Firms Slow in Delivering Better Customer Experiences
The concept of “good customer experience” has been around for a long time. Those of us involved in sales and marketing know the common phrases: “Customers first” . . . “The customer is always right . . . .” “100% satisfaction guaranteed!” Just because we say these words does not mean we actually live up to them. Case in point – a fast food chain you may have heard of . . .
In a recent Wall Street Journal article we discover that bad customer experience can disrupt even simplest of businesses – fast food/McDonald’s.
In reading this article you will find yourself saying “is that really true – REALLY??” How can companies run like this?
Here are a couple of examples:
- “The new leadership team has decided to focus on customer satisfaction as a real driver for us to build the brand and build sales . . .” – It makes one ponder: Was the old management team living in a cave?
- “We have got to be the leader in guest satisfaction . . .” Profound thinking for sure!
- Top customer complaint: “rude or unprofessional employees”
- In drive-through service, McDonald’s averaged 188.83 seconds, Wendy’s clocked in at 129.75 seconds. In other words, you wait almost 50% longer at McDonald’s.
OK – I am done picking on McDonald’s. Their struggles do allow us to discuss the importance of customer experience. There is a gap between what firms say they want to do – and in reality what it actually happening. I spoke to a Gartner Research analyst today – and she told me that 70% of key executives they have surveyed named “improved customer experience” ad a top 5 priority at their firms. So why does this disparity exist? Firms know it is important, yet great customer experiences are rare indeed.
I have an explanation for the disparity. There is an old saying “talk is cheap, whiskey costs money”. It is easy to talk customer experience – you may even have an executive use the acronym CXM. Does not necessarily mean they are committed though. It just sounds good and play well in meetings, press releases, etc. TRUE CXM requires commitment. Commitment to technology. Commitment to human resources to manage the technology. Commitment to change archaic processes at your company. Committed to move forward with CXM even in the face of pushback by “the old guard”.
Improving Customer Experience Requires Company-Wide Commitment
Want to get better CXM at your firm. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself: Are we COMMITTED? If the answer is not a definitive YES – then don’t waste your time. It will not happen without a top to bottom, company wide full blown commitment.
I was working recently on a major overhaul of an internal process that is very involved, both from a support standpoint as well as a customer interaction level. While the impetus of this project is a major re-platforming of this process, of course it requires an extensive review of each of the myriad steps in the process. Of course we want to streamline the process/procedures as much as possible, no sense improving the technology on a bad process to start with.
One of the tools we employed was customer journey mapping. I was first exposed to this at the Oracle Open World conference last October. Here is a link to a blog post on the topic. In a nutshell, you create a chart of every single step in the process that involves a customer touch. You then rate each step as positive, neutral, or negative for both the employee handling the customer interaction, and of course more importantly the experience the customer is having. We were doing this on a white board, and we were using smiley faces for good experiences, and conversely we used unhappy faces.
It was very telling when we were looking at the white board, with the seemingly endless number of steps, and the multitude of unhappy faces on both the company and the customer side. Nobody in the conference room had any idea of the number of steps involved in this process, and the negative experiences both sides must endure countless times each day.
The net result? We are re-thinking every step in the entire process, with a strong preference toward improving customer experience. Some of the very elementary takeaways (they seem so simple to execute):
- Challenge the necessity of every step in the process – especially the “double negatives” where it is a bad experience on both ends of the interaction.
- Question whether the customer must be “held hostage” while you execute internal procedures and activities. There is no harm in letting the customer off the hook, with the promise that you will resolve the issue and follow up with them with either an e-mail or phone call confirming the issue was resolved.
- Wherever you have necessary steps that have the “unhappy faces” tied to them, strive for ways to improve the interaction for the employee or customer. Involve the team members in brainstorming sessions to develop improvements.
These are just the initial steps, which will be followed up with the actual implementation, and measurement of success (likely surveys). That will then be followed with a re-calibration process.
A final thought: Don’t try to be “perfect” out of the gate. While it is wise to achieve many improvements, too many changes all at once may be too much to swallow, both for your employees as well as customers. It is likely more prudent to “chunk” your improvement initiative and commit to an ongoing process of continual improvements. If it is too radical you run the risk of confusing and alienating all involved. That results in a big unhappy face!