Here's a slightly different travelogue on Luxembourg: this summer, my colleagues and I travelled the country from east to west, from north to south, through tropical temperatures, in order to meet the customer champions identified by our KPMG Customer Experience Excellence Study 2018. Founders, CEOs, CMOs, CHROs, CXOs, and COOs of international and local brands opened their doors to us, and in their air-conditioned offices and shops we discussed the survey results, their reactions, and their newest customer strategies and projects.
In talking to these professionals—who represented family businesses and state-owned companies, banks and insurers, retailers and more—a couple of characteristics began to crystallise. Across industry, size, and maturity, companies that succeed in being customer-centric are doing it in much the same way.
Here are the six characteristics of customer champions:
1. A clearly defined and understood customer vision and strategy
In the words of the CEO of a Luxembourg family business, "Customer trust is gained in drops and lost in buckets." This is what drives him and his employees day in and day out. For him, customer engagement is the only true competitive advantage. To which end, his management teams analyse customer feedback, observe customer behaviour in stores, and use market research material to understand customer purchasing and experience requirements. It amounts to a great deal of time and money, but ultimately they can translate these customer insights into a service promise, with which they align employees around a single goal.
2. Timely and actionable customer insights
Some companies in Luxembourg have powerful, cutting-edge data and analytics tools, with which they sort customers based on behaviour and create more personalised offerings. One financial services firm in particular shares, with its brokers, a single client relationship management database for client contact, data, and insight capture. This allows for both a central source of information and richer personal interactions between broker and customer—which is their key to success. This organisation is also continuously improving customer experience from a B2B perspective, strengthening relationships with its distribution network via digital tools. This shows how the front office is getting closer to the group, enabling product designers, marketing teams, and back-office people to become aware of customer needs and behaviour.
3. Operational processes designed around customer experience
One of the COOs we spoke to was very much into customer centricity. Her team is currently reviewing and aligning their organisational structure and their processes through the lens of the customer. The company held internal workshops and focus groups to better understand customer behaviour, with selected customers joining on whom participants could test their assumptions. During these sessions, some company actions—previously thought to be helpful to customers—were shown to be just the opposite. As a result, the company could reallocate their resources on initiatives that really matter to customers.
4. An organisational structure that supports delivery of the strategy
We met many engaged CEOs, and observed how they communicate their expectations and kindle a culture of agility when it comes to customer service. It's all about breaking down silos, prioritising change management, and building cross-functional teams—all in the name of generating value for the customer.
At one company, these cross-functional teams included operational-side people, product developers, and sales managers. The teams have permanent seats in management meetings and are in direct reporting line to the Board. Ten years ago, perhaps even five years ago, such teams would have been considered fairly radical—but they appear to work wonders in generating a great approach to customer expectations.
5. The skill and motivation to deliver an experience
Getting employees to really champion customer experience is difficult—but we saw many firms get it right. One company, for example, has managed to instil its people, from production-side to service, with values of excellence, transparency, passion, and authenticity. The company, through customised and extensive training, works to ensure that employees see themselves as part of a team with clear career growth and a clear customer mission.
6. Tools and technology that enable an outstanding experience
Banks in Luxembourg are using digital technology to ease their customers' lives: they are ensuring that interactions happen at the right time, in the right way, and on the right channel. Mobile banking apps and web solutions are empowering customers to manage their budgets and cash flows, and to analyse and categorise their income streams. Behind such front-end tools is a holistic IT infrastructure with data management tools that use analytics to understand customer needs, intent, and behaviours.
As part of their focus on driving profitable growth, CEOs are keeping customers at the heart of their every move. They're asking themselves questions like: Where do we want our organisation to go? How will the future of our products and services look? What will be in next year's budget? What are our next customer engagement projects and priorities?
Shifting to a customer-centric mindset requires aligning people, processes, and technology. But how do you start? By assessing and understanding your current performance. Only with insights on your customers and their expectations will you be able to make concrete changes towards creating the perfect customer experience.
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