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The standards of Customer Experience (CX) are always evolving in tandem with changing customer needs and behaviours. Well before the pandemic, CX had already become the battleground for competitive advantage, wherein hygiene fulfillment and disciplined execution played a critical role in driving differentiation. However, as we moved towards a more connected world, the digital age has empowered customers through unparalleled access to information and an unprecedented amount of choices. Hence, organisations need to bring in their A-game across all engagement points, keeping in mind that today’s customers are more sophisticated and discerning than ever.
Placing CX at the heart of our operating model
A successful improvement effort should not be bound to taking an existing portfolio and making rapid adjustments using technology. In order to create a truly seamless CX, we can and should simplify the entire product or service journey at its heart. Through this perspective, one should not limit their perspective to eliminating problems based on a single focus area. Instead, we should look into how we can create much more value by anchoring the effort on understanding “what matters and what does it mean” for our customers. Essentially, what can we do to satisfy an unmet need or expectation.
In my view, there are four basic principles that today’s organisations should adhere to when crafting their Customer-focused strategies:
• Empathy as the foundational component of CX
Empathy denotes the ability to sense people’s emotions and anticipate what someone else might be thinking or feeling. COVID-19 has magnified the need for organisations to lead with empathy across all possible customer interactions as a means of driving deeper rapport and emotional connection. Though the pandemic has gradually subsided, the requirement to deliver empathy-driven CX is set to remain given that it has shifted from being an aspiration to an expectation. Hence, investing in empathy through various avenues such as going the extra mile in resolving issues, providing reassurance, offering alternatives and enabling personalised engagements could definitely create Trust Building moments which will be repaid through enduring customer loyalty.
• Put in a concerted effort with the customer in mind: Adopting the 3D’s of Design, Delivery and Delight
In essence, the boundaries between products, services, touchpoints and environments have blurred, indicating the need to have a cohesive view when delivering end-to-end experiences that are truly valuable to customers, whether physically or digitally. Managing such an engagement lifecycle requires a holistic perspective as it entails a balancing act between CX, EX (Employee Experience) and Operational Efficiencies. This can be done effectively via the 3D approach of:
• Design or fine-tune the customer journeys– conduct systematic checks (i.e. Design audit) to ascertain that key parameters are adhered to consistently across channels/ touchpoints or follow best-in-class practices within the industry. Leverage a Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) methodology to instil an outside-in perspective when establishing all possible engagement points.
"A connected organisation is key in building and instilling a customer-centric culture as it inspires individuals to deliver on the customer promise and subsequently drive up business performance"
• Delivery fix gaps or conduct interventions/ transformational change by activating improvement initiatives, as we design correctly for the customers. This could be delivered through optimisation, elimination of waste and minimising variation using the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) and Agile methodologies.
• Delight customers through moments that matter – this requires working much more closely with our customers by taking a needs-based approach (i.e.understanding what we observe in their behaviours or interactions when we design to improve CX, rather than only focusing on customer profiles), creating emotional resonance (identify their emotional state and memorable moments) and showing restraint (i.e. the right balance of information and redundancy during our engagement to reduce or avoid overloading of information).
• Balancing the online and offline worlds Society has been progressing ever onwards towards digitalisation, even more so when the pandemic resulted in an accelerated shift towards digital interactions. Today, digital banking has become the primary banking experience for many customers. Despite that, many of us still value human engagements and are not ready to give them up. In the face of this duality, the hybrid “phygital” (i.e. marrying both physical and digital environments) strategy could create the optimal experience for customers if it is operationalised correctly by combining the right functional and emotional values for a much more complete, integrated and seamless journey. A good start towards achieving this goal is to think about both the Customer and Employee lenses when applying the following thought process:
• Reduce/Eliminate Frictions - address anything that could reduce the need to connect or could go wrong in the experience, and build communications around it.
• Think Digital – identify areas where we can leverage digital capabilities to bridge existing gaps and deliver a more efficient process.
• Deflect and Optimise – establish the best channel to serve customers and ensure there are proper handoffs between channels. The experience delivered should remain coherent and consistent as the customers’ interactions transfer between digital and physical channels.
• Recognising People as the engine of our organisation’s success Good Employee Experience (EX)drives good Customer Experience. Transforming EX requires an equally methodical approach as CX, as employees who are motivated, empowered and enabled (with tools, technology or information) deliver on the brand promise and can make or break the external customer outcomes. As they say “Happy employees make Happy Customers!”, so a connected organisation is key in building and instilling a CustomerCentric culture as it inspires individuals to deliver on the customer promise and subsequently drive up business performance. Furthermore, delivering continuous
EX goes beyond just employee engagement and remuneration as we should also place significant efforts into managing the following areas:
• Establish proper escalation and resolution points for employees to Respond rapidly to evolving customer needs. •Provide the right Support (i.e. tools and training) to up skill employees better when fulfilling their roles and responsibilities.
• Provide a safe environment for employees to test new ideas that help improve your brand’s service delivery and operational efficiency. Allow them to fail and learn quickly. This ensures we keep innovation and creativity alive within the organisation.
In a nutshell
As a CX professional, being able to connect the dots between your organisation, customer and people is the reason why we are in this role. Given our constantly evolving environment, maintaining an integrated experience is necessary right from the start of any transformational effort.
Always remember that customers seek easy and effortless engagement. If we genuinely care about them as individuals and strive to understand and resolve their needs, they’d want to stay longer with us, buy more of our products in the future and go the extra mile in recommending our brand to others. Now, isn’t that the ultimate desired outcome for any successful strategy?