All that glitters is not gold, this golden phrase applies to customer centricity just as much as it does to other things. If you were to look at one common publically pronounced feature between organization of all scales and statures: old and new age and also between successful, just hanging around and stark failures; you’ll find that all of them have sung praises for their customers, some louder and in denser perfunctory pitch than the others. Unfortunately, saying and doing are not the same thing, as of yet. We have enough data in the common knowledge to prove that the organizations that care about their customers in the true sense of the word and in spirit, not only do well but also go on to become a groundbreaking success. All brands of repute and recognization have happy customers in common. I would not name organizations at this stage but would rather ask you to think of a few brands that you have interacted with lately to meet your need, list them and then alongside, rate your experience with them on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being lowest and 5 being the highest. Take a moment now to do some research on these organizations to see if those who served you well were also sound business performance/revenue wise? People to people variation adjusted, you’d witness that the brand that delivered a better experience are also those that are doing excellent or at least better than the ones that annoyed you unwarranted, at least 85% of the times. Well, if your experiment tells you otherwise, I suggest you expand your sample wrt to time & interactions and then repeat, you’ll notice a confirmatory trend emerge.

If even then you see that those who cared little are doing better; take it with a pinch of salt for every dog has his day; good thing is that dog will not have all the days to itself, surely, it will move out of the 15% short term exception that we spoke about earlier into the oblivion, never to return. Like there’s now no debate on the fact that open defecation is unhealthy, in the business world there is consensus on considering ‘customer experience’ as an item to strategic importance.

Many progressive groups are creating positions like chief experience officer/ principal support office etc to drive the mandate of customer experience across the group. They are moving away from having people lead a certain line of business in solitude and are now marching towards onboarding people with appropriate intellect and sufficient seniority to lead the entire machinery. In some cases, business operation leaders have been made accountable to the office and chair of experience officer to make sure that the business, in particular, the sales/delivery functions do not get carried away and foolishly trade short term growth for long term experience damage. I find it to be a good way of defining and demonstrating intent.

We perhaps cannot emphasize enough on the fact that the world around us is rapidly changing, in most cases at a pace stronger than the speed of adaptability of most organizations. The hunger to receive greater value from the limited investment is growing faster than ever in the minds of the customers, it won’t be an understatement to say that it is almost insatiable. To make matters even more complex, with it, what is also gaining ground is the unforgiving attitude of the customers. Think of it, in a market as crowded as ours and in times as lucid, in which 73% of moving population has 1.5 computing devices each (smartphones) with them, 96% of which is connected to the internet 67% of the day. No idea in today’s world is unique, before you know it a bunch of passionate people with a few computers on table in a garage and big dreams in their eyes will create a cooler organization to deliver what you considered your proprietary service and if they also happen to be folks who understand service and experience ; God save you! So, how do we approach this? In most simple terms, you need to have people who understand service, who are progressive and if not visionary at least thinkers who know to apply their minds to imagine what might be of value to customers in days to come and then set up the backend operations in motion to deliver solutions if not ahead of time at least not behind it.

Customers no longer see sore encounters as problems in isolation. Gone are the days when a rude salesman at the retail outlet was seen as a bad apple, today, one such bad experience is all that a customer needs to not only not buy but also quickly taps on the blue screens to let their entire new age friends and followers know about it. Connected world amplifies error in ways that expose the brand’s vulnerability in ways most egregious. So you got to cover the entire spectrum of things to deliver one excellent experience. Interaction between a customer and a brand, as we know it, happens at various levels starting with the customer gaining awareness of the product and or service, goes on to the period when they conduct discovery around what they have already gathered, specs are compared, prices are gauged at this stage customer also often seeks feedback from existing users. Technology provides for review to be read. From all of these customers cultivate interest, and then the forecasted purchase happens. Things do not stop there, they become vigilant for post-sale service and if you do things right not only will you get repeat purchase but also cause the customer to give you advocacy benefits; all of it put together is customer experience in its totality.

I quoted, the below findings from a reputed research firm in the customer fest panel discussion that I attended last month and it is so apt that I do not get tired of quoting i again and again. On my website, I have embedded the video of the 7 minutes talk, that I gave, should it interest you, you can watch it as well.

The research finding:

When Bain & Company asked organizations to rate their quality of customer experience, 80% believe they are delivering a superior experience. This is compared to only 8% of customers who believe they are receiving a great customer experience.

Cleary, companies, and customers are not always on the same page, especially, the leadership team, those who spend days and weeks without really getting in touch with a real customer, personally. If you happen to be one such person, you do not necessarily have to step out to meet customers, while if you do that it will be awesome. What you can and must alternatively do is listen to recordings of support calls or read emails. Every now and then, make time to respond to customers on your own, unassisted. And you will know exactly how fragmented your systems are, which all parts need repair and what (people, process, technology) must be replaced right away. Employee satisfaction is also a good indicator and so is attrition (the bad attrition). Unhappy people do not create great customer experience and if you see imminent brain drain, great people leaving your organization; you should know all is not well. Well, now that you have a good sense of how your customers see you, you must take credible, verifiable, sustained & resolute action to change things for better as swiftly as you possibly can.

Every company is different, every customer is unique; yet, there are a few principles that are ubiquitous and in some sense form the basis of creating a customer-centric organization. Five fundamentals of creating a formidable foundation of fantastic experience that comes to my mind are.

1. Clear customer experience vision: It is vital to include customer experience in the statement of direction, with financial goals you should also have unambiguously documented service performance objectives. You can take inspiration from benchmark studies of your industry but you have to have it. You must also invest effort, time and money in making sure that everyone in your corporation understands what those visions, goals, and principles are with clarity and confidence so much so that they should be able to articulate it without difficulty in their own words. COPC standard of service is also in conformance of this, tip.

2. Know your customers: It is inevitable, you have to know who your customers are, where do they come from, what their needs, wants and preferences are. In a market as diverse as modern day India, you are most likely to find every kind of imaginable customer in your mix. Broadly categorize them, give them personas and personalities; age-old, marketing and profiling technique. Create suitable approaches for each of these personas and then train your staff on it: operationalize the model. Make sure your profiling is data based, flex your analytical muscle to its full glory here.

3. Create customer engagement roadmap: Research by the Journal of Consumer Research has found that more than 50% of the experience is based on emotion as emotions shape the attitudes that drive decisions, the same research also says that business that optimizes for an emotional connection outperforms competitors by 80% in sales growth. So go out there and express yourself, remember every interaction with the customer is an opportunity to win his loyalty. Build a comprehensive moment of truth map of your customer journey and make sure you leave nothing to chance. Prepare well, it is the least that you must do.

4. Feedback is gold: Nothing will give you better insight than the voice of your customers, tap into that rich source. Get as close to real time as possible, deploy the tools of measuring customer satisfaction. When it comes to feedback, equally critical & perhaps more estimable is the feedback that your employees can give you. Remember, your employees serve your customers – they know it. Create an environment conducive to the seamless and fearless exchange of information. I have written an entire article on this item. Linking it here for those of you who wish to hear a little more from me 😉

Article: Customer Feedback, should you care?


5. Execute with energy, enthusiasm, and urgency: Broken parts can broadly be categorized into two segments 1) education failure 2) malfunction; both of these come into existence because, there are gaps in either process, the skill of employees, systems and sometimes even all. Some are contributed by faulty technology too but for the sake of simplicity, we can say that the process encompasses systems too. Have strong process reengineering in place, complement it with an intelligent framework to measure the skill level of your staff against desired standards so that time-bound plans for upskilling of resources can be created. At times you might have to hire from outside to speed the process, should the situation demand it, do not hesitate.

These 5 steps are not the whole deal but do serve as a great beginning. Let’s aim to create excellent customer experiences at every turn.

BTW, I’ve shifted my articles to my own website from the Google blogger platform that I used to benefit from earlier, do look around and let me know if you like what you see. Bye-bye.