Improving customer experience starts at the top
Tom Voirolon 22 July, 2019
In a marketplace where the consumer has more choice than ever before, customer experience isn’t just a key differentiator — it may well be the only differentiator, especially in commoditised industries. Regardless of the power of your brand or the uniqueness of your product, consumers are the ones with the power, with unprecedented access to an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Consumers look beyond the product or service and toward the whole experience of a brand when making their purchasing decisions, and are easily able to compare brand customer experiences, no matter the category or platform. Many brands are cognisant of this, and those that ignore this shift are unlikely to be around to lament missing the signs. Becoming a customer-centric brand is easy to pledge but more challenging to implement. This shift requires commitment from the highest levels of the organization.
It’s natural to think of customer experience as part of marketing. However, companies cannot segregate customer experience; creating a great one extends far beyond the people building your website. Customer experience must be a large-scale, continuous, sustainable drive, owned and lived in every corner of a company. Responsibility and accountability for customer experience must be shared across your entire organisation: it should be written into your charter as a company, and sponsored from the top down.
The entire C-suite must fully subscribe to a set of customer experience goals, backed by the board. Leaders within a business must be continually seeking out opportunities for long-term experience improvements in their department. At the same time, improving the customer experience will only work if everybody in the company understands their own objectives in this area.
Prudential Life Insurance Singapore, one of the country’s leading life insurers for more than 85 years, embarked on a multi-year transformation program to customer-centricity. The company created a formal transformation office led initially by the CEO. To scale change and encourage others to embrace it, the transformation team identified champions in various departments and invited them to take part in projects relevant to their respective work areas.
The CX team conducted customer and employee co-creation workshops aimed at sourcing great ideas and designing solutions directly with the people who stood to benefit from the outcome. This approach has produced numerous important CX improvements already visible today, such as revamped customer journeys for sales, service, and claims functions, with much more in the pipeline.
As the coordinated, business-wide example of Prudential proves, one team or manager acting alone cannot be expected to create measurable, lasting improvement throughout your entire business. At best, any results will likely be incremental, confined to siloes, and impractical or impossible to roll out at scale. These results will also probably only be temporary, if the measures implemented are not supported and sustained by every function and team within the company that has a customer-facing element.
Ultimately, this approach pays lip service to the notion of improving customer experience, but belies a misunderstanding of just how high a priority it needs to be, and how crucial it is to the future of a business. Customer experience is the lens through which every one of your business activities can be viewed, and the discipline through which every customer-facing function of your business can be optimised.
Nebulous definitions of what constitutes improvement to the experience aren’t enough anymore; leaders must devise and implement specific KPIs derived from strategic business objectives. Beyond mere business goals, they need to reflect user needs and combine qualitative and quantitative metrics. Employees at all levels then need to be brought in and empowered to have their everyday work and – where relevant – their targets tied into these objectives.
- Customer experience is not a single project or business function, it is an on-going, continuous process.
- Customer experience determines the quality of each interaction the consumer has with you, and the likelihood of them returning.
- Improvement must be driven from the top down, with stakeholders at every level fully bought in and engaged.