Stray thoughts on customer experience trends

Author: 
TIM HOULIHAN

There were a few things that struck me as being relevant that didn’t quite make it into the print version of my article on elevating your customer experience. In this case, they’re like the cattle that couldn’t be brought back into the herd before the gates closed on the corral. They’re still out there and they’re still relevant and they are shared here in hopes you’ll benefit from them.

The service profit chain

In my recent discussions with sales reps and sales managers, I am reminded of the service-profit chain, first discussed in Harvard Business Review in 1994. The most recent version of this approach was published in Harvard Business Review in the 2008 article “Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work” by James L. Heskett, Thomas O. Jones, Gary W. Loveman, W. Earl Sasser, Jr., Leonard A. Schlesinger, that last being a co-author of the original paper. The 2008 article reinforces the original message that treating customer-facing employees well increases the likelihood that those employees will treat the customers they serve well. It still works. 

The authors noted, “The service-profit chain, developed from analyses of successful service organizations, puts ‘hard’ values on ‘soft’ measures. It helps managers target new investments to develop service and satisfaction levels for maximum competitive impact, widening the gap between service leaders and their merely good competitors.” The data has borne out their perspectives and it surprises me how many firms miss this important aspect of internal support for their front-line employees.

Oftentimes, a lack of support for frontline employees suggests that the customer experience isn’t all that important to the firm. Companies that have regular run-ins with frontline employees are likely suffering from a poorly defined customer experience strategy or a poorly executed strategy. Either way, the strategy needs attention.

Other noteworthy ideas

There were a couple of idea rivulets that trickled down the sidelines that you might find interesting. Here’s some additional material to consider if you’re interested in exploring the customer experience data in greater detail or looking deeper into team selling.

Customer experience trends – Bain & Company is a massive and remarkably successful global consultancy that looks carefully at trends in the business world. They published a relevant article recently that speaks to Trends for 2018. The article’s overall message is quite broad but there are portions that speak to customer experience. There is another article that speaks more directly to customer experience called Closing the Delivery Gap. Both are good.

Mark Horwich, a senior partner at Bain & Company, told me recently that teams work best when team members are connected to the team’s objectives and goals. If the team’s goal is to provide great customer experiences, that in itself can be inspirational and uniting. Mark added, “We hope there is at least one thing that’s inspirational to at least each person on the team.” How we feel about the work we’re doing makes a difference.

What the data says – An article in the Data & Marketing Association’s overview of key topics includes one on the customer experience. The short story is that customer experience is gaining greater traction and has an especially high profile among B:C or B:c firms. That doesn’t short-sheet the need for B:B or B:b firms to ignore the customer experience. A sales rep at a $40 billion tech firm recently told me, “My company has 15 sales people representing 15 different products calling on the same customers…How can that deliver a good customer experience?” Food for thought.

Team selling – Team rewards are not keeping pace with team selling. Virtually every product sold by someone with a title of sales rep (or similar jargon) is a part of a team that is helping that person sell. An article about developing strategic sales pods was of particular interest. Team rewards should be part of your planning process moving forward; however, in the meantime, pilot a short program and monitor the results.

If you’d like more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to have a conversation about what you’re up to. I’m at Tim@BehaviorAlchemy.com.