“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” – Albert Einstein.
In the wake of the pandemic and all of its ‘unprecedented’ consequences, businesses that felt blindsided by the unexpected would be mad to think such a shock to the system would never happen again.
So here’s the question: How do you build responsiveness and resilience into your business, so that the customer experience isn’t impacted by future unforeseen events?
If you don’t look after your customers someone else will
You don’t have to look very far for more unforeseen events on a global scale – the war in Ukraine, the skills shortage and cost of living crisis are just three items on the current agenda, while in the past we have seen recessions devastate entire industry sectors. In addition, every business will have its own, more specific challenges as well, whether it’s a shock change within your company or the rapid rise of an industry disruptor.
What customers are becoming less tolerant of however, are the excuses. While there was a ‘mucking in’ mentality at the start of the pandemic, the ‘Covid excuse’ for poor customer experiences quickly wore thin. There’s also a sense amongst many consumers that businesses are hiding behind the pandemic when it comes to a failure to deliver on brand promises for reasons that were either already present pre-pandemic or that have become endemic within the organisation.
To some extent you might expect customers to have a modicum of understanding – it has indeed been a very difficult time for businesses, and it continues to be a challenging period for many. The problem is that it’s not the customer’s problem if your business is not able to fulfil the promises it makes or implies.
Furthermore, if you are not able to deliver on expected promises and experiences, someone else in the market will. Lots of businesses try to address the shortfall by bringing in as much business as possible but letting the customer experience suffer, the net result is more long-term damage to your business.
When we launched our maturity audit tool, which helps businesses to truly understand and identify the strength of their capabilities against their customer experience objectives, we kept coming back to the phrase: ‘make sure you look after your customers before someone else does’. It’s not simply a question of delivering on the basics of what your organisation does, it’s about providing an experience that retains the relationship with the customer so that they remain, return and recommend you to others.
The reason customer experience is central to resilience
Building strong customer relationships based on loyalty and trust is essential to the resilience of an organisation, creating a circle of strength. Good customer experiences and strong ownership of the customer relationship engenders loyalty and an understanding of your customer, which further allows you to support their needs as they evolve, and creates a more sustainable and resilient business.
Research from PwC said: “Experience is everything”, but they added that in many organisations there’s “an experience disconnect”, where “companies tout the latest technology or snappy design, but haven’t focused on—or invested in—the most meaningful aspects of customer experience.” Their research cited five core pillars of a good experience:
- Human touch
In the past we have quoted research from Bain & Co, which shows that while 80% of executives think they deliver a good customer experience at their organisation, only 8% of their customers agree. It can be a real challenge for businesses to have an understanding of how their customers actually see them and feel about them. It’s not uncommon for a business to think it’s doing really well but to later find that the customer experience maturity isn’t quite what they thought it was. Often, it’s only when those unexpected events come along that the discrepancy is highlighted between what you think and what’s real, and by then it could well be too late.
How to create customer experiences for a resilient business
Experience audit and customer research
Creating great customer experiences has to begin by understanding where you are in reality now, and where you want to be going forward using an experience audit and customer research. Really identifying where you are now is not always a comfortable process, and it can involve some deep internal reflection. However, it is a time and resource investment that will give you much greater clarity as you move forward. It will give you an understanding of where you are in terms of customer experience as well as any gap in capabilities you need to meet your goals. It will also support more productive decision making around customer experience in the future so you’re not putting money into costly guesswork.
Armed with the knowledge from your audit and customer research, you can look at designing processes that are customer centric. This is as much of a mindset shift at all levels of an organisation as it is a technical shift, requiring the focus to be less on transactions and more on meeting, anticipating and exceeding customer needs and expectations. Instead of merely focusing on a single sale, the goal of a strong customer experience is to build a long lasting customer relationship.
Data and analytics
You don’t need us to tell you that we live in a data driven world, and while we are all about human experiences, data can be a powerful tool to enhance that. Having the capabilities to observe customer interactions at different touchpoints, analyse information effectively and use it to predict customer behaviours is central to providing good customer experiences and staying up to date with customer needs.
Using data correctly (and respectfully), means you can deliver improvements both to the service as a whole as well as to the individual, remain relevant to your target market and potential target market, and you can help to create more effective pathways to support customers when they are dissatisfied. The latter will give you a strong opportunity to retain the customer relationship instead of losing it to a competitor before you’re even aware that there’s an issue.
As mentioned, customer experience is partly about systems and processes, but it’s also about the mindset of the organisation and the people within it. That begins with the people at the top – the CEO and senior management, and their company culture that they foster. However, employee experience, employee engagement, staff capabilities, attitudes and behaviours are all instrumental in the way that clients experience your brand and the service that it offers.
Ensuring brand values are experienced, lived and believed in by your team, engaging with employees so that they become strong advocates of your business is fundamental. It’s often an overlooked part of fostering strong customer relationships but ultimately develops a sustainable and resilient business.
At CGA we help businesses to transform and evolve their customer experience to support the commercial success, the brand reputation and long-term future of your organisation. You can start by getting a true insight into your current customer experience status and capabilities with our maturity audit tool. Or to find out more about our services, contact us any time.