Managing ever-changing customer needs
The first and most important question you need to ask with any CX initiative is ‘what does the customer want?’
All too often we see customers walk away from an organisation, without the organisation really knowing why. In most of these circumstances, there is enough customer information available to find the answer. But turning that information into insight is never easy. This is often because that information is so fragmented across different departments that it’s actually unusable. As a result, people form their own subjective opinions about what the customer really wants – and that can easily cause disharmony in the workforce.
Perhaps your organisation is slightly more advanced than this, though, and already has insight into customer needs. This is a vital first step, but understanding what the customer wants is not all that’s required to drive change. Now you have to put those insights to work. This means setting up projects and implementing the necessary changes. Again, you may already have planned, prioritised and executed those projects, and managed to become more customer oriented in doing so. If so, you may think your job is done. But you’d be wrong.
The truth is, customer needs never stop changing. Tomorrow’s hype will be outdated by next week, driven by the latest technological developments, and customer appetites for hyper-personalisation are always increasing. So, what can you do to ensure you keep up?
The customer feedback loop
Continuous customer feedback is key to keeping on top of these changes, but it’s also a major challenge for a lot of organisations – just as much as converting customer information into concrete improvement initiatives.
To gain a near real-time view of customer needs, you need to continually monitor the indicators that determine customer satisfaction and the status of your strategic goals. This should be a daily activity, allowing you to observe and discuss developments and intervene quickly to realise improvements where necessary.
One way of doing this is through a customer feedback loop – a method of ensuring a continuous cycle of customer feedback that enables your organisation to keep its finger on the pulse and act in a more customer-centric manner.
Key roles and processes
There are three key and interdependent roles in any customer feedback loop that must be considered.
1. The customer: All touchpoints between the customer and the organisation in the customer journey
2. Operations: All departments, processes and systems where customer contact takes place
3. Management: All people and departments that give direction to multiple people and make strategic decisions.
It’s important to note that customer interaction takes place at an operational level, which means management is dependent on operations to understand the needs of the customer. For this to be effective, and to truly add value for your customers, three key processes must be present within your organisation.
1. A way of gaining insight into customer needs and customer satisfaction
To gain insight into customer needs, you first need to consider what it is you actually want to know. An improvement cycle is never a goal in itself, but always a method of achieving strategic objectives in a continuous, cyclical way. So, choose indicators that are directly related to your strategic CX objectives. And retrieve information about these indicators continuously, so you get insight into the effectiveness of interventions and the impacts of developments. This information should include both unsolicited feedback (for example, social media mining) and solicited feedback (customer surveys, etc.), and combine both qualitative and quantitative data. As an added tip, indicators about employee engagement are often very decisive when it comes to customer satisfaction.
2. The ability to process and translate customer feedback into added value or improvement initiatives
When customer feedback reaches your employees, they have a choice to make: take immediate action or create a longer-term improvement initiative.
Ultimately, this decision is best made by taking factors like time and scope into account. And by empowering employees, assigning responsibilities at the right level and providing clarity on your organisation’s strategic objectives. In doing so, you can give your employees the knowledge, autonomy and authority to decide what happens after a customer contact. However, to make this choice, it’s important that employees can empathise with the interest of both their customers and management.
This relates back to something we discussed in our last blog – the importance of empathy as a trait in customer-focused staff. Instead of just observing, employees need to be able to provide solutions and make decisions to ensure they act in a truly customer-focused manner. The end result will be happier customers, and employees who feel better about their work.
3. Concrete projects that deliver added value to the customer
It’s down to management to fuel the emergence of improvement initiatives, and use these initiatives to define, prioritise and implement customer improvement projects.
At the beginning of this process, it’s best to start with small, manageable projects based on the precondition that each project in itself adds value to the customer. At Royal HaskoningDHV, we’ve developed a proven and successful method for rolling these projects out with our Business Transformation Framework. You can learn more about that approach, here.
By following and continually executing these three processes, you’ll be able to deliver improvement initiatives that help you to identify and meet your customers’ needs. And by monitoring the success of these initiatives, you can continue to refine your efforts and respond to your customers even as their demands change. To learn how we can help you with your customer engagement initiatives, please get in touch by clicking on the button below.