Every company wants to be more customer aligned. Happier customers buy more and more frequently. They also tend to share positive word of mouth with their peers and colleagues. When things get bumpy in the relationship, they’ll cut you more slack than new or disgruntled customers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a team of consultants to figure out that profit margins and customer lifetime value (CLV) are higher with satisfied customers. Who wouldn’t want that?
What holds many companies back from going all-in on customer experience is – how to get started. The volume of advice from technology vendors, practitioners, bloggers, and consultants can be overwhelming and confusing. The approaches touted as best practices often conflict and demonstrable, measurable success is circumstantial and hard to measure. Unable to determine how to get started and who can help them – a culture coach, six sigma process expert, qualitative researcher, a strategist, industry analyst, or a customer success consultant – companies often opt instead for a DIY (Do It Yourself) to control the pace of the change and learn along the way.
They’ve decided to figure out customer alignment for themselves even if it means some trial and error and dead-ends. Why? Companies are looking for common sense in how they approach customer alignment. C-suite and leaders understand that becoming customer-aligned is a transformation that touches every corner and employee of the company. Lots of dust is going to get kicked up, just make sure it doesn’t choke the company to death in the process.
Based on our nine years of client engagements, here are seven guidelines to help companies figure out how to get started with their customer experience initiatives:
1. Executive champion.
If not the CEO, that person should be in the C-Suite so they can help other leaders connect the dots between the effort and the ROI as well as run interference when change threatens a sacred cow or when the initiative runs into the inevitable bumps in the road or budget cuts.
2. Solve a handful of key use cases.
Instead of trying to achieve the optimal customer experience out of the box, zero in on a handful of use cases that will move the needle for key customer segments. Let what matters to customers guide your focus, not how grandiose the initiative sounds or could be. Making incremental improvements that are important to customers goes a long way to improve customer loyalty and retention.
3. Do the right thing for the customer.
Lots of customer experience approaches quickly become complicated and confusing with steps that don’t seem to relate to the use cases being solved. Determine what approach is right for you based on what customers said they want to experience. In other words, ask customers first, then act.
4. Review your policies and procedures.
The root causes of customer dissatisfaction are usually internal policies and procedures designed to support hierarchical structures and perks with rank cultures. That doesn’t mean toss out sound governance, instead look at the correlation between policies, procedures, and customer feedback.
Does your billing, contract negotiations, accounts receivables, return, etc. drive the bulk of complaints? Ask yourself the question, “Would my customer feel good about experiencing this policy or procedures?” If the answer is “no,” revisit how to maintain appropriate internal controls while making it easier to do business with you.
5. Let the use case define what data to collect.
Companies have become obsessed with the amount of data they collect. Unfortunately, just because every piece of data can be analyzed doesn’t mean it should or that it will reveal meaningful information. Don’t let data become a novelty item. Instead, develop a hypothesis for each use case and analyze only the data needed to prove or disprove the theory. Have your domain experts review any analytics to make sure you’re interpreting the data correctly.
6. Measure what you manage.
It’s tempting to report on an array of metrics, but that will take you down a rabbit hole. Pick a handful of KPIs that are relevant to the use cases you’re solving – is it churn, conversion, sentiment analysis? Make sure the KPIs are something the entire company understands and keep it simple. You can always evolve the KPIs as the company adjusts to new ways of engaging customers.
7. Crawl, walk, then run.
Start small. As the company builds its understanding of customers and how they define experience, values, and engagement, then expand the scope of customer alignment initiative. The best measures of success are customer effort level and customer satisfaction. Share progress with employees; it’ll motivate them to stick with new behaviors. Focus on fixing the needle mover use cases to build internal and external credibility for the initiative. As employees see the results and that their jobs are more fun, and more rewarding, it’ll motivate them to be more open-minded about change and willing to tackle more complex customer experience use cases. Employees are crucial to taking customer experience to the next level.