By Thimaya Subaiya, SVP, Customer Experience Solutions & Acceleration, Cisco
It’s no secret that company success stems from customer success. With this established model, why are businesses still failing to provide great customer experiences? While many companies tout the latest engagement features or sleek interactive design, they overlook the necessity of reaching customers in meaningful ways. The disconnect lies in the timing.
Are you using these tools as the first point of engagement? To be impactful, the customer journey must start well in advance. The value before sales has been an oversight for many large enterprise companies in the past. As an industry, perhaps we moved too quickly away from the human touch as our technologies advanced, and we forgot to establish strategic and trusted relationships based on human interactions.
This past year served as a collective reset. In 2020, companies relearned the significance of trust and connection. Moving into the new year, organizations are grappling with how to accelerate their digital strategies while harnessing the power of human interactions. Balancing personalization and scalability will be tested yet again by the gradual return to work.
To avoid a return to old habits, I urge my industry colleagues to shift their mindset. Here’s how.
Products are powered by people
To decode this proposition, companies must first define customer experience. Rather than being an isolated event, the customer experience encompasses every aspect of a company’s offering. Yet, there is typically only a select team tasked with caring for the customer. This is because customer experience is seen as synonymous with customer service. In order to provide a more holistic approach to creating authentic customer connections, companies need to recognize the distinction — customer service is only one part of the entire customer life cycle.
Customer experience focuses on the relationship between a company and its customers. It includes every interaction – big or small, direct or indirect. Whether it’s a conversation at a call center, exposure to an advertisement or an online transaction, every exchange is part of the relationship-building process. Therefore, it should be top of mind for every employee. A successful company shapes customer experiences by embedding the fundamental value of positive employee experiences. Every employee within the company must feel that they own their company’s customer experience.
The organizations that recognize it is the individual who pushes the company forward are also inherently inclusive. Not only are diverse teams recognized for cultivating innovation and creativity, they are also key to forging connections with a wider customer base. By valuing individual perspectives, experiences and opinions, companies are inevitably deepening their understanding of their customers – especially those who have been traditionally underserved.
Start CX from a future perspective
The shift in workplace mentality is only effective when paired with the right tools. As a year of tremendous uncertainty looms large over companies, many are seeking solutions for increasing speed, efficiency and “future-proofing” – and how to do so at scale.
Rather than assessing the current landscape, what technologies does your company need to drive future success? For many, this involves the growing needs of a hybrid workforce. As options for returning to in-person environments begin to present themselves, there will be a staggered return to work. In some cases, employees will never return to the office. Companies need to plan now for how to keep teams collaborating through yet another transition.
We are already seeing these solutions being developed as companies are adapting multi-architecture technology with automation as a driving force. Organizations around the world are leveraging real-time insights to make critical business decisions. While these offerings allow companies to be more agile, the fear of losing the “human-touch” remains consistent. After a year devoid of personal interactions, implementing more automated processes to manage the mundane will give us more time to connect on the important things, reestablishing and reinforcing trusted relationships.
Once an oversight, now the standard
While face-to-face interactions are on pause, the expectations for customer experience haven’t changed. If anything, the customer experience resurfaced as a priority across all company functions. Companies have been called to take a more holistic approach to their operations, and thereby, redefine the customer experience.
Creating a customer-centric culture rooted in positive employee experiences separates good companies from great companies. It can even shift public perception. A previously alienated customer could recognize how a company is operating differently and consider how their future experience might also be different.
Transitioning into a new year, let’s not return to old habits. It’s time to shift our mindset. We sit at the threshold of redefining the industry standard for customer experience. Companies that understand the role every function plays in shaping it are the ones that will achieve true business resiliency and growth in this new landscape – and the next.