Today’s post is a joint collaboration between myself and Annette Franz. Annette is a recognised customer experience thought leader and board member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. It was a pleasure and an honour to write with her.
There are three main components of any good CX strategy:
A wise person once said: “You can’t transform something that you don’t understand,” and she was absolutely right. If you want to improve your CX, the best place to start is to assess the experience you’re customers are having now.
Some businesses will pay a consultant to do that for them, and no doubt, they will get a great report on where they stand. But you don’t have to pay thousands to take the temperature of your business. Don’t let that be the thing that keeps you from listening to and understanding your customers and the experience they expect.
Here are some activities you can undertake without a consultant in order to understand the experience that you’re currently delivering to customers.
Mystery shop yourself
There are many different ways to do this work yourself. It will be eye-opening, and it will allow you to see firsthand what the experience is truly like for customers. You just need to remember to wear your “customer hat” and walk in your “customer’s shoes.”
– Your physical premises: Either disguise yourself Undercover Boss-style or get a friend or family member to do it for you. Was the site neat and clean? Were there weeds out the front of your office? Were staff smoking at your front door? Was it easy to get in or did someone have to come and let you in? Once inside, did you feel welcome or out of place? Did the first employee you saw quickly acknowledge your presence, smile, and look you in the eye? If you have a waiting area, spend time there. Is it the kind of space you’d be comfortable in?
We suggest conducting this mystery shopping during your busiest period. If staff can remain calm, courteous, and professional when they’re flat out, they’ll certainly maintain good customer service standards when they’re not.
– Your call centre: Call your own contact centre both during a slow and a busy period. Was your call answered by an agent or by an IVR that required you to work your way through a myriad of self-service menu options before you could finally speak with a human? Were you kept waiting for long? Were you given an indication of when your call would be answered? Were you offered the opportunity to leave your details so someone could call you back? What was the hold music like?
Was the agent that took your call engaging or reading from a script? Did she take the time to really understand the problem you were trying to solve?
– Online: Take a look at your company website with a fresh pair of eyes – your customers’ eyes. When was the last time you updated the information on it? Take the five most-common questions people have when they call into your contact centre or the five most-common tasks people are trying to achieve when they go to your website: how easy are they to answer/perform? Do you have quick, easily-found links to them?
If your company is on social media, how up-to-date is the information you have on your profile pages? Is the company contact information on your profile? Have you deleted any potentially offensive comments on your Facebook page lately? Are there any unanswered questions or requests from customers?
– Read your own process manuals: We know, reading process manuals is about as enjoyable as reading the 4-point font fine print of a certain software company’s User Agreement, so keep that in mind during this exercise because your customers enjoy it just as much. Start by taking a single process and reading the manual for that. Who is the manual geared toward? For whom was the process designed? The company or the customer?
Get customer feedback online
Discussion forums are a great source of feedback, as are review sites, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Urban Spoon. For the telecommunications industry in Australia, for example, search your company name on Whirlpool. Find the relevant discussion forum for your industry and see what people are saying about you.
Google yourself. Set up a Google Alerts on your company name so you’ll get notified whenever you get mentioned online. Search Twitter for mentions. Search YouTube for videos. For negative feedback, try typing “sucks” after your company name (prepare yourself for what you may find after hitting ‘Enter’).
Get direct customer feedback
You don’t have to create a survey to get customer feedback. Stand outside your store and ask store visitors/customers, call the CEO of the company that spends the most money with you, spend some time on the phones in your contact centre.
You’re looking for answers to questions like: Why do you do business with us? How easy was it do business with us? How would you rate the person you spoke with today? What was one thing we could have done better?
Get employee feedback
Companies will often say that their greatest asset is their people, but when was the last time you asked employees for their opinions. Frontline staff are a goldmine of information about your customers. Encourage employees to share customers stories, whether successes or pain points, to drive home the customer experience.
The benefits of asking your staff for feedback are twofold. Firstly, you’ll get some great insight into your customers, and secondly, staff will be more engaged if they know you care about their opinions. It’s a win-win!
Immerse yourself in your customers’ world
Walking in customers’ shoes has become a cliché in our world, but that’s what customer immersion programs are all about. They allow executives to experience what customers experience when they (try to) do business with you. Executives embed themselves into their customers’ lives to gain a better understanding of how they live, work, and do the jobs they need to do. This type of research is called ethnography and you can read more about it here.
Create a Customer Advisory Board
Customer advisory boards offer up benefits for both members and the company. The company benefits from feedback, stronger relationships, and more, while the customer gets access to key executives, gets her voice heard, and is viewed as a thought leader. For more information on how to found a CAB, click here.
As you engage in these efforts, take a methodical approach. By that we mean: have a plan. Start with goals and objectives. Identify what you’ll do with what you learn. And get to it!
Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom. – Chip Bell
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