“You can only eat so much plain white cake. The 30 percent is the icing.” This is just one of the statements Joe McFarland, J.C. Penney’s executive vice president, made during a recent company conference. He then went on to instruct attendees, “We want you to stop doing things that don’t focus on the customer.”
Additionally, J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison made the following statements: “Our marketing has to be more specialized,” “We have great data; we just aren’t using it,” and, “The customer loves us, and we need to love them back.”
Shifts from traditional corporate policies toward customer experience-focused improvements are reinforced by two important research reports:
- Forrester principal analyst Laura Ramos noted: “Customer-centric companies must figure out how to engage customers on their terms throughout the customer journey. … In order to become a customer-centric company, old metrics and models need to be thrown out. … It doesn’t work that way anymore.”
- A McKinsey report advised, “As improving customer experience becomes a bigger component of corporate strategy, more and more executives will face the decision to commit their organizations to a broad customer-experience transformation.”
- One company that has put both money and policy behind its commitment to better its consumer experience via corporate policy is Chick-fil-A, which is currently the highest-scoring restaurant brand in the U.S. Customer Experience Excellence rankings.
The company spends more than a $1 million evaluating its service. In addition to traditional focus groups, the company conducts a quarterly phone survey with customers from each restaurant. Each location receives a two-page report detailing what’s working and what needs improving.
“My business grew on the understanding that customers are always looking for someone who is dependable, polite, and will take care of them,” said S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A.
The company has a dedicated area on its site for Chick-fil-A stories. Additionally, its 80,000-square-foot Hatch Innovation and Learning Center is dedicated to helping the company invent next-generation customer experiences.
My three takeaways for marketers:
- Make it a priority to challenge your corporate policies and procedures to determine whether they are creating obstacles or facilitating employees’ ability to provide the best possible customer experiences.
- Regularly engage consumers in “real life” customer experience surveys and conversations to determine what is and isn’t working. Listen. Learn. Make changes.
- Do you have a formal training to make sure your CS strategy is put into action, with clear benchmarks to measure success? If the answer is no, fix that right away.
“Marketing can’t deliver a great customer experience independent of sales, service, and any other part of the organization. … Without a holistic approach, you are really only hoping that you can deliver a great experience,” said Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman.
It is now no longer an option that marketers in every industry challenge their corporate structure to understand whether legacy policies are building barriers to, rather than enabling, customer engagement.