The Henley Centre for Customer Management (HCCM) recently reported the findings of a ten-year study into topics in which members wished to gain greater insight to help them improve their customer management capabilities.
The findings focus on:
- the customer journey and emotional aspects
- creating brand credibility
- developing an engaged organisational culture
- actioning insight and internationalisation
This article summarises some of the findings; the full report can be downloaded at the end of the article.
Management of customer journeys
Traditionally, the journey has involved consumers considering and evaluating before deciding to buy, but these stages are being shortened by innovative brands. Apple is a good example, with consumers who are engaged, becoming hooked and continuously enjoying, advocating, bonding with and benefiting from the brand.
According to Professor Moira Clark, Director of the HCCM, organisations developing the most effective journeys also need to master four interconnected capabilities, each of which makes the journey ‘stickier’ for the consumer:
- Automation – streamlining the journey
- Proactive personalisation – customising the purchaser’s experience
- Contextual interaction – identifying where the customer is in a journey, and directing them to the next interaction
- Journey innovation – using creativity and technology to extend the relationship with the customer
“This can affect the internal structure of organisations,” says Moira, “and dedicated, cross-functional teams now exist to support these journeys. In some cases, we’ve seen that the introduction of journey product management has had a positive impact.”
Managing the customer journey must also include the emotional aspects of customers’ experience, and current research highlights five areas which can lead to greater engagement:
- Knowing what and where emotional triggers currently exist, both positive and negative.
- Defining what emotions the experience should generate, so that customers continue along that journey.
- Listening to customers – gaining insights into what drives decision-making.
- Identifying customers’ subconscious responses, by taking the journey ‘in the customer’s shoes’.
- Continuously improving the experience.
In recent times, organisations have been focusing on being more customer-centric; not just by understanding customers, and tailoring products and services, but also by creating a culture around satisfying customers’ needs.
Through HCCM’s research, a holistic approach to customer-centricity has been formulated, creating maximum value for the customer and achieving long-term, mutually satisfying relationships with customers and sustaining competitive advantage.
The role of leadership
For organisations to make the customer a top investment priority requires change, and this starts from within, with the CEO playing a key role in making customer-centricity happen, including making necessary changes at the top of the organisation.
Leadership not only provides a vision and a clear sense of purpose, it also instils an established set of core values to help engage and guide the workforce in their day-to-day activities and in their interactions with customers.
Creating brand credibility
Earning trust in the brand begins when you are able to deliver excellent customer service, and to do so consistently. And when things don’t go to plan, it’s about being transparent. Customers then know what to expect, how and when.
This approach should be strongly linked to an effective customer journey and an organisation’s customer-centric approach, starting by focusing on aspects from the customer’s perspective.
Current research highlights four best practices:
- belief that the customer comes first
- generating products and services that build on the needs and desires of the customer
- maximising the buying experience for the customer
- developing strategies that centre on attracting and keeping the most profitable, loyal customers
HCCM members are increasingly developing their customer-oriented culture through positive employee engagement, consistently across the organisation. And the ‘climate’ of an organisation – an expression of employee perceptions of the atmosphere created through policies, practices and rewards – can help to explain the variations in service levels to customers.
Future research topics
The future research agenda for the HCCM will focus on two further topics:
Actioning insight – ‘big data’ and data analytics have become important buzzwords, allowing organisations to discover previously ‘hidden’ insights to promote competitive advantage. But it is also about using them effectively, as seen with banks that build loyalty by sending text alerts to overdrawn customers, thereby helping them to minimise charges.
Internationalisation – the Centre also plans to explore the management of global customers, including answering questions such as: Does customer experience vary between different countries/cultures, and does the same customer engagement method work in a global context?
By identifying emerging business trends, the HCCM is helping organisations to continuously innovate and adapt in a fast changing world and to sustain a competitive edge.
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Authors: Moira Clark, Tony Harrington and Andrew Myers