Driving Growth through Customer Experience


A study undertaken by Institute of Customer experience  found that those organisations with an excellent reputation in their customers' eyes demonstrated a 72% increase in profit per employee on a like for like basis compared to those companies with a poor reputation. They also produced a higher net margin and a higher return on total assets.

There is ample research that demonstrates that outstanding service leads to enhanced profits and growth. Allan Leighton, chairman of the Royal Mail says: "The test of legendary customer experience is: do your sales go up? Sales are the biggest measure of customer experience."

In this article customer care specialist Sarah Cook looks at what it takes to become a customer-centric organisation.

It is many businesses' ambition to create a culture where individuals want to and do provide an excellent service. Yet our research shows that only a few organisations truly succeed in this aim. Creating a customer-centric business is a long-term process that requires persistence and commitment. It is not enough to provide training in customer care skills to staff. A customer experience ethic needs to be present in every aspect of how the organization does its business.

The following diagram shows what needs to be in place to create a climate of service excellence.

Customer satisfaction and retention as a key business imperative

Those companies that are truly customer-focused ensure that everyone knows that ensuring customer are satisfied and keeping customers loyal is fundamental to the health of the business. In order to sustain long term growth this is as if not more important than improving margins and reducing costs.

Top team clarity

Leaders have a responsibility for communicating the importance of customer care to all employees. It is helpful for leaders in a business to share with everyone their vision for the future of the company and the values that are important for everyone to demonstrate. If, however, leaders say one thing and do another, the customer service message is likely to become diluted. Employees can soon become cynical if they see their leaders' words as empty. If leaders are not passionate about service, it is highly likely that their employees will not be either.

Customer measurement

Truly customer-focused organisations listen to the voice of the customer. They regularly measure customer satisfaction and disseminate the results of the feedback to their employees. They track customer satisfaction both externally and internally. The quality of the service internal departments provides each other is often indicative of the quality of external customer experience.

Asking for feedback from customers within the organisation is important. Like external customer measurement, internal measurement can take place via face to face interviews, customer focus groups, email, postal and telephone questionnaires. Many organisations also conduct employee attitude surveys to gauge the motivation of their employees. This is a useful way of identifying and implementing areas for improvement.

Service quality goals

Customer and employee satisfaction surveys help businesses set service quality goals so that employees have targets to aim for. Many companies link employee bonuses to the attainment of customer satisfaction levels as this helps highlight the importance of customer experience.

Customer driven processes

Another method of creating a customer focus is looking at the processes your organization adopts from a customer's perspective. How easy is your company to do business with?  Mapping the steps in a process can help identify blockages to excellent customer experience such as time delays or lengthy approval procedures. It is helpful if each department sets standards for the service it provides so that the customer receives a consistent service that meets their needs. These can be set around areas of importance to the customer such as telephone response, response times to emails, complaints etc.

People development

Best practice customer service organisations provide training in customer service skills, attitudes and behaviours. They coach and develop their service leaders as well as their team members.

Communication, reward and recognition

Successful service organisations talk customer at every opportunity. They put customer experience on all their meeting agendas. They recognise and reward individuals who go out of their way to provide excellent service.

Sustaining a customer focus

Best practice companies do not see customer experience as a one-off 'campaign' or 'initiative'. For them customer care is a way of life, it is part of the culture of the organisation. These businesses continually measure and monitor customer satisfaction and benchmark themselves against the competition. They ensure that improvements are made in the levels of service that they give on an on-going basis. After all, customer expectations are constantly increasing. What is best practice today will not be so in the future.

How customer-centric is your business? We hope that this article will encourage you to assess how service-orientated your organisation is and where you need to improve.

Sarah Cookis Managing Director of The Stairway Consultancy. She is author of 'Customer Care Excellence' published by Kogan Page. Sarah can be contacted on info@thestairway.co.uk

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