In the movie "For love of the game" Kevin Costner is a senior baseball pitcher who is faced with the prospect of pitching in possibly his last Major League game. He is also not a crowd favourite given that he is 40+ and considered too old for the game. The noise in the packed stadium is deafening and his injured pitching shoulder is preventing him from pitching. He however has a special ability to shut off all the noise in the stadium by saying "clear the mechanism". That allows him to focus on pitching, which he does with a “perfect pitch”.
The correlation of this moment of struggle with noise from all sides in the movie to a CXO’s dilemma in taking decisions at the workplace are so identical.
Given the high decibel noise around technology and its adoption not just from internal team members, but from the industry one works in and also the peer group, one wishes all CXO’s to be blessed with the Extra Sensory Protocol (ESP sic) to blockout the noise and focus on what makes the most logical, economical and sustainable decision for the organization as a whole and CX organization in particular.
Here are some thoughts from my last 3 decades of experience across diverse industries like Hospitality, Technology and Realty in the specific area of leveraging technology to deliver high quality CX to customers.
Set the foundation right (0-3 months)
A former CEO & MD, and a terrific mentor, who I had the pleasure of working with on multiple assignments, once told me that in order to make informed strategic decisions, we must follow the principle of building construction. For 10-12 months nothing is visible above the ground, and while people may assume nothing is happening, it is the most important activity – laying the foundation. Once that is done, the rest of the structure sitting on the foundation is constructed at a rapid pace. His takeaway, "invest a disproportionate amount of time in laying a strong foundation". That has stuck with Me.
My advice is those embarking on either a new CX setup or revitalizing an existing CX setup is to
- First evaluate the “as is” condition of the organization. Far too often we are in a hurry to dive in and implement / deploy our past successful practices. It may succeed sometimes, however I would feel the risk of it further aggravating the situation is a more likely outcome.
- Study the organization structure, the existing processes.
- Meet with direct impact teams – sales, BD, Channel partners, callcenter/frontline staff and get their feedback before rushing into making changes.
- Analyze customer feedback and more importantly complaints. They are the best and quickest source of telling you the “temperature” of your service offering and/or company and its product.
- Take at least a fortnight (if not a month) before you start taking strategic decisions. Tactical changes can however be initiated as required.
- Ensure all processes are either re-validated or if non existent, then documented.
- It always helps to get an external certification as it helps mitigate the risk of “managing” the indices.
- Look at the organization structure and whether it is framed to deliver quality service without too many hops/silos.
- Establish levers (MIS and analysis) that keeps you abreast at all times of the most critical customer impacting indices.
- Lastly, ensure to have at least one revenue target – this helps give the team leverage within the organization and not just be seen as the ones handling customer complaints ( Collections | Upselling | Referrals etc)
Upgrade and measure, measure, measure (03-12 months)
"What can't be measured, cant be improved". It is imperative to set about correcting organization structures, processes and systems to deliver the Quality of Service you desire for the organization keeping the sponsor (CFO/CEO) informed at all times.
- Get an external certification of your processes. It helps build equity within the organization and also lends credibility.
- Initiate an outside in feedback system through measuring touchpoint CSAT and NPS (please be careful and don’t overenthusiastically measure NPS at every touchpoint – it should be at the MOT – Moment of Truth
for your product and / or service delivery – example : in real estate – handover/possession is the first most critical MOT)
- Technological interventions: A robust CRM that captures the customer journey seamlessly and reduces “hops” in service delivery that can potentially be failure points (for example, establishing a payment kiosk to reduce traffic for simple payment & receipt transactions – it reduces unproductive time for your frontline team by 15-20%).
Continuous Improvement (12 months onwards)
This is the time when your processes, systems are stabilized and starts giving you insights into trends and patterns for Service Quality improvements.
- Continue to utilise the feedback/response from customers to see how you are doing (CSAT | NPS | NES etc) and involve larger groups – Sales, Finance, Supply Chain, Production, Logistics etc that have a direct impact on the end customer experience.
- Review frequently with all stakeholders (as in point (a) above) the direct customer impact items that result in a drop in company scores. If possible create listening posts for all Leadership to interact directly with customers at a predetermined frequency. This builds empathy within the organisation, and sensitizes teams to improve responsiveness to the front end team, thereby improving customer satisfaction
- Mystery shopping for phygital experience, Brand and CSAT surveys
(if industry benchmarks exist – JD Power | Gallup ) once a half year enhances thequality of customer | Employee experience.
- Enhance customer self help options , specifically for non-value-adding transactions. Build a self service portal, and or app for customers to do their mundane transactions at their convenience (statement, receipt copy, make payments, source other documents etc). The customer service team is now geared to handle the “relationship” with customers with confidence and positive multiplier effect on the business.
- Technology interventions to address specific customer pain points : AI enabled chat bot to enhance self service options, AI enabled Whatsapp to open additional channels of communication (as also SM handles and ORM tools, video chat etc)
- Relook at your processes once a year to tweak | upgrade | modify | add any new processes that reduce friction points/gaps in delighting customers.
It is my firm belief that Process rigor, consistent and continuous improvement, building and nurturing a team that aligns with that vision , leveraging technology to enhance experience and reduce friction for the customers, keeping customer upfront and center for all strategic, policy, process decisions is bound to give you success more often than not as a service organization.