“You have to listen to whoever speaks, if you want to be heard. Ethicist François de la Rochefoucauld writes, a still apt reminder for companies that constantly want to stand out.
This need to listen now seems complex, if not modern. Yesterday’s iconic customer journey no longer exists. Companies operate in an environment where real and virtual identity merge, where the need for hyper-personalization is widespread, and where the means to share opinion multiply.
Although the majority of companies incorporate the idea of customer experience into their strategic approach, they often still face obstacles due to their inability to inculcate a culture of customer listening among their employees. For this to be effective, employees should benefit, in perfect harmony, from listening to decision makers. There is indeed a causal link between the two listenings because the employee the hierarchy listens to will be more attentive to customers and more inclined to report key information. If this causation seems obvious, it is not always well understood in companies. Result: The prevailing approach is to respond to customer requirements rather than anticipate them.
Expectations and Experiences: A Precarious Balance
First of all, it is necessary to concretely define the basic concept of customer experience. This refers to the sum of the customer’s interactions with the brand through the various communication channels. These interactions extend from the brand discovery stage to the customer loyalty stage, passing through the anticipation of the need. Every interaction, real or virtual, contributes positively or not to the customer’s perception of the brand.
So the customer experience is unimaginable without incorporating a key component: customer expectations. It is the result of a unique combination of company values and past experiences with other companies and with the company itself. There are many factors that will unconsciously generate expectations that are not fixed in time. However, it is the company’s actions that have the greatest impact on a customer’s perception throughout their journey. So the company must control the interactions and thus follow a path that corresponds to the expectations of different types of customers.
Necessary coordination between customers and employees
Most of the time, the observation is one: employees define actions that are intended for their clients without trying to show themselves in the client’s skin. They are content, for convenience, for lack of time, to follow specific instructions or third party strategies. This robotic way of performing actions negatively affects the business.
In order to push their limits back and thus reach new heights, it is of paramount importance for them to promote a different corporate culture. A change of mindset must occur in order to consider the customer experience first, and then the company’s products and services. Every daily decision must be analyzed and implemented from the client’s perspective. This mindset should be reflected in every initiative and become one of the pillars of the strategy.
What does the customer think? Does this job meet one of his needs? What are my clients’ problems and what can I do to help them solve them? Lots of questions that should be the reaction of every employee.
Beyond these questions, the term “client” which, in the past, in the Roman Empire was called vassal or protector, was also completely redefined. From now on, not only technical knowledge should be given, but also a precious quality. He is no longer just a person without knowledge who buys a service or a product, but a potential partner for progress with whom a relationship must be built. To be able to fully listen to its customers, the transition from transactional to relational must be made, by adopting a broader definition of the word “customer”.
From an operational perspective, internal thinking focused on its current operations should not be the only driver of business initiatives. It should push its limits by adopting an approach where customer feedback helps guide the company’s actions and not the other way around.
Three steps to effective listening
In order for customers to listen to have a positive and lasting impact on their experience, every company must follow a three-step plan:
- First of all, you should not only be able to collect customer feedback, both digital and physical, but above all provide an in-house process that allows you to make corrections to better meet needs and not repeat endless breakdowns. What’s the point of listening to your customers if nothing happens after that…
- Then, the emergence of this culture that is almost obsessed with listening to the customer requires the understanding and hence the support of the employees. Attention, claiming to develop a culture of listening to their customers without creating a parallel culture of listening to employees is harmful. In fact, they are both complementary and represent two basic gears in the same device. It seems obvious, but a happy employee will provide better service to the customer because he will be more attentive. This essential aspect should in no way be underestimated and requires a change management adapted to the company.
- Finally, the company must establish processes to monitor the use of its products and services with its customers through data-driven indicators. The goal is a proactive approach built into the governance model that will automatically anticipate and anticipate customer requirements.
To create a cultural sensation in the field of business
Despite the increasing complexity, due to the proliferation of channels (purchasing, communication, etc.), listening to customers is fundamental to the company’s strategy. Its growth, and even its survival, depends on it. The time for 4Ps is definitely over and the product, while still capital, has given way to the customer. To continually adapt to market changes, this alignment between customer experience and employee experience must be built incrementally and remain dynamic. It is necessary to make a great cultural change which has to be embodied by new customs, norms, standards, dictionaries, etc. Assigning ambassadors to this culture can be very effective in building consensus. Being always permanent change, in this choice it will naturally be necessary to accommodate people who are receptive to permanent changes in customer needs and, above all, are able to adapt to them.
Ultimately, this new culture of listening to customers and employees will have a huge impact on every employee’s initiative and will become a habit for everyone, which will naturally spread to new recruits.
However, regular client listening must also be taken into account according to strategic analytics, because relying on simple listening can also present a risk. The customer does not systematically indicate the best way to meet his needs, or may find it difficult to clearly define his future needs, and this is the challenge of figuring out how to go beyond customer feedback. Let us remember Henry Ford’s famous phrase: “If I asked my clients what they wanted, they would have said: A faster horse.”
Writer : Eitan HatemCEO of Innovation and Business Solutions, Prodware Group
(C) Figure. deposit