Customer Experience Resolutions?

If you’re anything like me, you’re still coming down after a busy holiday season. This year, my holidays were mixed with a substantial amount of business travel, which is the reason my posts have been lighter lately.

I’ve been spending a great deal of time discussing Customer Experience Management with a number of clients, from large-scale Health Care and Pharmaceutical organizations to global software companies. As recurrent themes with my clients arise, it occurs to me that perhaps this is a great time for C-level executives to adopt some “Customer Experience Resolutions” for 2006.

Here are five considerations:
1. Deliver the Customer Experience Fundamentals. Product and service innovation can be expensive, and will count for little if the underlying customer experience is lacking. Follow the example of CEM leaders like Nordstrom’s to build consistently solid customer experience. The CEM Fundamentals (see article) are business and channel agnostic principles that can help any organization deliver better customer experience.

2. Adopt an “outside in” perspective. Too many companies have become so internally focused they no longer have an objective view of how the business, products, services are perceived by customers. When this happens, corporate staff can become mired in executional detail. Competing priorities can result in operational barriers that compromise customer experience and negatively impact business outcomes. A customer-centric perspective can directly support business improvement efforts and prioritize business activities.

3. Create a customer learning environment. Okay – as a CEM fundamental, this overlaps a bit with items 1 and 2 above, but this must be said. According to Gartner, 76% of C-level executives believe customer experience is increasingly important, yet 65% of them admit that their executivesare not frequently spending time with customers!

David Neeleman, CEO of Jet Blue Airlines, understands the importance of customer engagement. He manages to fly his airline once a month to obtain feedback from customers and employees. Neeleman has applied customer learning to create a positive airline experience and build market distinction for Jet Blue.

Spending time with customers - and developing an infrastructure that allows your company to measure and improve customer experience (databases, integrated marketing and service tools) is essential for success. Simply put: Watch, listen, ask, learn and remember.

4. Create an “Experience Agent” Culture. According to Gartner, only 19% of companies have rewards tied to quality of service. Take a tip from the Gore Company (Makers of GoreTex products and Glide Dental Floss), where everyone is considered an “Associate” and product team sizing is meticulously managed to keep small-company collaboration and production at peak. Imagine what would happen in your company if everyone became a customer experience agent – if compensation and performance ratings became more tangibly and meaningfully tied to customer-related goals and objectives. How would it impact quality outcomes? How could this benefit employee morale and focus? What would it do for your customers?

5. Walk the Talk. I've been spending a lot of time with CMO senior marketing and operations executives who think Customer Experience Management is a “marketing thing.” I find myself consistently realigning perceptions as I illustrate CEM as a discipline that involves complex management and coordination of customers, their environments, interfacing dynamics, the supporting platform, goods and services. CEM mandates must therefore be driven and coordinated from the top -- and supported across all areas of the business.

Tom Peters said it well "There is (Perhaps?!) Only One Big Issue: Crappy X-Functional Communications." Today’s C-level executives must find ways to bridge the gaps and facilitate better communication and collaboration between divisions(e.g. marketing, product development, customer service, sales, business development and technology) in order to engineer and deliver customer experiences that are consistently satisfying and differentiating.
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not an idealist, and know these are huge considerations that, as resolutions, may require more than year's worth of effort. Certainly, however, the items above are worthy of the attention and consideration of leadership. Certainly they will require change and a little pain. Even so, I'm firmly convicted that the organizations that don't become more adamantly customer-centric and skilled in delivering consistently solid, satisfying experience will be left behind in the future.

...Just some food for thought as we press into a new year.


Photo Courtesy of the Times Square Alliance

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LEIGH DURST

LEIGH DURST
I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

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