Terms like “customer-centricity“ and “customer experience” continue to feature regularly at conferences and workshops. They’re the go-to buzzwords for consultants plying for new trade. Yet, having been recognised as a thought leader by Frost and Sullivan for Customer Experience – I remain unconvinced about the longevity of the customer first movement if we cannot find a definition or approach that isn’t fluffy, misleading or based on legacy Customer Service practices.
The reality for many organisations is that terms like “putting the customer first“ are something of a smokescreen to get staff to work harder, be politer, have more focus and generally care more about the BAU tasks they are carrying out. As a leader in this area, I can understand the concept of getting the basics right, something we coin as “Brilliant Basics” in UKCloud, but fundamentally this is not what Customer Experience is actually about especially in an era where technology has a bigger part to play.
One part of the problem is getting clarity on the definition as this will help us and others to unlock the potential every team has to support their customer and drive innovation in a way that helps ensure high levels of NPS and Customer Satisfaction. The biggest problem of getting to a consistent view is that terms like “putting the customer first” is extremely vague and can mean so much to so many. What that means to a telco will vastly differ to a cloud provider or retailer. Without clarity in an organisation, our teams will stop believing in the Customer Experience movement and see it as another fad or management technique to make the wheels turn faster – or worse, a weapon against staff.
“At UKCloud we prefer to use the phrase – customers at the heart of everything we do – as this focuses our attention on outcomes.”
– Karsten Smet, COO, UKCloud
For us it means delivering mutual value to UKCloud and our customer, strategically aligning with their outcome and enabling change and innovation through our service to ensure a frictionless relationship. This has enabled us to get technical and service people aligned, focusing on an outcome means we don’t overly focus on Service Desk tooling, or Service Bots to make logging a ticket or raising incident easier but consider our services from the ground up.
For us putting customers at the heart of everything we do includes our ability to scale, drive a lower cost to serve and fundamentally ensure a better more engaged workforce. Many CX professionals still wax lyrical about their new shiny service desk bot or how they have deployed robotic call routing but that doesn’t consider what is actually important. Ironically, this is what will win awards at annual CX events – but I remain dubious whether these are real needle movers.
In our world, service availability and not needing to speak to a client is key. Focusing on the use of AI and monitoring allows us to build services which selfheal. Our ability to identify issues and then automate a response – without the customer’s involvement – is as much to do with “putting the customer at the heart of everything we do” as being polite when we pick up a phone within three rings. The reality is the newfangled Chief Customer Officer needs to have the technical knowhow of a modern CIO/CTO but with a passion for people – not an evolution of the Customer Service leaders from the 90s.
More and more of these roles will need to take ownership of automation, development, UX, monitoring and general operations to ensure that all the tooling and interactions in their business meet the clients need and facilitates the actual outcome they need.
Very few industries get the balance right.
Retail companies have gone out of business trying to compete with companies like Amazon by moving technologists into traditional service industries but – by focusing on outcomes – it is possible for all industries to put the customer the heartbeat of their business.
Retail companies are already piloting webcam-enabled technologies that can show customers how a product might look before purchase – bringing a 21st century twist to the phrase “try before you buy”. I have friends in manufacturing who have come from IT who have driven automation up and re-structured their teams to focus on the items robots and machines can’t do; love, belief, empathy and the ability to build relationships. Striking this balance is what will truly help organisations reduce costs while helping their customers experience more and more wow moments.
I believe at UKCloud we have the right blend and I know all of our staff honestly understand what we mean when we say – customers are at the heart of everything we do – but I challenge you to look at how many businesses you interact with on a daily basis really do get this right.