I was reflecting on a service transformation project that was commissioned by a client a couple of years ago. At the initial meeting, the boardroom was filled with high level decision-makers, while the individuals who interacted directly with customers, were absent. I wondered aloud if anyone in the room could walk us through the customer’s typical journey with the business. Of course the room went silent. After this initial oversight, customer experience discussion groups with this client always included a cross section of their employee community.
One of the signature questions that I pose to clients at the kick-off stage of our transformation projects is, “Who designs the customer experience?” Technically speaking, the customer designs the experience, whilst the business contributes the design architects who create the form and the function of the delivery machinery.
The point that I’m making is that takes a village to design a customer experience that is on point with the customer’s expectations. These would be the individuals who possess the gamut of high level, design, user experience, digital experience and employee experience management skills. This is the group of thinkers who converge and converse, to curate a series of microscopic customer experiences over a journey that crosses an ecosystem of delivery channels and human interactions.
Getting all of the pieces of the puzzle together can become a nightmare if these conversations aren’t moderated by a common endgame…..customer success and customer happiness.
I talk a lot about customer experience, service excellence, digital experience, customer happiness and the like. The endgame of all the moving parts occurs when the customer thinks “mission accomplished” and “expectations exceeded” whenever he or she completes a transaction or interaction with a business.
A pre-cursor to overall customer happiness is customer success. According to Gainsight, customer success is “the business methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your products or services.” This definition sends the message that a great product or service has to be designed with the user in mind, positioning the user experience as a key discussion point. Another message being sent, is that delivery is important, therefore, a range of business channel options needs to be part of the mix, including self-service, online, apps, email, chat, messaging and of course, call centre.
A third and important message being sent is that customer success planning starts before the customer has an experience with the product or service. It starts with the knowledge of the customer’s ideal or desired outcome when interacting or conducting business. I have found that many businesses have not bothered to discover this intimate detail about the customer’s desires.
A two-fold question that addresses the customer’s ideal or desired outcome is, “Why is this product or service important to you and for what purpose are you purchasing it?”
Leading food container retailers that swapped out plastic for biodegradable containers early in the recyclable movement, would have been paying attention to the growing calls to “save the planet” and listening to their customers who were sympathetic to the cause. Customer success in this case was that the retailers understood that the ideal or desired outcome for their customers would have been to have conservation wedded to packaging. Customers wanted to interact with products that kept the food intact, whilst not inflicting ecological harm. That was the ideal or desired outcome.
We have been on a pandemic highway that has been relentless with its sharp curves and precipices for a long time. What is clear is that we will not be going back to the old normal, we are on our way to the next normal that will be decidedly fraught with an ever-expanding matrix of restrictions and changing consumer practices.
Now, more than ever, businesses should be gathering their design architects and creating strategy groups tasked with introducing a new era in customer experience management. Every bit of customer information will now be valuable. It doesn’t matter if a business has a super-sophisticated customer relationship management system, or simply a customer service representative interviewing customers.
What matters is gathering and acting on the data, in order to get to the customer’s sweet spot.