These tactics form part of a tactic tipsheet that you can download here. In the further 7 points, we explain the what, who, and when behind prioritizing the customer. In the download, this content is all on one digestible and sharable page.
As customer champions, we inherently understand the value of the customer's experience.
Customers are core to any business and the happier they are, the more they spend over time. Besides, a customer is a real person, they chose us because of the expectations we set. We owe it to them to deliver on those expectations and 'brand promises'.
Alas, these points aren't always clear to the wider business.
The success of some teams is dependent on their close customer relationships. Customer service and experience teams are, by their nature, in tune with customer needs.
But, other teams are 'further away' from the customer and are less connected to their impact on them. The finance team processing a refund isn't always aware of the impact of a 30-day delay. The customer service team sees that pain acutely.
Proximity to the customer doesn’t answer all of this. Some companies still downright lack empathy for their customer. One classic case is the rise of hiding the ‘contact us’ button deeply behind 100 helpful articles that might answer your question.
Despite continued faux pas like this one, businesses have come a long way. Customer service is being elevated and seen for its strategic value, and in the last 10 years we saw the professionalisation of the ‘customer experience manager’ role.
There's also now lots of research that links customer happiness to better profits. That research did wonders in convincing money hungry execs that service & experience projects are worthy investments.
But, still there is work to do. Together with some members of our community at SentiSum, we’ve outlined tactics you can use to fight this good fight.
Making change like this is always incremental. It takes a lot of careful effort and an in-depth understanding of how other teams think, work and prioritize.
Here are four major tactics (with a total of 10 tactics within). You can also download a tipsheet that summarizes this article in one page by clicking the frog below.
It’s time to drop the buzzwords: NPS, CSAT, CES, QA, escalation, and so on. Acronyms make the work of the customer service and experience professional abstract.
If you want to cement customer support as a core or to weave customer insights into all decisions, the value needs to be clearly understood. Key stakeholders need to get the powerful role you have in driving revenue, loyalty and continuous improvement.
How do you flip the mindset of those that matter?
Here’s three tried and testing techniques:
"The people making the decisions need to understand that customer service is the only pure route to what's actually going on with your customer." Alice Godfrey, Founder, Bloomic
Alice Godfrey suggests making a Google Hangout or Zoom call that is viewing portal to the work of one customer support agent.
For example, every week between 2:00-4:00pm on a Tuesday you could set up a computer and have one of the advisors sit and take calls as normal.
Encourage everyone in your organisation to attend, on mute, so they can listen first hand to the customer-agent interaction.
Hearing customer conversations first hand is a powerful way for marketing and product professionals in particular to generate ideas for their roadmap. It’ll also show off the work of a support agent so they feel appreciated and empowered.
Go one step further than a video call by bringing in your organisation's leadership team once a month to take customer support queries. Even if only for an hour or two a month, it sets the tone that customers should be appreciated, given time and learned from.
Companies worldwide are starting to incorporate customer service in the onboarding processes.
For example, every new Pret a Manger (the British high street sandwich chain) team member spends their first week working in-store.
“I spent my first week of Pret in my local shop and it's incredible to see what our baristas can do. I was amazed the first day I worked on the register and there would be people walking through the door. And by the time the customer got to the checkout, their drink had already been made. Our baristas have this phenomenal memory for each customer's favourite orders. And it is such an incredible experience.
It's what makes Pret, Pret. It's part of our fun, it's part of our experience, and it's part of the kinds of relationships that our staff build with our customers.” Ed Deason, Head of Customer Service, Pret a Manger.
Having every new employee work start off working with customers sets a great precedent. Everyone sees your product in use by a real, tangible customer, which ultimately connects their work to impact.
Customer experience and support teams often feel hard done by. No one seems to understand their value and they’re overlooked for project investment.
As customer support leaders, we must not lose sight of the fact that just because we are convinced of the value of customer experience it doesn't mean that others are, too. As it comes around to picking projects for next year, selling the value of customer satisfaction and is vital to getting the budget.
Adam Ginty, Head of Customer Experience at UBL, notes that
‘projects that have a direct link to revenue tend to get prioritized’ and that the ‘challenge for CX leaders is to demonstrate how our projects can add, enhance or drive those metrics’.
Especially when you're vying for budget, it's critical that you talk the same language as the rest of the business: revenue.
Other departments must link their outcomes to the business bottom line, and so should we.
If you can tie an increase in CSAT or NPS to business outcomes (cost to serve; lifetime value, etc), you help decision-makers to internalise the value of your project.
“When I start talking about let's raise our NPS or CSAT, what will happen is that nobody will ever say "I don't care". Nobody ever says that. We all know that we want to improve it. But when it really comes time to make hard financial decisions, when our leaders are looking at the 100 proposed projects and 90 of them have a hard ROI associated with them, and I show up and say, "Hey, we should do this to improve net promoter score", I will typically lose." Augie Ray, VP Analyst, Gartner
You can go further than linking customer service improvement projects to revenue.
If you want to get your points heard, find out what decisions makers at each organisational level care about and show how your project improves that.
Adam notes that “as CX Leaders, it is important to establish a business case that addresses the needs of various levels of decision-maker in the process. For first line, it should focus on how the initiative can improve service delivery or strengthen customer relationships. At Executive Committee Level, how it can deliver to the bottom line. And to the Board, how it will deliver on the long term strategy of the business.”
Nicholas Zeisler, suggests that you tap into ‘brand promise’ alignment to support your argument.
“Move away from promises of huge revenues due to CX improvements... Concentrate more on how important it is to align what your company says it's all about (its mission/ vision/ values/ principles....your brand promise) to what your customers actually experience when they interact with your brand. If people really do BELIEVE in those ideas, CX becomes a no-brainer. If they don't CX isn't going to help anyway.”
Does your company promise one thing in its mission, vision and values, but deliver a totally different experience for customers?
Customer experience becomes a no-brainer for companies that *actually* believe in their brand promise. Try framing your argument that way.
Some departments more than others, but these days, business is data-driven. Facts, figures, and real customer insight will be heard above the rest.
Harvard Business Review quantified the value of customer experience in 2014. They found that after controlling for other factors that drive repeat purchases:
In transaction-based businesses: Customers with the best past experiences spend 140% more than those with the poorest past experiences.
In subscription-based businesses: Customers with the best past experiences have a 74% chance of remaining a member for at least another year; customers with the worst experiences have a 43% chance of being a member one year later. In fact, those who gave the highest CX scores were likely to remain members for another six years.
There are many studies like this out there that you should use to build internal awareness of the value of CX. Customer service, in particular, is frontline when it comes to driving positive experiences.
Tying lifetime value metrics to feedback/ conversation data
Doing internal research is more work, but the payoff is higher because the context is concrete evidence.
Take your customer value metrics like CLTV, order value, repurchase rate, and link them to individual consumers. Match these metrics to survey results, friction drivers and sentiment derived from support ticket analytics. You'll soon see whether low customer experience metrics do indeed correlate with lower customer value.
To do doing this successfully you must correctly quantify reasons for customer contact and customer feedback topics. (Shoutout to the SentiSum team, we can help you with that).
Often projects that improve the customer’s experience are cross-functional which means you’ll need buy-in from multiple stakeholders to make it happen.
Ed Deason, Head of Customer Service at Pret, says it’s critical to get the right people on board with your ideas early in the process.
“Take your colleagues on the journey with you. Don't introduce a fully-formed proposal as the first step. Start out by introducing executives to the background context, invite them to take part in scoping and identifying opportunities, and involve them as the proposal becomes more detailed. You'll end up with a finished proposal that has the backing of your colleagues, as they've been instrumental in its inception. They'll be bought in, and you'll be relatively 'free to proceed' in rolling it out unhindered.”
You'll win buy-in for customer experience improvement projects by inviting executives to scope and identify opportunities in the planning stages.
To summarize, getting your company to value the customer isn’t easy. Making change like this is always incremental. It takes a lot of careful effort and an in-depth understanding of how other teams think, work and prioritize.
See more tips by downloading this tipsheet.
Alice Godfrey, Founder of Bloomic, Head of Customer Service & Experience
Nicholas Zeisler, Founder of Zeisler Consulting, ex-Director of Customer Experience
Edward Deason, Head of Customer Service at Pret A Manger
Adam Ginty, Head of Customer Experience, UBL
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