How the customer experience vision gap is holding many organisations back

GapIn a world that is moving faster and faster and where it seems like we have less and less time to think, there is better way to approach problems, particularly when it comes to those associated with improving and developing the customer’s experience. Doing so will allow organisations to develop an increased ability to deliver better and more sustainable growth, higher RoI and better outcomes for them and their customers.

Back in September, I wrote an article called ‘Habituation And The Risk To Customer Experience’. In it I suggested that habituation, the process of transforming the learning of new things into habits, is something that we naturally go through but is also something that, in an organisational context, could pose a risk to the ongoing improvement and development of things like customer experience. The reason being is that once we develop a habit or a way of doing things, it can ‘stop us from noticing and then fixing the ‘invisible’ problems that are around us’.

This phenomenon is real and is holding many organisations back in their efforts to improve their customer experience.

The reason that I say this is that, over the course of the last few months, I’ve been having a series of conversations with a number of large organisations that are looking to improve their service and customer experience, many of whom are facing the same sort of issues. However, the interesting thing that has emerged from these conversations is how similarly many of them behave when they become aware of a problem or when they recognise that their service or experience is experiencing a problem. These problems tend to manifest themselves through things like a fall in revenues, rising costs, an increase in customer churn or a decrease in their NPS or CSAT scores.

What I have observed is that once an organisation recognises that it has a problem many of them jump into ‘fix’ mode and quickly move towards buying new tools, technology, processes or systems etc etc in order to fix the problem.

That’s fair enough, you may say.

But, the challenge with this type of behaviour is that, in many cases, nothing much changes once they have applied their ‘fix’ and their problem persists. This is because the problem is not properly understood and, therefore, there is no guarantee that any of the new ‘tools’ that are acquired are the right ones for the job.

I’m not alone in noticing this. In a conversation with Ben Reason of Livework, a leading service design agency, he noted that:

“We keep seeing clients that are facing similar problems but they are predominantly focused on delivering fast. However, in doing so, they are getting stuck in a rut of diminishing returns.”

For me this type of behaviour is a great example of habituation in action but it’s also an example of how many organisations are suffering from a customer service and experience vision gap and it is one that is holding many of them back.

However, all is not lost and there is a better way for organisations to respond to this phenomenon. As a rseult, leaders and organisations should:

  1. Recognise that habituation exists in your organisation and that it could be holding back many of your customer experience improvement efforts.
  2. Once you become aware of a problem, you should resist your instinct to automatically jump into ‘fix’ mode and take some time to better understand the problem by talking to customers and employees as well as gathering and interrogating internal, external, survey and market based data.
  3. Use this increased understanding to imagine what a future, better, more engaging and more competitive service and experience proposition could look like. I mean….why would you set about fixing something or building something new when you don’t have any real idea of what the end goal is, when you have arrived and how you are getting on on your journey if you have no idea where you are going?
  4. Collaborate with your customers and employees, especially the ones that engage with customers on a daily basis, to design potential solutions that will address the problem that you have identified and will move you towards your imagined future state.
  5. Take the best of these potential solutions and work to create a series of pilots that you can implement and that will allow you to test, learn and identify which ones offer the best solution to the problem and which ones you should roll-out.
  6. Only then should you consider what ‘tools’ you need to acquire to help you solve the problem and compliment the solutions you have identified.

It’s true that following this type of approach may feel like it will take longer. And, in a time where everything seems to be getting faster and faster and more and more competitive, that might seem counter-intuitive.

But, that’s the challenge.

If you want to compete then you may need to slow down a little in order to go faster and further. This approach is supported by data from a Harvard Business Review and Economist Intelligence Unit study from 2010 which showed that firms that were reactive, hard-charging and always fixing tended to have lower sales and profitability than those that took time to pause. In fact, those that paused and took time to slow down, reflect on the problems that they faced and how they should approach them averaged ’40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period’.

I think it’s true that you can’t eliminate habits, you can only replace them with new ones. So, here’s hoping that organisations start to recognise that they have habits that don’t help them and that they develop new ones that allow them to recognise, understand, imagine, design and create new and innovative solutions to the problems they, their employees and their customers face.

“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.” – Shakespeare

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This post was originally published on Forbes.com here.

Photo Credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Hiking.org Flickr via Compfight cc

Comments

  1. Arh, but what you fail to realise Adrian is that no thrusting executive I got the sack for showing dynamism and rolling out the latest programme.

    Why go slowly when you have a name to make for yourself? :)

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