Achieve outstanding customer experience

At our “Transforming Customer Experience” Golden Marzipan Breakfast Briefing we explored how we take it from regulation to reality.  Our stellar panel provided lots of insightful and practical advice for housing associations, but one thing stood out and that was the need for cultural shift to achieve great customer experience. Here we talk more to Golden Marzipan’s customer experience expert and panellist at the Breakfast Briefing, Lynne Mills, who gives us the low-down on the first steps to ignite cultural change.  

The Culture of an organisation has a huge influence on creating a great customer experience. Think about it from a structure perspective, the Board sets the strategy, priorities and KPIs that then enable the Executive to create the Business plan that the operational teams deliver. If at an operational level you are given a project to improve services and make them more customer-centric, but the culture set by the Board isn’t laser-focused on delivering a great customer experience, you’re going to find yourself pushed and pulled around in terms of other priorities. So, for me having a board that has the customer-experience hard wired into their thinking is vital as it allows the organisation the room and the support to be able to develop the plans and implement those plans without diluting those resources across too many areas of focus.  

For example, let’s take an organisation where the Board has set a strategy around growth and all the strategic KPIs are based around growth, except maybe for a couple of customer satisfaction measures. The organisations operational plans and priorities will be about growing the organisation, this could lead to cutting corners, not allowing time for process re-engineering, not investing in end to end joined up IT systems, reducing resources around customer-facing teams, cutting training budgets; all so the money can be re-invested in activities that support the growth strategy or improve the balance sheet. How likely is it that you’ll achieve excellent customer experience in that environment?   

“Does this work for us as an organisation and does it work for our customer?”

That’s not to say there shouldn’t be a commercial element around customer experience. Boards and Executive teams should always be asking themselves the question: “Does this work for us as an organisation and does it work for our customer?”  The answer has got to be yes to both of those questions. It’s a fine balance to find that sweet spot.  

You also have to be realistic. You can’t necessarily always do everything your customers ask for because some things will not make commercial sense and that could cost you dearly. But equally you must have a hard business reason to do something that doesn’t drive what your customers want. And if that is the case and you really can’t do something, then it’s about being open, honest, and upfront with your customers. Explain why you are not able to do something.  In my experience, customers will trust and respect you more if you are upfront and genuine.  It’s finding that balance. 

Customer experience utopia is where this thinking flows right through your business. Where it becomes part of the DNA of the organisation.  Where colleagues instinctively question whether something works for customers, what impact it will have on them and if it’s not good, what are they going to do about it, how do they deliver that news in the best way possible. 

A man enjoying excellent customer service

HOW TO EMBED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN YOUR ORGANISATION? 

Lynne lists five priorities for anyone looking to firmly embed customer experience in their organisation’s culture: 

  1. Values – The values of your organisation need to be customer focused. You need to be explicit about the elements of customer experience that are important and use language that everyone can understand. 
  1. Strategy and KPIs – The Board need to review the strategy that they set and how this is measured and ensure they are customer focused. There are a number of layers of measures; customer satisfaction, customer experience, and trust as well as net-promoter are the obvious ones. But research undertaken over several years by The Institute of Customer Service has identified 26 key drivers that underpin these obvious measures.  You need to look at all of these in equal measure to make sure you have a rounded view of what is going on and that everything is driving in the right direction. 
  1. Skills sets – ALL colleagues need to have customer-based skills sets and objectives, not just your customer service team. This is something that should run through their job descriptions, the way you recruit, one-to-ones, remuneration and training. Customer service training is not a project, it’s ongoing and needs to be across the whole organisation.   
  1. Data – Lots of housing associations collect lots of data from a number of sources and measure almost everything and then do little with it. But are they measuring the right things? Are you getting feedback that you can do something with, or is it just noise? I’d recommend revisiting your customer feedback framework and re-build it around the 26 key drivers 
  1. Systems – Once all that is sorted, look at your processes and systems. Your colleagues are the best people to tell you what works and what doesn’t, so use them to re-engineer and simplify things, weed out those manual work arounds and make sure the systems are joined up end to end. 

Lynne Mills is a change advisor on customer experience at Golden Marzipan. If you are wrestling with the cultural shift needed to achieve outstanding customer experience, or you’d just like to explore how you could take a more customer-centric approach please get in touch for an informal chat. Email lynne@goldenmarzipan.co.uk  

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