The Invisible Customer and Customer Experience

There are multiple organisational layers in big companies. In many cases most of the people in the company are not in direct contact with the customers who are buying the products and services the company offers.

However, the sales people, who work in the customer interface, understand and analyse the needs of your customers on a daily basis. They have a better understanding of how the customers feel and experience your service. In other parts of the organisation it can be difficult to hear the customer’s voice.

“There are also several activities where we can hardly define who the customer really is.”

It is said that creating a great customer experience requires a synchronisation across all organisational functions, and it should be in the minds of everyone daily. This means that everyone in the organisation should be aware of how their customer’s heart is beating, who the customer is and what their expectations on your services or products are.

How do you introduce this synchronisation to someone whose working role is not to have business lunches and small talk in the customer interface but rather to work in the office?

Who the Customer Really Is?

In my area of responsibility there is a variation of different activities where we are working very closely with our customers. There are also several activities where we can hardly define who the customer really is. We provide tailor-made services for our customers, which means we are closely interacting with them.

In several cases the customer is not an individual or a specific company. One example of this is when we are building a mobile network coverage for everybody. Sometimes it is hard to feel the customer’s heartbeat when you are not working in direct contact with them.

The abovementioned case really requires us to think hard to see the link between the customer experience of someone placing calls or surfing on the internet on our mobile network, and on our work. In service business where the basis of a good service is an excellent infrastructure, good service level is too often a default. When the infrastructure is not working as expected, the complaints start rolling in. In these kind of cases the customers and their expectations for a great service are made very visible!

Follow the Needs of the Customer

It is crucial to empower the employees of your organisation with a mandate to do their utmost best to make your customers happy. Crisis and mishaps are awakening moments. The difficult thing is to stay aware, and maybe a bit alert, on the level of your customer experience when business is as usual.

In our company we have implemented a company-wide NPS (Net Promoter Score) programme, and have been successful in utilising its results. It has given a framework for a structured and a customer-oriented way of working. It can be seen as a loop involving everyone, starting from the customer feedback to continuous improvement, and leading to better customer experience.

NPS has made the voice of the customer heard across the whole organisation by utilising surveys and metrics. We have also set relevant KPIs for every touch point. The NPS programme has supported the employees to consider and work from the point of view of the customers, and have a customer-centric mind-set. This has helped in creating a stronger customer-centric culture in our company.

It is always very exciting for me to contact the customers who have given poor scores in NPS. It is very rewarding when you contact them personally and notice that the small deeds, such as just listening to their worries, can change their minds. At the end of the call you can call them satisfied or even happy customers.

“Help your people to be aware of how their work affects the daily life of your customers.”

I am also very impressed on what our organisational change last year resulted. We introduced a new tribe culture where our teams are not following the organisational structure but rather the needs of the customers. The tribe teams are empowered to take responsibility of the different projects, and they have an ambition to build something together based on the customer needs. That has significantly brought customers closer to all of our employees, as well as improved co-operation between the different parts of the organisation. It has also significantly shortened lead times, increased process efficiency, and thus improved the customer experience.

Tuning Your Organisation for Top Customer Experience

During the years I have made some observations on how to improve customer experience, and increasing the awareness on the needs of the customer throughout the organisation:

  1. Create a customer-centric culture to the company. The needs of the customer are the basis for all activities done in a company, and everyone in the company should feel the customer’s heartbeat. They should work for the customer and not for their company alone.
  2. Bring the customer closer to everyone in your organisation. The organisation structure has to be such that it supports bringing the customers closer to everyone in the organisation, not just the sales and customer service.
  3. Allow and encourage everyone to be involved in customer projects. Regardless of their work role, anyone should have the chance to be involved in your customer projects from the very beginning. Create a tribe culture where people from different parts of the organisation are working together to create the best possible customer experience.
  4. Keep everything transparent. Help your people to be aware of how their work affects the daily life of your customers.
  5. Do and deliver more than what your customer expects. Be better than the best of you all the time.
  6. Give a mandate and responsibility to everyone. Give the people working with the customers both the mandate and responsibility to make crucial decisions to keep the customers happy.
  7. Communicate and celebrate success clearly and loud enough. Whether the success is big or small, let your people know they did a superb job and that your customers appreciate their work, and celebrate it. Scale doesn’t matter, thus tiny deeds can create big feelings.
  8. Involve everyone in defining how to improve customer experience. Define the KPIs together.

There is no shortcut in creating an attitude where everyone feels they can influence the customer experience. Make everyone’s job meaningful by talking about it. This makes them work for that meaning. Empower that sense of meaning. We are all human beings and able to communicate with each other, which is what customer experience is all about. Customer experience is not dependent on layers and interfaces. We are all working for customers.