Shifting gears to meet customers where they're at is vital to every organization today. Managers are re-thinking their strategies and day-to-day routines to be in-tune with customers' current and evolving needs. Interactions among colleagues are adapting to emerging realities. Overall, a kinder and gentler orientation is a blessing to customers and employees.
In-step with new realizations for customer experience and employee experience, customer experience leaders should also consider shifting paradigms. A while ago I coined the phrase "customer experience optimization" to reflect a more holistic management approach with greater customer-centricity. Customer experience optimization seeks to align company-wide thinking and actions with end-to-end customer journey preferences in order to grow both revenue and profit naturally.
The nuances of customer experience optimization can cause a magnitude of difference in the actual customer experience, as well as employee experience and business results. Why? Because growing revenue and profit naturally — with fewer enticements — requires abandoning things that aren’t in alignment with what matters to buyers.
What Exactly is Customer-Centricity?
The definition of “centric” is: situated in or at the center; central, pivotal, focal, radially symmetrical. Customer-centricity is rooted in motives, and enabled by culture (e.g. an organization’s ways of thinking and doing), structure, and information. At the employee level, to be customer-centric means your first priority is to strive to make it easier and nicer for customers to get and use solutions they’re seeking. And everything else in your job is secondary to that.
If your job doesn’t interface with buyers, then your first priority is to make it easier and nicer for your internal customers to get and use solutions they’re seeking, within the context of what external customers need to easily and nicely get and use solutions they seek.
At the corporate level, to be customer-centric means your first priority is to have the right product/service work the right way the first time and every time — supported by the right processes, policies, attitudes and decisions — as your recipe for success in maximizing revenue, minimizing costs, and mutually pleasing employees, customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders.
In fact, this balance of stakeholder interests was declared by Business Roundtable in August 2019 to be the purpose of business. Ease-of-doing-business and ease-of-work are now the ultimate leading indicators of business health and growth.
1) Take the Customer Perspective
The first step in shifting to customer experience optimization mode is to inspire employees to take the customer perspective, seeking to know your customers’ world better than your competitors do.
This mindset constantly explores what the customer is doing and why, and how the company can contribute to buyers’ well-being, as the means toward both revenue and profit growth naturally. To see things the way customers do, you have to make as much effort to thoroughly understand their frustrations as you do to learn their delight factors. Until you can see the customers’ world as they do, you’ll be speaking a foreign language to them, to some degree, in what you deliver as the customer experience.
2) Customer-Focused Decisions as a Way of Life
The second step in shifting to customer experience optimization mode is to instill customer-focused decision-making as a habit among all employees, and as a way of life.
This mindset does not stop at front-line employees’ impact on buyers — everyone company-wide is expected to understand the snowball effect of their role on customer experience. Customers don’t care about departments — they see a brand as one entity. Hence, customer-focused decision-making requires relentless silo-busting and stakeholder management, and employee engagement within the context of customer experience requirements.
3) Engage Cross-organizationally for Customer Experience Excellence
The third step in shifting to customer experience optimization mode is to engage employees to resolve and prevent issues for customers, by collaborating cross-organizationally for customer experience excellence.
This mindset does not stop at resolving issues at customer touch-points. Systemic resolution of problems and prevention of issues for customers is the best way to minimize costs and maximize morale for employees and customers alike. Customer-aligned actions go beyond technology and revenue tools to transform the company in accordance with what matters most to buyers. Policies and strategies, processes and tactics, pre- and post-purchase experiences, as well as the product/service per se are constantly explored for ways to sustainably differentiate customer experience.
True Characteristics of Customer Experience
Customer experience management, as it has traditionally been practiced, is certainly an excellent step forward for any organization. Yet, with the enduring chasm between companies’ and buyers’ views of what customer-centricity really is, every organization still has a continuing journey in taking their game to the next level of accuracy and effectiveness.
Traditional management practices have confused us about who’s boss. Revenue or profits as the purpose of a business is a misnomer — every organization, and every job, exists to serve a customer need — and profits are a necessary and desirable byproduct of meeting those needs both effectively and efficiently.
Let’s re-educate ourselves about the true characteristics of customer experience as we all know them: customers see through a solution provider’s motives and reward genuine sincerity for the customer’s well-being. Now is the time to shift what we're doing as customer experience managers to meet the new realities of employee experience and customer experience. Optimize customer experience holistically to meet today's needs. You'll find greater growth opportunities through customer experience optimization for yourself, your customers, and your investors.
How to get started? Follow the steps laid out in these 20 wishes for customer experience in the 2020s: https://www.cxpa.org/blogs/lynn-hunsaker/2020/01/21/2020-customer-experience-20-wishes.