cablesBeing the company champion of the customer experience can be exhausting work. For many companies the old ways of doing things are entrenched. Creating the motivation to change takes something a bit more compelling than, “But it will make our customers really happy!” Somewhere between the insights gleaned from the customer feedback program and executing on those insights, there exists a massive gap that must be crossed in order for the investment in customer feedback to be justified. Crossing this gap tends to be the most challenging aspect of improving the customer experience.

Before customer experience leaders even have these insights in hand they have already met a series of hurdles: investing budget into Voice of the Customer technology, ensuring that the metrics being used have been linked to business outcomes, designing the survey, and implementing the technology, to name only a few. And yet these challenges tend to pale when faced with the daunting task of getting people, employees, and leaders alike to change their core behaviors.

In the telecommunications industry, they call the final stretch of connecting the communications provider to the customer “the last mile.” This final step is easy if you live in a city, but much more difficult if you live on a farm in rural Kansas. The last mile often becomes expensive as cables must be spread out to each individual. Yet without the investment in covering the last mile, all of the work done up to that point is utterly useless.

The problem in the telecommunications industry of connecting the company to the customer illustrates the problem of customer experience leaders. At this point most companies are collecting some customer feedback. But when this feedback does not change what leaders and employees do, then it has failed to connect to the customer experience. All of the effort put into collecting the feedback is wasted. Customer experience leaders face the challenge of connecting a large, spread-out organization with valuable insights coming into the company via customer feedback. We recommend making this connection in the following two areas:

Immediate Action: Voice of the Customer technology often includes “action alerts” triggered by specific customer responses. In our system, these alerts are sent to the appropriate manager and follow-up actions can be tracked through our online hub. The automatic nature of these alerts becomes a regular reminder of how important customers are to organizational success, and taking immediate action on feedback allows management to frequently connect with customers.

Strategic Change: In addition to taking immediate action on customer feedback, there also needs to be a top-level strategic focus on change. The 2011 Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study found that while 61% of companies present customer feedback data to all executives, only 27% share this feedback with all middle managers. Increasingly, we are encouraging clients to review their quarterly or annual customer insights reports alongside their front-line managers to bring the insights to life. Sharing access to this feedback across departments and titles helps the organization align around a shared vision of success and set a clear path on how to achieve the desired customer results, effectively bridging the gap between strategic insight and front-line action.

A consistently great customer experience is not an investment companies make just because “it will make our customers really happy!” It’s an investment that creates meaningful differentiation in the eyes of customers and clients, but not until customer feedback has covered the last mile and been connected to every department and person within an organization.

Photo courtesy of: Danilo Rizzuti