In the modern sales environment, customer experience is arguably the single biggest battleground or competitive differentiator for businesses. As a result, it is imperative that customers’ interactions with a company are positive and that those interactions leave a lasting impression for all the right reasons.
However, it is equally important for sales organisations to understand that responsibility for the customer experience can no longer be delegated to the customer service department alone. In this article, we take a closer look at the need for a shift in approach and explain why customer experience is everybody’s job.
One of the biggest reasons why customer experience has to be treated as everybody’s job is because, in the vast majority of cases, sales organisations now have to provide an omni-channel experience. This means you need to communicate, sell products and provide support across various platforms and channels.
You may sell online, over the telephone, in-store, or use a combination of the three and, often, you will also need to provide support via email, telephone, social media and in-person. This provides a huge number of touchpoints, which all contribute to the experience the customer has.
“The customer’s experience with the product or service is an amalgamation of all the players at a company,” says Tiffani Bova, writing for the Huffington Post. “Whether through the website, an actual person, or a chatbot, the customer is influenced at every touch point. Not only along their purchase journey, but after.”
It is, therefore, essential that every member of staff that has any interaction with customers, or potential customers, has adequate customer service skills. This is why investment in things like customer service coaching and training programmes needs to extend beyond the traditional customer service department.
With that being said, it is also necessary to extend responsibility for the customer experience beyond those who have direct contact with customers as well, because the customer experience is not entirely dictated by direct interactions with company reps, but by any and all interactions with the business at large.
A poorly designed website can contribute to a negative experience in just the same way that poor customer service skills can. If a user struggles to make an online purchase, they may not even ask for help, they may just look elsewhere. Similarly, an educational Facebook video can provide users with a positive customer experience.
These two examples highlight the fact that responsibility for the customer experience extends to web design teams and the marketing department. Indeed, marketing has a vital role to play, because all marketing messages, whether they lead to a direct dialogue or not, form part of the customer experience.
Responsibility also extends to human resources. It is the job of HR and departmental managers to ensure that they hire personable staff, with the ability to enhance the customer experience and it is also HR’s job to emphasise the importance of customer experience in recruitment literature and during interviews.
Focus On Defining Moments
Nevertheless, one of the problems with extending responsibility too far and trying to build a customer experience culture is that it needs to be driven from somewhere. The best way to ensure this happens is to drive the customer experience from the very top of the organisation and place a focus on any and all ‘defining moments’.
“Let’s say you are a woman’s specialty retailer,” says Karen Allinder from Miller Heiman Group. “Your customer pulls into your parking lot, can she find a space? She walks into the door, is she greeted? Once she’s gathered a few items in her hand, is she asked if she wants a dressing room started?”
All of these individual moments along the customer journey can be classed as ‘defining moments’ and they all have the capacity to impact, either positively or negatively, on the overall customer experience. They need to be identified across all channels and you need to find out whether you are meeting customer expectations. If you are, you need to continue to do so consistently. If you are not, you need to make changes to meet those expectations.
The only real way to do this is to ask customers. For this reason, sales organisations need to also create a culture where feedback is requested and acted upon. Feedback should be sought out continuously, because specific customer expectations change over time, but they will always demand a consistently good experience.
Today, the customer experience rivals products and services themselves in terms of differentiating businesses and giving them a competitive advantage. However, in the modern, omni-channel environment, it is important to challenge the preconception that customer experience is simply a job for the customer service team.
In reality, everybody in the business is responsible for the customer experience. This may mean investing in customer service coaching or training for sales teams, but it also means identifying all ‘defining moments’ customers encounter and ensuring that those responsible for each moment continuously meet expectations.