Successful companies know what it takes to routinely perform sound, standard industry practices that result in effective outcomes. But before we go deeper into what this means for CX, what are ‘industry standard practices’ exactly?
An industry standard is a practice, method, process or criteria adopted as convention by industry members, either through formal agreement or through emulation of best practices established by industry leaders. For Australian retailers, this could mean the adoption of The Plastic Bag Code of Practice or the Mandatory Ethical Clothing Trades Extended Responsibility Scheme, having good knowledge of competitive brands and smart ways to keep supply chains flowing and shelves stocked. For Australian restaurants, this could mean the production of food that is safe and suitable to eat, the proper handling of food, and health and hygiene obligations for food handlers.
For both of these examples, and for many more industries, standards start with getting customer experience management right.
Customer experience management
Customer experience management (CEM or CXM) is the process that companies use to oversee and track all interactions with a customer during the duration of their relationship. According to Columbia Business School professor Bernd Schmitt, the term CXM represents “the discipline, methodology, and/or process used to comprehensively manage a customer’s cross-channel exposure, interaction, and transaction with a company, product, brand, or service”. Essentially, customer experience is the cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints over time, which result in a real relationship feeling (or lack of).
Companies who want to produce a high-quality customer experience must routinely perform practices that fall under six high-level disciplines: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.
Using your company’s overall strategy and brand attributes, you can craft a customer experience strategy that defines the desired experience. This strategy should be shared with all staff, to guide decision making and prioritisation throughout your organisation.
The strategy discipline is crucial because it provides the blueprint for each customer experience. Without it, your employees won’t know your elected way to design, deliver, manage, and measure each experience, leading to lots of confusion.
2. Customer understanding
The customer understanding discipline creates consistent shared understanding of who customers are, what they want and need, and how they perceive the interactions they’re having with your company. It offers real, actionable insights about customers, allowing you to create the most appropriate experience to best suit individual categories.
Design disciplines span the complex systems of people, products, interfaces, services, and spaces that your customers encounter in retail locations, over the phone, or through digital media like websites and mobile apps. Using this information, you can then design customer interactions that meet or hopefully exceed your customer’s needs. Design focuses on customer experience and helps weed out mistakes early on. Essentially, design is the research behind your CEM.
Improving customer experience doesn’t have to be a guessing game. There are metrics you can use to benchmark and improve the experience for your customers, guide your customer experience, and create happier, more loyal customers. These metrics include:
- Response times – Time is your customer’s most precious asset, and if you can respond faster than your customer expects, you’ll go a long way in creating an amazing experience that keeps them coming back.
- Customer satisfaction – The benefit of measuring satisfaction after each engagement (via quick surveys to emails and within websites and apps) is that you can quickly see whether your team has resolved the problem and how happy the customer was with their experience.
- Overall satisfaction – Benchmarked and tracked from one period to the next (e.g. every three or six months), overall satisfaction gives a clear, accurate view of how happy your customers are overall, and how well you are delivering your product or service.
Your governance discipline supplies your referees and rule book by assigning your responsibilities and changing business processes. It holds people accountable for their role in the customer experience ecosystem and helps stop bad experiences from happening. It also gives a boost to initiatives that improve customer experience.
Culture is the way your staff handle and manage your business when you’re not in the room. The culture discipline is perhaps the most powerful, because it embeds practices from the other five disciplines into employee DNA. A company culture should be clear, with great examples being Zappos (who hires according to cultural fit first and foremost), and Southwest Airlines (where employees are convinced of a larger common goal).
Providing a great customer experience
Once you’ve got those systems in place, the following will be important for creating a memorable customer experience.
Listening to the individual customer
Customer experience is about knowing your customers so well that you can create and deliver personalised experiences that will entice them to not only remain loyal to you, but also evangelise to others about you. Gaining this depth of knowledge is no easy task, however. You must extract insight from all customer touchpoints and channels across your entire organisation, and use this insight with speed and precision.
Offering something different
For something to be memorable, it has to be different, and in the case of customer experience, your customers must receive something they can’t get from your competitors. Good customer experience is about highlighting your differences and standing out from the crowd.
Demonstrating the value of your offerings
Value is the first focus in the eyes of the customer, and value and price is not the same thing. Value is the benefit your customers receive from what you offer, and by knowing your customers well, you know how your product or service will best offer them individual value.
Showing passion and creativity
Showing your customers that you are value seekers that aim to offer value in every experience will set you apart from those that merely seek prescriptions. The aim is to create possibilities for your customers, to educate them and build strong relationships. You want your customers to come to you because you are innovators, not because they have to.
Demonstrating your commitment
Customers are the reason you do what you do, and when they’re not happy, ultimately, your business will be impacted. When in contact with customers, they should be given 100% of your focus and made to feel that you will do everything in your power to meet their needs.
Building emotional connections
An emotional connection is the driving force behind loyalty and differentiation. A business with charisma gives the customer something special, something customers want to tell others about. According to a recent Mori study, emotionally engaged customers are at least three times more likely to recommend, three times more likely to re-purchase, and 44% less likely to shop around.