Times are changing, and the way people make buying decisions is radically different from how it was a few decades ago.
Companies can no longer rely on having satisfied customers to ensure that they stay in business. Customers expect exemplary service, and offering anything less will turn them away. Satisfied customers do not complain — which is all very well, but it means you won’t get crucial feedback. Their loyalty is also shaky, and they will leave when presented with a better offer.
The loyal customers who are enthusiastic about your brand have been found to frequently complain in an effort to help you improve and are the most likely to recommend friends. But in order to get customer loyalty in the first place, you need to closely manage customer experience quality.
Quality management means proactively improving the customer experience by researching the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the customer journey.
Here is a framework you can use to manage the quality of your customer experience.
Building a Quality Management Framework
The following tenets are going to guide your customer experience quality management framework.
1. Outside-In Thinking
The first step in the framework is to adopt an outside-in mentality where the business is focused on the customer instead of the product, i.e., it’s truly customer-centric. Customer experience is often more powerful than other factors that can be used to increase profits, for example, lean manufacturing and product research, so it’s worth paying attention to.
Start off by setting up a customer advisory panel whose responsibility is reaching out to
customers. The panel will evaluate the business processes that work and those that don’t. This will result in a performance baseline being established.
2. Hire an Executive Champion
Customer experience touches on different sectors of the business, and you should have an executive champion to manage it all. Improving customer experience will involve a cultural change within the organization. The CX executive champion should be credible, command authority and be visible to the whole business, not just one geographical area.
Think of him/ her as the beacon of customer experience. The executive is also responsible for coming up with new customer experience strategies and interacts with different departmental heads. For maximum capacity for positive change and to send a strong message about the importance of CX in the executive suite, this person should report directly to the CEO.
3. Define Quantifiable Objectives
You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Quality management requires measurable and clear objectives that will be used to calculate ROI.
Starting a customer experience project without the right goals will jeopardize the life cycle of the project. When the company has to make budget cuts, the CX project whose ROI cannot be clearly measured will be the first to be dropped. Some of the most common customer experience objectives, in order of popularity, are:
- Organic growth
- Customer retention
- Acquiring new customers
- Operation efficiency
- Customer backing
You can use these objectives to measure and manage the quality of the customer experience. It will also help in planning and executing changes, investing in your strategy and calculating ROI.
4. Evaluate Your Company Culture
Company culture is very important when it comes to implementing a CX quality management strategy. If the culture does not revolve around customers, the company culture needs to be changed.
All of the employees should realize the importance of customers and the benefits of satisfying ustomer needs. Otherwise, even the best strategy will fail.
Every employee should realize that successful businesses seek to satisfy customers and make a profit from that, rather than being in business to meet the bottom line.
Some employees simply don’t have the patience and empathy to deal with customers and sort out their problems. This might need personnel changes or redesign of incentives and compensation to be in line with customer experience. Executive management can do this by carrying out recurring training for employees (more on training later in this article).
5. Define Business Processes and Customer Journeys
After getting the approval from top management and stakeholders, start executing the plan. Prioritize the business processes and identify process leaders, KPIs and customer journey maps. Use a scoring system for the business processes that are based on these four customer-centric measures:
Business objectives will help in defining a customer journey which aligns with customer interactions at every stage/ touch point.
The touch points follow a cyclical sequence that generally looks like this: Need > Research > Select > Purchase > Receive > Use > Maintain > Recommend. The customer journey is different from the customer lifecycle and can start at any touch point.
Creating the Customer Journey
Customers use a myriad of channels based on their needs and activities. In order to create a repeatable process and ensure quality management, you should create a customer journey.
They can differ according to customer groups, but they all have the same touch points. Mapping the customer journey allows you to improve the quality and value delivered at each touch point. But doing this without identifying the customer channels is akin to shooting in the dark.
Customer Channels and Customer Journeys
When you understand the relationship between customer channels and the customer journey, you can create a repeatable process capable of consistently producing the same results. Customers use different channels at different touch points.
Using the touch points indicated in step five, we can match channels with specific touch points. Channels used include web, mobile, live chat, social, self-serve, in-store, kiosks and call centers.
For example, a typical customer, Jane, uses the social channel on Need/ Research, Selects items using mobile, Purchases on the web, Receives the purchase in-store, calls the call center when in Use and Recommends to friends on social media channels. With these links uncovered, you can create a customer persona and outline customer objectives to establish activities at every point of the customer journey.
Fixing Customer Journey Issues
One major problem encountered by the customer experience managers is the difficulty in detecting problems in the customer journey. The only way to know when customers are experiencing difficulties is if they contact your contact center.
But for every customer who flags up an issue, there might be 100s more customers who don’t say anything and simply move to other businesses. The cost of lost business therefore becomes very high.
Some common problems include difficulty in navigation (for example, broken website links) and payment problems. For the latter, you might receive many calls or chats to let you know that there’s a problem, but the former will be harder to identify because few people will get in touch if they can’t navigate to the product.
These inconveniences are barriers to conversion and make for poor customer experience. Here is how you can fix customer journey problems:
Certain software can be used to map out individual customer journeys on a website and play it back for review. This enables managers and staff to understand the experience through the customer’s eyes, monitoring every click and page view. Issues such as non-responsive forms can be solved quickly to maintain quality.
Mapping Out Customer Frustration
Another way to deal with CX journey problem is to map out frustration. You can use analytic software to find the exact frustration levels at every point in the customer journey. Rising frustration at a certain touch point means customers are experiencing problems. This is effective as you can capture customer frustration outside of contact center complaints.
Respond in Real Time
Responding to issues in real time is a great way to deal with customer journey problems. The team responsible for customer experience should identify, quantify and then act on these issues as soon as they crop up.
Develop Cross-Channel Support
As discussed before, customers use different channels at different touch points. The customer expects that the company knows who they are, even when using different channels.
Furthermore, they expect the information entered through one channel is immediately available to all other channels they might use.
Companies suffer from this because departmental activities are often done in isolation, and systems often aren’t joined-up enough to provide a single view of the customer. But using business processes and aligning them with specific goals produces a process whereby constant improvement in quality can be achieved. Cross-channel support requires you to use technology such as databases in order to succeed.
Training as a Part of Quality Management
Part of delivering excellent customer service is doing it consistently and producing reliable results. Customers like to receive experiences that are predictably good, regardless of what department they’re dealing with, or where in their buyer’s journey they are.
Training helps to achieve this by building competence to achieve repeatable quality. Through good training, employees also come to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities in providing value for the customer, through which a quality-centric culture in the organization can be created.
Create a plan before you start rolling out training programs by asking the following questions:
Who should receive the training?
Conventionally, companies that adopt quality training often go on to offer every employee the same training. A report by APQC on quality training in organizations found that 56% of the respondents carry out training to staff involved in quality, while 44% of the group conducted these training programs for all employees.
Managers often think that by training everyone, a culture of quality will be cultivated in the organization. But focusing the training efforts on quality-related staff (and only those who want it) helps to get a better ROI from training programs.
What are the key training topics?
Most organizations train their staff on quality management principles, auditing, tools and ISO standards. These values are far from the customer-related tenets like customer experience and Net Promoter Score.
The same report by APQC found that all the topics covered in training recorded financial benefits. On the other hand, companies that focused their training on customer related topics like Six Sigma, NPS, customer experience, and lean reaped better financial benefits.
Incentives have to be included in the quality training to motivate employees to complete these courses. Incentives can be monetary or emotional — for example, through receiving recognition.
It was discovered that companies which offer monetary incentives for their staff achieve little financial gain as compared to those who use emotional incentives. Consider what’s really important to your staff as you create a reward plan.
Paying attention to quality is vital for companies who wish to build a solid customer experience. There’s a myriad of tools out there to help you map frustration, get a clearer view of your customer, and
improve on your current processes. Bolster a solid quality plan with a good training program and you’ll start to see some great results.