For many companies, saying they want to deliver great customer experiences and actually investing in them are two different things. Often, getting approval for the budget to spend on strategies and technologies to enable optimal customer experiences can be a complex and arduous process, involving the careful orchestration of business models, customer input, and C-level commitment.
This means that management looking to get approvals to enter into a customer experience improvement program must go in front of their boards and C-level executives to get their sanction. But that’s often where it ends, and without budget and authority, a customer experience project has no legs. Here are four imperatives for getting leaders to see the value in your plan and to allocate budget for it.
1. Understand the problem. A problem that is clearly defined is half-solved. Defining the problem means identifying the gap between the current situation and the desired one. One method for understanding the exact problems that affect the customer experience is through a customer experience audit. Customer experience is a crucial component of meeting customer needs. Determining if customers are satisfied or disappointed in the delivery of anything that touches the customer experience can shed light on a company’s performance of how it engages with customers across the organization. By conducting an audit and asking customers questions such as, “What channels do you use to interact with the brand?” and “How do specific communications lead to sales?” can help companies determine which channels to support, how customer experience impacts their businesses fiscally, and the cost to serve customers. After the audit, a company can then focus on the points considered most important to customers and valuable to the bottom line.
2. Start with a small pilot. Quite often, technology and strategy improvements and investments are made without any measurement either before or after the change was introduced. Therefore, how do we know if the outcome was better or worse? Without the data and metrics to back up the deployment, interpretation is problematic. I recommend conducting a holistic pilot on a small scale— localize it to a small area where it won’t hurt your business if it has a negative reaction, but where you can gain data points. Routinely measure and monitor that project to determine if the solution generated the outcome it was intended to achieve and if it had any effect on the desired performance. Also take note if the users had difficulty using the solution or going through the process, and if the project changed customers’ or employees’ behaviors. With this data in hand, you will have the confidence to report the achieved results and hopefully get consensus on investing in your plan.
3. Be bold and be experimental. Your customers have more choices than ever before so if your business isn’t wowing customers each time they interact with your brand and engaging with them in personalized and targeted ways, you risk losing them to the competition. Companies need to break new norms. Therefore, their approaches to customer experience must be dramatically different and at the forefront of customers’ minds. To get the attention of executives, your strategy and plan should include iconic moments, show that it will create consistencies across all customer channels, leverage the new digital and mobile capabilities where applicable, and create alignment of the organization around the customer experience and integration of departments and data where necessary.
4. If the results are impressive, use them to transform your company. With the results in hand and buy-in from executives, it’s time to get all employees around this customer experience project. With the proper top-down communication delivered to employees in the channels that they use most, layered with regular training and even simulation exercises, your organization will quickly rally around your new strategy and solution. The added bonus will come when employees start to transform the way your company treats and delivers the customer experience. Soon, your company will be a true customer-centric organization where everyone inside has a thorough understanding of customer expectations and are using the tools and capabilities available to them to help facilitate positive customer experiences and make a difference on a continuous basis.