How Innovative Companies Improve the Customer Experience

Jan 4, 2016
8 Min Read

Data from Forrester Research shows that while companies may have a vision for the customer experience they want to deliver, that may be a well-kept secret – from their own workforce.

Deanna Laufer, a senior analyst with Forrester, explains few customer experience (CX) professionals “regularly share their CX visions/strategies with all employees, and even fewer do so in a consistent way.”

That lack of sharing – and confusion about how various departments impact the customer experience – can hurt an organization’s success.

Denise Lee Yohn, a customer and brand expert, says she has experienced how silos within an organization can hurt the customer experience.

Specifically, Yohn says she discovered that one retail client’s executives “understood that generating new customer experience ideas would involve” that person’s department, but they also were limited in their thinking. Specifically, these executives also believed that designing and managing the customer experience was really  a marketing function, “as if the customer is only associated with marketing, and the store only with operations,” she says.

Yohn explains that she believes the problem is that most companies are operating with a narrow view of customer experience, when it’s really the “sum of all interactions a customer has with a company.”

A clear vision

The challenge for any company is to deliver a better customer experience in order to stay competitive, and that can be even more challenging while scaling the business. Still, some of the most innovative companies are providing a blueprint as they forge a better customer experience.

One of those is Warby Parker, the prescription eyeglasses company that offers “stylish” selections at affordable prices. Named by Fast Company as one of the “most innovative companies” of 2015, it also is noted for the trust it’s developing with customers.

For example, the company lets customers try on five frames for free with the home try-on program. In addition, it makes a month-end cash donation to their non-profit partners based on the number of eyeglasses they have sold. Employees are known to engage customers directly not only via phone calls and e-mail, but also through social media channels such as Twitter. Since the company was launched in 2010, they have made about 2,000 customer-response videos, often with a member of the customer-service team speaking directly to a customer.

A popular story about Warby Parker illustrates how it views the customer experience. Michael John Mathis left his Warby Parker reading glasses on a train, so he bought himself another pair the following day. But then an unexpected package showed up “containing  two pair of those same reading glasses “ along with a copy of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” Mathis says.

An accompanying note read that “this might be odd…but you sat across from me on the train ride from NYC to Boston a few weeks ago and left your glasses on the train! As luck would have it, I happen to be the GC of Warby Parker, and there is nothing I like more than a good mystery….I hope these find you in good health (also, we noticed your lenses were scratched so we made you a fresh pair!)”

Michael says that after receiving the note, “Just like that, they have retained a customer for life.”

Laufer, of Forrester, notes that the best customer experience strategies are “executed by people sharing a common vision,” and letting managers drive change around the strategy.

One of Laufer’s suggestions for a better customer experience strategy is giving managers throughout the organization the right tools to drive the customer experience message into everyday actions.

At FedEx, for example, a customer experience toolkit for project owners and managers was put in place. Then, the 1,500 workers in “critical” positions were trained so that the tools were embedded into every product, service, feature, interaction and relationship.

In another example, Cleveland Clinic conducts half-day sessions for 500 employees at a time, letting them work with a facilitator so they can talk about overarching patient experience principles and what patient experience excellence means for their daily work.

Yohn, the customer experience expert, argues that it’s critical to have the proper tools in designing a company’s approach, because otherwise there’s the risk of mismanagement. She adds that because customers today engage in multiple ways with an organization, there needs to be a customer experience architecture that ensures that silos are broken down, customer diversity is addressed and customer experiences are compelling and unique.

Clarabridge, a computer software company specializing in customer experiences, provides some advice on how to measure a customer experience program to ensure an organization is getting the best bottom-line impact. Among its suggestions:

  1. Quantify the customer experience. Look at issues such as whether the customer’s question was answered during the first contact, how many queries can be resolved on the website and how difficult it is for customers to resolve issues.
  2. Gauge the impact. Which social media channels are engaging customers? What kinds of questions do you get via Twitter or Facebook? How well are employees providing customer service through such channels?
  3. Measure satisfaction.  Look at whether customer feedback is happy or unhappy, along with how willing they would be to recommend your business to a friend.  What are they saying about you online, and how often?
  4. Track business results.  Measure how much it costs to resolve each customer issue, how many customers are being lost, if employees are able to upsell and the overall bottom line.

Clarabridge advises that organizations shouldn’t panic if they don’t get a good score, since it’s more important to benchmark current levels and then be able to see progress. As long as you can see an upward movement, then you’re on the right track to delivering a better customer experience.

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