Jump-starting Your Customer Experience Strategy

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1 Jump-starting Your Customer Experience Strategy by Qaalfa Dibeehi, Chief Operating and Consulting Officer

2 A simple but fundamental issue that arises when initiating a customer experience strategy is how to generate it. From where should you start to ensure that you end up with a customer experience that produces the benefit you were looking for, and one that customers will recognise and recommend. Most businesses are looking for the ultimate benefit of increased profitability via some combination of increased customer spend and reduced cost to serve. Non-novices in this area will know that scores based on willingness to recommend are becoming an increasingly accepted way of determining completely satisfied customers (ie, customers that are satisfied and loyal). The point we are designing experiences such that they result in increased and sustainable profitability. Once the business has come to the realisation that customer experience is the next competitive battleground and that it is an area where businesses can currently outpace the competition and lock in customers the next major decision is choosing the approach the business should use to develop its customer experience. What strategic approach will lead to the ultimate benefits of increased sustainable profitability? There are two broad approaches that can be used. They are: Outside in: determined by customers first and then acted upon by the business Inside out: designed by the business Outside in vs. Inside out - Pros and Cons - Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Outside-in vs. Inside-out The outside in approach is the optimal for its obvious customer centric design. It is a given that customer experiences are ultimately judged and acted upon by customers. Thus, it makes intuitive sense that the design of those experiences should stem from the targeted audience themselves. The concerns with this approach are twofold: Outside In Approach Inside Out Approach Advantages Likely to result in the greatest wow factor for customers Tends to focus more on revenue generation Lower post-design costs Disadvantages Can be expensive and time consuming Efficient Tends to focus more on cost management Looses sight of the customer Tends to result in simple tweaks to siloed processes (simple business process reengineering) High change management costs Sample bias: you must be sure of the insights gained from the sample of customers. In general, the more confidence is achieved as you involve a larger number of customers. The solution is to involve large amounts of customers but this is costly. 2

3 Situation bias: While it is reasonable to assume customers relate what they expect of your current experience, they often have difficulty providing accurate insight into situations that they have not yet experienced. The primary reason for this is that customer experiences are experienced both rationally and emotionally. Customers are able to gauge their rational selves in unknown situations reasonably accurately but they are much less able to do the same for their emotional selves. The answer is to recognise that customer derived output may need to be bolstered when trying to construct to be experiences. The inside out approach is akin to what most businesses do to reengineer their processes. Original business process thinking was inside out. This approach is efficient in its ability to quickly define changes to be made to a process. However, traditional inside out methods do not typically address the post-design change landscape. Staff are typically told of the new changes and asked to act accordingly. As expected, there is usually a great deal of covert resistance to such changes leading to increased change management costs. The solution is to build into the approach a bottom-up methodology where staff at all levels not only have the opportunity to contribute but are actively called on to contribute to the strategy. In doing so it is crucial that staff are left with the feeling that their input is valued and will be considered. This, however, does not address this approach s lack of connection to customer expectations and may perpetuate inaccurate perceptions of consumer behaviour. Deciding the approach A business s choice of approach in developing a customer experience strategy that meets or exceeds customers expectations in ways that pushes them to spend more and persuasively recommend the business is dependent in large part on where that business falls on the Naïve-to-Natural (N2N) continuum: naïve, transactional, enlightened, or natural 1. The N2N continuum characterises the customer experience of the business. 1 Refer to 3

4 Type of company Natural Enlightened Transactional Naïve Naïve to Natural Characteristics Some characteristics Have highest level of customer experience Have an experience map Focus on depth of emotion Use theatre as a delivery method Have some advanced customer experience Have appointed a Customer Experience Director or council Customer experience measures form large part of bonus Focus on stimulating planned emotions and build these into the design of the customer experience Have some basic customer experience Functionally organised but have recognised need for customer service No complete view of customers on systems Take into account customer physical expectation Have little or no customer experience Product focused price and features lead Customers asked to call on different numbers for different parts of the company Efficiency and productivity are the most important KPIs % of firms at this level of development 2% 22% 67% Source: Beyond Philosophy, Revolutionise Your Customer Experience 9% As a company moves away from Naïve towards Natural, There is less need to justify the benefit of an outside in approach to the business, it is understood There is more propensity to use an outside in approach An interesting paradox is that Naïve and low Transactional companies absolutely need the outside in approach but are more likely to rely solely on an inside-out approach. These companies are likely to see their revenues fluctuate with market conditions and as such they are primed to take a defensive strategy of cost control as a method of maintaining short term profitability. The biggest danger for these companies is that the competition will embark on an outside-in approach, design a customer experience that resonates with customers and jumpstart the cycle of commanding greater shares of customer mind and wallet. Given that 4

5 76% of companies are either Naïve/ Transactional, the opportunity is to be the first in your competitive landscape to design the customer experience outside-in. Hybrid Approach Having already established the superiority of an outside-in approach, there is of course the reality of budget to deal with. Outside-in approaches are effective but also more expensive. This leads many firms towards inside-out approaches. By definition, Naïve/ Transactional companies are quick to minimise or even cut customer experience related strategic budgets. Naturally, this leads to increased costs in the long run due customer s lack of engagement with the inside-out experience.. Enlightened/ Natural companies tend to find the budget to design using an outside-in approach. These companies tend to sacrifice in other areas if need be in order to ensure that their customer experience exceeds customer expectation. But like all businesses, Enlightened/ Natural companies also go through traditional business cycles where budgets are tight. Although, in general, the negative side of cycle tends to be less pronounced for Enlightened/ Natural businesses. Under tightened budget circumstances a hybrid approach can be used. The hybrid approach starts off with gleaning as much insight from staff as possible. It is key to get involvement from staff that are closest to customers. They have heard a variety of complaints and compliments from customers and will have formed strong opinions about what s good and bad about the current experience and the cause of those strong and weak points. These ideas can then be validated by customers. As well as validating, customers also generate additional ideas. Finally, management can then decide which of the now validated ideas should be implemented. This entire process can take roughly 8 weeks to complete for a single experience 2. The major time and cost saver is the collecting and creating hypotheses about the customer experience from staff first. This allows for a more targeted research program with a smaller number of customers than would be required in a pure outside-in approach. Case Brief 1 Company X is an Enlightened market leader in the commercial construction industry in the United Kingdom. They have dominated a section of the market on the basis of creating a customer experience that promises delivery in ways that resonates with customers. For each of their projects they literally start with a meeting to discuss the customer s expectations. At the end of the project, the client rates how well these expectations were met. Project managers and contractors are all evaluated and rewarded on how well they met these expectations. Their competitors have begun to copy this system to varying degrees of success. Company X has observed that their clients expectations have matured. 2 A single experience is an end to end process that a customer would identify with even if they may not have visibility of all the internal steps that help make the experience. For example, customers consider making a claim an important experience with their insurance company. 5

6 They recognise this is exactly the opportunity they want to exploit - helping clients expectations mature faster than the competition can develop to meet them. They now need to enhance their approach but are unsure of what they could do. They have embarked on a pure outside-in approach. The point of the research program is to understand how customer s expectations have matured. No amount of internal deliberation would be able to decipher this accurately with confidence. This is an appropriate approach for them because: they are enlightened they have a specific focus on which to concentrate the customer research they have lots of previous customer expectation data and insights which again helps narrow the scope of the customer research that is required for their outside-in approach Case Brief 2 Company Y is a high end Transactional financial service provider. They have grown considerably over the last 10 years through major acquisitions and continue to do so. As a result of these acquisitions, they have many disjoint processes and inconsistent customer experience. Over the last two years they have recognised the importance of their customer experience and are now going about revamping it. The acquisition activity means that budgets are extremely tight. They utilised a hybrid Customer experience strategy. Their first move was to run a series of sessions with staff across various silos of the business. These generated over 250 ideas for improvements. These ideas were then synthesised into about 15 concepts that could be tested with customers in qualitative research settings. The customer validation research was limited to 4 focus groups and about 8 in-depth interviews a substantial cost savings. The findings from customer validation were fed into prioritisation workshops which produced the suggested list of activities Company Y needs to implement. The hybrid approach was most appropriate for Company Y because the pure outside-in approach would have been too expensive. With all of the acquisitions, they have not developed their culture enough to be able to rely on a more pure inside- out approach. Case brief 3 Company Z is a mid range Transactional company in the entertainment sector. It is a major and well recognised brand. They have struggled with their identity for many years. They are investing heavily in the redesign of their facilities and wanted to update their customer experience so that the two would match. While appreciating the value of an 6

7 outside-in approach in principle, they felt that they could only justify budget for a pure insideout approach. In other words, the senior executives developed a customer experience statement among themselves in a one day workshop and then rolled this out to the rest of the company via a training course. The results tell the story for Company Z. The staff did not believe in the newly developed customer experience statement and as a result did not act on it. Customers found that it did not reflect their expectations and they did not observe any appreciable change in the experience. In order to move forward, Company Z will have to backtrack and understand customer expectations. For all intensive purposes Company Z will have to overcome the cynicism generated by the training program before customers will begin to notice any changes to the experience they receive. Key Learning Points If you have the budget, always use an outside-in approach. If you don t have the budget for a pure outside-in approach, use a hybrid approach, especially if your organisation is Naïve or Transactional. You should consider a pure inside-out approach only if your organisation is Natural as this signifies that customer is in the DNA of the business. However, this should be considered a last step under a particularly negative business environment. 7

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