Getting started on delivering an effective customer experience strategy

If we want to be able to deliver exceptional service to our customers, it’s essential we start at the beginning and work through how to deliver that effective customer experience strategy, says Andrew Stothert, CEO of Brand Vista

While I think it is fair to say that much of the current activity in the customer experience world is focused on the B2C sector, those of us in the B2B would be ill-advised to ignore the obvious advantages that a brilliant customer experience (Cx) strategy can deliver to our businesses.

We see many B2B clients building their customer experiences and being rewarded by more open relationships, both with suppliers and customers.

The main point is that these things do not just happen on their own, they need to be built on some firm foundations which are informed by customer needs, driven by an inspiring vision, mapped across the whole business and then aligned in a delivery plan that can be measured in order to inform the business of its progress toward or away from that vision.

Like all journeys, it is always worthwhile thinking about some of the bigger obstacles to overcome on the way before setting out.

In our experience, there are a number of considerations we must think about if we want to be able to apply the word ‘effective’ into our strategy and its delivery. A few brutal truths, if you like, need to be considered before departure:

1. If the top of the business is not totally committed, then don’t set off on the journey. To build and deliver a truly great customer experience strategy the whole senior executive leadership team has to be on board and committed to delivering the strategy. If those in leadership aren’t living and breathing the strategy then why should anyone else in the business?

2. Involve your entire business, because there are people within the company who will know more about what the customer is really like than those detached from the coalface. Combine teams from sales, marketing, production, logistics, operations etc. to help map out the customer journey.

They know what is going on in their patch but rarely see the whole picture, they rarely get together and talk about their bits of the business. Even more rarely do they have an opportunity to listen to the other parts of the business and get insight into what may help them understand why things happen and what can be done about it. Start the whole process with a 'silo busting' attitude and approach and you will be amazed at the results.

3. Start from a position where you look at the digital and physical worlds as just parts of the overall experience and not as different channels doing different things, we are all omni-channel now.

4. It’s important to always remember that your colleagues and suppliers are all part of your brand. Those involved can either help build your brand or destroy it. Map out not only the customer experience but also the experience your employees will have, to make sure it’s all 'on brand'. If your employee experience is great, then you will be able to deliver a much richer and genuine customer experience.

How might you build a Cx Strategy development process?

In my experience there are 5 critical stages that are required, you can cut them according to your cloth but you cannot ignore them!

Stage 1: Exploring – Gather insights into the needs and unmet needs of your customers, seek empirical evidence and never allow opinion about customers to masquerade as fact. A 'radical' approach might be to actually go and talk to them and ask difficult questions and then help them see where they have influenced the outcomes. Get information from a wide-range of customers, speak with your customer service teams and find opinion from those who influence your industry. Your strategy has more chance of success should it be based on facts and knowledge.

Stage 2: Visioning – Use what you’ve learnt from the Exploring stage to engage the senior management team and the leaders of your business to create a vision that will inspire your people and customers. It may help to bring in outside help to facilitate this but be careful they don’t end up writing the vision for you.

Stage 3: Aligning – Mapping your current customer experience is essential so that when you come to map the envisioned one you can all see the gaps that need filling. It will have the greatest chance of delivering success if you engage the teams who deliver it to help build it, as they know more about how it worked than anyone else in the company. Identify or create what we call the ‘Brand Basics and Brand Amplifiers’ to ensure your customer experience is aligned with your vision.

The Brand Basics are the things that need to be delivered as an absolute minimum, whilst the Brand Amplifiers help to turn very specific interactions with your customers into moments that will delight them, turning them from passive buyers into an extension of your communications team through their social media networks.

Stage 4: Delivering – Now you know where you are going and the vehicle you are going to use to get there, you can create a Blueprint that will help show your team how to get there and what they have to do to contribute. This will need to thoroughly explain what needs to be done in order to deliver the new vision and experience.

Stage 5: Measuring – Channel feedback from your team and customers into a real time dashboard that displays whether you are moving to or away from your brand vision, and what needs to be fixed.

Given that all of your competitors are looking at Customer Experience as a way to gain competitive advantage the time to get going is now, unless of course you come under Einstein’s theory of insanity “continuing to do the same thing whilst expecting a different outcome”.

(feature image from Alan Cleaver)