Customer Experience – Putting the Customer First

For some execs, the ‘customer experience’ is one of those trends that demands lip service, until it goes away to be replaced by the next customer service fad.

For others genuinely interested in delivering strong customer service performance, it’s an issue of limited logistics or resources.

And for a select few – the true believers who care deeply how their customers think and feel about them – it’s an opportunity.

There’s no doubt – we are in the midst of the growing customer experience movement. How companies react and adapt will increasingly impact bottom-line success or failure.

Maz Iqbal at The Customer & Leadership Blog recently pointed out that delivering a great customer experience has to flow from the top, down (read the post: The Road Less Travelled).

Customer Service: Practicing What Management Preaches
It comes as no surprise that customer service reacts to the guiding corporate mentality handed down from on-high. As dysfunctional as it may be, most employees ultimately do as they are told, or at least do as they are shown – even if they may disagree with it.

It isn’t right to ascribe a failure to deliver an excellent customer experience to the front line agent who refused to budge on a pricing issue if the corporate mentality (and the agent’s performance rating) is based exclusively on bottom-line results.  Hence the importance of building a customer experience-focused organization from the top downward. If you want the front line to practice it, management needs to both preach it and live by it.

In my opinion, customer experience isn’t a fad that will pass. We live in a global world, which translates to more intense competition in many industry sectors. Coupled with unprecedented communication tools such as the web and social media, there is more awareness than ever before of the power consumers have to share their dissatisfaction.

Locally monopolized or near-monopolized industries such as utilities and cable have been slower on the customer experience uptake, but the shift in focus is already happening. Financial performance is still the holy grail of business, but there is now an awareness that it cannot drive all aspects of operations. Inbound call centers, for example, that handle billing or tech issues were historically been viewed as resource-hogs that didn’t directly contribute to bottom line performance.  What a customer ‘experienced’ had little bearing on matters of greater importance – namely, exceeding forecasts.

That’s no longer the case, as companies increasingly recognize the importance not just of a customer’s monthly check (let’s be honest: checks for bills are written grudgingly, at best) but also their impressions of – and loyalty to – your brand.