The whole world is going digital and it’s having an immense impact on organizations’ abilities to engage with customers. Through digital channels, social media and mobile communications, consumers today orchestrate their own experiences, choosing how and when they want to interact with companies' brands.
This creates a number of challenges for organizations, as they attempt to provide timely, consistent and personalized experiences to customers across channels.
With less than half of companies rating their customer experience as exceptional yet 89 percent saying that they plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016, according to a recent Gartner report, businesses certainly have a lot of work to do.
The solution, however, is not a quick fix. Do not delegate this responsibility to one person by hiring a vice president of customer experience. Someone in this role might sporadically effect change in isolated pockets.
But making this one hire would not represent the holistic approach that's needed. Customer experience needs to be the responsibility of the entire business, not just one person or department.
Business leaders should ask themselves if their organization is truly set up to effectively manage the customer experience. Unfortunately, more often than not, the answer is no, as businesses maintain a traditional organizational structure.
Architected over the last 100 years to support conventional ways of doing business, this structure does not cater to the digital world of today. Each department operates as a silo: The sales department doesn’t talk to marketing. Each unit runs its own campaigns and tracks separate key performance indicators for success.
For a company to be truly be successful, every single one of those silos needs to be aligned. And all department leaders along with the executive team must have shared customer experience objectives that they are measured on. Delegating responsibility to help tear down these silos won’t help, as this just adds another layer to the problem.
Instead, the CEO needs to take charge, ensuring the entire executive team is marching toward the same goals when it comes to customer success.
Once organizational alignment is established, technology can be used to help foster a customer focus throughout a business. It can further establish internal collaboration by providing a unified view of customer information across the business.
Giving employees a platform for sharing and exchanging information is only a first step, though. Firms should focus on helping people access the information they need and filter out the information they don’t, thus educing the signal-to-noise ratio.
Additionally, organizations should ensure they have the right technology solutions in place to help with customer communication. Every interaction with a customer or potential one should be timely, relevant and accurate. And solutions that assist with web-content management, languages and translation, campaigns and analytics can play a large role in this so that consumer preferences and contexts are considered.
It is critical, however, that all technology pieces are integrated and used together appropriately. Otherwise, the customer experience will be disjointed with inconsistent and irrelevant messaging.
Beyond assembling a team and ensuring alignment, CEOs should think ahead and foresee customer needs. If it's appropriate, make acquisitions to meet those needs or perhaps develop a new product. These radical changes are not made overnight. But to accomplish them, executives need to be on the same page.
In order for a company’s customer experience to be superior, the CEO needs to be the one responsible for oversight over this area. Merely creating a separate customer-focused role won’t fix the problem. Oversight needs to start at the top and the area needs to remain a key priority for an organization’s success. Take the time to make these shifts and customers will be thankful.