Comment from Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director, AgencyUK
To paraphrase JFK, ‘ask not what your customer can do for you, but what you can do for your customer’. That’s the philosophy any successful customer experience program should stem from.
I most often see businesses having issues with customer experience when they’ve built their business around their product, not their customers’ needs. By setting up infrastructure around provision of product, you develop a mindset and a culture built around the businesses needs, and then the most commonly asked question will be ‘how can we get our customers to buy?’ The alternative is to develop products and services based on your customers desires from the outset, thus developing a customer-centric organisation with a culture that is highly attuned to their needs and therefore provides a relevant customer experience by default. Not only will you find selling products easier, but you will also be future-proofing your business, by adapting as your customer needs change.
However, most organisations already have infrastructure in place – websites, call centres, customer service teams and the rest. So how do you change established organisations with deeply ingrained processes and diehard personnel? The approach is to identify where the sticking points are and work backwards. We worked with the UK’s leading national driving school which had a fantastically well run, established call centre, housing efficient IT systems and skilled and knowledgeable staff who were well equipped to deal with pretty much every kind of customer query. However, their customers changed – they no longer wanted to pick up the phone. Cue an 18 month process of applying the same staff product knowledge to different channels, digitising communications so queries could be handled online.
An agile approach to change management means you can adapt quicker, but you need to give staff ‘enough rope’ to do this. Most senior people will focus on the bottom line, whilst your front line employees are identifying real customer issues. You need invest in highly skilled, bright and motivated staff who are going to be able to do this, but you also have to provide a framework for them to work in that allows them to implement change.
Dell’s social customer service approach is exemplary here – it hived off a team to respond to the customers that needed help via social media, not restricting them with the red tape and processes that applied to the rest of the organisation. Then when that team proved massively successful in servicing customers, taking those lessons to apply them elsewhere proved difficult within the usual confines.