The future success of your company rests to a great extent on the strength of your customer experience. 

Most companies recognize this fact. So given that customer experience is critical for business success, why do organizations postpone making improvements that can result in dramatic benefits?

While every organization is unique in its competitive environment, culture and information technology capabilities, adopting a holistic customer-centric perspective ensures that programs will deliver the changes that improve the overall customer experience. 

The following proven techniques enable change and deliver results:

Start with the End in Mind

Businesses don't always agree on what success looks like — how do you know when you met the target? Every department and job function touching the customer experience may have their own perspective on what spells successful customer experience. 

But your initiative will never succeed unless you reach some alignment.

Establish a common understanding and agreement on what will be measured at each touch-point along the customer journey at the start.

Organizations that lack common and agreed upon metrics often struggle because of politics. Each department wants to look like a hero, and without a unified, common set of metrics, the focus of one function may not align with other functions. In the end the customer experience feels inconsistent and falls short of what is possible.

Action Item: Identify, define and agree on the metrics you'll measure before attempting to make changes to the people, processes or tools involved. (Note: if you have metrics in place gather and review them to make sure they're aligned with and will result in an improved customer experience.)

Simplify Before Automating

Most businesses focus on cost-containment as a lever to improve bottom-line performance and turn to IT automation as a method to reduce or eliminate labor costs. Profitability is often the primary goal in many organizations, even those with “triple bottom line” metrics.

An overzealous focus on cost reduction may result in leaping into automation too early. Automating processes is costly, resource intensive and may meet resistance from staff required to use new tools. 

When looking for automation solutions, remember that leading applications are built with flexibility in mind. And flexibility is an asset. However, flexibility can become a double-edged sword. 

Companies who believe the promise of finding one solution to address all of their requirements can lead to a “hammer looking for a nail” scenario. The flexibility may make the software capable of performing a variety of tasks, yet in some cases it won't perform all of the tasks well.

Action Item: Achieving the optimal business outcome requires balancing the three elements of people, processes and technology. To achieve this balance, start by designing the processes on paper. Conduct structured walkthroughs with the people responsible for executing the process with the goal of streamlining and simplifying. Once you've established the simplified process, develop automation requirements and select the best-fit tools to achieve the goals.

Utilize a 'Land and Expand' Approach to Deployment

Implementing new processes and tools often carries high-risks. Studies show that over 60 percent of programs fail to meet the targeted business returns. When implementing programs to deliver improvements it’s a best-known-method (BKM) to utilize risk mitigation and management techniques.

An effective means of reducing risks during deployment is to implement a pilot with plans to expand as the processes and tools are ruggedized, proven and ready to scale. Piloting new processes and tools comes in several variations: a pilot may be a specific geographic area, or a selected segment of customers or select team within the organization.

Action Item: Regardless of the variant used to pilot new processes and tools, a few common, key actions can help ensure success. These include: establish a duration for the pilot (two weeks, one month, etc.), determine go/no-go criteria. The criteria enable the team to determine if the pilot should be expanded or needs further break-in efforts. Also, be sure to celebrate small wins with the team during the pilot — a critical aspect of any program is team buy-in and engagement. Celebrating wins helps build momentum and breeds success.

Road to Customer Experience Improvement

Improving customer experience is a never-ending journey. It’s an exercise in continuous improvement, lessons learned and expanding business capabilities. The payoff of giving customer’s a positive overall experience yield compounding dividends, including free word-of-mouth marketing, increased repeat sales and greater brand loyalty among other benefits. 

What are your thoughts? What lessons have you learned in improving your customers experiences? Do you have ideas to help build a better mouse-trap for delivering customer delight?

Title image Morgan Sessions