This article first appeared in ‘Getting to grips with customer obsession’, where you can learn more about the benefits and challenges of this strategy.
The case for customer obsession is clear but executing a customer-centric strategy across a large, complex organization requires vision and long-term commitment.
Delivering a seamless customer experience that doesn’t just meet, but exceeds expectations, encompasses every department and team, from product development right through to marketing, point of sale and crucially, nurturing ongoing relationships. What’s more, with constantly evolving technology capabilities, a growing mountain of data, and increasing consumer demands, the goalposts are constantly on the move.
While there is no one-size-fits-all route to success with customer obsession, there a few core elements that all CX leaders have in place:
Customer obsession must be driven from the very top, through a vision and value proposition that clearly articulate what top-class customer experience looks like and why it’s important while defining standards and expectations for every employee in the business. Implementing a customer-centric strategy requires a significant culture shift, and this kind of wholesale change can only happen through an authentic, long-term commitment at the board and executive level.
“Business leaders have to be prepared to take a step back and empower their teams to take risks”
HP’s former global head of innovation and customer strategies, JC Quintana, explains that responsibility for CX can’t just fall on the marketing function. “We’re seeing CMOs take more of the leadership role over customer experience, but this must be a shared role across the C-level of the company,” he says.
At the core of successful customer obsession strategies are the insights and data that tell you about the wants and needs of your customers. Every customer is unique, with a whole range of constantly evolving motivations, emotional, and practical needs. Brands must, therefore, develop the ability to respond to those needs in real-time by investing in the infrastructure, technology, and processes that enable them to listen to and track customer feedback and behavior. “In an era of complexity, human insight will be key,” says Alex Craddock, former global head of marketing for personal systems, HP. “Being able to synthesize the data and identify human insight will be critical.”
“What’s really important is getting the right customer to the right product” – Vikrant Batra, CMO at HP
At the frontline, customer feedback systems make it easy for customers to share their thoughts, comments, and complaints, using channels ranging from surveys to web intercepts and conversations with customer-facing employees. Qualitative customer and employee insights must also then be combined with operational data around sales, customer acquisition, churn, social dialogue, referral rates, brand engagement, clicks, etc. to provide a detailed picture of each and every customer, their behavior, and individual customer journey. Finally, all of this information should be distributed across the organization, where it can be used to guide decisions around ongoing innovation and execution, drive personalized customer experiences, and show return on investment.
Research shows that customer journey management (33%) is the top digital-related priority for larger organizations, as they aim to deliver an omnichannel experience to the customer. And while data provides the foundations for delivering personalized experiences across the customer lifecycle, executing on these insights calls for collaboration at an epic scale across large organizations, and frequently demands major structural changes to how businesses are run.
Where previously, different departments focused on their own specialist areas of the business, regrouping occasionally to review the quarterly sales figures or discuss long-term plans, a customer-obsessed culture demands much closer integration, particularly between sales, marketing, and customer service teams. At Kimble, which specializes in professional services automation software, this integration has been facilitated through implementing cross-functional, agile teams, which are empowered to work on distinct CX projects.
“In the last 20 years, agile has gone from being a software method to a way of working which is adopted by brands such as Netflix, Apple, and Bosch as a way of actually being more customer-centric in the way that they operate,” says Sarah Edwards, CEO, International at Kimble. “And the good news is that it doesn’t require waterfall change. What it actually requires is that you identify areas within the business that you think will benefit most from customer-centricity, which you think probably require the most innovation, and you just create a team and they just get started.”
Needless to say, hiring the right people is integral to rolling out a successful customer obsession strategy. That means focusing on attracting candidates with customer-focused skills and values who are naturally empathetic and service-orientated – even in roles that aren’t traditionally customer-facing.
Kirsty Traill, VP Customer Support at Hootsuite, says that this is a core priority for the business when hiring: “We’ve included a customer experience or customer focus question in every single one of our interviews, across the entire Hootsuite organization. So, regardless of whether you work in product or development or support or finance or sales, everybody at Hootsuite or candidate interviewing with Hootsuite is asked the question — can you give an example of when you may have had an impact on the customer experience or provided exceptional customer support?”
Once onboard, people should then be supported with training and coaching schemes to help staff to boost their own skills around customer-centricity and maximize the data, insights, and tools at their disposal. Compensation and reward schemes should also be built around incentivizing managers and staff on customer satisfaction scores, to ensure the customer is front-of-mind at all times.
There is no quick fix when it comes to customer obsession and we’ve only scratched the surface of the change required to make it a reality. To be successful, it has to be authentic, consistent, and most importantly threaded through everything you do. It has to become a way of life.
Read our full guide to mastering customer obsession:
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