The common mnemonic that denotes the order in which mathematical calculations are done, memorized right from early school days – Brackets Of Division Multiplication Addition and Subtraction (BODMAS) can be applied to customer experience in pretty much the same format; beginning with what needs to be held within the brackets first and concluding with what needs to be ejected. Its science, that has been relevant from yester years and has transcended time, remains relevant in the customer experience space to date. It forms the backbone upon which all enterprises need to formulate their customer experience excellence delivery plan.
Sometimes referred to as parentheses, brackets denote what is on the inside – an inclusion. This being the symbol used to enclose words or figures, it can be mapped onto the internal customer. It is often and very rightly said that internal customer service is integral to delivering external customer experience excellence, and that without getting it right internally, customer experience excellence will be nothing but a pipe dream. Looking inwards requires a two pronged approach with one angle touching on seamless service and the other on employee satisfaction. The service focus needs to look at ensuring internal customer processes, procedures, systems, and interdepartmental service levels are working well. Each department or unit needs to ensure that the internal customers it serves are well profiled and that the service delivery inputs and outputs are comprehensively mapped out. Each person involved must have clarity on the role they play towards ensuring service delivery is effective and to appreciate the rationale and importance of getting it right internally first, before executing on external requirements. Measuring and auditing internal service levels is of equal importance and weight, as monitoring external customer service. It should be accorded the same significance.
The employee engagement focus rides high on the premise that to deliver excellent customer service, those charged with the responsibility to do so must feel enabled, empowered and enthused to do so. The popular quote by Richard Branson the English business magnate, investor and philanthropist: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”, very nicely sums up the critical need to ensure that employees in the organization across the horizontal and vertical strata are well taken care of. This care needs to manifest itself in such a way that they feel important to the organization. It should also take into consideration that their needs (both at a personal and professional level) as well as the environment and ergonomics at the workplace are designed to elicit employee happiness. External customer experience excellence can only be delivered by employees who are content and feel driven to extend that to customers. The more the company invests in having the workplace as a centre of employee focus, the bigger the return on investment towards the external customer. This internal satisfaction needs to also be drawn from internal engagement with the brand identity. That staff members should be aware of the vision that the company holds. They need to identify with it in order to achieve it, and be part of the organization’s thrust for delivery. Moreover, they should understand the company’s mission and how every step they make at the workplace is plugs into the mission towards bringing the vision closer to achievement. Finally, members of staff should understand the organization’s values. There should be congruence of the non-negotiable values that the organization has crafted to drive culture, with each individual’s personal values to ensure harmony. Employees spend a significant amount of time at the workplace, and if it does not provide personal value, then they are unlikely to transfer value to the external customer. It is indeed true that one cannot give out what they do not have.
The division element of customer experience excellence speaks into cascading the customer experience strategy to all the teams on the ground. Dividing the knowledge and plans, and ensuring it trickles down to all levels in bits that are ‘chewable’. The folly of many organizations lies in crafting excellent strategy documents in the boardroom that then remain there, gathering dust on shelves in the C-Suite offices. Most of them are just beautiful pieces of work that do not get executed. If at all they are executed, they are viewed by many employees as alien things brought down from senior management. Customer experience planning and strategy needs to be all inclusive and have those that are directly involved ensuring everything works well. Essentially, they should be consulted to contribute to the discussion. The inputs into the strategy need to come from the people on the ground. There is nothing as motivating to staff as seeing their inputs and suggestions translate into actionable policies. Internal data is a great plug in for the purpose of making relevant and informed business decisions. The framework for strategy needs to be fleshed out by the actual teams that are an excellent source of information based on experience and institutional history. The first hand interaction with products and services provides a good source of understanding for continual improvement. The division of labour towards strategy conceptualization, input provision, development, and finally implementation forms the foundation for success. Each department and unit needs to take the overall strategy, take out their bits, and run these efficiently to enable the success of the entire organization towards delivering service excellence.
Multiplication and Addition
The two pretty much address creating value for both the internal and external customer, and may be addressed by focusing on a series of questions towards auditing performance in this area. Whatever stage the organization may be in the growth cycle, its size, the economic sector of focus or revenue delivery, taking time to providing reflective thought will yield results for action. Every organization must therefore begin to ask critical questions including: what exactly is our vision and how does this vision add value to the growth of the company or towards making a difference in the world at large; how exactly do our products and services increase customer value and provide benefits that will have customers return and remain loyal; what strategy do we have in place for customer retention in order to make customers feel valued that will have them multiply in number by bringing in referrals unheeded; what innovative approaches are we undertaking to ensure that we are constantly adding fresh appeal to our products and services to enhance customer value; what new lines of business could we venture into, to either repackage what we have or create new streams for the benefit of our customers; how much have our staff added to their knowledge and skills since they joined us that enhances their value at a personal and professional level; and lastly, how much have our teams multiplied their desire to be great ambassadors for the brand both in and out of the workplace, taking pride in their work, accomplishments and our overall brand values. The list of questions towards understanding both the addition and multiplier effects is not exhaustive and more questions may be included in order to achieve a constant awareness of the need to do better, be better, and deliver better.
This element of customer experience excellence has to do with ensuring all excesses are cut off to deliver efficiency and enhance customer experience. There needs to be constant measurement to determine how best to make the customer journey less tedious, less complicated and less frustrating. Many times organizations develop processes that are inward facing and that serve internal workings without proper user experience testing and customer journey mapping. Walking in the customer’s shoes will facilitate the creation of procedures that are aligned to ease of access. Every customer touch point must be well mapped out with a view to trimming off excess and time wasting activities and ensuring that customers are served swiftly. Internal customers also need to audit company systems and processes and deliberate over how best to address customer needs quicker. Technological interventions for customer experience excellence need to be adopted to remove long and convoluted processes, and allow for customer efficiencies. The goal ultimately would be to use technology to create increased options for real time customer experiences, and self-service options where applicable, as well as to trim out the bloat that plagues operational efficiency towards achieving cost effectiveness centred on quality delivery.
The BODMAS of customer experience excellence needs to be an everyday discussion in business today, with teams right across from leadership to the shop floor pitting their operations and deliverables against the customer service BODMAS scale. Continual improvement is the mantra that drives excellence. Indeed, since organizations are bodies with pretty much the same genetic makeup as species, it would be of interest to anchor customer experience business goal setting towards a constant evolving need to work on and improve service excellence. As Charles Darwin aptly puts it: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent. It is the that is most adaptable to change.”
Carolyne Gathuru is the founder and director of strategy at Lifeskills Consulting. She has over 17 years experience in customer service strategy development and training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org one