Some of the global changes in recent years have disrupted and forced businesses to pivot and adapt to continue to trade. Whereas, others have increased the opportunity for companies to meet customer needs better. But are businesses more or less customer centric than a couple of years ago, and how are they measuring this?

Charlotte Auffray (CCXP), Travelport’s Senior CX Manager, has seen changes in the travel sector. The need to be more responsive and flexible in order to address last-minute changes to customer bookings has enabled them to think of long-term solutions for customers’ needs. 

“Previously, unless you were traveling on business class, it was very difficult to exchange or cancel your flight ticket at short notice. COVID changed that, with airlines developing more flexible policies that customers always wanted. 

Post pandemic these policies have remained and our company has developed solutions to make ticket exchange and refund even faster and easier to manage for travel agents. As an organisation, this has made it easier for staff to fulfil customer needs and be more customer centric,” said Auffray.

There has certainly been a shift in the ways customers interact with organisations. Customers value speed more than ever but organisations may not be delivering on that expectation.

A switch from observing customers through processes, to considering a wider context

Many customers have abandoned old ways of doing things (sending a letter) and embraced phone and digital. They expect companies to have done so too, but there’s often a big gap, with companies still trying to force customers to use slower, old-fashioned methods and/ or sticking to resolution timescales that are far too slow.

It’s also clear that accelerated digital transformation is increasingly regarded as key to giving customers more self-serve options, allowing a more personalised service.

More and more organisations are recognising that they need to treat people as humans rather than processes. Many benefit from using a technology-driven single customer view allowing them to access and comment on a customer’s account and contact history, which then makes conversations more personal.

If customer needs are being better met, does that carry through to customer centricity? And how do organisations know if they are more centric than several years ago? 

Centricity from the outside in, and inside out

Without doubt, ensuring people and processes are customer-focused improves the experience. But we’d suggest customer centricity goes further than meeting needs.  

What’s clear from our discussions with clients and other professionals is that everyone assesses their performance in a slightly different way. Almost all cite NPS or CSat measurement, and some refer to relationship surveys or metrics such as call-waiting times. Yet focusing purely on the external perspective misses the bigger picture, overlooking what’s happening internally. 

Employee surveys tend to focus on EX which obviously provide invaluable insight into employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity from an internal perspective. However, these surveys don’t tend to explore employee understanding of what customer centricity means and what it takes to achieve it. 

This is a gap we come across all too often. But there’s clear evidence from organisations that are regularly lauded as champions of CX that employees are instrumental in the delivery of customer centricity. Their voices must be heard. It’s just as important to recognise that success also comes from board-level support and engaging staff in improving experiences.

How have the winners of UKCXA created innovative approaches to customer centricity?

Auffray noted from her UKCXA 2022 judging experience that organisations with 100% board-level support were far better performing than those without. A change in leadership focus was fundamental to changing customer centricity. 

She explained: 

“Companies with a truly C-suite led customer focus are far more likely to develop a customer centric culture than those with little or limited support from the Board. With our change in leadership focus, we noticed that even non-customer facing departments are far more aware of customer centric behaviour and have joined the conversation.”

But how can you measure staff engagement and understanding? Claire Tidey, Aegon’s Connecting with Customers Programme Manager, and winner of a UKCXA award, was given this very challenge. To ensure CX was more than a ‘slogan’, she created a programme to make it a way of life for employees.

“Our programme tracks engagement and improved knowledge through creative and innovative learning material. We use a multitude of different media styles to make sure this isn’t another routine piece of learning, but is exciting, engagingand relevant. We believe to measure culture you have to be clever.

You need to know what’s happening in your business, need to make sure deliveries are at appropriate times and that your given the right amount of creative freedom to do something a bit more ‘out of the box’ whilst ensuring there is a key learning objective in everything you do,” said Tidey.

Other organisations have taken a different approach. Some have created internal diagnostic ‘maturity grids’ to look at various touchpoints and define what ‘good’ looks like, against which they then rate their performance. Others use win/loss analysis to assess service support but have noted there can be a different internal view of performance (lower esteem) compared to that seen by the customer. 

Outside of these measures we don’t have a specific measurement tool that enables us to determine a precise position on a centricity grid. We are thus aware of potential difference internally-externally but no specific measure,” added Auffray.

Moving the dial

With so many diverse approaches to assessing centricity, it’s clear there isn’t a standard measure that all organisations use. Often, they are externally biassed and linked to experience measurement rather than consistent customer centricity evaluation. This is a key reason why only a few organisations we spoke to were able to say they had been able to move the dial on customer centricity in recent years.

Whatever organisations do, they need a consistent, repeatable measure to monitor progression, and identify areas where centricity is weaker. We focus on the assessment of seven pillars: customer understanding; organisational structure; measurement and embedding of CX; communication and meeting of promises; sharing and actioning of feedback; staff understanding and delivery; and strategy communication.

Using this framework allows organisations to set a benchmark, identify areas for improvement, refine their CX strategy and measure progress and improvement. Such a framework also ensures ongoing changes, whether they are organisational, technological or entirely external, can be catered for. 

Final thoughts

Businesses that invest in future trends and technologies will be better equipped to provide the kind of CX customers expect, leading to increased loyalty and higher engagement. But it’s worth remembering what we’ve been told from spokespeople across industries: customers aren’t as focused on the future as organisations may think. They don’t want us to talk too much about innovations to come, they want us to address the problems that they’re having now.

It’s just as critical, then, that organisations are focusing on the holistic picture of the experience they deliver to their customers right here, right now, as well as ensuring they have strategies to ensure long-term, ever-evolving customer centricity. Something worth remembering?

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