Ten years later I still clearly remember a customer forum that transformed how I approached Customer Experience. The setting was a typical customer Journey Mapping session that I was co-leading. Customers gathered around large whiteboards with the customer journey stages, the obligatory pile of empty coffee cups, yellow sticky notes dotted the white boards reflecting specifics on good and bad customer experiences, and the oh-so-valuable “parking lot” of customer ideas how critical journey stages could be improved.
We were about to move on from a category on how the legal team interacted with customers. At once, several customers stated that the contracting process was “too slow”.
I looked over the spread of customers and asked for a show of hands, “How many think the contracting process is too slow?” About 2/3rds of the hands went up. “Next question”, I followed up, “how long should the contracting process take?” Then, depending on the persona of the customer answering the question, I received back responses ranging from 18 hours to 7 days. Alarm bells and fireworks – a critical area to improve the CX had been identified as well as the customer’s required service level. This was also another reminder that even customers that appear similar often have different requirements.
Great Customer experience is not the same experience for every customer. When I grew up in Minnesota, I delivered newspapers to homes and small businesses. One of the key requirements to be a great newspaper delivery person was to memorize where each person wanted their daily paper ranging from the front porch to underneath the doormat. In today’s CX world, employees need to understand that different customers have different requirements with the identical customer facing functions. Organizational functions from delivery, billing, customer service, sales, contracting, and ordering must understand that different customer requirements are not problems but opportunities to grow customer retention.
Five Key Steps to Integrate Voice of the Customer (VoC) Performance Expectations Within the CX Organization
- Conduct VoC Listening Sessions and Journey Mapping Activities with an Eye to Identify Precise Customer Performance Expectations. Customer Journey Mapping sessions have greater value than only understanding how the customer interacts with the organization. Critical customer insight occurs when the VoC interacts and illustrates with concrete examples the bad, so-so, and good of the customer journey. Having the customer clearly define what makes a journey stage successful and illustrating success with specific metrics creates VoC generated insight is a key and central staple of creating great CX.
- Understand Different Personas May & Often Do Have Different Performance Expectations for the Same Customer Facing Activity. Personas are fictional representations of customer archetypes designed to help your team understand how the brand can best meet individual needs. In the prior contracting example, different customer personas had a different standard of acceptable customer performance for the identical customer facing task. Creating VoC insight surrounding unique persona requirements will further strengthen delivered CX. In the newspaper delivery world, delivering the newspaper was not enough to be successful. The newspaper had to be at the precise location on the customer’s doorstep as the customer requested.
- Incorporate Customer Performance Expectations to Improve the Employee Experience. One of the great challenges for employees occurs when leaders extol them to “work harder for the customer” or “improve customer experience”. Employees want to deliver great CX, but employees struggle with “how” to deliver great CX when they do not know the customer’s expectations. Capturing customer performance standards by persona along salient stages of the customer journey creates a rich, available, and immediate data source to guide employees how to deliver great CX.
- Report Back to Customers How You Performed Against Their Expectations. VoC sessions, customer forums, and journey mapping sessions are difficult and often exhausting work for customers. Yet, repeatedly, customers volunteer, guide, and aid organizations in their CX efforts. The best way organizations can report back to customers is to prove how the organization is performing, and improving, using the precise metrics the VoC sessions discovered. As a customer, an organization that listens, adapts their behavior to my expectations, and then shows me how they performed is an organization with a passion for CX.
- Continue to Listen to VoC Feedback – Expectations Change! VoC is an ongoing, vital, and never-ending process. Customers gain new requirements, journey stages increase and decrease in importance, and the customer’s customer expectations also change which may drive a change in the customer journey. Some organizations have discovered immense success with semi-annual customer forums that consistently track and discuss where the CX can be improved. Constantly looking to listen, understand, define, track, deliver and demonstrate value to the customer is an enduring aspect of great CX.
Great CX begins and ends with listening to the customer and placing the customer’s expectations at the center of the organization. Organizations that listen and define customer expectations for customer facing processes take a critical step to simultaneously elevate their delivered customer experience and integrate the customer’s standards of performance into employee experience that delivers customer success.