You’ve done the customer journey maps. You’ve built your Net Promoter programme. You’ve got more personas than you can handle.
But somehow the Holy Grail of customer centricity remains out of reach. Leaders aren’t fully on board. Employees stay in their silos. Budgets don’t show genuine commitment. And somehow that digital transformation is more about technology than about the customer.
It’s not that anyone means bad. Or that they don’t care. It’s just that despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions, the pieces of the puzzle don’t match.
Whenever I encounter these situations, I challenge myself to look beyond the tools of the customer experience trade and consider the bigger picture. Typically, I do this with three questions which don’t provide magical answers, but usually progress the conversation.
I’m sharing them here, as they may also have some value for you.
Q1: How can I make it more practical?
Many large organisations that want to improve their customer experience unleash a series of initiatives, ultra-detailed journey mapping workshops, trainings, management presentations and… posters!! All to drive the change.
But despite the enthusiasm to become more easy, friendly, proactive or build a seamless omnichannel integration, they forget to define what a great experience looks like. Not in fancy designs, but in actions and behaviours at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Terms that practically mean something to Aisha in accounting, Christa in the contact-center or Léon in logistics.
As a result, every employee needs to figure out these practical implications by themselves. Aisha may be brilliant at doing so. Christa, perhaps less. And León may not care, as he doesn’t see how it relates to him. Not to mention that their bosses will always wonder how these extra smiling customers will bring in the KPIs.
The only certainty is that from a customer perspective, the experience will depend on the individual/silo that serves them and the time of the day.
Which is why I always ask myself: ‘How can I make the customer experience more practical’?
Can I create a simple and inspiring picture of ‘what great looks like’ for all stakeholders? Translate this into practical actions and behaviours for Aisha, Christa and Léon in a way that goes beyond ‘be friendly and proactive’ platitudes? Can I connect these to business objectives that get leadership excited? And especially, can I go beyond words to make employees ‘feel’ the experience they need to deliver?
Q2: How can I make it personal?
A long time ago, sellers knew each of their buyers by name. But over the years, we’ve buried customers’ humanity under a mountain of acronyms, graphs, euphemisms and business jargon (my personal pet peeve: calling customers PAX?!).
Sure, the approach has process benefits and creates opportunities for profit taking. But every additional abstraction also makes it harder for employees to feel empathy for these customers. I once worked with a life insurance company that used a dozen euphemisms to say that a significant reason for early payouts was that ‘someone died’.
This matters, as it is empathy for a fellow human that helps employees deliver the right experiences. It helps them imagine what customers care about and motivates them to do well. After all, no one gets out of bed to move a KPI, but people do like helping a fellow human being. Especially if doing so aligns with their personal values.
Which is why I ask myself: How can I make the customer experience more personal?
How can I give customers a human face? Move from boring satisfaction graphs and process charts to stories? Offer employees the opportunity and satisfaction of ‘doing what is right’ and ‘being rewarded with a smile’?
Q3: How can I make it more possible?
In all my years, I haven’t met a single employee who intentionally annoyed customers. In fact, most are keen to make a difference. Do some good, however that might look.
But as a collective, many companies underwhelm, or at a minimum, do not achieve greatness.
The reason is that too many bad processes, unsupportive systems, conflicting KPIs, short-term profit measures and outdated orthodoxies (egos?) obstruct people wanting to do right by the customer and the business.
The people designing and implementing these unhelpful approaches also don’t mean bad. They’re often under instructions or simply apply lessons they learned at business school or in training programmes.
But together the cogs of the machine don’t produce the result
Which is why I ask myself: How can I make the customer experience goals ‘more possible’?
How can I align the systems, processes, KPIs and overall employee experience to support and encourage every employee to deliver the right customer experience? How can I can get rid of the bad KPIs, processes and habits that get in the way? How can I help the people in the business to help the customer… and the business itself?
As I said at the start of this article, these questions won’t provide you with magical answers. But they do help me to take steps in the right direction.
So next time you wonder why your customer strategy and experience lacks a certain momentum, I suggest you try them out.
Who knows what you’ll discover…
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.