This content ran previously on Forbes BrandVoice.
Step out of your job for a moment and become a customer. Select a company where you’ve been a loyal customer for several years. Think about the last time you hit their website, checked your account from your phone, or spoke with a customer service rep on the phone.
Did it feel seamless or just typical?
Now, put yourself in a situation when the stakes were high. There was an issue with a credit card charge. You needed to urgently change travel plans from the road. You needed to check the delivery status of an important order. Did seams and gaps start to show?
Now think about how one of your typical customers feels about their experience with your company. What’s your honest reaction about how they feel?
If your gut is feeling that your company could be doing better, you’re not alone.
In a Gartner survey, 89% of business leaders believe that customer experience will be their primary basis for competition by 2016.
The dissatisfaction economy?
“Nearly 70% of U.S. consumers reported an unsatisfactory service interaction during the past 12 months,” according to The Forrester Wave™ on customer service solutions for enterprises from Q2 2014.
That same report notes that only 3% of organizations are “extremely effective” at supporting omni-channel customer journeys that “start on one communication channel and move to another with a seamless handoff between channels so that customers don’t have to restart the conversation.”
An Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey is more bleak. It reports that 91% of customers are frustrated that a single issue requires multiple contacts to resolve; 89% are frustrated at having to repeat the same information to multiple employees or through multiple channels.
A Bain & Co. survey reports that customers are four times more likely to buy from a competitor as a result of a bad service experience. The Accenture Pulse finds that globally 66% of customers switched service providers due to poor customer service.
Don’t blame Uber, thank them
The reality is that today’s consumers know that there are better options out there. They don’t care if these companies grew up as digital natives without the complexity of global operations and legacy systems. They just know these experiences are “awesome.”
Jim Bush, EVP World Service at American Express, said in a speech that customers now measure their service experiences across industries.
“It’s no longer good enough to be the best in a particular industry, you need to be the best in the world, because the customer measures it, benchmarking their lifestyle and life experiences,” he said.
Uber is one of those companies on the high end of the scale. Uber is not awesome just because of its near-perfect app. It’s awesome because the organizational structure and processes behind that app are synced completely around the customer.
It starts by removing all the friction—all the “that’s the way its always been done” stuff that creates dreadful customer experience. You just tap for an Uber car, get to your destination and leave with the receipt neatly in your email. No hailing, no waiting to pay and no tiny paper receipt. It’s perfect. Today’s users are demanding perfect experiences.
Rising expectations crash into legacy realities
For years, I’ve worked with tech companies, digital start-ups and have led the digital marketing team at JP Morgan Chase. This means I’ve had the liberty of starting with a blank sheet of paper, but also that I’ve been tasked with managing the complexity of a global organization with rule-based business processes, legacy systems and strict regulatory environments. A challenge, to say the least.
There is no easy button. But it is easy for an enterprise to rationalize why things are as they are. Hard truth: customers are not going to wait for you.
Many enterprises still rely on traditional “customer of record” systems that run on mainframes. The downside to this is that there is so much new unstructured data, these systems cannot provide the speed and context today’s customers demand. While CRM systems can make this prettier, the functionality is still the same. It’s not transformative.
Given the velocity of market change, there is a certain lure to dressing up a broken process with a new app or a responsive website. The lure exists for listening to vendors who promise solutions in 3o days. While this may seem appealing, it’s a fail for the customers you are working to impress.
The real solution comes from connecting data, workflow and business processes across the enterprise – from digital marketing tools on the front-end to the customer service and operations core of the back-end of your enterprise. This end-to-end approach creates enterprise-level strategies that bring customer, business and technology needs together.
Teaching the enterprise to dance
Global companies are wrestling with similar issues every day. They don’t want to be Uber, Amazon or Zappos, but they do want to create their own frictionless experiences for the needs of their customers.
Here are some of their steps toward transforming their enterprises to deliver it.
- Customer ownership starts at the top. From the CEO down to executive steering committees, the emphasis on customer experience starts from the top. Increasingly, it is driven by specific customer relationship metrics. The global “Relationship Care®” work at American Express is remarkable in that by looking through the eyes of the customer they have created a dramatic shift to a customer care culture with a tripling of satisfaction scores.
- Think first customer, not customer first. Instead of a fragmented approach to customer experience, companies are increasingly assigning an oversight role for customer advocacy. Whether it’s a Chief Customer Officer, Chief Experience Officer or part of an expanded CMO role, the customer must have an advocate and a catalyst to keep the company honest. This is part of a new mindset to go beyond “customer-first” and to treat each customer as if she was your first customer.
- Step outside of your own walls. One can look across diverse industries from financial services, insurance and healthcare to telecommunications, to see how different organizations are approaching the similar customer experience challenges. Whether observing an elite enterprise in a different industry (Starwood, Singapore Airlines) or going straight into the belly of a digital disruptor (PayPal, Uber), outside ideas are invaluable.
- Ask your own customers. Put your big data to work on improving your own customer services. Too often, corporate analysts are rigidly assigned to product or financial groups. Free up a team to use your data on behalf of customers. Don’t just rely on data. Listen to real customers. When I was at Chase, teams spent hours listening to customer service calls. These insights were also invaluable.
The inflection point is here
Some companies say that we are in the middle of a customer “revolution” and are embracing this revolution with customer-driven organizational changes and strategies. But they are also embracing the reality of the enterprise-level complexity of making this happen across customer channels and across every operational part of their organization.
If asked, “Who owns the customer in your enterprise?” we expect the answer will simply be “everyone.”