Even though we are just beginning the second quarter of 2017, there have already been some awful customer experience meltdowns. Most of you have probably already seen them, and some are quite disturbing. One could speculate on the contributing factors to these meltdowns because they are easy targets. Regardless of how you feel about the specifics of any event, the consumer’s ability to make any event instantly public should serve as a warning to all of us.
Even though most of us would never expect to find ourselves in the midst of a crisis, I do think these kinds of events can have an impact on all of us. It’s a spillover effect.
One of the best ways to avoid a crisis is to build a customer experience that is differentiating in a positive way, an experience that invites, nurtures and rewards loyal customers.
Firms that are known for their sustained positive experiences have three essential practices. Before I cover these, I need to point out that any successful experience must have products and or services that are relevant and offer utility to customers.
Let’s take a look at the three practices.
The current marketing landscape is well documented. It’s no longer new; however, it is a rapidly evolving landscape about this four years ago.
Customers have access to more options and more information than ever before. The rate of change is mind boggling. Brands that aren’t innovating and adapting are likely to be outdone by alternatives that were not even in existence last month, last quarter, or last year.
Companies realize that sustaining a differentiating customer experience is an ongoing journey that requires engaged employees, partners, and customers.
- Contribute to profitability – Companies in the top quartile of engaged employees had 50% higher total shareholder return than average companies. (Aon Hewitt)
- Are more productive – Engaged employees have 18% higher productivity and 60% higher quality than under-engaged employees. (Insync surveys)
- Make fewer errors – Among Fortune 100 companies, there was a 1000% decrease in errors among engaged vs disengaged employee populations. (Gonring)
- Are less likely to leave – According to Gallup they are 87% less likely to leave an organization.
- Are more loyal – Temkin data shows they have above average rates of trying new products, buying more from the company, trying new products right away, and forgiving the company after a bad experience.
- Expect personalized experiences.
- Spend 67% more and have larger transactions. (CustomersThatStick)
- Stick around because of friendly employees or customer service representatives, can find information easily, have personalized experiences and the brand has a good reputation. (CustomersThatStick)
We all realize that customers are more astute than ever. Just offering shelf space for product and services is no longer enough. Companies like Amazon are continually innovating, using powerful algorithms to craft personal experiences. You don’t have to be Amazon to create a personal experience. Customers appreciate even simple gestures like acknowledging their name. Find ways to capture important buying behaviors and use the data to generate appropriate insights.
The key to engaged customers is engaged employees. According to Daniel Pink, an author who has studied motivation, employees are looking for three things. Mastery, autonomy, and purpose. First, make sure you are clear on why your business exists, and then be sure to communicate this to your employees early and often.
Employees want to grow and learn. Invest in training and development so employees can continually learn and grow. Often customer experience meltdowns occur because employees are simply following procedures that leave them little or no discretion when problems arise. Here are some questions that can help you think about creating healthy employee engagement.
Once employees are trained and engaged, they need to be empowered to solve customer problems. Whether it’s direct contact with the customer or serving in a supporting role, employees want to understand how their contribution makes a difference. We’ll talk about the role of feedback next.
The dynamic landscape requires agility and rapid responses. Informed employees are more engaged and more likely to be able to address customer’s questions and concerns. Customers want to get answers to their questions and resolution to their problems. Feedback provides rich insight into unmet needs, changing trends, and other opportunities. Organizations that embrace feedback are often able to resolve issues before they reach crisis proportions. Let’s look at feedback from the perspective of the employee and the customer.
Voice of employee
- 100% of companies surveyed felt that facilitating the employee voice was a fundamental part of internal communication, yet only 46% of employees felt heard. (CIPR survey)
- 73% of employees felt their work environment did not bring out their creativity. (akhtaboot)
- 98% of employees will fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. (Officevibe)
- 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week. (Officevibe)
Voice of customer
- 80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service but only 8% of their customers believe this. (Helpscout)
- The typical business only hears from 4% of dissatisfied customers. (Helpscout)
- Customers are a great source of innovation, across 9 industries Hippel discovered more than 60% of commercially successful innovations came from customers.
Most of us are not naturally predisposed to welcoming feedback. On our good days we may politely endure the feedback and on occasion, we might even make adjustments. Part of our problem is we are fighting biology; our brains don’t do well with criticism.
But feedback is essential to an agile customer focused organization. Customer and employee needs are constantly changing. Finding the right solution is a journey of constant experimentation which involves an iterative process of learning from mistakes.
Language plays a critical role. David Kelly of the Stanford Design School suggests “I like” “I wish” construction to provide input that isn’t personal.
Giving and receiving feedback is challenging. The good news, there are resources that can help improve the way we give and receive feedback. It all begins with the right mindset, but, without the right climate, sustaining regular useful feedback will be futile. Let’s look at the role of culture.
Of the three ways mentioned culture may be the most challenging. To be successful, senior leaders must set and model the climate of the organization. This isn’t something that can be delegated to someone else in the organization. If there isn’t transparency and consistency the environment will not sustain loyal employees or customers.
- 87% of organizations cite workforce culture and engagement as a top challenge. (Deloitte University Press)
- 93% of employees who volunteer with their company also report being happy with their employer. (Good.Co)
- 69% of employees state they would work harder if they were better recognized. (Good.co)
- 81% of employees in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For said they are working in a “fun” environment.
- Higher customer satisfaction is linked to stronger workplace cultures. (HBR)
- 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. (Client Heartbeat)
- Price is not the main reason for customer churn, it is due to the overall poor quality of customer service. (Client Heartbeat)
Efforts to inspire and motivate employees have an impact on the bottom line. Cultures that create an atmosphere of fun, connection and growth are places where engaged employees are found. Providing opportunities for employees to volunteer and hang out together increases the odds that friendships will develop.
Healthy cultures that create happy employees are contagious. Customers benefit from brands that nurture and sustain engaged employees.
Building a Differentiating Customer Experience
Building and sustaining a dynamic and profitable customer experience isn’t easy, you must be intentional. It’s a journey, not a destination. It’s a moving target because our world is changing by the minute.
The best way to begin is to begin. Start small, try some experiments. Don’t try to make the process too complex. The idea is to engage and empower employees so they will be able to collaborate and innovate with each other, and with your customers.
What do you think?