Seasoned customer experience executives are well aware of the importance high customer retention plays on the impact of brand perception, loyalty, and customer lifetime value. The topic of customer retention continues to gain momentum as we more clearly understand the direct link between customer experience and revenue preservation and growth. Responsibility for customer retention usually falls to the most senior service executive, chief customer officer or sometimes to the marketing chief, but I think responsibility and accountability needs to be shared by leaders across the entire organization.
It’s important that a c-suite member is publicly accountable for overall customer centricity, which includes culture, loyalty and certainly the retention strategy, but spreading accountability across the organization makes good business sense. In my consulting practice, we continually advocate for broader customer accountability because the customer experience is impacted positively or negatively throughout the entire organization. Shared areas of responsibility include branding, pricing, process, policy, technology and, of course, talent… especially customer-facing talent.
Expanding responsibility for the customer experience across the organization is a key component of transforming company culture to one of customer-centricity. It also establishes linkages between departments for shared performance results. Shared responsibility is a powerful prescription that increases teamwork, effectiveness and performance. I’ve noted a few important areas of focus below.
Branding: Understanding what customers expect and want from your product and service is key to meeting expectations and delivering the brand promise. In an earlier post, I mentioned how a company brand is tied more to what customers say to each other than what the company says to customers. See our blog titled Social Media’s Impact on Customers.
Pricing: Price isn’t the only thing customers consider when making a purchase decision; the price-value relationship is very important. It can be even more important after purchase if the customer experience is not stellar. Service experience can help to avoid buyer’s remorse for those more costly purchases.
Process: There is nothing like a poorly designed process to create a negative customer experience. If you have not taken time to experience your end-to-end customer process from their perspective, I urge you to try it. You will discover aspects of your process that are frustrating, outdated, broken and difficult to navigate. Hopefully this will instill a sense of urgency to review a customer journey mapping process. For more , read our post on Customer Journey Mapping, Desitination: Success to understand customer experience process improvement and how to make it easier to do business with your company.
Company Policy: Policies that don’t make sense can be maddening to customers. Think about Best Buy’s policy which requires customers to pick up merchandise at a local retail store after they’ve ordered a product online. Seriously, is that not incredibly inconvenient for customers? Polling your front line call center agents and customers to help you understand broken processes and outdated policies is a most valuable exercise. Prioritize the feedback, organize a team to create a roadmap and change those frustrating policies.
Technology: Technology is meant to enable a process, policy, or make work actions easier and simpler. While this is true much of the time, work process and customer preferences change so frequently that employees and customers find themselves doing “workarounds” or are forced to use technology in a way that makes the service experience more difficult. For example, customers want multiple support channels (email, chat, self service) so you need to provide them. Studies show that companies with multiple channels have better retention and higher levels of purchase.
Talent: Hiring and training the right employees to provide exceptional service experiences is foundational. Beyond that, employees must be engaged and empowered to serve customers, encouraged to innovate and aid leaders to understand customer process that blocks, impedes or hinders a great experience. Leaders must make employee engagement and feedback a priority, resource their improvement recommendations and remove service impediments.
As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts.