Practically every organization is in the middle of some sort of digital transformation, and one of their principal drivers is to improve the customer experience. As they try to reduce costs and drive efficiency, they must also learn to connect the dots internally and create a journey where customers have the best possible experience at every touchpoint.
This was already a key focus, but the pandemic has accelerated it. Organizations have found they not only had to speed up their transformation and do everything remotely, but that they had to also sharpen their focus on what matters, in order to be in position to win and retain their customers. And they found that what really matters is people.
To deliver an exceptional experience to customers at every stage of their journey, organizations need to have a customer-centric culture. Employees need to be empowered to make decisions in the best interests of customers. There has to be an accepted understanding throughout the organization that its success is dependent on its customers' success and that everyone has to act together towards that end.
Great customer experience starts with employees
As Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire has said, "If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients."
When the pandemic hit, companies had to get creative about how they were going to drive productivity and look after their employees to uphold, or even improve, their level of customer service.
As employees had to juggle working from home with the kids around, and unexpected pressures on their physical and mental wellbeing, smart companies used technology to take the pulse of how their people were feeling and what they needed by way of extra support.
One of our clients in the severely-affected travel industry told us at a recent virtual event that using technology to focus on the wellbeing of their people helped to enrich their customers' experience. Collaboration tools helped break down siloes and allow teams to work together to drive business outcomes for customers.
Customer success is an ethos, not a department
Establishing a customer success function is an excellent step towards enriching the customer experience. It is a built-in customer advocate within the organization, promoting the voice of the customer and serving as a hub to bring all the pieces together that are needed to deliver value.
When forming a customer success team, it's essential to start with the people. You need to understand how mature your organization is in terms of customer-centricity. Customer focus needs to run right through the whole organization's culture - it's not the preserve of a single department.
Everyone in the company, whatever their function, needs to be conscious of the role they play in delivering the customer's overall experience. You should hire and develop people who understand the big picture, and have the personality, skills, and tools to add meaningful value, and create lasting business impact.
How will customer success evolve in 2021?
Change is the only constant, and this is as true in customer experience as in everything else. In the coming year, I believe organizations will need to aim their focus even more so on helping customers to get value from their products and services.
Even while working remotely, the process of implementing technology will have to be accelerated. Priority must deliver those aspects of the service which provide business value the fastest. Focus must be on on-boarding, training, and knowledge transfer to maximize user adoption so that the customer can derive the most significant business value from new services and features.
In an unpredictable environment, it will be necessary to conduct regular reviews of the client's changing business requirements to identify and implement any changes to the technology that may be needed. An agile approach using swarming techniques may be the best way to implement changes quickly.
The whole process of working with customers will need to be more dynamic but also more robust, with any voice-of-the-customer initiatives having clear expectations and deliverables.
My top tips for better customer-centricity
- If you haven't already done so, map your customer journey across their whole lifecycle and make sure everyone in your organization understands how they contribute at every stage.
- Focus on your people-first culture: happy employees make for satisfied customers.
- Drive your customer community, creating a place where customers can get advice from peers and your own experts in an informal sharing environment.
A focus on customers is nothing new, but the last year has changed what it means completely - and we are all doubling down. While there are many techniques and some technologies involved, ultimately, it's about ensuring our teams are well-cared for and supported so that they can go out and ensure they do the same for our customers.
Read more from Michelle on whether a customer-centric mindset can lead to a transformational experience for our customers.