We have all heard the tales of great customer service from companies like Nordstrom’s, Zappo’s and a few more; accepting returns on items they don’t even sell and random acts of customer delight like sending them flowers just to brighten their day.
There are many great stories of great customer service and great service oriented companies behind those stories. In today’s easy access, quick ship and global retailing reach, customers have choices. We all have competitors and in the odd cases where we do not, customers have the choice to not buy anything.
Despite these legendary tales of service, customer “service” is dying a slow and painful death. Slow because leaders can’t let it go and painful for the customers who suffer through poor service interactions. Death or maybe just life support is eminent for many brands. Think about the many businesses who have closed or been significantly impacted by not meeting their customers’ service and other needs. Just look at your local mall’s empty store fronts.
Many brands whether retail, technology, or service based are losing sight of caring for their customer in the wake of day-to-day operations of their business (now that’s ironic) or caring more about what will eventually become a shrinking or unmaximized bottom line. But there is hope. There is a new frontier of customer care in some enlightened organizations. Customer service is having a funeral while customer experience is being born.
What’s the difference? Customer service is about an interaction that occurs between your associate and your customers—a transaction. It might be over the phone, in person, via email or even online. Get it right and you might even leave a positive impression. But is it a lasting one?
A customer service focus is about the transaction; the few moments or minutes of an interaction between an associate and a customer. Those on the forefront and cutting edge of customer care are focuses on the customer experience, the totality of customer’s engagement with your brand from the moment of purchase exploration for the duration of their relationship with your brand and how they feel about that relationship.
"This first key fundamental of CX, executive attitude, is the first hurdle of great CX in an organization"
There are many components to moving from customer service to customer experience and most of them happen long before the customer enters your business, your website or purchases a service. In fact, many of the components of customer experience are areas of science and study on their own—where many experts are needed for success.
Before you can delve into a strategy of becoming a CX leader, however, there is a need to critically examine several key fundamentals of your business.
• What is the executive attitude (and action) around customer care?
• Are customers the route of all that you do?
• Are associates at all levels a key, engaged resource?
• Do you measure outcomes of your service to your associates and customers?
• Are you focused on continuous improvement?
Let’s start at the first and most critical area in becoming a CX leader, executive attitude. This fundamental is the critical foundation to a successful CX culture. We have all heard senior leaders speak of customer-centricity and creating value for the customer in order to earn their lifetime loyalty. A recent study from Booz & Company found that the key differences between companies with winning customer-centric efforts and those not, were centered in the boardroom. They included an executive predisposition for process and culture change, a clear and communicated leadership vision that is focused on the customer that is backed by strong leadership skills, clearly defined goals for the business and customer results, an open leadership style that breaks down functional boundaries and that responds and reacts to customer feedback.
Executive attitude drives company culture and culture is stronger than any other business driver. Dynamic and engaged leadership that lives the values of the brand and demands that other do so by empowering them and holding them responsible and accountable demonstrate the central element of a CX leading executive attitude.
Executives must celebrate their associates success and more importantly their failures from which much is learned, communicate to share the good and the bad, be transparent at all levels on all company matters, and constantly share the brand story. If leaders don’t communicate and tell the story, associates will make up their own story which will be far worse than the truth.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly a leading executive attitude invests heavily in the development of all of its associates. How can you expect them to invest in their customer relationships when you are not investing in them?
This first key fundamental of CX, executive attitude, is the first hurdle of great CX in an organization. Are you ready to jump?