwork. Sometimes, a tour or demo brightens up the day.
It feels like - and probably is - an efficient way to get the practical side of the job done. But as an experience, it’s also very un-memorable. If not boring.
B2B product and service providers need to rethink their (head) office experience.
Offices and showrooms can be more than physical locations to get stuff done. They can be immersive experiences which help your staff strengthen client relationships. Create memorable moments.
This isn’t about buying funky furniture, though may be part of the mix. It is about creating client experience scripts that consider:
Once you get into it, you'll quickly find that many of the office protocols you consider to be normal today, contribute little to the visiting client's experience. You might even find they detract from it.
So, are you ready to turn the place upside down?
Here's another batch of links you may find interesting:
Enjoy the read!
Many CX champions complain that their colleagues "don’t get it" or "don't care" about the customer.
I challenge this mindset. If we cannot convince people to care, this only means we haven't been convincing enough. After all, I've never seen anyone get out of bed with the intent of upsetting customers. Well, there was this one guy. :-)
While I haven't got any magic bullets, I hope you'll find some use in the suggestions below to make your colleagues care about the customer.
1. Show people how they impact the customer experience
In my Reebok days, one of my colleagues ran a programme to create the perfect order for sports retailers. It was a company-wide initiative, also affecting the warehouse.
During one of the many workshops, a breakdown occured. One of the warehouse workers wanted to leave the session, as he felt it was a waste of his time. After all, all this customer b**lsh** didn’t apply to him. He worked with boxes and had no influence on customer satisfaction.
Now luck had it, that on this day the CEO of a major retailer was visiting that particular warehouse. He overheard this employee.
In a friendly way, he joined the conversation and asked the employee about his job at the warehouse. The man explained that he worked on picking and packing. He had to seal the boxes before they went on the truck.
The CEO continued with a rhetorical question. "So you are telling me, that you are the last person to see and touch my product before it comes to my stores? And that you have no influence over my satisfaction as a customer?" The point didn't need labouring further.
ACTION 1: Explain to each employee of the company how they add value to the final customer experience. After all, if they don’t know what it is that they are contributing, it is hard for them to get excited about it.
2. Make the customer voice actionable.
Customer voice programmes can be a great source of honest feedback. They can help you pinpoint what you are getting right and what you are getting wrong. But if you're unfamiliar with the way these programmes work, you may struggle to see their value.
For example, if a customer complains about the price she needs to pay, billing may not be the issue. Sales or marketing may have created the wrong expectation. Service delivery might have been sloppy. The invoice might be unclear.
Yet, if you work in marketing, service delivery or IT, you may not immediately see these aspects. After all, the bill is too high is unrelated to with the job you do.
ACTION 2: Complement your customer voice programme with regular root cause analysis. Translate customer feedback into a language that resonates with the different departments in your business. Once colleagues see how they can contribute, the chances of them doing so vastly increase.
3. Humanise your customers.
Every business and employee wants to look professional. Tools of this trade include PowerPoint presentations, jargon and complex analytical models.
While these are useful, they can dehumanise customers. What used to be people and individuals, becomes units-in-use, policy holders or PAX (does anybody even know what that abbreviation means?).
Unfortunately, once someone becomes a number, our ability to care as humans diminishes. Bringing back the customer as a human can inverse this process.
A few years ago I saw a brilliant example at a global telecom operator I worked for. Like any other operator they had clients that suffered from bill shock. Especially when confronted with their post-holiday roaming charges. Like in every operator, these customers were numbers on a spreadsheet. Until one of their CX champions singled out the story of Johan.
Johan was a single dad who had been on holiday with his two children. Upon returning home late August, he found that his bank account was empty. He had inadvertently blown his data-plan and faced a bill of several thousands of Euros. Through automatic debit, this amount had disappeared from his bank balance. At the start of the school year, he didn't have the money to buy his children the books and materials they needed.
Suddenly, these numbers on a spreadsheet, seemed a lot more actionable.
ACTION 3: Replace your cold customer reports with human accounts. Give people the opportunity to relate to you customers as individuals. Make them care. Once they do, they'll be ready to help. Not because KPI's say so, but because it's in our nature.
As always, the above three actions will not transform your business on their own. It may not even get your people to act. For that you need business cases, process overhauls and the right KPI's. But they can help your colleagues to become more willing to make these changes a reality. That's a start :-)
Image credit: (cc) Mike Wilson
About this blog
Whenever inspiration strikes, I use this space to share my thoughts on customer experience management, storytelling or what ever else crosses my mind.