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7 Tips to Bring the Customer Experience Mindset to Every Department

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It goes without saying that your customer service department should have customer experience top of mind. As customers use your product or service to solve the need that triggered their journey to you, they’re neck-deep in making sure your organization proves its promises. But how can you instill that “customer experience” mindset in every department of your company, at every step of the customer’s experience?

How can you engage staff who will never have direct interaction with customers or those executives who still think improving the customer experience is a trade-off to improving bottom line performance?

In top-performing organizations, there is tight alignment between the “performance chain”---all the things, people, and processes that have to move from the moment you trigger demand to the moment you have cash in the bank---and the things customers value most to solve their needs. In other words, leaders who match daily decisions across the entire organization to a clearly defined target customer experience perform better than those who don’t.


The following seven ideas can help you align your customer experience with your performance chain and give those people in customer service some well-deserved company.



1. Appoint executive-level accountability for customer experience.


Picture a typical leadership meeting: There’s someone at the table reporting on finances, someone giving a marketing report, someone going over production updates. Who’s reporting on customer experience? Who takes accountability for the value your experience brings to customers and to your organization? Don’t let the cliché “If everyone owns it, then no one owns it” happen to your organization. Perhaps it’s something that naturally falls into someone’s purview, or perhaps it calls for an entirely new position. We’ve discussed many approaches to this role. Whatever way you address this, your customer experience and its link to performance must be accounted for at the highest level of your organization.

2. Define a target, or ideal experience, for your product, brand and whole organization.


Too many companies just have one-off improvement goals with no shared end in mind. In many cases, the local results are great. But in too many cases, there is wasted effort. There are improvements to certain aspects of the performance chain, but they aren’t far-reaching enough, or important enough to customers in a global sense to change the overall experience---or your performance---for the better. What’s needed is an enterprise-level vision that every department and location understands and can act upon with massive focus.

3. Get crystal clear about your target customer experience.


You may not be able to get everyone in your whole organization to understand all the ins and outs that must happen and how customers should feel at every step of the customer experience. But you can get employees to remember three simple things. At my company, Aveus, collaboration, sustainable action, and change that pays are three ideas that guide everything we do, from people we hire to tools we develop to client work plans and technology platforms. What three things define your target customer experience?

4. Require customer experience goals in annual operating plans.


Everyone says customer experience is important. But how many leaders actually put pen to paper and make it a part of the businesses’ daily operations? That defined vision for an ideal customer experience will quickly become just another forgotten idea if it’s not translated to the work each department and each person declares in their annual operating plans.

5. Add overall measures of customer experience to enterprise metrics.


Everything else in a business is measured and held to specific goals---why not apply the same logic to customer experience? Measure two things: the value to customers and the value to the organization. Some companies use an algorithm of customer effort and loyalty and profitable growth. Some ask a version of the simple question “Did we solve the need that triggered you to act?” to measure the value to customers, and then analyze revenue plus profit to measure the value to the organization. Set it up in whatever way works best for your company---just make sure these two measures are somewhere in your performance metrics.

6. Define target or ideal experience for non-customer constituencies, too.


The people purchasing your products or services are typically who we talk about when we discuss customer experience. But there are many other people who interact with your company along the performance chain: employees, distributors, suppliers, and investors, just to name a few. Each of these groups has a unique need that your company exists to fulfill. Take time to define these different groups of people and identify what their ideal experience with your business would be. Start with employees. Knowing where the needs for these groups are in alignment---or not in alignment---can focus company efforts and create shared value for all.

7. Practice “positive conspiracy.”


Once the ideal customer experience is defined, it will take every employee across the company to achieve that vision. But “We tell everybody to change and POOF it happens!” is not a common tale. Establish a plan for how employees will learn about the target customer experience. Create a “positive conspiracy”---engage the handful who live the alignment between customer experience and daily action. Then watch and help as they engage others who translate your ideal customer experience to their own daily actions. Leaders at HealthPartners did a powerful thing as they went through annual planning last year; they called it “3 for Rita.” Senior leaders worked with department leaders to work with their teams, asking everyone to name three things they could do to positively affect “Rita,” a profiled persona of HealthPartners plan members.

It’s a tall order, I know. But if the conversation isn’t started, customer experience will always be stuck in the customer service department. As a marketer, you have a product, brand and organization-wide line of sight on this topic. How have you approached customer experience with your company? What other examples have you noticed of other organizations bringing customer experience to all levels of the organization?

Note: Photo courtesy of lamont_cranston via FlickR Creative Commons.


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Linda Ireland is a partner at Aveus, a strategy and global operational change firm based in Minneapolis. Before joining Aveus, she was CEO of FORWARD I, a strategy and marketing consulting firm. She has also held executive positions at several companies, including Wilsons Leather, Digital River, Genesis Direct, PaperDirect, and Deluxe Corporation. Linda is also the author of DOMINO and blogs regularly at the Customer Experience for Profit Blog and contributes to a number of other industry websites.

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  • by Carl S Tue Nov 22, 2011 via blog

    Having everyone in a company vested in the customer service experience is a good way to ensure success for a business. Recognize employees who go the extra mile for customers with incentives.

  • by Michael O'Daniel Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    At last, someone who understands what marketing is really about. All the branding, positioning, messaging, advertising, social media, analytics and other tools mean nothing unless the entire company is aligned behind the key objective of delivering on what the marketing messages promise. That's called fulfillment. Obviously, every department where there's a customer touch point has to be enrolled and aligned -- but in reality, every other department that designs, manufactures, and delivers the product or service has to be on the same page as well. This is what I call "living the brand" (perhaps not original, so props to whoever first coined the term).

    Throughout my marketing career, dating from the mid-80s, I was fortunate to work for a succession of CEOs who understood and in fact encouraged my penchant for getting out of the office and dropping in on all other departments of the company on a frequent basis. (I call this "marketing by walking around.") I gathered a great deal of valuable information this way. I also got involved in hiring and training managers and staff at every level, since you want outstanding and committed people to make, sell and deliver your product and proactively create relationships with your customers.

    So, in addition to undertaking the steps Linda lists in this posts -- in fact, in advance of taking those steps -- I heartily encourage you to roam throughout the company, get to know people, understand what goes into delivering your product or service. As another Marketing Profs contributor said previously -- sorry, I don't have the name immediately at hand -- "Before people will listen to you, you have to listen to them." You may not be interacting with other MBAs, but you'll be amazed at the practical knowledge they'll share with you if you but make the effort.

  • by Linda Ireland Tue Nov 29, 2011 via blog

    Michael,
    You had me at "aligned." Top performers (be they top performing organizations or top performing leaders anywhere) live to align the daily operating actions across the organization to the things customers value most. You're absolutely right that every department plays a role. And the leaders who act locally but always think about global impact on the customer will win. Every single time.
    LCI

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