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3 ways you can improve your customer's experience

Welcome to the second decade of the twenty-first century. Customers have gained new powers to choose. Products and services now are transparent and open for inspection.

   (This awesome #fotolia image comes from a great article on improvement of customer experience, by Cassandra Jowett @cassandrajowett @PathFactory.)

While enabled by amazing technology, this remains a human change. Such evolution is irreversible. The good news for all of us is that we are human. This level playing field offers new opportunities for growth and improved business outcomes. Thanks to the power and efficiency of networked technology, we now have a commodity that has low cost relative to reward: human engagement.

David Cushman @davidcushman, a thought leader on building trust between firms and their customers, puts it simply in his book, The 10 Principles of Open Business:

“The customer experience is now more important and returns better value than delivering messaging and promise.”

Yes, there is an economic advantage to improved customer experience. The natural way to grow a business today is to put your customers’ experiences first. Front and center. According to mobility expert Chuck Martin, “Everyone wins when the consumer does.”

So how do we do that?

There are three ways to get started and grow far beyond your expectations:

Make customer-experience excellence your focus. Study yourself and explore your customers’ journeys. Test, adapt, improve, and celebrate your progress.

Let’s begin.

First: Develop a balanced focus

The first step is a matter of intent. Successful firms have long employed methods to manage change. A key benefit of organizational change management is the prevention of lost business value as innovation is brought to market. But change must come, and innovation is the pathway. Professor Noriaki Kano of the Tokyo University of Science created a scheme in the 1980s for management of innovation. His “Kano” diagram demonstrates this need for continuous innovation, painful as it may be.

This first step requires more than an understanding of innovation theory. A commitment at the top with a laser-sharp focus on member experience is the starting block. Consider your current processes and fully commit to sustained customer-experience excellence.

Also, allow decision making to move lower in the business hierarchy. There is great power in training and encouraging all of your associates to engage personally. Once leadership’s commitment is communicated and internal roadblocks are minimized, the journey to improve member experience is underway.

Second: Study the journey

Step two involves some self-reflection and experience of your customers’ journeys. We know that something isn’t working. This is true for all human endeavors, as perfection is elusive. In their book, The Gen Z Effect, Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen describe the challenge and opportunity of greater customer understanding:

“When you start looking at behavioral data, especially when you get information that’s not purchase related, such as trip data about whether a customer is in the store or online, or where they are in their life stages or a purchase cycle, it paints a whole different picture.”

Seek out the rough parts of your customer experience. Analyze them, and the low-hanging fruit will stare you right in the face. Here is a free tip: If you have a customer contact center, start there.

Third: Test, tailor, and transmit

This last part is where the action happens. Bring some objectivity to changes in how you engage your customers. Explore their experiences and try new approaches. Discard those that do not work and accelerate the implementation of those that make it easy to do business with you.

Experiment. Make a hypothesis, create a test, and see what happens.

Here is an example:

Route callers with difficult problems to a “platinum” service group. You may ask, “How might we do that?” You probably have access to more data about your callers than you may think. An investment in deeper analytics can help you identify members with challenges before they call. The result? When they do call, you can proactively step up the level of engagement and make their lives better.

Better understanding of your customers’ needs in real time is in reach with today’s technology. Imagine being able to predict the likelihood and topic for a future customer call. Reaching out proactively with more efficient channels could change your customers’ experiences for the better.

Dr. Andrew H. Thomas describes our tendency to consider customers as different from ourselves:

“We all have a natural, human bias to imagine objects under observation as isolated and independent of any measuring apparatus.”

When we watch customer behavior, we change it. And that is because we ourselves have begun to change. That is why it is so important to experiment and create measures of success. Then you must be certain to celebrate each success and revise your goals to stretch to higher outcomes.

Start today. Do not be left behind your peers. We wouldn’t want that to happen.

Because we are human.

Copyright (c) 2015, Jack C Crawford, All rights reserved.

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