We make our cars in any colour the customer wants. As long as it’s black.
This memorable saying by car manufacturer Henry Ford is unthinkable in today’s world. In the age of the internet, where transparency is king, the greatest ambition of many firms is actually to keep each individual customer satisfied and loyal. Because of this, companies are faced with the considerable challenge of making the shift to personal customer focus. The solution to this is to create multidisciplinary chain teams, chain–linked KPIs, and data-driven customer journeys.
Everything is becoming increasingly transparent, everything now revolves around the service experience, and on top of all that, customers are becoming more and more empowered on digital platforms. Customers who shop with Coolblue are now expecting the same standard of service from organisations such as banks and local councils. It’s clear to see that companies are feeling an increasing need to become more radical about ensuring customer focus.
Many firms are also now becoming aware that they have unwittingly only been making black cars – both in terms of the products and the kind of customer experience that they offer. For instance, they often only offer a single type of service, in a single type of way. And when they try to catch up, we see an awful lot of things that tend to go wrong. Here are three things that you really must NOT do if you want your company to truly become more customer-focused:
1. Become totally obsessed by touchpoints
We see that lots of companies focus on touchpoints, the contact moments of the customer with your company, in order to look at how they can become more customer-focused at these moments. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to ensure that a telephone call or a visit to the website goes as well as it possibly can. But if you only zoom in on touchpoints, you forget that a customer experience is more of a journey than a sum of individual touchpoints. However good a telephone conversation may be in itself, if it’s the fifth time that the customer has to call you, they will never be truly satisfied.
That’s why it’s better to zoom out and take a more holistic perspective by regarding the customer journey as a whole and optimising it as such. The first step that you could take in this direction is to stop thinking in terms of separate entities such as marketing, finance and the call centre. Instead, allow a team to work together to ensure that the customer journey works as successfully as possible in its entirety.
2. Only look at the obvious customer journey
By now, you will have zoomed out so as to capture the whole customer journey within your field of vision. But now you’re making the second error that so many people are guilty of: you’re focusing on a single, hypothetical customer journey, instead of trying to capture and analyse all the different journeys that are possible. Often the one you tend to focus on is the ‘happy journey’, in which everything goes as you would expect, whereas in reality there may be lots of unexpected twists and turns. A real customer often takes lots of steps before buying something from you. And all of these steps can almost never be captured in a beautifully polished flow chart. The various steps within the customer journey are often taken several times, and each customer has their own preferences in how they go through the journey. One customer may only wish to make one phone call, whereas another may perhaps first consult the website, then contact you by telephone, and then take another look at the website in order to compare prices or for another reason. Fortunately, these days you can apply smart analytics in order to follow and analyse customers’ actual behaviour. Web analytics and process mining are examples of good, accessible techniques for achieving this. And the beauty of these is that a large amount of the necessary data is already available within nearly every organisation.
3. Go on a diet instead of changing your behaviour
Finally, if you look at how organisations approach these changes, we come up against a third commonly-made mistake. The main problem here is that huge, compelling change pathways are often unsustainable. You can compare them to a diet: someone who has to follow a strict diet for months on end may perhaps achieve their target weight in the short term, but you often see that they end up back at their old weight before long. The only thing that truly works is a sustainable, fundamental change in behaviour. Within organisations, this is often a process that takes years and never gets completed.
A short, sharp stimulus could of course help your company to make the necessary changes in the short term (which may well be necessary too), but if you really want to see long-lasting improvements, you’ll have to build these into your daily routine. For instance, in the form of small, everyday habits that ensure you can help your customers a bit better each time, such as by starting each day or each week in a certain way, by organising analysis moments, or by using gamification. Understanding customers and learning how to think along with them must always be the central focus. And we have a new ability that teams should use to fulfil each customer’s personal needs: advanced customer journey analytics.
Mapping and analysing a customer journey is just the start. The trick is to embed the knowledge generation and the improvement measures that follow on from this into your team’s normal routine. This way, you build habits and stimuli for continually acting according to customer needs into the whole structure of your organisation. And that’s a much more drastic change than any individual training course or reorganisation.