We live in a world of increasing customer expectations.
As a result, businesses are spending more than ever before on customer experience. Between 2012 and 2017, global spending increased threefold. Last year, companies spent a whopping $508 billion on CX. This is projected to increase to $641 billion by 2022.
Much of these funds major CX initiatives. Overhauling online interfaces, introducing customer-friendly in-store technologies, and the like.
While these can offer a solid return on investment (ROI) if done properly, what’s even more important is developing a culture of continuous improvement when it comes to CX. Here, the focus isn’t on grand schemes, but ongoing incremental change to existing systems and processes.
While perhaps less sexy than a major overhaul, an effective continuous improvement program typically offers better ROI, especially over the longterm. It also involves the kind of cultural change I’ve been advocating in recent blogs (see here). In a world of increasing customer expectations, this is the only sure way to maintain an edge over competitors.
The core principles of continuous improvement
The thinking behind continuous improvement in an organisational context emerged out of the world-beating Japanese manufacturing industry of the 1980’s.
There are a number of different continuous improvement methodologies – for marketing geeks, names like Lean, Kaizen, and Six Sigma will ring a bell. I’ll spare you the details, but needless to say, they all share the same core elements.
Each involves a cycle, running through stages from identifying opportunities to planning for and implementing change, measuring its impact, and making adjustments accordingly.
It’s important to emphasise the cyclical nature of the process. Once initiated, the intention is that it will continue indefinitely, such that businesses are constantly looking for things they can do better, planning and implementing reforms, assessing the results, and tweaking where necessary.
How to continually improve customer experiences
Customer experience gurus Comm100 have devised a continuous improvement strategy for CX based on the Six Sigma methodology.
Their framework is broken down into the following stages:
- Plan for change
- Make the change
- Evaluate the change
- Make modifications to further improve the change
The first stage requires insights into how customers feel about their interactions with your business. Customer journey mapping is useful here, helping to define each customer touch-point.
When it comes to finding out how customers feel about these touch-points, there’s only one place to start – ask your customers!
Ideally, you need a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The former can be gathered using metrics such as the Customer Satisfaction Score or the Net Promoter Score (NPS). I recently wrote a blog about the NPS, where I discussed its limitations and the need to complement it with in-depth, qualitative research. This can be done through surveys, questionnaires, or focus groups. Alternatively, rich insights can often be acquired by mining your social media accounts.
Once any pain points in the customer journey are identified, the next step is to address them.
Never underestimate the capacity for small adjustments to have a big impact. Amazon’s introduction of 1-click ordering on its website – a direct response to customer feedback – is thought to have generated billions in extra sales.
After carefully planning for change, the next stage is implementation. Too many good ideas fail at this point due to poor execution. To succeed, it’s critical to have buy-in from responsible departments and stakeholders.
The same tools that provided your insights at the planning stage are then re-applied in evaluating the change. A comparison between client satisfaction scores before and after will be useful, but again, qualitative data is essential for a deep understanding. Particularly when it comes to tweaking the change for further improvement.
Happily, the endpoints of CX and continuous improvement strategies are perfectly aligned. Both aim to achieve permanent cultural change. Once this is achieved, the cycle of constantly identifying customer pain points before tweaking systems and processes to bring about improvements becomes self-sustaining.
For the customer, this means constantly improving service, for businesses, an invaluable competitive edge.
Boost sales by up to 30%
At nlighten, we’ve developed an effective, tried, and tested voice of customer methodology, which we’ve called ‘insights’. It’s proved to be highly effective – we’ve seen clients report sales increases by up to 30% thanks to insights. Our services are all about taking the guesswork out of managing and meeting your customers’ expectations. nlighten researchers work hard to source valuable feedback by personally connecting with your customers and asking questions designed to generate useful responses that you can act upon.
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