Customer Experience for the Future — Key #1: Context is King
Every job exists thanks to customer funding. As Peter Drucker said, “The customer is the foundation of a business, and keeps it in existence.” And as Dr. Deming said, “What everyone in a company does can be reduced to one of two functions: to serve the customer or serve someone who does.” But how many employees in your organization see their job this way? And how many managerial decisions promote customer experience excellence?
In the future, companies that treat customer experience excellence as the context for everyone’s roles, thinking, and actions will outpace their competitors in success. Context is one of five success factors described in my recent article, Customer Experience for the Future: 5 Keys. Context is defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed”. Customer experience excellence as context for every job means that it is always top-of-mind as the primary basis for the way we do our jobs.
In the mainstream we’ve come to think of customer experience management (CXM) as a way to get customers to do things for us: engage in social media, recommend us, renew their purchase, and expand their purchase. But this may not be the most appropriate definition of customer experience management.
As a customer yourself, you know that your experience with a company is much more than what you do about it in social media, recommending, renewing, or expanding your purchases. You know that your experience is as much – or more — about the product working as expected, right the first time and every time – as it is about your purchasing and social interactions.
The responsibility for CXM is largely assigned to marketing, sales and service – exempting most of the company from a customer-oriented mindset. Many employees see their work as a right in and of itself, with logic such as:
- “Every company needs an accounts receivable function, so my job is to receive payment as early and often as possible so our books look good.”
- “As a corporate lawyer, my job is to protect the company from risks.”
- “On the manufacturing line, my job is to produce product according to our deadlines.”
- “In engineering, my job is to design products better and faster than our competitors do.”
- “In marketing/sales/service, my job is to maximize revenue before month-end, every month.”
- “In customer experience management, my job is to maximize our index (e.g. NPS) scores.”
Think of the wasted energy caused by every job having its own reason for existence. This mindset is the basis for organizational silos. And we all know the headaches caused by siloed efforts, data, systems, processes, and politics.
Think of the synergies possible by creating a common rallying point for every job: we do our work so that customers will choose our company for their next purchases. If so, the new logic will be:
- “Every customer needs to pay for what they buy, so my job in accounts receivable is to make that process as easy and nice as possible, helping customers want to pay our company.”
- “As a corporate lawyer, my job is to help the company operate as smoothly as possible for customers’ long-term well-being.”
- “On the manufacturing line, my job is to produce product that meets customers’ standards of quality and timeliness.”
- “In engineering, my job is to design products that help customers achieve their goals through us better than through any other source.”
- “In marketing/sales/service, my job is to sync my processes and communications to maximize customers’ inclination to buy more, and more often, from us.”
- “In customer experience management, my job is to guide the company in preventing hassles for customers and in maximizing value to customers.”
As you can see from these examples, CXM is not something that customer-facing staff take care of. It’s much more than digital or content marketing or touch-point management. It’s much more than encounters, interactions, experiential events and processes, or case-specific resolution. You may think employees in your organization already think like the second list shown above. Test it. Ask a sampling of employees what their role is, and listen carefully for the word “customer”.
Customer Experience Management is actually about centering everyone’s thinking on realities as customers see them, across their end-to-end process for selecting, getting and using the solutions they’re seeking.
Every manager, at every level and in every functional area, not only has fiduciary obligations and supervisory duties, but also responsibility for how decisions and deliverables contribute to customers’ propensity to buy and rebuy.
You may be wondering about the practicality of shifting everyone’s mindset to a customer experience excellence orientation for their roles and responsibilities. Here are some practical ways to do it:
- Capitalize on the fact that everyone wants their company to be well-liked.
- Leverage related corporate values and objectives to help everyone see customer experience excellence as the context for the business’ success, and in turn, for their career success.
- Show them how to re-write their job descriptions from this context.
- Stream relevant customer comments, from any source, to each department on a regular basis.
- Feature succinct customer experience stories (and not just testimonials) at every opportunity.
- Give every department their own cut of voice-of-the-customer data, with analysis of patterns, and show them how to create action plans that prevent recurrence of issues.
- Weave accountability for engagement in customer experience improvement and innovation into existing routines and processes.
- Begin every meeting and training session with the context of customer experience excellence.
- Revise performance reviews and recognition and incentive programs with the context of customer experience excellence – and not based on a survey score, but rather, on something employees do as part of their roles and responsibilities.
Every job has a stewardship to customers’ well-being. If not, why fund it?
Photo licensed to ClearAction Continuum from Shutterstock.