By Kristy Schaffler, Director of Customer Experience, California, Comcast
I applaud any business that focuses on delighting its customers. These organizations are clearly on the side of the angels and sure to reap big rewards down the line. Good customer experience (CX) makes someone five times more likely to recommend a company and more likely to make a future purchase.
But, as much as I love hearing companies pledge “to putting the customer first,” I also know how hard it is to put this sentiment into practice. Creating a corporate culture that delivers an amazing customer experience doesn’t only mean offering good products or staffing responsive contact centers. It involves a shared commitment, where everyone rolls up their sleeves and takes responsibility for backing up these high-sounding phrases with actions.
This clearly is a big job. But don’t be put off by what’s involved; one by one, you can put the pieces in place that provide a solid underpinning to build upon. Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved.
You won’t be able to build a customer-focused organization without employee support – which is why the cultivation of a customer-centric culture must start at the top before it can filter down to the rest of the organization.
The most successful companies are run by managers who get their teams to rally to their side when it comes to CX. At Comcast, for example, one of our senior executives, President and CEO Dave Watson, actually builds time into his day to take customer support calls. He says getting direct customer feedback is invaluable, and he’s right. When you have that level of support coming from a high-level executive, it sets an example for others in the organization. You need the right governance and leadership so that everyone buys into the bigger picture. It’s not a “call center initiative” or a “marketing initiative.” This cuts across the entire company.
Customer-Friendly, not Customer Confusing
If users are confused or encounter difficulty using the product in the way you think they should, who’s really at fault?
Digital analyst and anthropologist Brian Solis, who spoke at Comcast’s recent CX Innovation Day, makes an excellent point when he cautioned that innovation could lead to complications. For instance, 50 years ago, a TV remote was simple enough to understand and use. But the user interface has since significantly advanced, reaching the point where today’s remotes have an average of 70 buttons. Fair to say that most consumers’ relationships with their remote control is anything but a love affair.
In the past, customers would tell us, “I have all this streaming content. Can you just tell me what I have?” They often didn’t know what was available on their services. So, we developed a voice-activated remote control that allowed users to find what they wanted faster by using voice commands to change channels, search for shows, get recommendations, or discover what song is playing on their TV screen. This helped them personalize whatever services they subscribed to and more easily navigate through this vast ocean of content.
Simply put, technology shouldn’t get in the way. When designing new products and features, make sure the products work the way customers expect them to work. If you fail that litmus test, then you’re not doing your job.
Outside-In Approach to Operations
Always think about CX through the lens of the customer. Surprisingly, that’s not always standard procedure. Remember, every customer interaction leaves a lasting impression. A user’s “experience” doesn’t end at any particular touchpoint. Rather, it’s the sum of all his/her touchpoints. Tracking the user journey at every stop helps you understand the pain points and where to improve. It’s also the only way to really know whether your processes and systems are helping or hurting.
An added bonus: Incorporating feedback from all those user interactions over the lifetime of that relationship – dealing with a gamut of feelings, emotions and perceptions – will help improve the chances that your customers will view your company favorably and become loyal advocates.
Who’s Staffing Your Front Lines?
A big part of building a great culture around CX hinges upon the success of the employee experience. We’re talking about the folks who are on the front line of your customer interactions. Employee engagement drives customer experience. But if employees aren’t adequately serving customers – for whatever reason ranging from lack of training and poor morale to high turnover or bureaucratic blockages – customer experience is going to suffer.
At Comcast, we learned this lesson the hard way. Years ago, we were haunted by complaints about poor customer service. But we worked hard to change that. Today, our investment in a customer-focused workforce has paid off, and we are now proud to be one of the top 10 best places to work in the Bay Area for six years running.
Part of our success also reflects our embrace of a new way of innovation, one based on understanding the needs of the mobile-first customer. That’s why Solis described Comcast as “a pioneer in what customer experience needs to be.” We recognized the importance of innovation for the sake of pushing the customer experience forward and changing customer behaviors in a way that’s going to create a new standard for experiences.
CX is a long-haul endeavor. While your game plan should incorporate all of the above, don’t forget to keep your ears to the ground.
Listening is the only way you’re going to uncover customer problems so that you can address issues and build better solutions, as market needs change. It also enhances the feedback loop that feeds customer input to the development team. And rest assured, change is a foregone conclusion. The customer experience today will likely bear little resemblance to the customer experience a decade from now. Just recall that television took about 75 years to get to 50 million users whereas Angry Birds got there in a single month.
So, commit to feedback and then act on it, leaving time in the schedule to incorporate those valuable customer inputs, no matter where you are in the development cycle. It takes a concerted effort to lay down the foundational elements that are prerequisites to fostering a successful, if not transformative CX. But over time, as those myriad values and commitments are woven into the operation, your CX culture is guaranteed to put you in the pole position to do great things.