We know that for just about any task you care to name there is an optimum way to carry out that task that will maximise efficiency and effectiveness. If we get out of sequence with a task it can have all kinds of ramifications on performance and productivity.
We also know that if you have a continual focus on fine tuning the sequence there is a very good chance you will improve the performance of that task.
The strategic approach to increased businesses performance that we are about to outline is based on this process of sequencing and has been developed as a result of two areas of business development currently in use that are not contributing to the goal of business improvement. They are-
• Business not capturing the right feedback from customers
• Organisations focusing on areas of their business out of a strategic sequence
Understanding Customer Expectation
There are very few business interactions we have as customers where we don’t have an expectation as to what will take place. These expectations are formed in a number of ways, previous experiences, product and brand marketing and word of mouth to name a few.
A customers expectation is used to measure a businesses customer experience performance- if a customers expectations are not met, a customers is disappointed, frustrated and annoyed, if expectations have been met, that customer is satisfied and if expectations are exceeded, the customer is surprised, excited, delighted or at the least very happy.
The challenge is that different customers have different expectations; this makes it more challenging to at least meet a customer’s expectation unless you know what those expectations are and have in place a strategy that will meet them.
Twenty years ago it was generally accepted that if you understood and met a customers expectations you would stand a good chance of receiving repeat business from that customer and an even better chance if your competitors’ were struggle to do the same.
Unfortunately those days are long gone. Two areas have changed the game completely; one is a much more crowded, competitive market with businesses continually jumping boundaries, and secondly, the internet.
In today’s market most organisations are members of “the world of sameness” unless they are consistently exceeding customer’s expectations.
The Lack of a Long-Term Strategic Approach
Measuring and improve business performance without a long-term strategic plan is costly, disruptive and stressful for both your people and your customers.
What ends up happening is we spend a lot of time fighting fires.
Let me give you an example that we come across frequently.
A business starts to receive complaints from customers about the quality of service or regular customers stop doing business and head for a competitor.
All of a sudden front-line staff needs some customer service training and are soon told to attend a customer service training workshop- problem solved, not likely, certainly not long term, why? – There is a lot more to the quality of a businesses customer service performance than just customer service skills. Things like the quality, focus and style of leadership, the resulting culture, the degree of commitment to customers, the ability to define the level of customer service, the standards that are required to ensure everyone can deliver, the skill development programme to ensure those skills, the induction programme for new people, the measurements in place to monitor performance and the ability to employ the RIGHT people, to name just a few.
So let’s take a look at how a strategic approach works and why if you had a good one in place it would be very unlikely that complaining and departing customers would not be an issue in the first place.
The seven sequential steps to developing and implementing a long-term customer experience strategy-
1. Committed Leadership
Leaders must commit themselves and their teams to creating a customer-focused business culture. Leaders create business cultures not by what they say but what they do. The single biggest reason customer experience initiatives fail is that employees do not believe management is fully committed to the strategy.
Outcome: Committed leadership creates a team of creative, customer-focused people who will deliver a competitive advantage that your competitors cannot copy.
2. A Strategic Vision
Without a vision your business will lack direction and unifying aims. Organisations must have a clear view of where they are heading and how they intend to get there.
Outcome: An organisation that is inspired, motivated and empowered to move forward together with a shared vision.
3. Customer Experience Statement
A customer experience statement clearly defines the experience you and your team will deliver to customers. This includes both physical exchanges and the emotional experience you want to convey to those who support your business.
Outcome: A shared understanding of how to deliver a consistently great customer experience.
4. Identify Touch Points
A touch point is any instance that a customer (or prospective customer) comes in contact with and forms opinions about your business. You must identify those touch points and manage the impressions they create. Along with direct interaction, touch points are as varied as advertising, sponsorships, your delivery van, or a phone call.
Outcome: An ability to see your business from the customer’s perspective, the only perspective that really matters.
5. Writing Service Standards
Customer Experiences has developed a 10 point process to create measurable service standards for each of your touch points. You can use these standards to determine how you are performing. With the right service standards, you will create a system you can use to continuously improve your customers’ experiences.
Outcome: Standards create consistency, and consistency leads to customer loyalty.
Remember the principle ‘what gets measured gets done’.. It makes no sense to put in place service standards unless you can determine they are being met. Customer Experiences has developed processes you can use to measure the contribution your customer experience strategy makes to your financial performance.
Outcome: Feedback. We all want to know and need to know how we are doing.
7. Continuous Improvement
Creating a strategy is the first step in an on-going journey. To maintain your competitive advantage you must continue to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations. Creativity must be part of your customer experience culture. Encourage everyone in the business to contribute their ideas and reward them when they do.
Outcome – Today’s “wow!” is tomorrows ordinary. Continuous improvement will ensure the wows keep coming and the competition keeps scratching their heads.
Now that’s a sequence