AI-driven applications are hot and getting hotter. Forrester’s 2018 survey respondents who said they are investing in AI increased from 40% in 2016 to 51% in 2017. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that in comparison with the Industrial Revolution, AI’s disruption of society and business is happening at 300 times the scale and ten times faster. Research done by the Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan reveals large gaps between leaders and laggards in every industry regarding AI usage, and predict that the gaps will magnify over the next five years.
The possibilities and potential for AI-driven applications to enhance Customer Experience (CX) seem endless, but if you’re thinking of jumping on board as soon as possible, think again.
The Organizational Culture Pre-requisite for Successful AI Adoption
AI is an undoubtedly helpful innovation in CX, when the foundational customer insight program and company culture are customer-centric. You can have all of the most sophisticated AI-driven programs, but if no one cares or acts on the feedback in your company, it’s a waste of time and money. Among Forrester’s survey respondents who have implemented AI, “55% of firms have not yet achieved any tangible business outcomes from AI, and 43% say it’s too soon to tell.”
Even without AI, organizations can fall into the trap of myopic obsession over a metric rather than building a culture around the customer. Changes in culture across an entire organization require C-suite buy in and commitment.
Research from Forrester found six interdependent operational levers that need to be pulled simultaneously for a necessary “operational reset” to achieve a customer obsessed organization. Technology (like AI) and Metrics are only two of them. Alone, they cannot carry your organization into offering a better customer experience.
Gartner offers many methods to pull these levers. Not only must “CX leaders… remove real and perceived barriers that stand in the way of employees acting in a customer-centric way”, but they must “power long-term trade-offs.” Implementing metrics and technology before a culture of customer centricity is established often prioritizes short-term goals at the expense of the long-term benefits of customer obsession, specifically increased loyalty and incremental revenue.
#1 Listen to the Voice of Your Customer
Placing the customer at the center of your company’s decision making processes at every level, creating a culture of customer obsession, starts with listening to the Voice of the Customer.
As Oglivy emphasizes and every business school teaches, managing your customers’ expectations is vital to their happiness and your company’s bottom line. Human expectations are both explicit and implicit, with explicit expectations being about product performance and implicit expectations being unspoken assumptions your customer has about your brand’s performance.
Voice of the Customer (VoC) listening is made possible by modern technology that enables customers’ experiences vs. expectation to be captured, analyzed, and then shared within the organization. VoC can be quantified and tracked using established metrics like Net Promoter Score, CSAT, and CES.
Qualitative feedback from customer surveys, support tickets and social channels can be aggregated, auto-categorized and analyzed at scale with the help of AI-powered software. Armed with insights from Voice of Customer feedback, companies can build more effective brands, more efficient organizations and develop better products or services.
#2 Evaluate Your Company’s Structure and Processes
Take time to understand how your company’s structure and its processes interact with your customers. Mapping the Customer Journey and gathering customer feedback at key touch points can bring that journey to life and provide insight into necessary systemic improvements. Create a team with representatives from every function of your organization to flesh out the customer journey and encourage continued cross-functional teamwork in your company.
Ask these questions:
- Is information about customer interactions being siloed in each respective department?
- Are employees empowered to take actions on behalf of the customer?
- Do you have room for employees to make mistakes and when they do, do you have a fail-safe process in place?
- How many levels of management do your client-facing employees have to go through for the most difficult problems that customers are bringing to them?
Successful firms are ones that break down functional silos to move towards a leaner, more flexible, and more agile structure.
Included in this structural evaluation is identifying and removing poor performers who are slowing the change in your organization. Expect to lose staff, anywhere from 5% to 30% according to Forrester research, and remember that leadership is not exempt from evaluation.
#3 Communicate and Enable on Every Level
Having a communication strategy that continually reinforces the importance of customer experience can establish a common frame of reference for employees. Chose a channel that is highly visible and scalable.
Give employees the opportunity to ask questions and really dig into what these new values mean for them. Tell them why this change is happening. Have managers set regular meetings to discuss roadblocks and listen to suggestions and be sure to address their concerns.
Weave customer feedback into the daily communication of employees in every department. Train your employees and give them the tools to empower them to act in alignment with these new values. You might choose to invest in formal customer empathy and development training. Increasing emotional intelligence across your organization will have the added benefit of fostering a warm, understanding work environment for employees.
Learn more about how bringing NPS survey data into Slack can help create a customer-focused culture.
#4 Hire and Train with Your New Values in Mind
Like most firms today, you are probably screening candidates for more than just a specific skill set. You are likely looking at their mindset and personality. As such, the hiring and training process is one of the best places to introduce the concept of customer obsession. If you are taking in candidates who already embody the values that lead to customer centricity, training them in the skills to contribute to a customer-focused organization becomes much easier.
Customer Success leaders are on the forefront of hiring and training for customer-centricity. To learn about what they look for and how they train, read this blog post.
#5 Incentivize, Motivate and Showcase Your Employees
Behavior and mindset feed into each other in a loop, with external motivators affecting behavior and creating habits. Those habits build over time to shape a person’s mindset and can create an intrinsic motivation that was not there before.
Use formal rewards such as bonuses and promotions for delivering and/or enabling good customer experiences. Structure compensation with a small variable percentage based on NPS, CSAT, CES and/or churn rates. Praise folks who embody customer-centric values through employee of the month programs, or collect screenshots of positive customer feedback that mention names or teams and send them around in a monthly email. Blair Skramstad from John Deere Financial started a customer experience storytelling competition, which helped her collect great CX stories and shift their culture to customer-obsession.
Encourage individuals to recognize each other’s efforts, especially those who are behind the scenes and do not have direct customer contact. Ask your employees what services you can provide to help them, whether that is for work-life balance, lowering stress levels, or empowering them in their day-to-day activities. This makes room in their minds to focus on the customer’s needs.
Once again, leadership is not exempt in this transformation. As Forbes points out, there’s a culture of “quarterly earnings hysteria” that discourages commitment to any long-term strategies, including investing in customer experience and customer centricity. Setting a shared customer-based outcome metric for senior leaders and rewarding them based on delivering improvement on these metrics is critical.
Once everyone in your company is listening to the Voice of the Customer, the culture of customer obsession you’ve created will drive customer loyalty and revenue growth. You will see positive action reflecting the new mindset on every level of your organization. When this is the case, you’ve got the proper foundation for AI-powered CX software to flourish.
Unlock insights from qualitative data. Learn more about AI-powered Wootric CXInsight™.