By Julie McManus
The importance of delivering amazing customer experiences has moved firmly into the mainstream.
In Forrester Research's new book by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning: Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Centre of Your Business, the competitive advantage of customer experience, the disciplines surrounding it and how it transforms companies is explored (including some of Engine's own work).
For Engine Service Design, our role is to enable businesses to put customers at their centre. To deliver great services, you have to be a great service organisation: not just outside in, but inside and out. Here are some tips on how to get there:
1. Have a clear ethos and principles: Having an ethos and principles aligned across the leadership team works as a checklist for cohesion in delivery and brand identity and impact.
- As a leadership team, work through the range of desires and tenets to be embodied. Boil them down into simple principles and a brand identity that all agree on
- Ensure that the principles become the tenets of the organisation and that current practice is aligned to them
- For future initiatives and development, utilise this as a checklist to ensure that they are representative of the organisation.
2. Have a customer-centric vision and strategy: Having a customer-centric vision for the organisation as a whole and a strategy to achieve it will direct thinking to the higher aims and the long-term targets. Establish a customer-centric vision based on your principles and your targets - think big!
- Develop a strategy and timeline to plan and direct work and involvement
- Get a variety of departments on board - a clearly defined strategy can include their inputs without getting lost in internal politics.
3. Be democratic: When establishing a customer-centric vision, work up and down the ranks and across silos and departments.
- Aim to manage the tension between commercial objectives and customer experience in the organisation - be honest and manage expectations
- Co-create and involve strategies from a variety of departments - get input from everyone as all form a part of the customer's experience of the organisation
- Take the opinions and experiences of frontline staff seriously and use them as insights to good effect.
4. Invest in research: Research is the best way to gain understanding and insights into your existing and potential customers, thereby maintaining and increasing loyalty and revenue.
- Qualitative rather than quantitative research provides richer insight into people and behaviours. It's also a chance to engage in dialogue with your customers
- Use customer stories as a key business asset from which to improve or design services around
- Remember that research is not just about gaining customers; it's about retaining them too. Insights into needs change because needs change - keep the research rolling.
5. Focus on the service: The key purpose and differentiator of a service organisation is the efficient and satisfactory journey that a customer takes with you.
- Have a core, solid and proven end-to-end service. From this, general satisfaction can be ensured and specific needs can be met through deviations and adaptations of the core journey
- To achieve an effective service journey, implement user and operational metrics and measure frequently to understand reception, profitability and improvement and impact
- Emphasis the service value chain - that all members of staff and the team contribute to the end customer experience
6. Be innovative: Keep an open mind to suggestions and approaches and invest time in developing new ideas.
- No idea is a bad idea and everyone is qualified to have a good idea. Allow space to work them through and see if they are viable
- Be open to new ways of working and key tools - such as co-creation, prototyping, workshops, etc. Embed these in practice at all levels of the organisation and use frequently
- Be innovative in the culture of the organisation by supporting a strong, creative and progressive working environment.
7. Be forward thinking: Be aware of potential mishaps or changes and look out for potential positives.
- Have firm plans in place for service recovery and brief staff accordingly
- Keep an eye on trends, technology and new ways of working that may benefit the organisation or deliver extra to customers
- Keep up with your customers and their desires - try to provide a solution before they realise they have a problem.
8. Make it easy: With a consistent approach and clear touchpoints, a service organisation should be as easy to navigate internally as the service journey should be for the customer.
- Make navigation intuitive and content easy to find for staff as well as customers
- Ensure touchpoints are clear and define likely points of contact and likely paths for staff to follow, based on the customer journey
- Ensure consistent information and messaging is delivered regularly across channels.
9. Train and support your staff: They are the people that deliver your vision - enable them to do it well and provide space to grow with a sense of ownership and community.
- Empower staff with their roles and responsibilities - frustration often comes from feeling powerless
- Give staff credit and rewards for their contribution and loyalty. Help instil pride and a sense of ownership
- Look for potential in individuals and act to help expand it
- Help teamwork be the watchword - working together to achieve, rather than against each other.
10. Share: Sharing knowledge, information and experiences will help strengthen the organisation as a whole, not just individuals.
- Integrate functions for staff to comment, rate, review and discuss issues internally
- Make time to share information on the organisation with staff - how it works, how things are progressing, long-term plans, etc. This will create ownership and increase the understanding of their role in the organisation
- Ensure that at all levels there is an understanding of the mechanisms by which services are delivered and how to manage them.