This post was originally published as a guest post on Jim Tincher’s Heart of the Customer blog. I have updated it for this repost. As we close out the summer of 2012 travel season, I thought this was a fitting time to share this whimsical post on planning your Customer Experience Journey.
A customer experience strategy is just a strategy, a roadmap that outlines your approach to creating a customer-centric culture. It takes the entire organization to successfully execute a customer experience strategy, not just the executive team, not just the frontline, and not just the CCO and her team overseeing the strategy. This strategy drives the customer-centric culture.
Customer centricity is a way of life, a way of doing business, a journey. It’s not just a project or something to check off your “To Do” list for this week. It’s woven into the fabric of everything you do as an organization.
What are some of the things you should consider as you make this journey? Well, glad you asked. Buckle up and join me for the ride.
Plan Your Journey
Without a doubt, you’ll want to begin with a plan. Fail to plan, plan to fail. You need to spell out clearly-defined objectives that need to revolve not only around the success of the business but around the customer – and how the two relate. And don’t forget your employees.
Start with your brand promise and your purpose. How will you socialize that with your employees so that they live by – and deliver to – it? What’s your purpose? Why are you in business? What’s your story?
Hire a Driver
Executive buy-in, commitment, and oversight are imperative. Leadership is about setting examples and expectations, communicating the vision, steering the ship, providing direction, and setting the tone for the customer-centric culture. Provide the tools and the guidance for what is expected, and let your people work together to create and deliver those memorable customer experiences. Here’s a novel idea: hire a Chief Customer Officer and really put your money where your mouth is! Demonstrate to the organization and to your customers that the customer experience is a priority.
The executives should be as concerned about the employee experience as they are about the customer experience. Start with hiring the right people: for leadership, frontline management, and frontline positions.
Draw Your Map
You can’t get where you’re going without a map, and you can’t ensure consistent, positive experiences across the organization without understanding the customer experience lifecyle – and all of the touchpoints along the way. In order to do so, create a customer journey map that looks at the customer experience at each touchpoint, each interaction and look at each role/person, each process, each data input, each system… you get it… everything that supports that customer touch, that moment of truth. You’ll want to consider your competitive position and understand your competitors’ value propositions, as well.
Design and outline the experience you want to deliver to customers – the experience your customers expect. Orchestrate the experience so that employees know what they are expected to do.
Research Your Destination
Understanding your customers and listening to the voice of the customer is mission critical. Carefully design your VOC process to ensure you are collecting feedback from the right customers at the right time using the right channels. At the same time, ensure that you are not only collecting feedback but actively disseminating it throughout the organization, responding to it, and using it to make tactical and strategic changes to your business. Your efforts should cover the following voices: customers, employees, partners, market, and business.
Just as important as leadership buy-in is employee buy-in. It’s important that employees understand their role in driving the customer experience (seems like a no-brainer, no?) and how that links to the bottom line. Employees should understand the brand promise and what is expected of them in order to deliver on that. Don’t skimp on employee training and regular communication with your employees.
At the same time, the employee experience is mission critical. As I’ve written about in the past, it’s time to focus on their experience. It’s important to create a culture or environment that facilitates employee engagement. If employees are not emotionally connected with the brand (and its purpose and promise), then the customer experience will be less than stellar. An employee’s engagement drives his/her motivation and behavior, which in turn drives the customer’s satisfaction and resultant behavior.
Buy Your Gear
What kinds of tools will you need to facilitate this journey? What will you need to listen to the voice of the customer, employee, partners, the market, the business, etc.? How will you bring all your customer data together into one place? How will you analyze the data to glean insights that will drive corrective actions and continuous improvements? How will you disseminate customer data to the frontline so they can act/react properly?
Check the Car
Make sure you’ve got the right people, the right culture, the right tools, the right data. Do you have metrics in place to ensure that you are meeting your goals? Are you focused on the score and not the experience? If so, then rethink your strategy – it’s not about the score.
Pack the Car
Let’s put it all together and get ready to go. Communicate what you’re doing and why to both internal and external stakeholders.
Hit the Open Road
Once everything is in place and you’ve got a plan for how to deal with risks and issues as they arise, you’re ready to get on the road. Ensure that you are continuously collaborating, innovating, communicating, and improving. Design your products and services from the customer’s point of view.
Call Your Mom
Along your journey, know that communication is critical. Keep in touch with those that are most important to your business: your employees and your customers. Communicate to set expectations, respond to inquiries and issues, train and educate, recognize and appreciate, etc.
Create Memories, Tell Stories
Execute. Delight. At every touchpoint. During every interaction. Consistently. On message. Create memorable experiences and share stories of your successes.
Plan Your Next Trip
It doesn’t end there. Your industry, your organization, your customers, and your approach will constantly adapt and evolve. Never rest on your laurels. If you don’t provide a great customer experience constantly and consistently, someone else will.
Enjoy the journey!
CX Journey: Customer experience success is a journey, not a destination.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” –Ursula K. LeGuin (some also attribute this quote to Ernest Hemingway)