Customer experience is the linchpin of corporate success across all industries. Customer experience leadership has never been more critical than in this time of easy and lightning-quick impression sharing. Companies whose customers aren’t thrilled with their experience can tell others about it in a flash. A bad experience could drive potential customers in the opposite direction with one click. Even more important, satisfied customers can send out the word just as swiftly. Brad Cleveland offers expert customer strategy insights that could elevate customer experience and overall performance.
- The first step in leading customer experience is defining it.
- You must build a leadership team of visionaries who can guide your CX initiative and engage employees.
- It’s critical to strengthen individual purpose across your organization and cultivate a culture that supports CX.
- Informal contact that puts leaders in customers’ shoes is a crucial piece of customer feedback.
- Manage feedback tactically and strategically.
- There’s no perfect customer experience metric, but there are good options.
- Ignore the value of customer service at your peril.
- Eliminate the most damaging customer service frustrations.
- Wrapping data in a compelling narrative makes it more attractive.
- To effectively lead the customer experience, you need dashboards.
- Investments and operational budgets are essential to seeing CX through.
The first step in leading customer experience is defining it.
It’s not enough for leaders to have a handle on the concept – they must ensure their teams understand it, too. Customer experience (CX) is bigger (more than the product, its customer service and its technology platform) and smaller (a single interaction with your company can create a lifelong association for a customer) than many realize.
CX is defined as:
- Everything a prospect or customer hears about your organization (from your marketing department, employees, customers and other stakeholders).
- Every interaction they have with it (including pre- and post-sales encounters with products and services).
- Ultimately, how they feel about your organization (calm, excited, confident or confused).
Although you can’t control every encounter a prospect has with your company, you can create enthusiastic customer advocates by creating a culture of positivity and enthusiasm.
“Despite all of your effort – all of your processes, your work on products – just one interaction can leave customers with an indelible impression of your organization.”
It’s common for a company’s CX to be worse than its leaders realize. Research indicates that many companies observe only 1% to 5% of customers encountering problems.
You must build a leadership team of visionaries who can guide your CX initiative and engage employees.
You must be prepared to disrupt your status quo and ask employees to examine their work and remove obstacles to a great customer experience. An excellent core leadership team can encourage all in this direction.
Start your build with a C-level CX champion to lead the transition into a customer-centered culture. Your team will ideally feature a strong CX leader charged with cultivating a unified focus on customers, setting goals and metrics, and building tools. Form a team organically (don’t expect a finished result right away) of six to ten full-timers focused on areas that can bring quick wins and ongoing responsibilities.
“When building a customer experience team, there’s the ideal… and there’s the feasible. The ideal is the usual recommendations you’ll hear from CX experts. The feasible? That’s what you can do right now, right where you are, with what you have.”
Create a specific, compelling vision, which you communicate effectively and often, along with high-level goals you can use as guideposts to progress. Avoid common pitfalls by setting clear expectations, using appropriate language and making it plain why CX transformation is vital to the organization.
Further, consider the significance of employee engagement. Employee experience is the cornerstone of customer experience. Employees desire products, services and support that minimize frustrations and help them thrive as much as customers do.
Gallup’s researchers have confirmed the links between high employee engagement and such healthy organizational outcomes as customer satisfaction and loyalty.
It’s critical to strengthen individual purpose across your organization and cultivate a culture that supports CX.
Employees who see their work as a calling typically are the most motivated. The underpinning of employee engagement is a conviction that the work is vital and worthwhile.
The National Business Research Institute says engaged employees:
- Believe in their organization.
- Have the desire to work to make things better.
- Understand the business context and big picture.
- Are respectful and helpful to colleagues.
- Are willing to go the extra mile.
- Stay up-to-date with developments in their industry.
A business claiming no problems should not be rewarded but advised they’re in a state of denial.
Whether you’re a leader seeking to address issues or want to discover what you may be missing in your CX, ask your staff – employees have a purpose and likely have the best perception.
Employees’ voices should be encouraged and accumulated via HR surveys, conversations and interviews. After collecting employee experience insights, you must take meaningful action. Expecting your HR department to own employee initiatives is a tall order; some organizations enact a volunteer committee. Putting customer experience and employee experience in the same major priority box can help you push both initiatives.
“It makes sense to incorporate employee experience into your customer experience transformation. Many of the principles are the same, and the two are strongly correlated.”
You’ll know you’re making progress if survey results and employee retention improve and employees feel they’re part of the culture.
If you see a need to build such a culture, consider the following traits that support the customer experience: opportunities to grow; strategic coaching; adequate goals and metrics; effective communication; alignment with the mission; and motivation through recognition.
Informal contact that puts leaders in customers’ shoes is a crucial piece of customer feedback.
Seek out direct input, monitor social platform posts, check out reviews, examine operational data, host focus groups and get down in the trenches.
Leaders must find ways to tune in by:
- Brainstorming available sources of insight.
- Intentionally scheduling this aspect of leadership.
- Expecting their efforts to take time and require practice.
- Responding to findings thoughtfully.
Manage feedback tactically and strategically.
Tactical management is when you act on feedback as it happens to solve problems or deliver service. The tactical response requires an organization to: identify feedback requiring a response; set up functional tools that can capture, deliver and document feedback; train employees to respond to feedback; and establish supporting workload management processes and respond appropriately.
Strategic management looks for recurring issues and opportunities. A strategic approach includes identifying sources, collecting feedback, analyzing input and taking responsive action.
Leaders must show up first when responding to positive or negative feedback. Leaders should seek out negative feedback for the improvement opportunities it provides.
“How you respond to negative feedback will, as much as anything, show the character of your organization.”
Enact a strategy to leverage feedback that fully features the customer’s “voice.” Gather structured and unstructured feedback and utilize relational and transactional surveys. Master all types for the best effect.
Collect feedback into a centralized repository for analysis and action.
There is no perfect customer experience metric, but there are good options.
Customer satisfaction surveys are familiar and draw on data you may already have. Net promoter scores capture the difference between positive and negative responses to whether customers would recommend a company to others. Customer effect scores measure how easily an issue was resolved.
Customer sentiment scores use analytics to capture how customers feel about you; these can be used alongside traditional key performance indicators. Customer lifetime value links customer experience with loyalty. Every metric has limitations and needs to be considered comprehensively.
Ignore the value of customer service at your peril.
It’s important to assess the value of your organization’s customer service – its efficiency, customer satisfaction and loyalty and strategic value.
“Like termites you can’t see, poor experiences eat away at your brand and threaten your future.”
The International Customer Management Institute’s 10 expectations of customer service are for companies to: 1) be accessible, 2) treat customers courteously, 3) be responsive to what customers want and need, 4) do what they ask promptly, 5) provide well-trained, informed employees, 6) tell customers what to expect, 7) meet the company’s commitments and keep its promises, 8) do it right the first time, 9) follow up, and 10) be socially responsible.
Eliminate the most damaging customer service frustrations.
Making it easy for customers to find help is critical. Waiting in line is irritating; companies need to understand (through surveys and data showing the percentage of customers who abandon long lines) how much. Your company might have a different pain point; find out what that is and address it.
Knowledgeable and friendly customer service staff need to be accessible. Customer-friendly policies and processes are at the heart of service delivery.
Offering a seamless journey between service channels (with everyone aware of your name and problem) is essential.
“Don’t get too clever before you get the basics in order.”
Ensure there’s a company-wide understanding of how you offer customer service – a “customer access strategy” – early on. Consider:
- Customer segments.
- Types of interactions.
- Access alternatives.
- Hours of operation.
- Service level.
- Routing process.
- People and technology.
- Analysis and improvement.
- Guidelines for deploying new services.
Wrapping data in a compelling narrative makes it more attractive.
Employ Freytag’s Pyramid of compelling storytelling in putting together your customer’s story. The best customer stories conclude with a call to action. The customer journey map is an effective way to portray your customers’ relationship with your organization graphically. To make one, create customer personas, and identify “touchpoints,” needs, expectations and pain points.
Complement your customer journey map with other tools, like voice of the customer forums, customer rooms, internal newsletters that are graphic novels, customer charades (role-playing) and visits from real customers.
To effectively lead the customer experience, you need dashboards.
Customer and employee experience metrics rely on data whose vast quantities can be daunting: Dashboards cut through the clutter.
Dashboards are most effective when their detail is layered, containing a strategic macro view (customer experience, employee experience), a functional view (inviting managers and analysts deeper into the data) and a tactical or micro view (data for specialized roles that reflects even individual customers and interactions).
Establish essential customer experience tools, such as CRM (customer relationship management) technologies, knowledge management processes and social media management platforms.
Investments and operational budgets are essential to seeing CX through.
The six dynamics essential to CX leaders – demand, supply, quality, employee engagement, customer satisfaction and innovation – need financial support to stay dynamic.
Develop a cost-benefit toolkit that includes the risks and costs of inaction.
“You want your colleagues to be uncomfortable with the costs of inaction. You want them to understand the risks and downside of poor customer experiences.”
Customer experience is a massive entity and its oversight requires effective leadership. Measure yours with these three questions:
- What’s your drive for your interest in leading customer experience?
- What level of commitment can you give this effort?
- What’s the legacy you’d like to leave?
Determine the next steps for using CX to bring out the best in your company and employees.
About the Authors
Brad Cleveland is an expert in customer strategy and management. He was the founding partner and former CEO of the International Customer Management Institute, now part of London-based Informa PLC.
“Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results” by Brad Cleveland is a comprehensive guide that focuses on enhancing the customer experience to drive business success. The book provides practical strategies, insights, and tools for leaders to effectively manage and improve customer interactions across various touchpoints.
Cleveland begins by emphasizing the importance of customer experience in today’s competitive marketplace. He highlights the correlation between a positive customer experience and business growth, customer loyalty, and brand reputation. The author emphasizes that customer experience should be a top priority for organizations, as it directly impacts their bottom line.
The book then delves into the key elements of creating a customer-centric culture within an organization. Cleveland emphasizes the role of leadership in driving this cultural shift and explores various strategies for aligning employees’ behaviors and attitudes with the organization’s customer experience goals.
Cleveland also provides insights into designing and mapping the customer journey. He explains how to identify critical touchpoints and moments of truth, and offers guidance on optimizing these interactions to create exceptional customer experiences. The author stresses the importance of understanding customer expectations and tailoring experiences to meet and exceed them.
Another significant aspect covered in the book is the effective use of technology to enhance the customer experience. Cleveland discusses the role of various digital tools, such as CRM systems, analytics, and automation, in improving customer interactions and personalization. He provides practical advice on selecting and implementing technology solutions that align with the organization’s customer experience strategy.
Furthermore, the book emphasizes the significance of employee engagement and empowerment in delivering outstanding customer experiences. Cleveland explores methods for recruiting, training, and motivating employees to become customer-focused advocates. He highlights the importance of continuous feedback, coaching, and recognition to foster a customer-centric mindset throughout the organization.
In the final sections of the book, Cleveland addresses the measurement and continuous improvement of customer experience. He introduces key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track the effectiveness of customer experience initiatives. The author also emphasizes the iterative nature of improving customer experience, encouraging organizations to continuously learn, adapt, and innovate.
Overall, “Leading the Customer Experience” is a comprehensive and practical guide for leaders seeking to elevate their organization’s customer experience. By providing actionable strategies, insights, and tools, Brad Cleveland equips readers with the knowledge to chart a course towards delivering outstanding results.
“Leading the Customer Experience” by Brad Cleveland offers a valuable resource for leaders and managers looking to transform their organization’s approach to customer experience. The book succeeds in providing a comprehensive overview of the subject, offering practical guidance and actionable strategies.
One of the strengths of the book is its focus on the role of leadership in driving a customer-centric culture. Cleveland effectively emphasizes the importance of leadership buy-in and engagement, showing how leaders can inspire and align employees towards exceptional customer experiences.
The author’s emphasis on employee empowerment and engagement is another significant aspect of the book. By highlighting the link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, Cleveland underscores the importance of creating a positive work environment that fosters a customer-centric mindset.
Cleveland’s insights on designing and mapping the customer journey are also valuable. He provides practical advice on identifying critical touchpoints and optimizing them to create memorable experiences. The emphasis on understanding and exceeding customer expectations is particularly noteworthy.
The book is well-structured, with each chapter building upon the previous ones, providing a logical progression of ideas. Cleveland’s writing style is clear, concise, and accessible, making complex concepts easy to understand and implement.
However, one potential drawback of the book is its limited coverage of specific industries or sectors. While the principles and strategies outlined by Cleveland are applicable across various domains, readers looking for industry-specific examples or case studies may find the book lacking in that regard.
In conclusion, “Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results” is a highly recommended resource for leaders and managers seeking to enhance their organization’s customer experience. Brad Cleveland’s expertise and practical insights make this book a valuable guide to creating a customer-centric culture and driving outstanding results.