The Challenge of Improving the Customer Experience

by Jeff Wiener on May 6, 2016

2016_Principles-of-a-Great-Customer-ExperienceToday most businesses will tell you that one of their top goals is to improve the customer experience. In fact, almost 90 percent of businesses view customer experience as the new competitive battleground, and many view improving it as their number one priority, even more so than growing revenues.

But talking about improving the customer experience is a whole lot easier than actually improving it, for although the numbers are good in relation to companies’ awareness of increasing customer satisfaction, the numbers related to actually improving it are not good at all.

To that end, six out of ten companies reported a drop in customer satisfaction in 2015, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, lending evidence to the idea that whatever customer experience businesses are attempting to deliver, it simply isn’t meeting evolving customer expectations.

This isn’t good news, particularly in an era where experience is the driving force behind purchasing, with studies showing that 70 percent of buying experiences are impacted by how customers feel they’ve been treated. Add to that the fact that the increased simplicity of switching between goods and service providers of all sorts (cable, Internet, retailers, banks etc…) has led to an unprecedented churn rate (over half of customers surveyed in 2015 said they switched a provider based on poor service alone), and businesses now find themselves in a difficult spot, knowing they have to compete on service and experience, and unsure of how to actually do that.

So what’s exactly going on here? How can companies be getting the idea of improving the customer experience so wrong? First and foremost, the problem with customer service is that unlike growing revenues or developing the business, service is often seen as someone else’s job—it’s a marketing problem, a customer service department responsibility, or simply that someone else in the organization “owns” that area.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth: customer service is everyone’s responsibility. Top down, president to intern, everyone.

Truly improving the customer experience starts with the boardroom, and then leads to empowering everyone else in the company with the tools and the freedom to take ownership of their own part of that monumental task. If anyone in your business thinks customer service is someone else’s problem, the chain is broken and customers will notice.

As CRM Buyer writer Christopher Bucholtz writes, “Standard procedures can remain in place long after they’ve become detrimental to the business, but sometimes it takes a tipping point to drive home the fact that failing to change is the surest way to fail.”

So what will be the tipping point that forces you to realize that you’re doing something wrong? If you’re already seeing customer defections and flagging revenues, unfortunately it might already be too late, but otherwise, the key is to read the signs before that point and respond to evolving customer expectations.

Multi-channel customer engagement offers a multitude of ways to receive customer feedback, and the key is to listen to it, to see where the deficiencies are, and to empower all employees (not just the customer-facing service specialists) to participate in responding to those evolving expectations.

As Bucholtz concludes, “Implementing changes to enhance the customer experience takes time and can cost money. It forces businesses to stop doing what they find comfortable and adopt new processes. They may have to regroup, reassess and retool their organizations — but the cost of doing so ultimately will pay off, for the company and for the customer.”

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