The financial crisis in 2008 made businesses realise the need to rethink their view of how to succeed in the market place. Increased transparency and intensified competition shifted power from companies to customers making us entering an “age of the customer”. This age can be described as “a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers” (Forrester Research, 2013). Having a customer-centric thinking is no longer enough; adapting the business to its customers is now more important than any other strategic direction. Research shows that 89% of companies plan to compete primarily on the basis of Customer Experience by 2016 (Gartner, 2014). Although, even though executives have acknowledged Customer Experience as a critical competitive battlefield, confusion remains about what excellent Customer Experience actually entails and especially how to secure it.
Crack the code
Delivering excellent Customer Experience is all about empathising with your customers and using that understanding to proactively adapt to their needs and to meet, or even exceed, their expectations. Hence, it is really all about being compassionate. Compassion has historically been associated mainly with non-profit organisations, however, many for-profit companies have started re-defining their strategies to also include Compassion. This evolution is paving the way to an age in which we believe Compassion is key to secure the right Customer Experience and, consequently, sustainable success. Below are five principles describing how companies can succeed within this
1. Live a clear purpose – guided by Compassion
Theodore Roosevelt once said “no one cares what you say until they know who you are”, thereby pinpointing the great importance of being open and authentic. For companies this means identifying, clarifying, communicating and living their purpose towards defined goals. All too often, companies focus on communicating what should be done and how. Although, to secure true connection with customers and employees they should secure Compassion as a guiding cornerstone by focusing more on communicating why they are doing what they are doing, and for whom. As this creates greater meaning and understanding for employees, it will also lead to strategies taking shape more actively, coming from the entire organisation.
2. Optimize Customer Journeys – focus on the memory
Customers interact with a company over time to satisfy specific needs. This series of interactions, often called touchpoints, anchored around a specific need, is often referred to as a Customer Journey. It is how customers experience this whole journey, rather than individual touchpoints, that is shaping their opinions and, consequently, what decisions they make. However, to truly influence customers’ decision making it is not enough to create the best experience per se. Research shows that customers make decisions based on how they remember an experience. The “Peak-End-theory” suggests that it is primarily the peak (most intense point) and the end that is remembered (Daniel Kahneman, 1993). By establishing Customer Journey thinking and focusing on creating the best memory of the experience, companies can unlock the full potential of the journey perspective. Some guiding principles are: combining unpleasant events early on, splitting up pleasant events into multiple interactions, finishing the journey with a surprisingly good end and making the customer feel smart. Knowledge of behavioural psychology, like the Peak-End theory, enables companies to proactively identify, understand and act upon their customers’ needs. Hence, proactively design Customer Journeys based on behavioural psychology is really all about practicing Compassion.
3. Mirror the journeys internally – end-to-end
Proper Customer Journey thinking requires companies to tear down internal silos and optimize end-to-end. Companies need to secure dynamic and cross-functional teams, which are representing the interests and challenges of the entire organisation, both internal and external, as well as all stages of the Customer Journeys. These teams must continuously walk the Customer Journeys, putting on different customer persona hats; an approach which requires a high level of Compassion-driven collaboration and coordination, backed up by an end-toend Customer Journey responsibility.
4. Secure diverse perspectives – 360 degrees
Science-fiction lovers or not, many of us grew up enjoying the TV-series Star Trek with Captain Kirk proving that the best decisions are made through securing diverse perspectives. Captain Kirk took on opportunities and challenges through consulting both the rational and logical Mr Spok and the passionate and emotion-driven McCoy. Customer Experience teams could be just as successful if they make decisions through these diverse lenses. However, a diverse lens is not enough; the sources of customer insight need to be diverse as well. True understanding of customers´ emotions, the key drivers of their buying decisions, can be gained only by analysing both quantitative and qualitative information. Companies therefore need to combine the increased focus on gathering and analysing quantitative data with sophisticated focus groups and in-depth customer interviews. Furthermore, companies should involve customer-facing employees as they possess valuable insights and ideas which can develop the organisations’ compassion towards customers.
5. Create a trusting culture – embracing Compassion
Trust is a central ingredient to value creation for many reasons, one being that it decreases the risk of people being afraid of making mistakes, which makes them share and iterate their creative ideas more freely. This leads to better understanding of, and faster adaptation to, the customers’ expectations, needs and journeys. There are countless of different leadership types in the world. James C. Collins, however, explains in his book “Good to Great” that what makes companies go from good to great is a specific kind of leader who, in addition to being highly ambitious and action-oriented, is personally very humble. These leaders’ ambitions are to achieve the greater good and to help others succeed – which is also at the very core of Compassion.
To conclude; Immersion of Compassion adds the extra layer of humanity in business, which we need to secure exceptional Customer Experience. Luckily, Compassion has been proven to be trainable (Davidson and Weng, 2013), why practicing compassion, as guided above, generate even more compassion. Compassion inspires employees to help each other develop and to better serve the customers, for the greater good of the company and for the society as a whole. This is sustainable value creation. This is sustainable success