Customers looking to buy goods and services in the digital age encounter a wide range of businesses and channels. This abundance gives customers more choice and makes it more complex than ever for companies to deliver great experiences throughout their journeys. Forrester research for Canon suggests firms must prioritise the customer experience in the modern, competitive marketplace.
What is the key to cultivating loyal customers in this multi-channel environment? Forrester research for Canon suggests there is only one answer: firms must prioritise the customer experience. That approach requires a three-pronged attack that covers delivery, alignment and flexibility.
The good news, according to the research, is that as many as 57 per cent of companies already recognise that customer satisfaction is a key metric for measuring multi-channel success. Beyond that, organisations must understand how they will: deliver and improve customer experience over time; align internal processes with customer demands; and create a flexible approach to manage customer experience as those requirements flex.
In terms of delivery, organisations need to understand how they will provide a great experience. An assessment of a firm’s current state of customer experience is a good starting point. However, the delivery of a great experience is an on-going battle. Executives should assess customer experience in terms of both current perceptions and the readiness of the firm to manage improvements at critical times. Customer experience is not a static concept and treating it as an unmoveable ‘target’ is unworkable in the long run. But a continual re-setting of goals can help the business and its customers to have a much more enjoyable journey.
Such goal setting should be closely related to the alignment of internal processes, the second prong of attack for delivering great experiences in the age of the customer. Forrester’s research suggests that given its significance for business success, no single department owns the customer experience. Marketing for example, can be responsible for implementing new communications tools, while IT identifies solutions. Sadly, in many firms, the lack of alignment across the organisational siloes that influence customer experiences is a shortcut to failure, because without a fully joined-up vision that is consistent across all facets of the business, the policy will be incomplete.
Experience-focused firms understand the demands of customers in fine detail, and then align internal processes with client requirements. These successful firms build structures, such as steering committees, cross-functional teams and centres of excellence to ensure that people and processes are focused on the customer journey as a whole, rather than on the objectives of discrete siloes.
The final prong of a great customer experience covers flexibility. To continue being effective over time, firms need processes for creating and adjusting goals and rewards that are flexible enough to take account of new insights or changes in the business. The aim, suggests Forrester, should be to avoid lockdown governance.
Firms should see governance as a way to enable innovation, rather than as a rigid regime. Executives should build structures that allow the business to call on all stakeholders, including employees, partners and customers for a 360 degree view of the business.
The complexity of service delivery in the age of the customer can seem a daunting prospect, as companies face choices across so many emerging technologies. But by always focusing on the small details of a great experience, companies can prosper today and in the future.