3 Ways Leaders Can Improve Customer Experience
In every industry today, leaders face unprecedented levels of uncertainty. However, one thing is certain: customer expectations keep rising. Indeed, a recent Microsoft survey found that 54% of customers say they have higher expectations today than a year ago.
Customer expectations don’t end with good customer service. They also want a great customer experience, and there’s a big difference between the two. If customer service is a single point of contact with a business, customer experience is what customers think of the sum total of their interactions with an organization. Research of Selling power found that 80% of customers now consider a business experience to be as important as its products or services. A PwC survey have found that the customer experience is a primary factor in purchasing decisions, as is the price and quality of products.
The crises of the past two years have amplified the need for businesses to bond and build trust with customers. For the most part, executives understand that creating a great customer experience is critical to business success. However, their good intentions fail. The Salesforce survey found that while 66% of customers expect businesses to understand their unique needs and expectations, they believe that only 34% of businesses typically treat them as unique individuals.
What are smart leaders and businesses doing to improve the customer experience?
Faisal Pandit, President of Panasonic System Solutions Company of North America, explained how today’s crises have forced Panasonic to think and act differently. They used what could be seen as a counterintuitive approach. Instead of focusing on the customer first, Panasonic turned its attention to its own employees.
Pandit explained the reasoning. âThe customer experience is nothing without the corporate culture. At Panasonic, we align the customer experience with the employee experience. You cannot have one without the other. Working as a united organization is the key to Panasonic’s success. Pandit shared three key factors that have helped Panasonic improve the customer experience: inclusion, collaboration and storytelling.
Pandit shared that before the pandemic, Panasonic’s mindset was “If you’re at a certain level, we should consult with you.” But the pandemic has brought with it a whole new level of challenges. Leaders “at some level” were not going to solve the problems on their own.
In the first five months of the pandemic, Panasonic had conversations with around 600 of its employees. These conversations opened Pandit’s eyes. âBy encouraging two-way communication, we created a space that put employees at ease. Including everyone has built a resilience that will help us weather this storm and any future storms that will come our way. ”
Listening to the concerns of its own employees has enabled Panasonic to better listen to the needs of its customers. A great customer experience is all about making customers feel understood. Inclusive listening has helped Panasonic move from a transactional model to a partnership model for doing business.
Collaboration is essential to create a cohesive customer experience. Pandit explained, âYou can’t collaborate with customers and be siled within your organization. You can get information from customers, but how do you share and use it internally? How flexible are your systems to meet and react to their needs? ”
Customers are looking for a unified connection between digital touchpoints. Unfortunately, this type of integration is still sorely lacking in organizations today. Salesforce reports that 54% of customers agree that âI usually feel like I’m communicating with separate departments, not just one company,â and 65% say âI often have to repeat or re-explain information to different reps. ”
Pandit continued, âTo break down silos, we had to define a common vision. We had to explain what we are doing, what we are trying to accomplish and why it is achievable. We had to have common goals for all functions, share and celebrate victories. For example, we have taken manual processes and digitized them to gain visibility and agility in our workflows. This has enabled us to provide the tools necessary to best support our employees, so that they can better meet the needs of customers.
Leadership has been essential to make this collaboration work. Pandit explained, âAn important part of this culture is diversity of thought. We have ensured that leaders in all business units set the precedent that all opinions should be heard and factored into the decision-making process. We took the time to listen. We made sure all employees knew their opinions were sought, respected and heard.
In their B2B world, Panasonic customers are not looking to purchase hardware, software or services. They want solutions. Clients want trusted advisors who can listen to their story and find the weak spots in the story.
Pandit shared, âWe have decided to become more consultative. The type of customer engagement we aim for is to sit down with our customers and talk about their unmet needs. By listening and telling stories, we help our clients identify problems and then generate solutions. Some of these solutions involve us, and sometimes we bring third party partners into the discussion. Our services are agnostic, they don’t just focus on our own business. It’s much more rewarding to own a story than it is to make a sale.
Pandit shared an example of a Panasonic customer in the restaurant industry. At the start of the pandemic, the customer faced a huge congestion problem. Customers arrived to collect their food, and couriers were also arriving at the same time, seeking to collect delivery orders. The final solution turned out to be the installation of food racks. But the conversation didn’t start with the lockers. It started by telling a story.
Put the customer at the center
The foundation of a great customer experience is creating a culture of inclusion and employee engagement. Pandit explains: âEmployee engagement comes down to [having] a different set of leadership attributes and how we engage with the workforce. With this, the customer is at the heart of the organization and how we run the business, and our vision is for the long term rather than the short term. can deliver an exceptional customer experience.