Who would have believed that customers would have such power over businesses in the 21st century? Like constituents who vote their leaders into and out of office, customers are voting with their dollars – gravitating to the companies that give them the experience that they want: easy, no hassle, automated, logical and streamlined. In a word: smart. And the results have been noticeable, with many companies shutting their doors as the ease of online transactions has become the new normal.
The companies that are capturing the minds and dollars of the consumer are winning because they (1) listen to their customers, (2) have looked at the data to understand what their customers want and (3) have used that data to keep their customers coming back for more.
This is not a new model, but the 21st-century twist is what data has done for the customer experience (CX). Customers can now demand a better experience because of low switching costs and the ease of an internet search to find those alternatives. Perhaps more so with providers of consumer products, but for businesses, there are still lessons to be learned.
Here’s what I mean:
- You are looking for something and ask yourself, “Where can I find item x?”
- You do a search and find several companies have your item. You either browse a few companies and make a choice, or automatically go to the business with which you have already had a good buying experience.
- You place your order with one click, apply your saved payment information with another, and your item is now on its way to your home – shipped for free.
- You get it that day or maybe the next.
- And, if it turns out it’s not what you thought you wanted – easy, free returns.
This B2C model has been turned on its side as customers seek out that smart process in which they finish fast and get going onto something else. But, doesn’t it sound like the same action you want to accomplish at work every day? “Let me do an easy search so I can get my information fast and move on to something else. Let the automated workflow handle the approval process so I can redirect my activity to something else I need to do.”
In business, we see the same need with our employees as internal customers looking for more efficiency, and with our external customers looking for an experience that mimics the easy, no-hassle, automated, logical and streamlined experience that they have come to expect.
How does a company make this smart model happen? At the recent 2019 AIIM conference, Peggy Winton, CEO of AIIM International, indicated that digital transformation was “redefining internal and external customer experiences … [because they] improve their quality of life.” So, the key for the company was to “design internal processes for external experiences.”
She continues, “Customer experience depends on, and leads to …
- Business Agility/Innovation
- Operational Excellence
- Automated Compliance/Governance”
We all have customers – in the B2C and B2B world – to whom we are selling, and our customers expect the experience to be smart.
- Don’t ask me again for information that I had to say or key into the audio system. The agent should know who I am, have my file pulled up and be ready to speak to me when we connect.
- If I use an e-form, I expect that information to flow into your agent’s system seamlessly, be smart and integrate the data versus re-asking and rekeying.
The critical point in driving this customer experience and ensuring that customer expectations are met comes from the hierarchy of the business itself. Without a proponent driving the customer-centric focus and demanding that all external facing experiences are flawless, a business will fall short of meeting customer expectations and simply be judged as ‘all talk and no action.’
Also during the AIIM conference, we heard from Futurist Blake Morgan, author of “More is More – How the Best Companies Go Farther, Work Harder, Create Knock-Your-Socks-Off Customer Experiences.”
With the “do more” philosophy, she shared this insight:
“Thoughtful leaders are not afraid to be on the ground with their customers … that is the modern leader.”
I like Blake’s term “modern leader,” instead of “transformational” leader” or “forward-thinking” leader. The “modern” leader feels less removed from the top and more interested in investigating all levels of operations to ensure the CX is meeting all expectations.
There are two forces at work here: (1) the need to satisfy the customer, giving them every reason to return and spread positive (and beneficial) word-of-mouth or online reviews about your business; and (2) the seriousness of the internal business leadership that has sampled its own customer experience and knows what it will take to deliver that unparalleled CX. To paraphrase Peggy: it takes internal commitment from a modern leadership team to support the right processes to deliver external experiences that drive customer satisfaction and business value.
Joanne Novak is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Intelligent Information Management (IIM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for IIM.