Customer experience is a new(er) practice within the enterprise. There's no degree. There's no How-To manual. But there are events like the Forrester Customer Experience Forum in New York this week designed around sharing new ideas and practices for effective customer experience management. So far, there've been great presentations from Office Depot, Navy Federal Credit Union Citi Bank, and many many others about what they've done to prove the customer experience at their organizations.
At it's heart, customer experience is about building relationships with and retaining customers. In the opening keynote Haley Manning, the Vice President Research Director at Forrester, told us that 60% of marketers spend less than 20% of their budget on customer actives. Ouch. We've got to do better than that. During his presentation, he had everyone write down this simple sentence (and then told us to put it up in our offices):
We need our customers more than they need us.
To really drive home his point, he polled the audience: Who is in an industry with no competition? You'll probably be surprised to learn no one, zero people, raised their hands. So, if we all are in a highly competitive space, where social media, mobile and the Internet are making it easier than ever for customers to leave us for someone "better," why aren't we including customers in our process? Why aren't we asking them how we're doing and collecting meaningful feedback? Why aren't we letting them engage with us seamlessly across channels?
Because it's not easy. But of course nothing worth doing is and shifting the mindset of the organization has to come from the top. And it may not be easy to convince them. Paul Hagen, Principal Customer Experience Analyst at Forrester, told the audience that we should expect to spend 30-50% of our time evangelizing the need for customer experience.
But once you have that top down buy-in, where do you start? Throughout the day, I heard a lot of the same sentiments being said in slightly different ways. I liked the way Mary McDuffie, Executive Vice President of Delivery Channels and Communications at Navy Federal Credit Union, put it best: you want to do the right thing and you want to do the right things. Here's how:
You need to listen to customers (seems obvious, but too many still aren't doing this). Listen hard. Laura Evans, Chief Experience Officer and Researcher at the Washington Post, said, "understanding the customer starts with data and research." There are so many ways we can listen to customers now. So many channels. We should be collecting feedback and data from everywhere and combining it. Face it, big data is here to stay and it's the organizations who understand that and find ways to develop and control their customer insights that will win. (We're here to help collect, combine and analyze customer feedback if you need it.)
The ability to listen and understand customers is now a differentiator. Fidelity learned that people who have good experiences with them invest 4.5x more. Thats real earnings, millions each year. Worry about listening to customers, and doing the right things, and the business outcomes will speak for themselves. The President of Office Depot, Kevin Peters, increased North American sales 40% because he stopped focusing on things customers didn't care about and started focusing on what they did. The best thing he did for this costume experience efforts: going undercover to experience what his customers were experiencing. It makes big difference, wee should all do it.
You need to build a company culture where employees are empowered to do the right thing. This can mean different things, but taking the Navy Federal example again, they give their employees a sum that they can spend however they see fit to make things right with their members. Send them flowers, a gift card, whatever they think the situation calls for. Most don't use their allocated amount, but it makes a big statement about how much they trust their employees.
Paul Hagen pointed out that your culture is what employees do when you're not in the room. You need to trust them, and you need to train them. Are you giving employees the tools to do the right things? Even the best employee can't over come unfriendly and broken processes. Are they intouch with customer needs? Barclays employees start their day by listening to a real customer call. Lego includes links in their monthly internal newsletters to snipets of recorded customer calls so non-frontline employees can understand the customer.
Finally, think about what customers say they want from you, are you hiring the right skill sets to meet these needs? The skill sets needed might change. American Express looks for people with passion to serve because great customer service starts with the people who deliver it. Customers are going to follow happy, engaged employees. You can't teach someone to have passion. Whole Foods takes a slightly different approach. After new staff members are on boarded, the existing team votes on whether to keep them or not. This is similar to Zappos, who pays employees to leave. In both cases you're trying to make sure you have the right people, who you can trust, working for the organization. Of course it cost money to find, hire and train people, but not as much as it could cost you if you keep the wrong person on your team.
Culture is key to success. Reward your employees for doing the right things. This can take many forms: formalized award programs, snaps, food rewards (Mary said ice cream socials and pizza parties are a big hit for them!) Find something that works for your organization. It will reduce employee turnover and keep employees delivering good customer experiences.
We have a new paradox on our hands. The paradox of the empowered customer. It's never been easier to reach customers, but it's also never been harder to engage them. Customer experience is a journey that never ends. Start small, collect feedback, see what it tells you and make changes. Bring in other channels as you expand the program. Get everyone involved, even departments who are not customer facing. Customer experience is about acquiring new customers, retaining current customers, and building loyalty and fanatics within your customer base. Remember, just because someone is your biggest customer in terms of dollars spent each year, it doesn't mean they're your best customers in terms of influence, and that has the potential to mean so much more.
I'm looking forward to more great insights at today's sessions. But for now, I leave you with this thought from Fast Company:
"Customer experience is everyone's responsibility and no one's job."
Read the takeaways from Day 2. Main points: Design, Governance and Culture.