Researchers have found that people make decisions based on emotion, not just reason. While one product or service may have marginally better value or benefits on paper, consumers are still just as likely to choose a competing product based entirely on a feeling.
While it’s doubtful an inferior product is going to corner the market in the face of better alternatives, there is a very real chance that comparable offerings will be decided on the basis of the consumers’ hearts, not minds. Just as Simon Sinek suggests people will buy your purpose, not your product, they’ll come back because of how you make them feel, not just what products you offer.
That makes your customer’s journey vitally important – an experience that will be determined by the processes you use to manage it.
Engagement for growth
Good customer processes build engaging experiences that leave the customer feeling like their needs matter and their expectations have been met. Better experiences build loyalty, retaining existing customers, and enticing new ones.
The outcomes of positive interactions add a perceived value to the goods and services you offer, and that converts to revenue growth which will contribute to your strategic objectives, propelling your business towards greater profitability. It’s an ongoing exercise to meet the customers’ needs though.
As their expectations and requirements change over time, your processes and performance need to adapt to keep up.
Find the pulse
The first step is to ensure you have processes in place for handling your customer interactions. Without established protocols, there can’t be any consistency in customer experience, and that leads to unmet expectations and dissatisfied clients.
Gather the existing information you have on how those processes should go, and use the expertise of your customer service heroes to help shape them into effective guidelines for every essential activity.
Once those frameworks are established, make them accessible. That means making them easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to follow. A central process platform is vital for providing a single source of truth for procedures and protocols, ensuring there is no confusion about roles and responsibilities, or what needs to happen.
Having the agreed processes available in a central location ensures they can be replicated across the organization, so customer experiences will be consistent whenever they interact with your teams.
Track a moving target
Processes are living documents. Even once they have been captured and documented, they need to be reviewed and updated to reflect the ever-changing business environment.
By establishing subject-matter specialists as process owners and experts, you can encourage ongoing innovation in these processes that reflect the market movements. As customer feedback emerges, both through formal channels and informal anecdotes, these champions can reflect improvements in the processes they are using every day.
Build clear reporting into the process framework too, and leverage the experience of your front-line agents to understand the fluctuations that might come with different seasons, trends, and cultural shifts.
As levels of demand or timeframes vary, capture the differences, and account for them in how you handle customer needs. By regularly monitoring process-relevant KPIs you will have a sense of what is working and what isn’t, and the agility to realign your processes with your customers’ expectations more efficiently.
Your staff on the front line are best positioned to understand your customers’ experiences with your business. They will be the first to hear when there are issues, and likely have keen insights into what caused them.
In order to improve the processes that create your customer experiences, you need to provide adequate feedback opportunities for your teams and have the facility to respond promptly. That includes the use of incident reports that tie into your process structure and tools for collecting customer recommendations. Where breakdowns occur, or delays mount up, empower the people using the processes to identify the pain points and offer creative solutions.
Also, encourage teams to refine their processes proactively. Don’t wait for bottlenecks to cause friction for your clients. Identify points where handovers create unnecessary delays and highlight where process constraints could cause customer issues. Then encourage the people that know the processes best to come up with solutions – they’ll have insights into improvements that can make the processes more effective, and the outcomes more satisfying for your customers.
Think on your feet
Customer expectations don’t take into account your management structure, the audit trail you need to maintain, or the number of signoffs you need to implement a change. Create a robust but agile process framework that can change quickly, without sacrificing quality and governance. A good process platform will allow for quick edits that can reflect continuous improvement, and notify the key stakeholders in real-time, so they can review and push it to publication with just a few clicks.
Then encourage your teams to think about quick, simple changes. While some processes need to be picked apart and rebuilt entirely, if everyone waits for the ‘process expert’ to be available to revise a procedure, your customers will be left with sub-standard experiences in the meantime.
By empowering teams to make incremental changes when they see them, you will cultivate a culture of innovation and your customers can experience ongoing improvements in products and services, even while you build the capacity for a better alternative in the background.
Wow your customers
Better processes mean smoother, more effective services and your customers will benefit from that. Improvements in response times, greater accuracy with billing and communications, and clearer paths to solutions all contribute to a better experience for those dealing with your products and services.
The next step is to introduce technological solutions that exponentially improve those results.
Look for opportunities to add automation to your processes. Wherever there is manual data handling, exchanges of information, or simple entry tasks, consider how an automated workflow, digital form, or RPA bot could reduce the potential for errors while accelerating the execution.
With the growth of AI tools for understanding voice, text, and even visual cues, leverage automation that interprets your customers’ attitudes to ensure correspondence is routed efficiently and effectively. Reduce the complexity of interactions and the need for customers to repeat themselves by intelligently interpreting their needs and directing them accordingly. By prioritizing key clients and communications that indicate levels of dissatisfaction, you can surprise customers with prompt and considered responses that defuse potentially bad experiences.
Good customer service isn’t the only path to success for an organization, but without it, the road will be significantly steeper. By investing in good processes and a framework to support them, you can empower your front-line teams to continuously meet your customers’ expectations, and innovate on the way you fulfill their needs.
With well-leveraged technology and the agility to respond to a shifting market, a focus on process excellence will support the best customer experiences and build valuable loyalty to your brand.