Five Steps to Building a Listening Culture and Competitive CX

Mark Ackerman, Area VP, Middle East & Africa, ServiceNow, explains key steps to undertake to ensure your enterprise is a leader in delivering exceptional customer experiences.

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The modern consumer has no patience for downtime, opaque processes, or brands that do not understand them first time, and every time thereafter. In a McKinsey consumer survey from the first quarter of 2021, 95% of UAE shoppers alluded to changes in their purchasing behaviors, including switching brands, and doing more market research than previously. The report also showed UAE consumers to favor online shopping as a post-COVID option, so the nation’s enterprises must now put digital experiences at the top of their agendas.

The link between CX and business performance is not just theoretical. Forrester research calculated that leaders in CX are able to grow revenue five times faster than their underperforming competitors. The study also measured gains of some 20% in customer satisfaction and employee engagement, as well as 20% decreases in the cost of customer service operations. And KPMG’s 2020 UAE Customer Experience Excellence report split CX into six pillars (integrity, resolution, expectations, time & effort, personalization, and empathy), and noted that consumers here were more likely to approve of a brand when it showed attention to these pillars. That approval was shown to translate directly into advocacy (net promoter score) and loyalty (repeat business).

So how do you turn your company into one of these success stories? You listen. You find out what customers are going through at key points in their journey, and you use that feedback to drive business decisions. To do this effectively requires a comprehensive listening architecture, strong CX governance, advanced analytics, and a workflow culture that puts the customer in the center of everything. Here are the five steps required to establish an enterprise as a CX leader.

  1. Build a business case

If you can join the dots between current CX and finance and operations, this is an ideal starting point for showing that better digital experiences mean better KPI outcomes. Ideally, this requires voice-of-customer survey data, but if this is not available, plenty of studies like the ones cited above are available. They may help convince line-of-business stakeholders that there is now a tangible link between CX and the bottom line that is independent of industry or scale.

  1. Select a CX platform

Eliminate data silos to ensure a single view of the customer journey. Consolidate survey tools and implement a holistic customer-experience management platform for all CX data. The ideal platform will cover multiple feedback collection channels such as email, Web form, SMS, voice, and mobile app. It will be capable of real-time analysis of all feedback — from surveys to social-media listening and focus groups — brought together with operational CX data such as purchase histories and website activity. And, of course, all of these capabilities are worthless without the ability to convert them into actionable insights, through visual tools such as dashboards and journey maps.

  1. Build a roadmap

Integrating the CX platform into the current technology stack will need support from the IT team. Data engineers will homogenise, shape, and create dashboards from customer feedback data. Analytics teams will drive actionable insights. All these people must unite with project leads, finance experts, and senior executives. Together, they must formulate an action plan that starts with a topline experience score (usually an NPS) and proceeds along a quarterly, benchmarked path towards CX excellence. The team must continue with feedback throughout, using the same techniques as those used for the initial score. They must identify pain points and deploy additional listening programs at those milestones to gain more insights.

  1. Design a listening program that drives action

Each listening program should focus on quick wins that convince internal stakeholders that you are on the right track. Select at least one high-level CX metric — NPS or CSAT, for example — that allows you to gauge performance and demonstrate it to stakeholders. Comparing your progress with that of competitors is a good strategy here, as a favorable comparison can boost team confidence and enhance executive buy-in for future CX initiatives. Additionally, ensure that each survey captures not only the pain points but the reasoning behind the pain. Use open-ended questions to illicit what needs improvement and why.

  1. Deliver insights to drive adoption

Forget quarterly reports. CX insights need to come thick and fast, in real time if possible, and daily customer-centric actions should be the goal. Actionable dashboards tailored to key stakeholders should continuously display the results of the CX program and consolidate the buy-in achieved in earlier steps. Ensure these stakeholders understand customer pain points and know what the optimal solutions and improvements are. Go beyond the data to provide a compelling narrative of what customers are saying and what the consequences are to the bottom line if their concerns are not addressed.

The golden loop

CX leaders must show other stakeholders how metrics such as NPS and CSAT have been impacted by the roadmap. They must demonstrate clearly how improvements in KPIs such as revenue growth, customer retention, and share of wallet (SOW) can be tied to CX investment. Advocates for these investments must, for example, be able to draw a line from product sales to feature improvements that came about directly through customer feedback.

The customer-listening ecosystem that is built — as long as it is centralised, coordinated across the organisation, and able to drive action — will form the foundation of a competitive business. This business will be capable of delighting customers and boosting loyalty and advocacy in a lucrative loop of feedback and response.

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