Customers should be at the front and center for all organizations. Organizations embed a customer-centric culture to ensure a sustainable and consistent customer experience. Leaders must be customer-centric for an organization to be customer-centric.
Sounds familiar? Of course! Because for the last 3 decades these strategies have been implemented at an evolutionary pace in some organizations. Before that, some organizations were intuitive about these strategies.
So, what has changed in the Post Pandemic era?
Very simply, these now cannot just be restricted to customer intuitive leaders or left to gain ground at a hitherto evolutionary pace.
These are now non-negotiable and the speed for assimilating and embedding the customer in the way we work must be supersonic. The evolutionary pace and the choice of it will not pass muster.
The black swan event of covid has rendered vast changes in the product or service features and the way these must reach the customer. Since more and more organizations are adapting to these changes as a hygiene level need, the competitive scenario is fiercer than ever.
Most of the organizations that have sailed through are the ones who have been able to stay relevant at super speeds.
Therefore, The 4 pillars of designing exceptional customer experiences in the post-pandemic era….
The first thing that is important to understand is that designing exceptional customer experiences is a strategy that involves:
- Putting your customers first and at the core of your organization: It is imperative to have an organizational mindset that puts customers at the focal point of your business. In other words, the focus should be on the customer rather than your product and service or sales. More than ever.
- Creating positive customer experiences: Everybody within your organization, no matter whether they come in direct contact with the customers or not, should work together to create delightful experiences for your customers. This will help to please the customers and ensure that they like your brand. In other words, customers should always remain the priority and all steps, processes, and decisions are to be in their favor.
- Building long-term relationships with the customers: McKinsey’s recent report on customer satisfaction suggests that today’s customers do not just buy products and services. Instead, their purchase decisions revolve around buying into an idea or experience. Thus, emphasis should be on providing unique and differentiated customer experiences that aid in building lasting relationships with them. For example, the hassle-free return policy of Amazon helps it to build enduring relationships with its customers.
- Focusing on fixing problems while dealing with customer complaints: Customer feedback is one of the most important strategic tools that can help you to identify areas of customer concerns. One can then work on these areas to provide exceptional experiences to the customer.
Janelle Barlow, a well-known leader in customer-centricity and the author of the best-selling book in Amazon ‘A Complaint is a Gift’ reiterates that customer complaints are one the most effective and easily available data to understand the customers’ needs and expectations. She highlights that instead of ignoring these complaints, one should consider them as gifts that can enable an organization to improve and provide delightful experiences to its customers.
It is crucial to recognize that there is no one way to develop exceptional experiences for your customers. Instead, it involves customizing your strategy based on customers’ needs and expectations. Some of the ways that can be leveraged by you to design exceptional customer experiences are:
Define what exceptional customer experiences mean to your organization.
The first step to being able to provide exceptional experiences to your customers is to identify the unique and differentiated experiences that you aim to provide to them. It is vital to ensure that your vision is clear, straightforward, and easily understandable. For example, some organizations have the following vision:
- Amazon: To be earth’s most customer-centric company.
- Disney: To make people happy.
- Microsoft: Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, and on any device.
- Sony: To be a company that inspires and fulfils your curiosity.
Furthermore, everyone in the organization should see this vision and feel like they can be a part of it. An understanding of the view can be the driving force that your employees need. It will make them think and act in a way that promotes a positive customer experience.
Understand the journey of your customers
Mapping the experience of your customers across all touchpoints will allow your organisation to treat their journey as an ecosystem, and the ecosystem as the product. Doing this will help you to create a seamless experience that is responsive to consumers varying needs and current context. It will also aid you in providing what customers require, and not what you have to sell.
Craft an emotional connection with your customers
You must design your customer experiences in a way that also looks at the whole emotional experiences of the customer. It is important to understand that you are going to be effective only if you deliver what you promise as this will support you to gain the trust of your customers, which is the most critical strength that an organisation can have. For instance, Amazon has been able to build trust in its customers through its services. Today, many of us believe that if a particular product is available on Amazon, then let us buy it from there only.
Likewise, an organisation becomes strong when it reduces the perceived risk faced by the customers. In today’s exceptional times, wherein the pandemic has posed several risks and uncertainties- that is all that the customers want. For example, brands like Amazon, Big Basket came to our rescue and helped us ensure that we have adequate stock of the essential items to cruise through the lockdown.
Be transparent and honest with your customers
It is important to be honest in your communication and share regular updates with your customers. This transparency should flow through everything you do or say. For example, Amazon places the customer reviews directly on the product pages which creates a more transparent environment for the customers. In this way, sellers can be held accountable for the quality of their items, knowing that people are sharing their real opinions.
Make customer experience everyone’s responsibility
It takes teamwork to design exceptional customer experiences. If different departments and individuals try to please customers individually, they will not go far. Everybody must work together. Accordingly, all units including legal, HR, finance, etc. should be tasked with developing customer experience goals annually and reporting quarterly on their progress. Not only will this refocus their attention on what matters most, but will also make them accountable to customers.
CEO of Amazon does this by making it mandatory for thousands of Amazon employees to attend the call-center training. Many of these employees are not working in customer service; they could be senior managers, or from the company’s legal department. Yet they undergo such training and learn to listen to customers. This helps them consider the customer’s perspective more effectively.
Empower your employees to deliver exceptional customer experiences
You need to empower your employees to go above and beyond the call of duty to serve customers better. Consequently, they should be armed with tools, guidelines, and space to make on-the-spot decisions to exceed customer expectations and not feel restricted by policies. For instance, at The Ritz-Carlton, all employees are encouraged to do what they can to fix or improve a guest’s experience, and they are allowed to spend up to $2,000 (per guest) to do this.
Create positive experiences for your employees
It is no secret (yet not that obvious to many organisations) that if the employees are treated well, they are more likely to share their happiness and loyalty with the customers. Happy employees demonstrate confidence and composure and are willing to go the extra mile to serve the customers. You should also acknowledge and reward these employees who exceed customer expectations as this motivates everyone to continue and do better in the future.
Define indicators and key metrics
Delivering exceptional customer experiences is not a once-off effort, instead, it is an ongoing process. To make sure you are on the right track, you should define some key metrics and think about how you want to measure customer satisfaction. For example, you might analyse your key metrics and come up with strategies once a month- on the last Friday of every month. Scheduling a recurring meeting can signal the employees that you will be discussing updates and follow-ups regularly.
Build a customer-centric culture within your organization
The most common and perhaps the greatest barrier to delivering exceptional customer experiences is the lack of a customer-centric organisational culture. Most organistaions are unable to develop an internal culture that supports them in providing seamless and delightful experiences to their customers, which then hinders in the achievement of their vision. Consequently, an organistaion must have a culture that aligns with its vision and leaders who deliberately cultivate the necessary mindset and values in their employees.
To know more about the ways that can help you to develop this culture, you can watch out for the second part of this series which is about “Ways to build a customer-centric culture with your organisation”.