There are lots of different styles when it comes to leadership. Lots of approaches, lots of management books and leadership guides. Volume upon volume of materials that you can digest online, on your kindle or even these days, in an audiobook. You can read up on just about anything. You can learn all there is about any subject. Any subject that is, except your customer.
No off-the-shelf book will be able to tell you which elements of your customer journey your clients love, and which bits they are finding most frustrating. It’s not because there aren’t plenty of (fantastic) books on customer experience out there – it’s more that your customers’ needs are a constantly evolving thing. They change with the economy, they change with trends, they change with advances in technology – Let’s face it, it can sometimes feel like they change with the wind!
Being the type of leader who relies solely on your years of experience, and the experience levels of your senior leadership team to shape your customer journey could mean you’re working with out of date material before you even begin. By assuming you know what your customers want because you knew what they wanted this time last year, you could end up like Bill, walking down a familiar road only to get a nasty surprise when you turn the corner.
Experience is no substitute for up to date feedback. The two need to go hand in hand. This has always been the case, but is true now more than ever.
We’ve all been impacted by Covid-19 in one way or another. Some of us are lucky enough to have the relentlessness of 24/7 childcare and the potential peril of stepping on duplo first thing in the morning be our biggest stressor, whilst others have been left in heart-breaking situations that no one should have to face. The world we knew is forever changed, and along with it are the consumers we want to attract and retain.
It’s predicted we’re about to enter the largest recession in recorded history. People are nervous and uncertain, with both their emotional and physical wellbeing under threat with no clear timescale for when that might end. Whilst most people are desperate for things to go back to normal, it’s a safe assumption that even when it does, the new ‘normal’ won’t resemble what we’re used to. How could it?
It’s a grim picture, but it’s not all doom and gloom - or at least it doesn’t have to be. We need to come to terms with the fact we don’t know our customers like we once did. We need to rekindle that relationship, and we need to do it fast if we’re to remain relevant in what’s about to become one of the most competitive markets any of us have seen. But… here comes the exciting bit! If we accept that our customers are not the same, and that our old way of approaching them may no longer cater for their needs then we can start to open our minds to the possibility of nationwide innovation and maybe even cross-industry collaboration on an unprecedented scale.
By approaching your customer experience strategy as a priority, having an open mind, asking the right questions, and taking clearly defined steps to improve your customer journey through journey mapping, you could well be setting your business up for the best cultural shift it’s ever encountered, and in turn a strong recovery followed by a period of sustained growth.
Our top tips!
1. Look after your people: According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 71% of people say that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. We all know that looking after your people is the right thing to do, but now it’s also good business. Our most recent instalment of Bill and Doug covers some ideas on how to check in with your employees if you get stuck for ideas!
2. Change the way you ask for feedback: Offer your customers the ability to provide feedback on their agenda, at a time, place and in a way that’s convenient for them. Don’t make feedback all about you and your company by asking old fashioned questions and long-winded surveys. Utilising simple feedback tools that can be triggered by a customer when they feel particularly motivated to tell you about their experience will yield more results, and give you more relevant insights.
Then make sure you use that feedback in the right way. Share it with everyone in your business. They all play a part in the customer journey so they need to know how they impact it, and what they can do differently. Make customer feedback a part of your team meetings, and make sure that your team see your leadership embracing feedback as the positive and transformational tool it can be.
3. Map your customer journeys: Using current insight gained from feedback and customer focus sessions is the best way to map your current journey, your aspirational one and to complete a gap analysis of the two. Plotting an emotional curve against your current journey will enable you to know exactly which areas of business change to focus on and which are just fine as they are.
4. Implement a Shadow Board: For those of you who have yet to come across this concept, a shadow board is where you select a diverse group of young individuals from within your company, not necessarily from existing high potential groups, and usually the same number as are on your actual board or senior team. Their purpose is to challenge and innovate, injecting fresh ideas and cultural change into senior leadership decision making and organisational processes. In a lot of cases they will be far more likely to represent your customer base than those you have in senior positions. Shadow boards see things in a different way to you, and can offer new perspectives on age old challenges, not to mention it’s a great way to encourage employee engagement and personal development!