customer immersion programs

One of the most significant challenges for large businesses is staying engaged with the lifeblood of the business – customers. As businesses grow people become disconnected from customers at all levels of the organization. It’s the leadership’s role to bring a focus back to customers and how every individual has an impact.

There is nothing like the personal customer insight and impact to be gained from interacting with customers. You get the raw emotion of a frustrated customer appealing for help if you listen in to customers describing the problems they are having with your product or service to a call center rep. It can have even greater impact if you watch customers trying to buy your product and experiencing increasing frustration from time-consuming processes or unwieldy websites.

Senior executives and other non-customer facing staff don’t really understand their customers unless they can experience what customers are going through. Customer immersion programs are designed to do just that – give people a first hand experience of how customers are thinking and acting.

Credit Suisse, based in Switzerland, follows a five step process for immersing executives and senior managers with a customer perspective:

  1. Conduct business: the executive goes into a branch, waits in line and conducts business with a teller
  2. Watch the customer: look at what the customer looks at and see how he behaves when doing business with the company
  3. Talk to customers: ask questions of customers and listen to their responses
  4. Investigate other channels used by customers such as the website, call center and the company’s publications: use these channels as a customer to apply for credit, get an answer from a sales rep and decipher brochures
  5. Review the experience at a workshop: discuss insights, compare experiences and lessons learned

On this side of the Atlantic, Adobe recognized they weren’t always easy to do business with, and were not consistently delivering the level of service customers expected. Adobe’s Customer Immersion Program provides Adobe’s senior leaders with the opportunity to experience first-hand what their customers experience when they engage with Adobe. Like Credit Suisse, executives and senior managers at Adobe have the opportunity to experience what a customer would experience by playing the role of a customer. Also they experience the interaction with customers when they call in with a problem or a need. Check out this short video describing what’s involved:

Adobe’s Customer Listening Post facility brings customer experiences to life – live video and data feeds showing what’s happing in real-time.

Technology such as camera phones, videography, button cameras and online diaries to document the immersion process enable you to play back customer interactions and experiences with your business.

The power of the immersion program is when it challenges people’s perceptions of who their customers are and how they use their products. A key benefit of immersion is its ability to create a culture of consumer-focused thinking within the organization from top to bottom. First-hand experience and advocacy by senior executives dramatically enhances a customer culture in the organization. Companies best internalize the consumer perspective when executives at all levels can experience its impact. It fosters a greater appetite for customer understanding. It ultimately leads to an improved customer experience.