The experience and customer relationship are facing unprecedented media coverage. Companies have never had so many opportunities to understand and analyze the actions of their prospects and customers. However, strategic decisions in companies still take into account timidly the voice of customers. When it comes to arbitrating between short-term profitability and the development of customer value in the mid-term, the chair symbolizing the customer in some decision-making committees appears to remain empty...
A deep transformation seems essential for us to operate a sustainable differentiation.
« Customer Centric»: more than words!
The need for a real consideration of customer experience in these arbitrations has become critical for leading companies. A new type of competition, often - but not exclusively - coming from the digital economy, comes from entrepreneurs who have based their value proposition on the careful observation of customer irritants. The example is well known, but it is by fluidifying, simplifying and enriching the customer journey from beginning to end that Uber has been able to establish itself in the urban mobility market. No sector is protected from a radical disruption. Let us consider only the neo banks, streaming platforms, exchange services between individuals, these players keep a sharp attention on the Voice of the Customer in order to constantly adjust their value proposition and maintain their distinction.
The "consideration" at the core of the new relationship between the customer and the brand
The customer wants to participate, understand, act, share... He/she spontaneously establishes a relationship of equality with the brands. He or she wishes to be involved in the design of products and services. Consumption becomes a land of expression where the need for recognition is strong. The client expresses himself or herself on his/her reasons of satisfaction and disappointment to the whole community.
Consequently, companies must definitely adopt "consideration" in their Customer Relationship Management model and all its dimensions - with the customer, between managers and employees, between departments - based particularly on the listening to stakeholders and on co-construction.
Consideration and attentive service are the keys to customer trust and loyalty. But this consideration must be authentic with each client (and collaborator), i.e. aligning values, speeches, and actions in everyday situations.
This must be translated for a major group of services, for example, by:
- The recognition of the client, his or her personal history, projects at key moments in his or her life and his or her history with the company
- The recognition of the customer's good faith in the handling of complaints
- The recognition of seniority, loyalty and reward of the most loyal customers
- The adaptation of customer paths to all types of customers and in particular to those less experienced in the use of digital tools
- The consideration of customer opinions and feedback
- The listening of the Customer's Voice
- The participation of customers in the life of the brand and its innovations
“Where there is a will there's a way!”
The benefits of Customer Management are accessible to established leaders. They must "only" make greater efforts to make their organization, processes and information systems more fluid and support their employees in this transformation.
There are many examples of international players who already have embraced the change in customer experience. Companies, as diversified as Nespresso, Leroy Merlin AccorHotels, Orange, Allianz, and Nissan, are leading a deep transformation to take advantage of new Customer Management tools (data science, feedback management, social media, design thinking, open innovation, etc.) and create a rewarding experience.
Three key factors must be considered by companies wishing to give greater power to their customers in their strategic decisions :
1/ The impulse comes from the managers and they must set an example. In addition, to set the path, a company's Customer Management requires a strong and sustainable involvement of the top management. This can include the commitment of Voice of Customer’s representatives in Comex, the multiplication of field immersions or even the processing of customer interactions (an actor in aviation told us that directors commit themselves to respond to a few complaints every month). This exemplarity also requires greater transversality: customer irritants rarely match the boundaries of an organization, and there is a need to expand transversal initiatives with collegial sponsorship.
2/ Investments in customer experience’s improvement must be financially rewarded. Whatever our opinion, financial indicators are essential for the strategic management of companies. Even if it is strong, the conviction of the benefits of improving the customer experience must be accompanied by an ambition to enhance economic performance. Otherwise, the efforts made will be jeopardized at the slightest temporary dropout of the results. A few indicators are needed to include these ambitions in the planning exercises (budget, strategic plan, investment committee, etc.) and to monitor progress regularly. They also make it possible to involve all employees through incentive systems that reflect customer commitment. Several companies have developed tools to convert customer engagement measures (customer effort, recommendation, etc.) into tangible economic performance. These methods are not perfect but no less than any other forecast.
3/ Initiate a profound transformation that involves all employees. Adopting customer management requires changes at all levels of the organization, from employees who interact directly with the customer to central departments that define processes, standards, and mid-term objectives. To align all these elements, it is essential to make a long-term commitment, train and evaluate employees according to new objectives, adopt working methods that give a strong place to the voice of customers, for example before product and service developments, etc.
All the tools allowing the voice of customers to be considered in corporate strategy exist and have real maturity. All we have to do now is listen and act accordingly.
Article written by Vincent PLACER, Partner of Colorado, Consulting and Customer Voice division of the Comdata Group