In the new era of peer-to-peer reviews, personal customer experience has the power to make or break brands, writes Graham Lewis
Against a backdrop of growing distrust of businesses, governments and other institutions, the consumer has never been less interested in conventional advertising and corporate speak – or more keenly attuned to the reviews of fellow consumers.
Leaders, therefore, face a key test: how do you make ‘customer experience’ a source of value?
The solution will require the backing and collaboration of the entire organisation.
The good news is that the skills and technologies required to capture and retain customers are the same as those needed to build a strong team and maintain a positive corporate culture. These skills centre on communication, sharing and facilitating people’s work or customer journey. If you are already doing this, you start at an advantage; if you are not, you have two reasons to up your game.
A dynamic force requires highly connected organizations
Once executives have recognised consumer experience as a key differentiator in today’s marketplace and made it a strategic priority, they need to simultaneously build the appropriate working culture and introduce the requisite enabling technologies. Seamless internal communications will be essential.
With tech-savvy buyers monitoring, evaluating and sharing their experience, companies must – at the very least – offer a flawless multi-channel delivery of their product or service. Increasingly, this also applies to non-governmental organizations and government departments.
This immediate layer of customer care, however, is only the tip of the iceberg: in order to truly build an outstanding customer experience that actually drives sales and achieves core organisational aims, leaders will need both reactive and proactive capabilities to stay ahead of consumers’ changing preferences and needs.
This level of customer engagement is a game-changer that is set to transform the approach, culture and ecosystem of all organisations. But in order to ensure there are no sub-standard customer interactions, all employees across the organisation must to be able to view and act upon service-relevant information that is up to date and accurate. At the same time, departments which are far from the front line, such as research, HR or the boardroom itself, need to be included in the feedback loop that turns information on current customer experience into fuel for designing and implementing a constant stream of improvements. It is unlikely the task of building a great customer experience will ever end.
A single enterprise hub can bring everyone into the loop
While companies will inevitably have built up a variety of platforms and formats to deal with the arrival of each new customer engagement channel, these can be linked strategically by a single enterprise information platform – think of it as an airport, into which each platform and format come together to create one seamless system. This hub can not only bring all front-line systems together, it can also be used to offer full connectivity to any legacy ‘back office’ systems that staff are still using. Such a system can hold an organisation together like glue. But, the hub will really only be effective in terms of customer experience if the internal user experience is equally good.
We all know that happy employees deliver a better, friendlier and more compelling service. To achieve this, the process of finding and using customer data needs to be easy and intuitive. Effectively, designing a good user experience internally can go a long way towards improving interaction with the customer as well.
Therefore, the connected business needs to think of its staff much as it does its customers, ensuring a seamless experience, by providing suitable training and an easy to use interface that will facilitate all their work. This approach should extend beyond the technology and into the culture of the organisation – indeed it has been argued that the very concept of ’back office’ should be consigned to history.
Beyond that, enterprise content hubs have significant potential for overseeing and improving the customer experience from a leadership perspective. Advanced data analysis and machine learning tools can be set to analyse data, safe in the knowledge that all formats are integrated into the process. With unrivalled access to information, a stream of invaluable market insight should emerge.
With their customer-centric strategy thus informed, business leaders can leverage enterprise content management tools in the hub with their own expertise and deep knowledge both of their staff and their market, to enhance the overall offer of their organisations.
With information flowing up to leaders, a strategy built on knowledge can be implemented by suitable teams of staff – from product development to sales and field-based professionals – empowered by the best possible tools for the job. The level of customer experience achieved is a truly monetisable asset in the modern consumer marketplace, and a critical part of any organisation’s drive to give satisfaction and achieve its goals.