Collaboration is key to customer experience

Rigid strategies that do not focus on the future, restructures that fail to overcome silos and staff who are not empowered are hindering businesses joining up to deliver differentiated customer experiences.

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Joined up customer experiences that are differentiated and relevant are proven drivers of business growth, according to consultancy Brand Learning, but some business practices are getting in the way of delivering those experiences.

The consultancy’s Joined Up Customer Experience study, sourced from 1,000 contributors, finds that siloed behaviour and ways of working are the greatest barrier, named by 48% of respondents. It says that constant restructures to address this are creating more silos and failing to enable people to work together to deliver for customers in practice, with little focus on working practices and cultural barriers between teams. This results in more bureaucracy in processes (35% say) and employees that do not feel empowered (29%).

The survey also shows that strategies are too focused on today’s pain points versus future opportunities and that functional planning and execution is too rigid. It advises brands to constantly evaluate customer experiences based on data-driven insights in order to sustain performance.

READ MORE: Brand strategy, data and customer experience are marketers’ new priorities

trends1Rich Bryson, group client and proposition director at Brand Learning, says: “From our own experience and talking with leaders of customer experience we see that change doesn’t start from big overhauls or restructures, which can create more complexity.” He adds that organisations have success where they “focus on how people work together, what the needs of customers are, and understanding the culture of the different functions” so that a shared approach can be instilled to deliver for customers.

Take care of your people and they will take care of your business.

Mark Gilmour, Virgin

Brand Learning has identified three ways in which businesses can join up working practices to deliver on customer experience. The first is invention in strategy and execution that brings teams together to invent differentiated customer experiences and improve ‘micro-moments’ using data-driven insights. Bryson explains that there is a lot of “focus around agility but it’s not enough to be agile”. He says: “Those doing it well anticipate what customers need and provide solutions that constantly improve experience.”

READ MORE: Secret Marketer: Brands claim customer experience is a top priority, really they’re just paying it lip service

The report suggests this can be enabled by integration of real working practises, such as joining up structures and ways of working around the needs of customers, employees and partners, and using the ingenuity of people to deliver innovative customer experience solutions.

trends2Empowered employees are a proven indicator of a company’s customer experience and growth, according to Brand Learning. “It’s simple, take care of your people and they will take care of your business,” explains Mark Gilmour, global brand director at Virgin, which features in the survey as a best practice case study. “People can be your greatest brand ambassadors, help grow your customer base and keep your clients loyal. We have a mantra of ‘being yourself’ at work and, in addition to numerous tools, processes and guidelines, we believe that this is the single most important way we can empower our people to deliver the best customer service.”

However, businesses are not performing well in joined up customer experience. The survey reveals that less than a third rate their organisation as highly joined up across strategies and activities. Less than 30% of companies involve HR and IT in developing strategies, despite the importance of technology and employee experience in customer experience.

It also shows that less than one in four strongly agree that cross-functional working practices are integrated around the needs of customers and employees and the same number agree that their company harnesses the ingenuity of its people to deliver outstanding customer experiences. Less than one in five companies agree that their functions work together to continuously improve all aspects of the customer experience.

The study also suggests a need for C-suite accountability in customer experience, with 29% of respondents saying there is no board-level responsibility for the end-to-end customer experience in their organisation. Bryson says it is important  for senior leaders to have “strategic responsibility in driving end-to-end customer experience” since customer experience can often get siloed to a particular part of the business.

trends3The study looked further afield for examples of businesses that take a shared view on end goals and shows learnings from the Williams Martini Racing Formula One team. Williams’ pit stops were among the slowest of the teams in the 2015 season, so in the off-season it broke down every component and found creative ways to improve all aspects of performance. The report states that the ingenuity of the team is reflective of the culture at Williams.

Head of commercial Richard Berry says that because the team races every two weeks there is a “clear physical manifestation” of how the team performs. “Every two weeks we are in front of the world and it’s clear what we do and don’t do – we take so much data from the car and everything we do is measured. It’s fractions of seconds,” he says.

The team also adapts to regular change, so Berry says that in terms of asking people to make changes in an organisation, culturally it is “not a difficult thing to do”. He explains: “You don’t accept not doing the best you can do because you work in an organisation where you have to make improvements.”

As the research shows, companies that fail to join up ways of working and departments, and to take responsibility at a senior level, will struggle in providing the best customer experience, which it seems is mostly the result of having a shared goal that cascades through an organisation.

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