A business without customer focus is akin to a ship in the high seas with no radar.
The beginning and the end of every year inevitably herald a period of genuine reflection. Corporates and entrepreneurs alike, retreat and take stock of what’s worked well, and candidly acknowledge areas for improvement. What naturally follows is that resolutions are made and announced with fervor. Whether these eventually come to fruition or not, is not of essence at the time of announcement; what carries the day, and the yard stick by which the quality of planning is measured, is how impactful the resolution appears to be. The good news is that reflection and planning is indeed an excellent exercise to engage in, for as Alan Lakein the planning expert exhorts – “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” The bad news is that there isn’t too much for business to spend extended time on thinking and planning around customer experience excellence, and there really should be only one resolution this year across the board, with regards to setting customer experience objectives – Improving the Organization’s Customer Loyalty Index.
What’s even better news is that as complex as it sounds, this is quite a simple objective to plan for and execute. No need to be locked away in the boardroom for days on end attempting to craft a winning strategy to deliver on this executable. Only two things are necessary: one is to have this objective on the CEO’s and every business leaders KPI sheet for the year; and two, to ensure all staff both customer and non-customer facing, are aware of this business objective and appreciate and understand their roles both individually and collectively towards successful implementation. That simply is the magic formula that will guarantee amazing results when reflection time comes around again either at the end of the year, or at the start of the following year.
So what exactly does it take to have this simple customer experience excellence plan succeed?
It’s not about you, it’s about them – your customers
Corporates often set off on the wrong footing, by creating solutions that work for them and make life easier, smoother and simpler. And that’s where it all starts to fall apart and go wrong. Every organization should start by putting the customer at the center, and then plan everything else around the need to anticipate, meet and exceed customer needs. It should be top priority to have everybody in the organisation trained and empowered to really listen to customers and by doing so, understand their immediate and future requirements. Customers’ quirks and eccentricities also need to be taken into account, and it should go on record that no feedback however strange sounding to the recipient, is too small or too unworthy of attention. The customer is indeed the pillar around which businesses are housed and grow, and the sooner this focus is embedded in the customer service plan, the better. As Bryan Williams- a renowned Hospitality strategist advises “Service is not about what you want to give – it’s about what the customer wants to get”. Being sensitive to the needs of clients can only be achieved if the company has decidedly put customers first, and is attuned to listening and engaging with them to improve service. What therefore should the business plan action around this goal read? It should simply state – Put Customers First. And every employee should have this at their fingertips.
It’s not about solutions, it’s about feelings – your customers’
A recent research “The New Science of Customer Emotions” by a trio of consumer intelligence strategists from Motista, indicates that the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level – tapping into their fundamental motivations and fulfilling their deep, often unspoken emotional needs. Sounds complex right? Well the beauty about it, is that taken at face value, it isn’t. This simply calls upon all staff at all customer touch points be they physical or digital, to really engage with customers with a view to listening to both expressed and unexpressed need. When customers are aware that a brand cares enough to listen to them, and that their feedback, ideas, proposals and suggestions are important to the business, it unlocks their creative juices by providing them a reassuring receptacle to speak into. The safer customers feel to express their desires, the more emotionally attached they get to the organization. This doesn’t come automatically though. It is a culture that needs to be nurtured and cultivated with determined consistency. To have everyone in the organization sensitive to the needs of customers, and deliberately paying attention and reacting considerately to what is important to the customer however fickle, is no mean feat. The dividend payout however, is massive. There is no greater gain that the outcome of meeting customers’ emotional needs consistently. The customer loyalty derived from this, complete with referrals and continued custom, is worth every effort made towards the cause. How therefore should the specific action to deliver this business goal be documented? It should simply state – Listen to The Customer. And in consistent format, every employee should have this at their fingertips.
Planning for customer experience excellence is not rocket science and is not an activity that should remain the preserve of the customer service department. Ensuring customer loyalty, is a business profitability strategy and planning for this should be an organization wide responsibility. Loyal customers serve as brand ambassadors and should occupy a special position in the organization’s treasure chest. As more and more organizations come to the realization that without customer focus the business is akin to a ship in the high seas with no radar, the more concrete planning is getting employed to chase after success. The golden rule to all this planning though is that – simple does it. There’s no Houdini move required to delight customers; only two simple plans are required for business success− just put them first and then really listen to them.