Do you know what your customer experiences while on your website or at your retail location? Are you improving your customer’s experience? Below is a post from Harvard Business Review by Harley Manning.
What’s the best way to optimize your customer experience? Why not fix it where it happens? Improve the experience on your website. Improve the experience in your retail locations or call centers. This strategy makes perfect sense, and it aligns nicely with the way your company is probably organized — with the website, retail locations, and contact centers each in their neat little silo.
But based on our research, this natural strategy doesn’t work because it lacks any understanding of the larger, cross-channel journeys that your customers take. For our new book, Outside In, we researched a number of companies that overcame the multi-channel dilemma — systematically — by applying business discipline to the practice of customer experience in an integrated way. Here are three of their most effective strategies.
Create an enterprise-level customer experience team
Is the answer to blow up your channel silos and organize your company in a radically different way? No. Each channel needs experts with specialized knowledge, like how to code an app for a smartphone or how to design signage for a retail location.
As FedEx concluded, the real answer is to create a team of experts with specialized knowledge about customer experience and to place them outside of any silo. That’s why the shipping giant formed the Channel Strategy and Orchestration team in 2008: to solve the problems that occur when customers move from one channel to another, like going from a website to a phone agent. Through a research process that focuses on understanding customer journeys, the team identifies opportunities for improvement. Then they plan improvement projects, and engage the relevant business owners in their efforts. To date, the team’s reception by those business owners has been extremely positive: They’re typically aware that they have a problem but aren’t in a position to fix it without someone to coordinate efforts with their peers in other channels.
Uncover and map customer journeys
Qualitative research methods like those used by FedEx reveal customers’ real goals, perceptions, and behavior, including how they choose interaction channels and why they switch channels. Customer journey maps visually illustrate those findings by showing the series of events that make up a customer’s interactions with a firm over time. The maps help companies find problems that occur in the “white space” as a customer passes from one channel to another.
To help guide initiatives aimed at transforming the company’s customer experience, Virgin Media in the UK set out to map customer journeys. As the largest Virgin company in the world, it’s also the UK’s largest mobile network operator, and its second largest provider of residential broadband, home phone, and pay TV services. Therefore, the challenge for Virgin’s customer experience team was to create a consistent, Virgin-quality experience not just across multiple channels, but across different product lines, as well.
How could they understand that level of complexity — from the customers’ perspective — well enough to improve it? The team started by mapping six unique journeys, including joining (subscribing), paying, and getting help. Their map, an ever-evolving work in process that’s been in use for years, is striking: a giant sheet of brown butcher paper covered in red pieces of tape and multi-colored sticky notes. It links all six journeys together in a continuous flow that crosses five functional silos within the business.
Appoint a chief customer officer
Over the past six years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of companies that have a single executive leading customer experience efforts across channels and business units. Whether firms call them a chief customer officer or give them some other label, these leaders sit at high levels of power in organizations as diverse as Cleveland Clinic, Fidelity, General Motors, and The Washington Post.
Companies typically appoint a chief customer officer (CCO) to drive change that needs to cut across channels and business units. In the case of Walgreens, CEO Greg Wasson personally recruited a chief customer officer to help bring about his vision for transforming the company. That vision includes reinventing the pharmacy by letting customers do things like order prescriptions online, then pick them up at in-store kiosks. That in turn frees up pharmacists to get out from behind their counters — which are lower in Walgreens’ new store formats — and spend time counseling customers.
Completely transforming how you interact with customers is a larger, more complex task than simply optimizing channels to work better in concert. Walgreens’ CCO does a number of things to make that transformation happen, including organizing facts gathered through customer understanding programs to clarify what customers actually want. Based on that understanding and the company’s strategy, he leads change management efforts aimed at improving the customer experience. And he measures results to make sure that transformation efforts are actually happening and producing positive results.
Adopting these three tactics requires no more commitment than what companies typically apply to practices they perform routinely in business disciplines like marketing, pricing, and logistics. But the business benefits of improving customer experience across channels — benefits that are now clear from our research and others’ — remain in the cloudy, undisciplined “nice to have” parts of most businesses. It’s time to put customer experience on par with other business disciplines, so every part of the business thinks from the customers’ perspective — from the outside in.
- Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience
- How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience