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Extraordinary Customer Relationships – What Gets in the Way?

In a recent blog, we suggested that organisations aim for extraordinary customer relationships.  In fact we proposed that it should be the norm, that ordinarily extraordinary should be the standard.

It should be, but in reality we think that ordinarily ordinary would be a more accurate description of the standard most businesses achieve.  Few stand out from the crowd.

And yet we don’t think that most businesses set out to deliver ordinary customer service.  A few may base their business model on ‘no frills’ service, budget airlines and discount retailers being prime examples, but even these organisations surely want to deliver the  service they offer as effectively as possible and to provide customers with a positive experience.  Certainly they don’t want to disappoint customers or leave them feeling let down by the service they receive.

And it’s usually not a question of senior leaders commitment either.  Most leaders understand the importance of the relationships their business has with customers.

So why more often than not do they struggle to achieve anything more than ordinary? We believe that ultimately it comes down to what gets in the way, what prevents an organisation from providing the extraordinary experience. So what does get in the way? The usual suspects are things like lack of motivation, cost constraints, systems issues, short staffing, other priorities, being too busy, providing a great customer experience not being part of someone’s job, selling more being more important than the experience has. The list goes on. We’ve encountered dozens of examples of things that get in the way. They include:

– Lack of Vision
– Shortfalls of Leaders / Leadership
– Cultural problems that inhibit change
– Processes that are antiquated and seen as being too expensive to change
– Systems that are not properly focused on providing great customer experience
– People capability or the lack of it
– People not being motivated to change or not seeing why they should
– Short term focus – often organisations revert to driving more sales when the chips are down as opposed to looking at the longer term growth benefits of improving the customer experience
– Measurement – either not knowing how to measure customer experience or it not being something that performance is measured on
– Legacy factors that hold back organisations and means they are often blinkered to new ways of doing things
– Governance structures that are not properly focused on delivering a great customer experience

Whilst the examples listed above are commonly the physical constraints that we find organisations identify as the reasons why they are not as focused as they might be on improving the customer experience to develop those extraordinary relationships, there are three common themes that emerge that really underlie why nothing has been done to make improvements.

1. There is no burning platform or imperative for change – either in the form of there being a threat if nothing is done to focus more on the customers and the experience they have or from the point of view of there not being a valuable opportunity from improving the customer experience;

2. If there are any short term crises around hitting the profit target, it’s easier to pull the sales and cost levers – increase sales and reduce costs. The rewards from improving customer experience aren’t instant, but if done properly the returns will be more sustainable;

3. Organisations see that improving customer experience is a cost not an investment – principally because they have difficulty in being able to develop a business case for investing in customer experience improvements because they can’t work out what the returns are likely to be. Investment, therefore, is seen as a risk and one that organisations won’t take when there’s short term income and profit pressure.

At the core of the work we do with clients is the way in which we identify the imperatives and drivers – threats or opportunities – to grow through improving customer experience. We help them to ‘de-risk’ investments by working out exactly what the returns will be and we help them focus on the core changes that will deliver the best results for them. The organisations we have worked for don’t make investments on a wing and a prayer – they make them based on business cases, sound judgement  and surety around the returns that will be delivered – that’s where clients we work with want to see value added – to give them the how, the what and the how much in terms of how they go about delivering improved results through better engagement.

There  are some givens at the heart of delivering extraordinary customer experience – extraordinary relationships to ensure everybody works together to achieve the goal, alignment throughout the organisation and focus on delivering that extraordinary experience and, vital from the commercial sense, a clear and quantifiable, rational and measurable operating model that proves that developing extraordinary relationships with customers gives competitive advantage, means they stay longer, buy more and, as a consequence, ensure  improved commercial results are delivered.

It starts, and ends, with relationships and that’s what we do – we enable organisations to develop extraordinary relationships and as a result to deliver extraordinary results.