I’ve been working on a big “measuring the customer experience” project and it got me thinking. What is it that makes one customer initiative a success and another, well, not so successful? I didn’t want to say “failure” because I believe there is no such thing as failure, there’s only feedback. As I visited the recesses of my brain (yikes!), and researched best practices, I came up with 3 things you must consider when your company decides to focus on customers. They are the 3 S’s critical for success, and they are not mutually exclusive:
1. Strategy – The value of strategy should be pretty clear, and it needs to come from the top. What is your customer strategy? How are customers treated? How far will you go? Does cash flow come from products or from customers? (answer = customers). Have you taken the next step to customer advocacy? Do you want to “bump the lamp” like Disney? It needs to be defined, it needs to be clear, and it needs to be measurable. Remember, this just might be your biggest competitive advantage.
2. Silos – Is your CEO in charge of your customer strategy? Do you have a Chief Customer Officer who is charged with all things customer and can get all department heads on-board? Or is you Marketing VP expected to handle customer strategy? If it’s the latter, you may have some difficulties ahead. Customers touch every part of the business and unless you have someone with the authority to get things done, it won’t happen. You’ll need a team of senior executives from each area of the company who are responsible and rewarded for crafting and implementing your customer strategy.
3. Staff – Does the rest of your organization fully understand your customer strategy? Remember, everyone is directly serving customers, or serving someone who does. Have they been included in the design of your strategy? Does your front-line staff get it? Are they trained, supported, and rewarded based on customer success? Do they have the ability and desire to serve customers, to be empathetic, and to solve problems?
Having a wonderful CRM system and a visually rich customer dashboard doesn’t mean that customer success is a given. These three S’s often de-rail the best laid plans. If your just starting out, it’s best to acknowledge them up-front and include them in your implementation plan. If you down the road already and things are not working as expectated then take a step back and assess if these areas need some work. So, here’s to all your customer successes (wait, that’s 4 S’s …)