When people think of customer satisfaction, they think of it as being an annual event. Once a year, we survey our customers to find out if they’re feeling satisfied and loyal. If we see some major problems, we address them. Otherwise, we relax and wait until next year and do it again.
The issue is not just that we don’t measure these things frequently enough—especially now that social media allow customers to vent early and often. There’s a much bigger problem here. Treating customer satisfaction and loyalty like an annual research project does not encourage a customer-centric, learning culture. Rather, such an approach fosters a “tick the box” mentality; we did the survey, now on to our real work.
Further, by taking the hammer and nail approach and focusing only on customers who are unhappy, we do a disservice to those who are happy or are neutral; they are ignored and therefore could be swayed to leave us when a better opportunity comes along.
So how do we begin to change the situation inside our companies? The first step is to recognize that we can’t go on managing customer satisfaction and loyalty separately. They must come together into a single, global program that manages the entire customer experience.
The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer
Companies will never be able to manage every touch point of the customer experience in a holistic way unless there a senior-level executive—preferably SVP or above—who is put in charge of the end-to-end customer experience. In ITSMA’s research, we’ve found that the best practice companies have a global approach to managing customer satisfaction and loyalty in which all business units participate. Especially as companies begin to capture much more data from and about customers in the coming years, we predict the rise of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO), who will oversee the entire program.
The Customer Experience Center of Expertise
But even a senior executive cannot do this alone. To help bring all the different programs together, companies must also create a center of expertise for the customer experience. This center will consist of a leader who manages the overall program at the operational level—a senior director or vice president—as well as 2-5 staffers for a large, global company.
The center of expertise is important not only to integrating the different programs together, but also to ensure that the programs are effective at the local level. It may sound paradoxical that you need a central group to do a better job locally, but as companies become more global, the cultural differences among different geographies become more pronounced, not less.
If companies want to achieve the same customer satisfaction and loyalty goals across the globe, they can’t rely on the local regions to build and sustain that consistency on their own. Delivery must be highly localized, but the quest for satisfaction and loyalty must be global and coordinated. All regions must have the same opportunity to reach a high level of customer satisfaction and loyalty. A customer experience center of expertise can help them do that.
Central Oversight Prevents Gaming of the System
Another important role of the center of expertise is to act as referee over the programs, making sure that all areas of the company play by the same rules when it comes to the high-stakes issues of loyalty and satisfaction. When measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty, it’s easy to game the system. For example, sales managers in one division may encourage their salespeople to ask customers for high satisfaction ratings in return for favors later. Or divisions may choose to do their own satisfaction surveys. Or they may simply choose to opt out altogether. (This is precisely the situation I found when I was called in to help one ITSMA member implement a more effective satisfaction and loyalty program.)
When you end up with little fiefdoms doing things autonomously, employees are not being held to the same standard across the company. And that means it’s impossible to establish a meaningful benchmark for improvement. If measurement—and interpretation of the results—is not consistent, companies lose the value of the measurement.
Avoid the Ivory Tower Syndrome
However, the customer experience center of expertise can’t become an ivory tower dictating to the rest of the organization. It needs feedback, cooperation, and support from all levels of the organization to do its job well. In our research we’ve found that a cross-company council with representatives from all key business units is most effective for ensuring standardization and corporate-wide support.
Breaking Down the Silos
How a company responds to customer feedback says a lot about the importance it places oncustomer relationships. Companies that promptly take action in response to both positive and negative feedback have made a commitment to improve the customer experience.
Additionally, by creating a tight linkage between customer satisfaction and loyalty programs, and other relationship growth programs, it’s possible to create a seamless customer experience.