New Years Resolutions. Three simple words – simple words that many people all around the world have uttered at some point in their lives! As we usher in a new year, it is the perfect occasion for everyone to consider what they could/should/need to do differently in the forthcoming days, weeks and months. I, like most, have regularly made a commitment to myself (and sometimes others) of things I will be committing to doing more of (or less of) in the new year. HOWEVER (there is always one of those), I, like most, have rarely been able to stick by my commitments for very long!!
Human beings, as well as the organisations they work for, find it very easy to make a promise or commitment to themselves and others. Yet if we are realistic, often, the very nature of who we are and the world we live in makes it extremely difficult to stand by these promises and commitments. When did you last commence a health kick on the 1st January, only to slip back to normality by the 1st February (if not sooner!!). This is not to say that EVERYONE will find it impossible to stick to a resolution. In the last two days, I have lost count of the number of blog posts articles that have been produced talking about this very subject – so I thought I would add another from my own perspective!!
When it comes to the world of Customer Experience, business people and Customer Experience Professionals all around the world will be thinking of and dreaming about, a more customer centric 2017. Some will be making resolutions, promises and commitments; others will be focusing on the continuation of work already started. There will be those who will need to start again; and there will be others who are moving on to bigger and better things. I dearly hope that everyone’s desires are fulfilled and that I can help validate, inform and inspire as much as I can.
On this very day in 2016, I wrote an article entitled ‘Why 2016 should NOT be the year of the customer’ – in it, I referenced my observations of Customer Experience throughout 2016. I discussed 5 key learnings of emotion, knowledge, commitment, governance and leadership. This year, rather than looking backwards, I have chosen to look forwards. Rather than describing what I observed in 2016 specifically, I want to encourage people to think about what they should be doing in 2017. Too many businesses spend too much time looking backwards (especially at numbers on spreadsheets) – I want to describe the four things that business should be focusing on going FORWARD – if they have an aspiration to become a more customer centric organisation.
It will not surprise anyone who has an interest in Customer Experience, that my four focus areas are not radically dissimilar to those identified at the end of 2015. Let me take you through them one by one:
Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration! This is not a word I am referencing for the first time, yet it is a word that continues to be among the most important for any organisation genuinely wanting to succeed with Customer Experience as a core part of their business strategy. During 2016, I did at times feel like a stuck record (remember those!), repeating endlessly the importance of and need to get organisations to start working together and for each other, as well as for the customer.
In 2017, businesses need to understand that it is IMPOSSIBLE to deliver the experience you WANT your customers to have UNTIL or UNLESS they work seamlessly together to deliver the Customer Experience – TOGETHER! If you want 2017 to be the most customer centric it can be, then work to break down the silos and lack of collaboration that is still rife in most businesses – it will benefit everyone!
Education, education, education! Again, this is a subject that I have written about before and one that is very close to my heart. In 2016, I visited 18 countries – in the last two years, I have visited 34 – the lack of broad knowledge in the field of Customer Experience continues to be a constant theme everywhere I go. That being said, the desire for knowledge, education and inspiration is mind-blowing! People are literally ‘biting at the leash’ to learn new methods, tools and principles to help them help their customers. ‘Lighting a fire’ in the minds of passionate employees can only have a dramatically positive effect on both the employee and Customer Experience.
This is why in 2017, companies need to focus more than ever on continuing education in Customer Experience at all levels of their businesses. Education is not just needed at the front line – it is need as much by the ‘C-Suite’ as it is those who talk and interact with customers on a daily basis. Those who invest in actionable knowledge transfer will see their Customer Experience efforts evolve in 2017.
Simplify, simplify, simplify! In 2013 (a long time ago now!!), I wrote an article entitled ‘Simplicity is Divinity’ – a quote from the ex CEO of the UK bank First Direct, Mark Mullen was one of the most eloquent exponents of the need for simplicity in business and the Customer Experience I had ever had the pleasure of listening to. Mark is not the only leader to understand the importance of it though – I am currently reading the autobiography of one Steve Jobs – I cannot believe I have never done so before. This man’s fascinating life provides a plethora of learnings for everyone and anyone (both positive and negative), yet his obsession with doing brilliantly with less is something that most businesses around the world are failing to heed.
In 2017, if businesses want to become more customer centric, then they should consider making it the year of STOPPING doing things and SIMPLIFYING. So many companies have become bogged down by unbelievable amounts of complexity, that removing unnecessary processes and activities will have a dramatic effect on improving both the employee and Customer Experience.
Focus, focus, focus. In 2017 and beyond, any aspiring customer centric business must have the ability to FOCUS – not just in the short-term, but more importantly for the LONG TERM! Customer Experience is a long-term business strategy – by ensuring that it is built into the business strategy so it becomes indefinitely embedded is critical. Yet at the same time, ensuring that there is a framework in place to execute the Customer Experience strategy is just as important.
Implementing and embedding a suitable Customer Experience Framework in 2017 will allow you to assess where you are today and what needs to be done in the future. It connects the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together – something I spoke about endlessly in 2016.
So there you have it – four areas to focus on in 2017. Easy to say – just like any New Years Resolution – but not easy to do! We are living in exciting times for the field of Customer Experience though – more and more people and companies are talking about it than ever before. More and more are slowly starting to do something about it – those who do so and do so quickly, are the ones who will be more likely to better differentiate themselves going forward. Eventually, those who fail to act on the big words, are the ones who will fail.
I wish you all the luck in the world for your 2017 aspirations – I will keep writing, guiding and inspiring throughout!
I will look forward to your education and insights
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These are all key areas Ian, and as you point out they are not new, but something that every business needs to do. I’d particularly agree with the first point on collaboration – customer service and customer experience is everyone’s job, but the structure of many organisations makes it impossible to break down silos. One way round this is creating customer hubs that bring together staff with different skills in the same place to solve customer issues – more on how this works in our blog post http://www.eptica.com/blog/what-customer-hub-and-why-do-you-need-one