Businesses across sectors face the challenge of overcoming internal constraints and enabling an excellent customer experience. Back-end systems in particular are frequently a no-go area, limiting the organisation’s ability to deliver customer-centric services. Businesses that understand customer-centricity can develop abilities that matter to customers, instead of deploying internal solutions that have little impact on them.
Organisations are not designed for customers
Most organisations – especially ones with complex transactions, such as banking insurance and telecoms – invest heavily in optimising and improving internal processes and systems. Their system landscape is designed to do complicated calculations, fast processing and high volume transactions. Processes are designed around internal functions and optimised for specific departments and responsible roles. Customers – who really don’t care about all that internal stuff – are forced to contact department X first and use channel Y to get what they want.
Customer IDs reduce human beings to numbers
When taking an outside-in view of an organisation several structural issues become apparent. Customers are seen as customer IDs, not as individuals. Common human events such as relocating, changing provider, consolidating multiple products and asking ‘stupid’ questions, can lead to unnecessary irritations.
Most customer processes and systems are built on cases and user stories that don’t reflect the customers’ reality. People who want to make an inconsequential change to a financial product – such as changing email address – are forced through a complicated process of steps and decisions that are irrelevant to them.
The gap between customers’ experience and business’s abilities
Better systems don’t necessarily deliver a better customer experience
An expensive remote salesforce tool of an insurance company took days to process applications. A series of workshops with customers, intermediaries, experts and sales representatives resulted in a policy change to qualify applications on small set of key criteria. This reduced approval time from days to seconds, eliminating a huge backlog of applications. Sales agents now qualify applications themselves instead entering lots of data and waiting days for approval.
Customer-centric business architecture
Businesses develop smarter systems, better process and empowered people. While these abilities are essential to run most businesses, they are not enough to achieve competitive advantage in most sectors.
Clear policies, best practices and simple procedures all enable an organisation to perform better. More importantly an organisation with customer-centric policies and practices will offer a superior customer experience over one with fast systems and efficient processes.
It is becoming cheaper and faster to collect customer data and analyse their patterns and preferences. These customer insights are only the first step in identifying who can be turned into loyal customers. However, customer loyalty is earned by consistently doing the right thing, at the right time and in the right way. It is less about the ability to configure an attractive offer for customers, or formulate an accurate response.
Key business abilities that impact customers’ experience
Customers face a business’s practices, not the underlying processes and systems. These practices – how staff and customer facing systems act and perform – depend mainly on internal policies and procedures.
A business that operates on the principle of trusting their customers enforces this with internal policies that treat bad customer behaviour as the exception. The organisation is able to simplify onstage and backstage processes and systems instead of maintaining large fraud systems that irritate customers and hinder staff.
Build the customer experience around best practices
Boil down to the essence of what delivers a good customer experience and you get simple principles : instructions that are easy to understand, products that quick to activate and troubleshooting that solves any problems fast. These are not product specifications, but service characteristics that can be designed to make an experience feel effortless and efficient. Customer-centric best practices make positive experiences possible, despite flawed systems or processes.