I was recently asked what my personal, key tenants or beliefs are about providing a great customer experience. After pondering this for a few moments, I came up with 4 primary themes which evolved into this week’s blog post on 4 Key Tenants That Drive Positive Customer Experiences:
1) Employees first: We won’t make any progress if we focus on the customer experience without first ensuring that we have a team of satisfied and engaged employees with the right training, tools, leadership and information to succeed. Employees deliver the customer experience. Therefore, employees are the customer experience.
2) Communicate, communicate, communicate: Any customer facing situation, no matter how challenging, can be made better with authentic, consistent communication. Clearly articulating the what and why. Continually keeping a customer informed about progress, roadblocks or next steps. Being honest and not overpromising. Telling them what you “can” do. I have never seen high quality communication- not improve the experience. It’s a slam dunk!
3) End to end view: In my “day job” we recently did an analysis to identify how we can shorten the project implementation cycle and ultimately improve the customer experience. While analyzing the process, it was clear that a lot of the levers to shorten the implementations actually start back in the pre-contract and contract phase. By setting the right expectations with customers BEFORE their project, we can streamline what happens DURING the project.
- The same concept holds true with technical support tickets. We often review the most common reasons that customers contact us and look for “inflow reduction” opportunities. What we find is that many of the contacts could be prevented by influencing activities before customer go live. These include things such as improving product supportability in engineering, providing more customer training during the project phase, or posting detailed product documentation online.
- Whenever we look at ways to provide a top notch customer experience we have to understand what happens across all the touch-points and how one step can influence another step.
4) Handoffs are poison to the customer experience: My belief is that every handoff is a detractor from our ability to provide a positive customer experience. And, we should look for opportunities across every customer facing process, to minimize handoffs.There are five key levers we can pull/push to minimize handoffs for customers.
- Empower: Ensure that the employees working directly with customers are empowered to make the majority of decisions that are required for that role. Approvals from higher levels should be minimal and focused on exceptions only.
- Train: Ensure employees have the training they need to handle the difficult requests and make the challenging decisions. This should be an ongoing process.
- Automate: When possible, automate systems and processes so no human intervention is needed, which can add time and reduce quality.
- Access: We sometimes shy away from allowing employees to access all the systems and data necessary to do their roles. This is due to regulatory, audit or information security reasons. Sometimes these considerations are valid, and sometimes they should be questioned. If lack of access is materially impacting speed, quality or customer satisfaction, we should question the status quo and see what alternatives are available.
- Own It: Even if it is not in our job description and we may not have the specific training to get something done, at times we just need to own it on behalf of the customer. Instead of saying it’s not my job and making the handoff, we may need to be a buffer. This means that to the customer, you are the single point of contact. Behind the scenes, you do the legwork to solve the problem with the right colleagues. Perception is reality.
Did I miss any key, customer experience tenants? Please add them to the comments section.
© 2016, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.
Follow up, preferably with a call or a visit, depending on the size of the project with the key customer stakeholders to assess their experience after the closer of a project or call ticket.
Establish key questions to ask them about their experience.
Good point Al. Follow-up is critical
Good thoughts; thanks for sharing! I couldn’t agree more on them… specially for the 1st one which I consider the base for the rest.
Linked to that I would also highlight the importance of knowing our customers, our contacts and their preferences so that we can provide them a tailor-made experience and strengthen our relationship.
I am definitely interested in getting customer experience right. My team has been working hard to get IT service level consistent and to set expectations with the customer. But one area that my business has fallen short in the past is making sure to document how we interact with customers to make their experience better—particularly how to retain knowledge gained by my employees. How do I make sure everything they do to improve my business is retained in documentation? What is the best way to keep track of what my leadership team does to improve their team operations?
I feel like part of the problem is related to not having a good framework to work within the business. I’ve been thinking about the organizational structure of my business and how we can improve it through explicitly defining our roles and assets. In doing some research, I came across enterprise architecture as a framework from the Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence. I am still in the process of defining what specific roles we need in our IT firm, but feel like frameworks like this one really help. Any thoughts?
(A)Don’t narrowly define customer experience or functionalize it
(B)Your customer’s voice – Listen to your customers, measure the experience you provide, and benchmark just for yourself
(C)The Relationship – Treat people like humans, apologize and be thankful
(D)Online – Think about your User Experience and how social media can contribute
(E)Customer Support – It should be fast, personalized and allow customers to go the self- service route
(F)Employees – Engage your employees and they will engage your customers
(G)The Future – Be proactive; find potential problems before they become real problems
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