Monday, July 28, 2014

Creating a Customer-Centric Culture

Tammy McLeod
Chief Customer Officer
Arizona Public Service

Some companies are founded by individuals who know that their customers are the life-blood. But what about those that haven’t been as attentive? How can you turn a ship so that it’s sailing along with the customer point of view? In a session during this year’s Customer Contact 2014, East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, Tammy McLeod, Chief Customer Service Officer for Arizona Public Service, discussed the importance of effective customer experience management.

To see more of the insight and best practices presented at the event, be sure to download a copy of Frost & Sullivan’s Executive MindXchange Chronicles, a valuable collection of all the key take-aways from Customer Contact 2014, East.

A Consistently Positive Experience

Customer experience management is the discipline of understanding, planning, implementing, and optimizing all customer interactions to deliver a consistently positive experience, McLeod said. Companies need to build a deliberate strategy for managing the customer experience and incorporate this strategy into the day-to-day aspects of the company. If they do not, their customer experience will suffer.

The customer experience is incredibly important for every business, McLeod said. Customer satisfaction is an indicator of operational health and has a direct impact on the bottom line. Customer expectations are shaped by the customer’s experience with the company and its products or services. It is important that you shape the customer’s perceptions of your company so that they see you as meeting all of their needs.

Start With Your Employees

For engaged customers, companies should start by engaging employees, McLeod said. One way to create more engagement in both groups: Give employees the ability to interact with the customers through social networks.

Social media can shape the perception of your company and allow for better access to detailed customer feedback. McLeod suggested monitoring all of the feedback on social networks, identifying trends and themes among the data, and determining opportunities for improvement based on those themes.

Companies must engage employees in the process of obtaining and interpreting customer feedback, McLeod said, and developing strategy based on it. Engaged employees create engaged customers.

When monitoring social media interactions, it’s critical that agents quickly resolve any issues that are discovered. A single negative incident can have a widespread impact due to social media.

Study Your Customers

The customer experience strategy should align with the organization’s corporate goals. If a deliberate customer experience strategy is in place and it aligns with the corporate goals of a company, then the customers become central to the company’s structure and business.

Before developing your customer service strategy, study the interactions that your customers have with your company. Gather, analyze, and incorporate customer feedback for all customer touch points to determine what it is that customers want from your company. Use these metrics to motivate your leadership and your employees. When you do begin to strategize, develop guidelines for the customer experience process. Those guidelines will enable employees to put the strategy into practice and also ensure that your company is easy to do business with, as employees will consistently know what to do in every situation.

McLeod recommended companies create an advisory board with senior-level representatives across all disciplines within the business. These representatives are the ones who will create the guidelines and manage employee performance.

Establishing processes for governance for customer-facing functions is also key to customer experience management. The advisory board should design a governance structure, including performance management, process improvement, customer engagement strategies, voice-of-the-customer programs, and experience architecture.

Bring the Whole Organization On Board

It’s important to get everyone in the business on board with the customer experience strategy, McLeod said. The strategy will likely fail if the organization does not have:

  • The support of senior management
  • A cross-functional group to monitor customer experience
  • Simple and focused metrics
  • Engaged employees

It’s critical to build the focus on customer experience into the organization’s culture.

Customer service leaders can get their teams on board by making customers real to employees. McLeod recommended sharing the financial impact of customer satisfaction and making it clear that everyone in the business is responsible for creating and maintaining this satisfaction. Gaining support from executives and senior-level management and making that public can help drive home the value of customer satisfaction. Also, communicate the customer experience strategy regularly and share both good and bad experiences with all employees.

Some other ways companies can get everyone on board and focused on the customer experience strategy:

  • Start meetings with a story about a positive customer moment
  • Share books on customer engagement
  • Train agents to turn every complaint into an opportunity for improvement
  • Celebrate a special “customer experience day”
  • Designate a single room, or area within a room, to contain all things related to customers 

Final Thought

The customer experience is perhaps the most important aspect of managing a business. If your customers aren’t satisfied, the business will suffer. Companies must create a strategy for managing the customer experience and incorporate this strategy into every aspect of the organization. This will ensure that the customer experience becomes a regular part of the organization’s day-to-day functions and create a culture of customer service among all employees.

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