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Lessons for leading customer-focused companies

Lessons for leading customer-focused companies

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Published by: workitrichmond on Aug 25, 2011
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Developing the
stcentury workforce
Lessons From LeadingCustomer-FocusedOrganizations
Customer Service Interview Study 
By Mark Marone PhD
In late 2010, AchieveGlobal conducted 13 in-depth interviews with leading customer service-ocused organizations romthe US, Europe, and Asia to uncover best practices and strate-gies or creating a successul customer experience. One-on-one phone interviews were conducted with organizationalleaders rom a broad range o industries, including fnancialservices, healthcare, government, manuacturing, consumerproducts and services, and business-to-business industries.
Once we recorded and transcribed the interviews, we began to searchor common themes. Our analysis uncovered nine key lessons or bestpractices o customer-ocused organizations. Although some compa-nies describe these lessons in dierent ways, the concepts neverthe-less represent common threads that run throughout each case. Thesenine critical success actors are presented here with a brie descrip-tion and supporting quotes.
#1: Customer service is just one part o the customer experience.
To gain a better understanding o how the terms and defnitions o customer service are evolving, we asked companies to discuss how they describe and defne the concept o customer service in theirorganization.
Many companies use dierent terms to identiy interactions with cus-tomers in dierent parts o the company. For example, while a compa-ny may reer to the “customer experience” as an organizational concept,their interactions with customers through the call center or CSR unc-tion might be reerred to as “customer care” or “customer relations”.Other terms describe interactions with intermediate customers, “agentrelations,” or example, or industry-specifc customers, such as “patientexperience” or “guest services”.A clear distinction developed between how organizations think and talkabout service in the traditional sense (through a customer service unc-tion) and the broader scope o “customer experience,” where the entireorganization is ocused on meeting and exceeding the needs o custom-ers in all unctions and across all touch points. Despite dierences innomenclature, respondents share a similar defnition and agree that theconcept o customer experience goes beyond just service. It involvesmeeting and exceeding the needs o the individuals that drive their busi-ness, regardless o whether customers are end users, internal customers,or agents.
“It’s not just a matter o customer service as it used to be in years past. Now we want to be able to understand what customers need, how do wetake care o it, do a great job o taking care o it, and determine is there something else we can do.” 
Customer serviCe interview study,| 3
“Customer experience is a little bit more about the qualityo interactions and the outside-in view rom the customer o what acilitates a great customer experience.” 
#2: Customer ocus is now ront and center in anorganization’s mission and values.
For years, customer service belonged to the realm o the customer-service unction. When organizationstalked about customer service, they most oten re-erred to the department that supported customers.Today, since the ocus on customers is permeatingother areas i not the entire organization, we askedcompanies to tell us how this eort is being communi-cated and promoted throughout the company.Leading customer-centered organizations are makingcustomer experience a core component o their overallcorporate mission and values. For most companies weinterviewed, the concept o customer-ocus is commu-nicated rom leadership and throughout the organiza-tion so that it is becoming ingrained in the culture.
“One o our values is stated as ‘we are committed tounderstand our customers’ needs and proactively deliver  products and services to meet those needs’.” “We have our corporate values, and the frst one is called ‘our customers,’ and under that we explain that it means: I ask, I am accessible, I listen, I am responsive, and I am accountable.” 
#3 Customer experience is what happens whenorganizations interact with the customer at anytouch point.
Organizations provide value to customers and meettheir needs through a wide range o channels. Thecompanies we interviewed discussed how their custom-ers interact with each o these channels, such as their websites, phone centers, and dierent sales channels,in addition to third-party agents, resellers, or distribu-tors. Other touch points include marketing, productdevelopment, and other unctions that impact thecustomer experience.While customer-ocused organizations understand thatcustomer needs must be met consistently throughouteach channel, the companies we interviewed talkedabout some o their challenges in accomplishing this.A beverage company told us about the challenges o managing touch points where there are so many di-erent types o customers and dierent distributionchannels or ways o buying. An insurance company weinterviewed discussed the challenge o maintainingtheir brand promise to customers through independentagents. Successul companies are working to ensuretheir customers are provided an optimal experiencethroughout each and every channel.
“Since we restructured, we’ve done a better job o taking care o our customers at each touch point, but customersbuy rom us through so many various distribution chan-nels that it has been a challenge to manage.” “We’re working to coordinate the experience at dier-ent touch points. There are so many places we touch thecustomer, but we’ve come a long way in making sure thecustomer has a consistent interaction online, in a local ofce, or when they meet a technician.” 
#4 Organizational alignment is critical or manag-ing the customer experience.
Many o the companies we spoke with discussed thechallenges o transcending departmental silos and un-derstanding the customer experience across unctions.Not only must each unctional area understand how todeliver value to the customer within their own area, butthey must understand how other parts o the organiza-tion meet customer needs.Alignment goes one step urther to ensure that notonly is there awareness o how each unction impactsthe customer, but that customer data and eedbackare shared across the organization. Alignment ensuresthat everyone makes customer ocus their job and they  work together to ensure an optimal experience.
“Everyone knows where they ft in and how, why, and what’s needed upstream and downstream rom them and  how what they do eects what happens later.” “The whole company is a service-providing companywhether in selling, maintaining or upgrading; it’s all  about service, so it’s important within each department.” 

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