We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ but for customers and businesses alike this statement has never been so true or so important.
Mission statements are quite rightly populated with encouragement: “We put the customer at the heart of our business” and “Customer First”. However, in these current extraordinary times, listening to understand our customers’ and employees’ rapidly changing needs, prioritising what is going to have the biggest impact and of course delivering change must be the number one priority to enable businesses to ride this storm.
Businesses are examining feedback about virtually every aspect of their operations – from policies and processes to messaging and delivery – but company culture is key. Culture is typically what you do when no one is looking but guess what? For many organisations shifting unexpectedly into remote working…no-one is looking!
Achieving the ultimate goal of becoming a truly customer-centric organisation may therefore appear to be an uphill struggle. It’s certainly true that there is no quick fix.
The answer lies in not simply collecting customer feedback about successes and failures but using it to help us change the way people think, behave and act throughout our organisations, even if they are working from home. In other words, to use customer feedback to shift company culture towards customer centricity.
The question is how do you actually inspire employees to make the change? We all know asking large numbers of people to move out of their comfort zones and do things differently is not easy at the best of times. An annual kick-off or away-day can be thought provoking but it doesn’t necessarily help people to break out of the mould when they are back at their desk.
The good news is that although we don’t currently have the opportunity to bring people physically together, we can focus on supporting more customer centric decision making and behaviours as the best way of delivering that culture change.
Being absolutely clear about what is expected is the key to moving the dial and this has certainly been the case for Cromwell, a leading UK and international supplier of high-quality industrial tools and services. It demonstrated its long-term commitment to delivering a truly customer-focused service by creating a dedicated insight function following its acquisition by W.W. Grainger, Inc. in 2015 and then centralising its customer service processes in 2018.
Elaine Barnes, Chief Customer Officer at Cromwell has explained that in order to minimise the impact of organisational changes on its customers, it needed to change its company culture – putting the focus firmly on the customer: “We needed to improve our ability to listen to and respond to customers so that we could enhance the experience across the entire the customer journey.”
Confirmit worked with the team to create and deploy a CX programme that is reflective of customer needs and what Cromwell can do to respond, empowering them throughout the process. In the first month after going live, the company immediately achieved a 12% response rate, delivering critical insights into the issues that matter to customers.
The feedback so far is extremely encouraging and it’s clear that Cromwell’s ability to listen more effectively and to respond immediately to what customers are saying means that people feel that their feedback is being heard. It has already resulted a significant jump in its Net Promoter Score®.
The ongoing challenge is to ensure that the CX programme acts as a catalyst for change outside of the core Insights team. No one person owns CX and the ‘Command and Control’ approach simply doesn’t work. It’s for this reason that around 200 of Cromwell’s employees have been trained to use the insight dashboards to help drive customer centricity across the organisation.
Providing as many people as possible in the organisation with a window into the feedback generated through the CX programme creates what I think of as mini control centres across an organisation, driven by a central hub. Each employee is therefore responsible for using that insight to impact the customer experience in their area of control, in their own way but aligned to a shared vision and ethos.
Cromwell will also be introducing text analytics and launching nine new listening posts covering different states and channels of the customer journey this year. These initiatives, combined with a Voice of the Employee (VoE) and Voice of the Supplier (VoS) programme in the future, will provide another layer of actionable insight from additional touchpoints, alerting and nudging people to make incremental changes.
The insight will not only enhance Cromwell’s ability to carry out root cause analysis to find out the source of customer and wider business issues. It will also enable Cromwell to build a network of champions inside and outside of the organisation.
Lead by example
For me, this is where the heart of customer centricity lies. Data is a great start, actionable insight and nudging people to think outside of the box can make a real difference but the ultimate goal is to create viral change that makes a lasting impact.
Champions shine a light on what is possible and inspire others to follow suit. They can not only answer questions and help to ensure that the value of the CX programme is understood, they can also become the catalyst for new behaviours that you are looking to cultivate. They can share their experiences and prove to others that those behaviours work, encouraging people to join in.
The simple truth is that people help people to make change happen. If, like Cromwell, you ensure that your teams have access to that mini command centre so they are basing their behaviour on something solid, you will also be on the road to achieving your goal of customer centricity.
Businesses have been drowning in data for years, and in the CX space we’ve developed some bad habits, collecting information without any clear purpose and sending out surveys to ask for feedback at every turn.
Then, doing nothing with it, we are seeing the impact of this activity on both our customers (where is your response rate at the minute?) and our executives (how clear is your ROI?).
Fortunately, we have got better at using business intelligence (BI) solutions and best practices to try to make sense of all the data and to provide useful insight. The most successful at this have also taken the next step and been able to aggregate and harness the enormous breadth and depth of data to identify the drivers of business performance.
However, over recent years, there has also been a clear shift towards a focus on the customer. Also, while many BI strategies do incorporate customer data, they often don’t cover the full customer lifecycle; qualitative insights about customers; or, more importantly, the customer perspective when it comes to critical decision making.
Fortunately, the rise of CX programmes has enabled us to unleash the voice of the customer, providing a much clearer understanding of the impact that decisions will have on the customer (as well as team members, partners, and shareholders).
It’s for this reason that I suggest that CX should no longer be thought of as ‘a survey programme’ but as a ‘BI programme’.
Why? Because we are getting much better at wrangling the data, even when it is not all quantitative, and the evolution and convergence of BI and Customer Experience solutions means that they can help to trigger the data-driven decision making, which is now a pre-requisite of modern business.Adding the capabilities offered by CX technology and the skills of CX practitioners to the BI arsenal enables businesses to make better business decisions based on the entire experience ecosystem.
As a combined force, businesses can not only harness context-rich customer insight to drive better Customer Experience – they can also leverage the in-depth data and analytics needed to enable faster decision-making across all areas of an organisation, from employee engagement activities and product development through to distribution processes and beyond.
Delivering decision intelligence
In other words, the CX and BI evolution is enabling both CX and BI to be viewed from a fresh perspective.It’s no longer ‘just another department’ but instead it’s a strategic business function that empowers leadership teams to track trends and identify areas for improvement as well as motivating people to make a decision, to initiate and monitor organisational change.
There are two main reasons for this:
A shift away from a focus on collecting data to one in which the emphasis is placed on connecting data together to add context and make sense of their multiple sources.After all, data on its own, no matter how big or complex, is still just ‘dumb’ information.
A growing understanding that individuals across an organisation have shared ownership of the Customer Experience – not just those on the front line. As a result, traditional silos of data are being merged – whether that’s from customers, employees, partners, or suppliers; and whether it’s originally sourced as financial, demographic, or operational data.
Integrating and mapping these sources means that organisations are in a much stronger position to make data-driven decisions. Decisions that are enhanced with emotionally rich ‘stories’ or evidence. It means that everyone can visualise data points that are relevant, empowering them to take action within their sphere of control.
That is, after all, what the concept of business intelligence should be. There is no point in collecting data and regarding the reports that have been generated as ‘the result’ or focusing on short-term revenue growth.It’s just the start.
Insight for better business outcomes
The real benefit lies in providing companies with an increased capability to analyse the impact of actions and to ensure that they are having a positive impact on business results.
That’s because making better decisions is not enough – there needs to be a clear ROI, whether that’s in terms of improved service delivery, time and cost savings, better retention of employee talent, or any other business KPI.
That’s where CX once again steps up as an addition to the BI toolkit. By providing a structured framework for insight analysis, it’s able to provide the evidence that demonstrates a clear link between decisions and outcomes. It can also go one step further by enabling organisations to replicate and embed the behaviours that drive good outcomes, and minimise those that don’t.
The most deeply-embedded CX programmes have the power to ensure that everyone follows through with plans, actions are monitored, experiences shared and impact measured. As part of a robust BI strategy, CX plays a crucial role in keeping the focus on customer-centricity and enabling organisations to better understand how to drive sustainable, customer-led growth.