I started a huge focus on “Customer Experience” about 3 years ago, when I started looking for a new career path. I foresaw “Customer Experience” becoming the main focus of modern business (and also my way of getting into the tech industry).
I didn’t have tech industry experience, but I did have a decade of leadership experience in customer-centric environments, mostly in restaurants. In restaurants, the customer experience happens quickly, which mirrors how almost every business operates now that we live in a “connected world.”
- A customer reads an advertisement
- Calls on the phone
- Visits the host stand
- Gets walked to the table
- Gets taken care of by the waiter
- Drinks are made by the bar
- Food is made by the kitchen
- Cleanliness is maintained by the bussers
Every single one of those separate interactions serve as “touch points” where a customer interacts with the business. So, these departments must not be managed individually, but looked at as equally important aspects of a customer’s journey.
If you drop the ball in any of the areas, the customer experience is bad, resulting in an eventual decline of sales. In the “connected world” that we now live in, every single business now has to take this “customer experience” methodology into account:
- An advertisement that a user clicks on
- The look, feel, and user-friendliness of the website.
- All social media engagement.
- Signing up for a service or buying a product.
- The quality of the product or service.
- Any support that a user needs or questions they may have.
- Any problem that may arise and how it’s dealt with.
All of them are “touch points,” just like in a restaurant. Every single interaction that a customer has with any area of a business contributes to their overall experience. If any of these areas fail to impress the customer, sales will eventually go down.
Online Business’s Customer Experience:
Everything now runs like a restaurant, with multiple areas of specialty converging simultaneously on the customer. Businesses can no longer be managed separately in compartments. Leaders in a business must be cross-functional, look at the big picture, and take into account how each department affects one another and what impact they have on customer experience.
Everything is a Touchpoint:
Department heads can’t just be grouped together once in a while during a staff meeting, either; There needs to be leaders who always look at the individual departments as pieces of a whole.
This means that leaders in a “connected world” should not be extremely specialized in one function, but instead be adaptive generalists who can just as easily talk with developers, designers, engineers, customer support staff, business strategists, marketing specialists, salesmen, or executives.
More than that, they must be able to communicate the “big picture” to each department in a way that it can identify with. Leaders must inspire the big, shared vision of excellent customer experiences to every employee.
“What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis.”
– W. Edwards Deming
The Connected World
As society continues to evolve, due to connectivity, businesses must also evolve. This may mean changing the organizational structure or looking for leaders with a different set of skills than what has worked in the past.
Connectivity can be good or bad. While people are waiting a long time or receiving bad service, they are equipped with smartphones and can post/ tweet/ text/ etc. their experiences in real-time to hundreds of their connections. Twice as many people talk about bad experiences than good ones, too. However, having a good experience is rewarded with repeat business and referrals.
One thing that is becoming more apparent to those in the tech industry (as well as other industries, such as medical) is the focus on providing exceptional customer experiences. Looking at each and every touchpoint a customer has with a business as one aspect of the customer’s journey. This means breaking down the walls that separate departments and seeing the big picture.
Medical Customer Experience:
Where was “Customer Experience” a primary focus long before it became a buzzword?
When managing a high volume restaurant, the lead manager must work together with every department, in real time, to ensure a positive experience for the customer (despite the fact that each department operates fundamentally different). A great restaurant manager must be in constant communication with all departments, despite their differences, to achieve the shared goal of excellent customer experience.
The tech (and every) industry needs those same type of leaders: Someone who floats effortlessly from designers, developers, engineers, marketers, business strategists, and salesman. Someone who can speak the language of each department and inspire the same shared vision: excellent customer experience.
If even one of the departments fail to share the vision, that customer may be lost forever to the competition. In the “connected world” that we live in today, it probably also means the loss of several other customers and tarnishing of the brand name.