More than ever before, 2015 was a year when online, mobile, and offline channels merged and drove customer decisions. Online and mobile are no longer ‘disruptive’ – in every industry, people have come to expect they can engage a mix of channels to find solutions and support from companies. So it’s hardly a surprise that standout businesses in 2015 were attuned to making sure their multi-channel experience was truly customer-centered.
How did your customers experience your organization in 2015?
As you reflect on how Customer Experience (CX) played a role in your organization, there are a few questions that beg asking as part of the 2016 planning process.
We posed questions like these to CX expert and author John R. Patterson. He helps large organizations create connections with customers across all engagement points in their individual buying and service journeys.
TA: Why is CX growing as a part of organizational transformation?
JP: Customers interact with organizations in many ways across different channels - live reps at call centers, email, mobile site, and physical environments. Different segments of customers each have their preferred channels. The key questions are what that journey feels like to the customer, and how do organizations deliver consistently across channels in a way that substantiates the brand proposition?
TA: What are the key elements of designing a 5-star CX?
JP: First, know the key loyalty drivers for your customers. Preferences change rapidly, so it’s important to ensure customer intelligence efforts keep your insights current.
Next, examine structural elements of the organization – leader vision, employee values, and the most recent SWOT from the strategic plan.
Engage executive leadership and front line employees to review these elements and determine the desired intensity of service. Will delivering “5-star service” provide a significant competitive advantage, and can the company achieve it in the short term? Or does the organization believe delivering service a level below 5-star will produce results that drive customer loyalty?
Finally, create your service vision. Describe what that customer experience destination will look like. Determine the key elements that need to be delivered consistently across the organization. From that understanding, create company-wide CX standards that, if achieved, will result in a realization of the service vision and customer experience.
TA: What about industries like Aerospace with lots of employees that are not directly visible to the customer? Does that change CX planning?
JP: The elements are the same. What changes is understanding how many levels of employee and customer engagement there are and how well you are doing at each. Best practices CX is not just about the customer and the employees they see. It’s about keeping the customer visible to employees at all levels of the organization so the service vision and brand promise are executed consistently.
TA: Tell me about CX challenges for companies that want to disrupt the market.
JP: We love disruptors. They understand where the customer is going – what they want before they even know they want it. Uber is a good example. The challenge for disrupters is continuing to stay ahead of the customer and evolve their customer experience as fast as they’re evolving their organization.
TA: Step into the future 5 or 10 years from now – what does the C-suite look like?
JP: Successful organizations will have a leadership style that collaborates with its workforce and puts the customer in the middle of everything they do. There will be a strong sense of alignment about delivering on the service vision and the brand promise. Leaders and employees at all levels will be held accountable for performing according to company-wide service standards and behaviors.
The C-Suite cannot stay on the sidelines. They should be visiting customers on a regular basis and listening in at call centers or other customer interfaces. The people an organization puts closest to the customer are critical. Customers are seeking an emotional connection. That doesn’t fit into spreadsheets. It’s a connection that needs to be aligned to a common brand experience across all channels across the organization.
TA: What’s a higher priority – employee experience or customer experience?
JP: It’s a debate. In my opinion, the employee has to come first. You can’t drive customer engagement without an engaged workforce. We have known for some time that to have “happy” customers, a company first needs “happy” employees. Employees need to treat one another just as they treat customers.
Thank you to John Patterson for sharing his insights. As you can see, what drives an organization to disrupt and transform on behalf of the customer is rarely singular. It’s about an ecosystem that includes trends, influences, values, workforce, incentives, and processes.
As you come to the table to plan for the next year (or five), remember to leave a seat for your customer. And if you haven’t already subscribed to the Vanishing Point blog, now’s a good time to do that. Next week, we’ll look further out to consider what 2015 means for global disruption and convergence on the way to 2025. Particularly if you are exploring the priorities in building an organization that is more innovative, agile and Future Proof®, it will be necessary reading.
Deborah Westphal is a passionate humanist who has guided our era’s top minds and leaders to challenge biases, ignite ideas, and build connections and resilience for a secure and sound future. Her career spans more than 30 years in government agencies and Fortune 100 companies, and on virtually every continent. In 1999, Alvin Toffler tapped her as one of the founding members of his eponymous consulting firm, Toffler Associates. From 2007 through 2018, she served as the firm’s CEO and has since contributed her experience and knowledge as a member of the board. Through her work, she has guided notable organizations including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Marriott, U.S. Air Force, Baxter International, Bayer, Heinz, Microsoft, Koppers, PPG, DARPA, National Security Agency, Loral Space Systems, NASA, Qwest, Verizon, and Westinghouse. Deborah’s empathetic and thought-provoking style helps readers spot patterns that signify future risks and opportunities. She’s a sought-after speaker and writer who provided the Foreword to After Shock. Her book, Convergence: Technology, Business, and the Human-Centric Future, was published in May 2021 by Unnamed Press. Find her at deborahwestphal.com.
Toffler Associates is a future-focused strategic advisory firm. Our Future Proof® business consulting approach helps global leaders understand how future shifts impact current decisions so they can take advantage of opportunity, manage risk, and create future value.
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