When I tell people that I work as a Customer Experience Consultant, most of them assume it’s just a fancy title for a customer service agent, immediately envisaging call centres and headsets.

Whilst Customer Experience does include customer service, it also encompasses the whole end-to-end experience of a customer’s journey, including all the people they interact with, all the back-end processes they go through, and all the technology that enables successful delivery of the service.

Improving Customer Experience doesn’t have to be complex; what is really needed is to go back to basics.

It is simply putting the customer first and then setting up and aligning your organisation to fit around them so that the whole of the customers’ experience is consistent, connected, memorable, and hassle-free.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies have already been built the other way around. So where do you start?

1. Talk to your customers

It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many organisations are so internally focused or competitor-driven that they have completely forgotten the customer. Often, organisations spend so much time talking amongst themselves in meetings, creating ideas and processes they think the customer would like without actually asking them. Taking the time to involve your customers and gathering their feedback is hugely beneficial, saving time and money in the long run.

Looking at the same processes from a customer’s perspective often sheds a very different light on something you thought was perfect.

2. Align and embed the right culture

The Tempkin 2016 report shows that only four percent of organisations have Customer Experience embedded as an integral part of their company culture.

Key to getting this right is to align both your business and brand strategy with your customer strategy, but more importantly it is to ensure it is embedded effectively. When cascading this information throughout the organisation, it needs to be in a simple, memorable format that is relatable to each member of staff and their specific job role so they can align their daily decisions and actions with the strategic direction of the company. 

All too often staff are handed a company vision or mission with no understanding of how this relates to them or the role they play in achieving this.

3. Break down silos

Simply put, people working together will achieve more. It is far easier to solve issues, drive change, and improve communication when there is cross-departmental collaboration. This way of working also ensures shared ownership and accountability of the customer’s journey instead of individual channels of interactions. This helps to stop issues getting lost and passed from department to department, causing frustration for the customer.

4. Legacy systems vs new technology

Many organisations fear changing legacy systems as it often seems too complex or expensive, i.e. they have already invested a huge amount on upgrades which have had little or no impact on the bottom line. The key lesson here is to make sure the technology is fit for purpose.

You don’t need to use the latest technology but it must be the right technology to best serve your customers. All key stakeholders, including the customer, must be involved in the decision-making process as there is no point in upgrading something if it has no impact on the customer or is not embedded effectively.

This is often challenging in the “I just want it done” culture within some organisations.

Louise Downe, Director of Design & Standards, Government Digital Service, explained this nicely in a presentation recently at the Service Design in Government conference, saying: “It should be viewed as ‘problem caring vs problem-solving’, i.e. you will never be done fixing things and the world won’t stop changing, so you just need to ensure you balance delivering actual things with changes that are also scalable and sustainable. 

5. Empower your people

Being at the forefront of interactions with customers, your employees are your most important asset. Equipping your staff with all the training they need to fulfil their role is crucial, as is training them on customer centricity to help them understand what the overall Customer Experience is and the part they play in building a customer-centric culture. Let them actively own issues and give them the power to solve customer problems without always having to get authorisation from managers.

By involving staff and asking their opinions, they are more likely to embrace change and be on board to help you achieve your goals. They are likely to have many ideas and solutions to resolve existing customer issues, they have just never been asked.

6. Get rid of bureaucracy and unnecessary processes

Don’t get me wrong – processes, structure, and guidelines are hugely important and are normally the backbone to every business. However, what I can’t stand is doing something just for the sake of doing something. It must have an impact!

Question why you are doing something if it doesn’t involve improving things for your customer (and is not regulatory required), then stop doing it.

Very often if you ask someone why they are doing something, you will normally get the response: “It’s always been done like this” or “we were just told to do this”. This again goes back to my point on engagement; if people don’t understand why they are doing something or the bigger picture, they will never be able to spot issues, improve things, or work autonomously when needed.

7. Spend time standing back

It sounds simple, right? Most of us know we should be doing it, but normally we are so busy in the day-to-day firefighting tasks that we often have little time to stand back and look at the bigger picture. Completing an exercise of mapping out your customer’s journey will allow you to empathise and see your business through your customer’s eyes, highlight numerous opportunities to improve their experience, and add value to your business.

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