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Are we really customer focused?

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

We’ve all heard of ‘Customer at the heart’, ‘Customer 1st’, ‘CX Transformation’ programmes or initiatives in our daily work environments… but if we’re honest, do we really understand what our customers want, expect and experience?

It’s easy to assume we know what our customers want, or what a good or bad experience is, but our views can be tainted when coupled with a deep understanding of a product or service. We can all succumb to tunnel vision in our industries.

Just because we understand it, does it mean our customers do?

The reality is that although we all have best intentions, unless we walk in the customers shoes and experience the same service first hand, we can only assume to know their perceptions of our products and services.

“To understand the man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasin North American Indian proverb

So what are customers expecting?

Understanding what works and doesn’t work for customers is almost always a reactive or post-event exercise for most organisations, as predicting behaviour is tricky depending on the nature of your business. However the fact is that customer expectations and needs are growing by the day, so we all need to wise up and realise that:

  • They expect us to know them and provide them with a personal/customised experience;

  • Price and product appeal is being overtaken by customer experience as a driving factor – a lot will pay more for a better service or experience;

  • They’re more intelligent and informed of the choices available to them;

  • They want more options and to not be ‘locked in’ by anything;

  • They expect a seamless experience and for us to expect the unexpected and proactively address their current and future needs.

  • They want to communicate with us in their own way, at their own time and on their own terms. Provide them with more channels to communicate with you.

How do we tackle this?

Ok, so some of this may be old news, but I bet a lot of organisations working at a fast pace neglect to follow these effective measures:

Step 1 – invest in your data and insight – most of us are data rich but insight poor, which can cloud our judgements on how customers behave and what they feedback to us.

Step 2 – combine your insight with your CX capability – the two are integral to one another. If you have an Insight or MI team, as well as a central CX function, define stronger ways of working and collaboration to create a powerful story for your business.

Step 3 – invest in customer journey maps - they’ve been around a long time and are distinctly different from process maps or flow diagrams that businesses typically churn out. Journey maps are powerful assets that allow you to combine the step-by-step customer interactions through a product/service, alongside the business process that happens behind the curtain and overlaid with powerful insight to help you understand pinch points.

A truly customer focused organisation should have a bank of journeys relating to their core products and services and use them as their bible to constantly evaluate what they do and offer.

Step 4 – test, learn and validate – don’t just rely on data and subject matter experts. Make sure you test your assumptions with end-users and take them on the journey with you. Always validate your desired state to give you, your business and your customers the confidence that you're making the right decisions and to be bold and transform.

Step 5 – do all the above before, during and after a project – too often we see the customer being an afterthought when we’re focused on hitting a deadline. Don’t let technology drive or dictate your CX - it's the worst mistake you can make!

In most cases by not investing in CX upfront and throughout your change cycle, it's highly likely you'll get it wrong, upset your customers and spend more time and money further down the line fixing mistakes made. Make sure that you validate anything you want to do with your customers upfront and before you do anything else on a project.

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around .” Steve Jobs, Apple.

But wait, there’s more!

A lot of you reading this are probably ticking the boxes in your head and thinking “yep, we do that” – if so, great! But ask yourself – do all levels of your business embrace these principles and continuously look at insight and journeys to reflect and learn? Do you also ensure that these steps drive and inform your change or transformation programme of work?

In today’s climate, most of us are more cost conscious, revenue focused and number driven than ever before. This causes us to cut corners, squeeze as much productivity out of our production and service lines as possible and neglect or compromise our two most valuable assets – our people and our customers. 

To make the above steps work, organisations need to:

  • Adapt their Management Team to ensure they have someone accountable for the holistic Customer Experience in the business.

  • Create a story and define a CX vision or strategy to help everyone understand what customers look like now and in the future, to set the direction they’re heading towards.

  • On-board skilled and creative CX specialists who think outside the box but understand the industry.

  • Leverage their talented Subject Matter Experts to enhance and build on their business knowledge to include CX best practice.

Take their people on the journey with them to create a truly customer centric environment. Change creates uncertainty and anxiety which no one wants to feel.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we’re the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. Jeff Bezos, Amazon.

In summary:

  • Don’t assume to know who your customers are and what they want. Invest in your data and insight.

  • Create and maintain ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ journey maps to understand the end-to-end experience.

  • Test your assumptions with real customers.

  • Make change/transformation in your business customer driven and not technology focused.

  • Reassess your organisations structures to ensure you have CX focused Leaders and Specialists.

  • Invest in your people and taken them on the journey with you.

Do these things to really understand your customers.