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8/10/2018: The Right Approach to Customer Experience Management – Part 1

Most business people will be aware of the topic of Customer Experience Management. Many organisations claim nowadays to have people and programmes focussed on it. But it appears, at least to me, that many of these organisations have simply changed the name of their old Customer Service people and programmes, and done little or nothing more. This is not the right approach for success and it means they have not only misunderstood what Customer Experience Management actually is, but they are also missing out on a major opportunity to improve their business performance and results. 

Peter Drucker explained how there is a big difference between doing things right and doing the right things. And the more right you get at doing the wrong things, the more wrong you become. So I’m focussing this paper on explaining what I believe are the important ‘right’ things that are necessary to make a success of Customer Experience Management. 

Right Purpose

In his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ Stephen Covey suggests we should always ‘begin with the end in mind’. So with the right end in mind, I will begin by providing a view on what is or should be the core ‘purpose’ of Customer Experience Management. I think it is to:

‘Create the Desired Customer Behaviour’

What I mean is that done well, with the right the tools and techniques, Customer Experience Management will help us learn and practice how to act now, so as to cause our customers to behave now and in the future the way we want them to. In most cases this means making them more loyal to us and less to our competitors. 

Right People

Some people have a natural ability (a talent or flair) to deliver great service; some don’t. And it’s really hard (many would say impossible) the get a person with the wrong character or personality to behave the right way. It therefore makes good sense, and business life much easier, if the real effort when recruiting new people is focussed on finding the ones with that natural service ability. This means it will take longer to find the right ones (there are fewer of them) but it also means that they will be easier to train and manage, and they are more likely to be happier and so stay longer in the job. 

This means focussing on that well know but rarely followed mantra; "Hire for attitude – Train for skill.” And this requires you to devise some way of assessing a person’s character during the selection process, (perhaps by using a psychometric test devised specifically for that purpose).

Right Environment

People rarely change their personality to suit the environment they find themselves in; instead they change their environment to find one that suits their personality. This means there’s little point in taking the trouble to make sure you start by selecting the right people, with the right natural personality, if you don’t then put them in the right environment for their personality. 

So if you hire people that have a natural flair for delivering high service to customers, they need to be in an environment that encourages, delivers and supports the delivery of high service to them.

Right Focus

To create the right behaviours, we need to provide the right focus for peoples’ activities. This also something that I think it can be expressed simply: -

We need to do less of what customers don’t want and/or won’t like, and more of they do want and/or will like.

But like many things in business, this is easier said than done. The phrase ‘We don’t know what we don’t know’ applies here. So customers are unlikely to be able to tell us they would like something they have no experience of. This means that although customer/market research helps, this is rarely enough to find all the things that will create the real differentiation and competitive advantage needed. What we’re more likely to discover is how to catch up with what others are doing; which won’t put us in the lead position!

For example – 

  • Nobody knew they needed bits of yellow paper that don’t stick very well until they learned how useful they are.
  • Henry Ford is reputed to have said, "If we’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse and cart”.
  • Virgin Upper Class customers didn’t ask for in-flight massages but once they were introduced they became so popular that if you didn’t pre-book one you probably wouldn't get one.

This means that some experimentation with different ideas is usually needed. But experimentation requires ‘trial and error’; and there is likely to be much more error than success in any trial. We must therefore ensure we are prepared to accept many false starts and wrong outcomes... but still keep trying. (to be continued)

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