As it appeared in the Daily Nation of December 30th 2014
Year after year some businesses put together their work plans while others meander through the year without any sort of plan. I hope your business had some sort of a plan for 2014. A salient feature of many annual work plans is the action items. Some of the actions especially in the forward looking business relate to the customer experience. In any case customers are the reason for business existence and the businesses provide not only a product or a service but an experience.
Answers to questions such as: – 1. How can we better serve our customers? 2. How can we make them happier? 3. How can we make them loyal for life? etc are well articulated in these work plans. The key question though is does the customer feel an improvement in the experience year in year out? Did the Customer Experience get better in 2014? Will it get even better in 2015?
Our expectations as customer have continued to rise. We want it faster, we want businesses that are easy to do business with, and we want to be kept informed among other growing expectations. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review “The Truth about Customer Experience” defines the customer experience as the customer’s end-to-end journey with an organization. It is no longer only about how the frontline staff deal with customers; it is about the entire experience. It is about the use of technology, it is about communication and it is even about invoicing and debt collection. It is about everything a business does or does not do.
If 2014 was your company’s customer experience year, did your plan explain how improvements would be made in the multiple customer touch points? Have you evaluated the improvements made so far? Organizations planning to make improvements in the customer experience as part of their DNA must first get the basics right. Before successfully improving each touch point, an organization must have the right people in the right positions, it needs to build a healthy culture, it needs to have well defined process. When these three aspects are overlooked, it becomes difficult to make sustainable customer experience improvements in the specific touch points.
In 2014, one of aspects that has had tremendous growth is the Digital Customer Experience. Mobile and Web-based applications have eased customer transactions. Social media is no longer about marketing and public relations; it is a customer service channel. Speed of service has improved, it has become easier to do business remotely and self service is picking up. The customer experience could be getting better.
Are businesses though putting enough effort? A Forrester perspective report titled “The Business Impact of Customer experience” proves that focusing on customer-centricity is your best bet for sustainable competitive advantage. Why would a business choose to focus elsewhere? Customers and businesses often seem to perceive the customer experience from two different perspectives. On one hand are some businesses that are doing their best and on the other hand are customers who feel that not enough is being done. As a customer, though I have witnessed improvements in the customer experience I still expect to see business focusing a little more on the customer experience not only every year but every day.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy