Technology analysts and consultants don’t like to keep things simple. It’s obvious really since simple isn’t good for business. It’s much better to provide things like decision matrices, toolkits, 10 step programs and maturity assessments than to provide clear and concise opinions or recommendations.
So it is with Forrester’s recent customer experience book “Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business”. The authors recommend a set of six practices for organizations that want to deliver high-quality customer experience namely: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. While I agree that these are all important considerations if I was a business owner looking to quickly begin the transformation of customer experience and was told by an analyst that I had to carry out Design, Measurement and Governance, oh and while you’re at it change your culture as well I’d immediately think this is going to be too complex and costly. When it comes to customer experience are we over complicating things?
So it is with a little trepidation that I’m going to stick my neck out and say that rather than 6 practices or a tool kit or a matrix there are two, yes only two, steps to improving Customer Experience. These are:
1. Fix Broken Processes.
Customer experience is often defined as how customers perceive their interactions with your company. The key word here is interactions. Each one of these interactions is a business process. Many of Customer Experience leaders just execute their business processes properly. I don’t enjoy shopping on Amazon or visiting Tesco but I return because they deliver their services efficiently.
- Take the customer journey and ask yourself is this process working fine or does it need fixed, could it be simpler? Then move on to next process. Simplify business processes where possible. Ensure consistency of approach across multiple channels.
- Automate business processes where appropriate in order to free up your employees to focus on the customer and where they add most value.
This brings me to my second step.
2. Empower your employees
It is impossible to predict and to define a process for every customer scenario. Customers are unpredictable. This is where you need your employees to fill the gaps your processes can’t reach. But they can’t fill the gaps unless they are permitted to do so.
Does your employee really need approval to provide compensation for poor customer service? Does he or she need approval to match the offer of a competitor? Do your employees have all the customer information they need to make a decision?
We know customers hate having to talk to multiple agents, rude or inexperienced staff and being kept on hold. They love professionalism and getting issues resolved at the first point of contact. You won’t achieve any of this if your employees aren’t empowered. Your employees are the face of your organization, do you really want that face to be a demotivated, inflexible, rude one?
So how do we start to empower employees?
- Devolve as much of the non-strategic decision making from the center of the organization to the periphery and to your customer facing employees. For example customer compensation decisions, renewal decisions, process changes can all be carried out at the edge of the organization.
- Address customer data siloes. Ensure agents whether on the phone on in the retail outlet have access to all of the customer data to enable them to make more informed decisions.
- Don’t tie agents to processes or fixed scripts.
- Automate mundane or repetitive tasks to free agents to focus on process exceptions and unique, unpredictable customer problems.
So forget about six step customer experience plans, maturity assessments and decision matrices. If you want to start on a customer experience improvement journey the best bet is to do it one process at a time.