This Summer is turning out to be hot in more ways than one.
In the past 7 days I’ve been to Milan, Vienna and Stockholm while having a dozen digital and in-person meetings in-between. After 2 years of Covid-induced digital scrambling, corporate mind-space is returning to get real about customer experience.
Which makes it interesting that in all my conversations I keep reverting to the same 4-step process I’ve used in virtually every customer experience programme I ever worked on. I find they apply to any company, regardless of its size or maturity.
So as we’re all entering this next wave of customer experience focus, I thought I’d share them. Perhaps you find them useful too.
STEP 1: Be clear about what you want to achieve
Everyone talks about the need to deliver easy, seamless, personalised, digitally enabled yet humane experiences. But 8 out of 10 businesses cannot describe to me ‘what that means in practice?’, ‘How does it make customers feel?’ or ‘What I would practically need to do as an employee?’ And even if they can, different people will often have different definitions.
As a result, people's multiple interpretations mean that the customer’s experience will vary based on whoever manages the physical or digital touchpoint they use. Only when everyone speaks with one voice, you can be consistently good.
Action 1: Describe what a great experience looks like for your business. Not by getting lost in complex journey maps and personas, but by using a language that resonates with the people in your business.
STEP 2: Move to operational excellence
Once you know what great looks like (and ONLY THEN), build a roadmap to close the experience gaps. Its magnitude will probably daunt you, but don’t stop until you have a full list. Then prioritise those short- and long-term activities which offer you the quickest or biggest wins.
Your business should be good at this, as topics like gap analysis and roadmaps are typical tools in the corporate arsenal. However, only define performance from the customer's perspective? This means that it’s only easy, understandable, intuitive, quick or fun when they say it, not when your internal KPIs make you look good on PowerPoint.
Action 2: Develop a roadmap to close the customer experience gaps in your business. Combine quick wins with structural initiatives and, before implementing, check whether the customer agrees with your assessment.
STEP 3: Engage the people in the organisation
A roadmap can tell you how to get from A to B. But your people will need to get you there. So once you understand the operational implications of your experience vision, engage them with a call to action that drops corporate speak to ‘get real’.
Once your teams show the willingness to deliver the customer experience you are aiming for, offer them the support to develop their skills and get out of their way. Or better, give them what they need to succeed.
Action 3: ‘Get real’ to ensure that everyone in your organisation understands your ambitions and is willing, skilled and able to not just make it happen, but go beyond.
STEP 4: Never stop.
As a customer, the last best experience I had anywhere becomes my expectation everywhere. No matter how much you achieve today, there will always be a next level tomorrow.
So regardless of the progress you make, systemically review whether Steps 1-3 still achieve the result your customers are looking for. And if it doesn’t, explore where you need to improve, or even completely reimagine the experience you offer. Bringing you back to STEP 1.
Action 4: Listen to the voice of your customers, employees, market, and other industries to identify opportunities for further improvement or reinvention. Then ACT on them before anyone else does.
How do these steps resonate with you? Ideally you do them in sequence, but if you look at them as a cycle, they work for me every time.
Want to level up your customer experience programme?
Then let’s have virtual coffee. We can have a general chat or discuss which changes can you do to improve your own programme.
Even if the conversation goes nowhere, I’m sure it will be interesting for both of us. Which feels like a good idea, anyway.
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.