In a previous post we outlined 10 key steps to begin building a comprehensive customer-centric experience program. Here we take a deeper look at the planning process, starting with an examination of service elements at key customer touchpoints. You no doubt already appreciate how certain interaction points are critical to lead capture and conversion, service delivery, or long-term relationship management. Using that knowledge to develop a clear model for customer experience goals and requirements is an important step before bringing the entire workforce into the project.
How do you define Customer Experience?
Customer Experience is a concept everyone understands, and yet can be hard to define. Every business is unique, with significant differences between product- and service-based enterprises. There can be huge differences between a customer’s sum “experience” (the integrated result of all interactions) – versus the discrete experience of any single touchpoint. Also, some consumer lifecycles are very short and transient: for example, a drive-through fast food order during a distant road trip. Conversely, relationships within property managed real estate verticals are generally long, lasting a year or more. Whether your customers experience one “Moment of Truth” or many, the need to deliver exceptional experiences as often as possible should be your primary objective.
How are you packaging and presenting your goods and services? An interesting implication of adopting customer-centric experience management is that it will probably shift your brand on the product-services continuum. The consumer opinion of products is formed on its physical traits, and consideration is biased towards commodity. This shift towards services is important, both to differentiate your offerings from competitors, as well as raise the inherent value of what you sell. At G5 we define Customer Experience as the subjective and emotional response to interaction with a business. We consider Customer Experience to be the most important driver of brand value. When exceptional experience becomes your service standard, it also becomes your primary product.
Preparing for Experience Design
We’ve said that early in the process project leadership should create objectives and illustrate with clear examples. One possible way to begin is to consider a simple model that compares service standards against general stages of the customer lifecycle. This work should be expanded later in your project, typically following the mapping of the Customer Journey; here we’re taking a first pass using a set of highly visible touchpoints. Start with a column of activities that reflect the main stages in the lifecycle: e.g., Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Support, Retention. Next, array possible levels of service solutions, categorized by their impact on customer experience.
In this exercise, it becomes clear that “acceptable” levels of customer service are not equal, and differentiated services and functions have customer-impacting outcomes. Adequate service that simply “meets needs” does not create loyalty, and tends to create a perception of commodity. Businesses that operate at this level are constantly battling churn and will chiefly compete on price. A truly customer-centric organization will aim above this baseline.
Customer service that not only solves a basic need, but creates an improvement in the customer’s life is much more likely to create positive, memorable experiences than services that only satisfy minimum expectations. Exceptional service leads to extraordinary experiences and thereby engenders loyalty and advocacy – the core of our ultimate objectives.
Looking at the key functions and processes of your business in the context of this analytic service model will help you imagine how to design and enable the consistent service levels that will create excitement and delight about your brand. Following on these preparatory exercises, work with your leadership team to crystallize the resulting ideas on where and how to create these “wow” experiences, and use your analysis to organize and prioritize the outcome.
Create a summary presentation that can be shared with the entire company. Provide an introductory background on your project purpose, keeping it largely focused on the outcomes and the impact. When you begin to share this presentation, ideally in meetings with open dialogue, it’s important to emphasize the important role every employee will play in contributing to the planning, development and delivery of the project.
Investing effort in the objective stage will pay-off significantly by catalyzing alignment and generating a sense of ownership and purpose from leadership and across the entire company. This is a critical and necessary stage in the journey to developing an effective customer-centric organization.