We're officially halfway through 2014, and now is actually a great time to review what you have done to improve the experience you create for your customers, and what you would like to set in motion for 2015. But while you're thinking about bigger things you should PLAN on doing, let’s talk about what you can do right now to start improving your customer experience.
Here's how you can make great strides in just minutes a day:
1. Dedicate some time to focusing only on customers.
Whenever you get a chance, ignore the noise coming from your boss, the shareholders or the press. Take a few moments to think about what your customers actually need. If your boss wants you to develop a mobile app because your competitors already have them, stop and ask yourself if this will solve any real problems your customers have. When the survey responses are telling you the billing process is disjointed or impersonal, will a mobile app really make them any happier? In the second half of the year, most of us have limited or no resources for starting a new initiative. Make some quick notes about what the real challenges are and prioritize in favor of your customers.
2. Push the data aside for a moment and listen.
Many business leaders are drowning in data with no real insight to keep them afloat. Sometimes the best thing we can do is spend five or ten minutes per day actually listening. Try walking through your call center or reviewing some inbound and outbound emails. Catch up on some industry blogs written by your customers to get in touch with the challenges they face. Search on social media or review the latest verbatims on your surveys. But remember this is about your customers, not your company. Don’t set a goal to find a specific complaint. Just listen.
3. Catch up with your employees.
70% of the American workforce is not actively engaged. If your employees are losing their enthusiasm or are just going through the motions, your customer experience will suffer. Sometimes all it takes is a simple "how are you?" to begin reinforcing a culture where both customers and employees are actively engaged. Ask employees for their opinions of how internal processes or communications can be improved. Find out what they think customers want. If you need to reignite the passion of disengaged employees, straightforward communication is the key to the kingdom.
4. Anticipate your next innovation.
Many big companies live entirely in the here and now and ignore the future. It’s easy to ignore what’s happening with your competitors, and especially with companies outside of your industry. Keep in mind, though, the innovations that matter the most will eventually impact every industry. Read up and join conversations about trends in general, not just in the myopic view of Employee of the Month. This is where your customers will be eventually. Be ready and waiting to serve them better when they get there or someone else will.
5. Stop blaming your customers.
In meetings, in usability testing sessions, in customer service training videos, the customer is often painted as a buffoon. The customer is viewed as the problem, not the answer. Don’t let it stand. Consider who your customer is, really, and handle that person with care. The customer is not always right, but he is never totally wrong. Allowing the customer to be the fall guy invites excuses, laziness and just plain bad service. Identify one thing that typically goes wrong, accept responsibility for it, and think about how you can proactively change customer behavior in these situations.
What can you accomplish in five minutes?
By all means, set big, audacious goals for customer experience improvement. Create exciting new developments and products. Go forth and conquer. But don't let the enormity of future goals push you into a corner where you feel there is nothing you can do right now. Just remember there are plenty of little things that you can do today and every day to truly create a more meaningful and successful customer experience.