Building a customer experience that is consistent, easily replicable, and ready to scale as your business grows is no easy task. Sudden growth is a nice problem to have, but it can create a more insidious legacy if it’s not anticipated, planned for and handled in the right way.
Intense periods of growth can mean hiring new, less experienced employees and having to take time out of business as usual to get them up to speed. It could mean that you have to increase delivery frequencies to meet increased demand, or you might find that your current systems are now too slow, or too arduous to keep up.
Leaving any element of the customer experience to chance as you grow, can mean that tasks fall through the cracks. It can lead to unclear accountability and ownership because everyone is too busy firefighting to notice when order is missed or a customer isn’t called back on time. Often by the time a business becomes aware of the pitfalls of neglecting their customer strategy, they’ve received complaints or worse – negative public reviews, and there’s a lot of work to do to recover their reputation.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
With customer experience overtaking both price and product as the leading brand differentiator, more growing businesses are investing in their customer experience from early on in their business journey.
Here are some top tips for creating sustainable business growth:
- Invest in people before you get desperate
Predicting sudden business growth isn’t easy, recruiting the right people for your business can take time, and even once you find them, training them to look after your customers in a way that fits with your brand is critical.
Recognising that this process might take some months and bringing top talent in a little early can be a strong strategic move. It enables you to take your time to find the right calibre of recruit, invest in their training, and truly welcome them to the business. When that growth hits and things get busy, you will already have a knowledgeable extra pair of hands. For larger organisations, you could even consider launching some form of the permanent academy to help the employees develop a growth mindset. This will build a supportive work environment and boost employee morale.
Whichever route you take, anyone who has tried to recruit a happy and loyal workforce in times of high pressure will tell you, it’s difficult to do and even harder to sustain. Getting ahead of that pressure will save you time and money in the long run, and ensure your teams are engaged and productive, with lower-than-average attrition.
- Create clear processes and assign ownership
As soon as you settle on a process for anything, you should ask yourself would it still be sustainable if the business were to double in size? If not, whilst it might still be the right process right now, it’s wise to start thinking about how you could adapt it for the time to come. Ensure someone in the business owns that process and is responsible for updating it. Make certain that all processes are documented in a central repository, written in plain English, and formatted in an easy to follow way so that they can be used in training new talents with minimal supervision.
- Automate the little things
Technological advancements mean it’s now possible to automate almost any business function. Be wary of this. Just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do for your customer, for your employees, or the long-term success of your business.
Automating key parts of the customer journey might save you time and money on employees, it can end up alienating customers and causing more harm than good. Chatbots are a great example of this. Used in the right way, they can help expedite the exchange of information, get customers answers they need, and be set up to need minimal maintenance. There are some less effective examples out there that you might have even experienced yourself as a consumer. They are often (unrealistically) expected by brands to replace human interaction completely, and when they fail to do so to the complete satisfaction of consumers, it can create unnecessary frustration.
Instead of swapping out critical stages of the customer/employee interaction, consider investing in supporting your customers in a valuable and convenient way. This can be as simple as enabling them to contact you via their preferred contact method.
There are some fantastic tools out there to help deliver a seamless omnichannel experience – Freshdesk is a good example. It can help you keep track of things like the average response times for emails, and consolidate social media and chat into one platform. These are perfect solutions for customers’ smooth cross-channel navigations.
- Prioritize employee growth
Whilst it might feel imperative (and undoubtedly more exciting) to invest in a jazzy new hot-desk area, or a pool table for the break room, it’s important to remember that no one will be able to enjoy the pool table if they end up chained to their desks because there is no time to ever take lunch. Prioritise instead changes that will make things easier, save time in the long run or avoid future problems.
Organize training to empower your teams, and free up management time. Invest in streamlined processes that take less time to execute. Move to a proactive service to highlight events that could impact your customers and enable you to schedule outbound customer calls. If you do it correctly, you can spread them out across the day and reduce the number of call handlers needed.
- Bring the customer along with you
Whatever steps you take to sustain your growth, one of the key things to remember is that you wouldn’t be anywhere without your customers. Talk to them, keep them in the loop and let them know in advance of any changes that could impact them. Most people are forgiving as long as they feel valued and are kept proactively updated on anything that could impact their experience. In the end, we’re all human, we know how it feels to be under pressure.
Empowering your customers with a little knowledge on your growth, reduces the chances of them suddenly feeling their expectations have been missed or being driven to leave a negative review. Instead, you’ll have a loyal customer base who are excited about your business growth and development, feel like a valued part of it and will shout to the rooftops about the great work you are doing!