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Creating meaningful, sustainable and profitable customer experiences with business processes

Ivan Cheung
Ivan CheungAP COO, CAP Regional General Manager and Vice President
I head up a fortune 500 company’s operations in over 13 markets across Asia Pacific, including ASEAN, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Korea. I've been a part of the team growing our business from a Chinese based company to a truly global player. I’m always looking to work with the next generation of customers, collaborators and talented people.

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I’ve talked before about customer-centric strategies.  The phrase “customer experience” remains common on people’s lips – from the CEOs of corporations through to customer themselves.

That earlier article looked at broader strategies. Here, I want to go deeper into processes that specifically support customer experience (CX) programs.

Customer experience can often be narrow in its scope: perhaps the experiences customers have at the moment of purchase, or when a product fails, or when a supplier engages with them in a way that appeals (or in ways that don’t), for example.

The truth is more-complex. To be meaningful and sustainable, customer experience must cover what happens every time a customer interacts with a supplier. And to be sustainable, customer experience has to be underpinned by business data and business processes.

The success or failure of customer experience can influence the medium-term and long-term prospects of companies. Some of the research makes for sober reading: in a webinar presented by Luke Williams of analytics software company Qualtrics, in the Harvard Business Review in March 2017, he notes that:

  •         as many as 80% of consumers switch suppliers as a result of poor experiences
  •         two-thirds of employees can be disengaged from the task of creating and delivering great customer experiences
  •         as much as US$40 billion is spent each year on research into understanding customer experiences

Not understanding your customers’ experiences is not an option.

We recently completed a customer engagement program called Citizens of TMRW here in the Central Asia Pacific region. A first step in truly understanding what our customers want from us, it was unusual for two reasons:

  •         it touched every aspect of a typical customer’s interaction with us, from casual discovery through to post-sale engagements
  •         and our focus was on understanding customers, not selling computers

Citizens of TMRW launch in Hong Kong – here I am with Derek Cheung, CEO of Hong Kong Esports, and Key opinion leaders Connie Wong (far left) and Kathy Tong (far right.)

We ran retail activations in Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines, and talked to consumers about what they wanted, needed, and preferred from their technology. We invited them to design their ideal computers of the near-future. And then we listened.

Here are some early results from this program:

  •         90,000 people visited one of the pop-up experiences
  •         6,325 design ideas were gathered – ideas and insights into real users’ needs that we can now consider as part of our product design
  •         2,912 surveys returned – insights into real users’ expectations that we can now consider as part of our customer experience programs

What we have is the raw material we need to create something better for customers, in a way that is meaningful, sustainable, and profitable. The next step is to input these data into a customer experience matrix.

Business processes and customer engagement can successfully join forces to create something better for the customers, in a way that is meaningful, sustainable, and profitable.


The customer experience matrix

Effective customer experience programs, and meaningful, actual customer experiences occur at every point along the purchase journey. The first task therefore is to create a model of your customers.

For multinational organizations, this model needs to have global, regional and country overlays – because some of the touch points in the journeys taken by customers will differ between countries.

For the Citizens of TMRW program, we reduced our customer segmentation from 10 (which had proved to be too complex) to just four: designers, entrepreneurs, students and gamers. This simplification still provided the segmentation we needed to understand the motivations of business users, personal users, users who manage and those who create, and those using devices for business and those for leisure.

This segmentation is important because it defines the different ecosystems that in turn drive the experiences of each user type. And these ecosystems go beyond the product or service: they include the sales process, the support process, and the after-sales experience.

Having clear KPIs makes a huge difference – and moves the customer experience model away from simply considering the experiences themselves to including measurements of success or failure.

This makes customer experience a business discipline, because it’s now grounded in business processes: everyone now knows the part they play, the contribution they make, and management can create a sustainable business engine that can act across marketing, sales, design, manufacturing and logistics.

There’s nothing like KPIs to make everyone accountable for customer experience. As an example, ours in the central APAC region are built on the following measurements:

Balancing the matrix: finite devices, variable experiences

What’s interesting is that, although these reflect performance KPIs with a focus on our customers, they also play to the experience our employees have. For example, the ease with which a customer service representative can assist a customer and resolve a problem has a direct effect on the customer’s own experience.

Business processes that underpin customer experience programs also allow companies to balance the needs of the customer and those of the company itself. Every company has to find that point where customer needs, market needs, manufacturing needs and commercial needs all sit in balance.

Every company has to find that point where customer needs, market needs, manufacturing needs and commercial needs all sit in balance.

Because it’s difficult (or unprofitable) to create differentiation by manufacturing multiple versions of a given product to meet individual customer needs, differentiation in customer experience happens in the services that are part of the experience. For example, consumers in some countries prefer to resolve problems online; in others, they prefer to visit a service centre (or have their faulty products collected).

By running activations such as Citizens of TMRW, we gather the data at the start of the customer journey. We can then analyse those inputs against other sales, service and manufacturing data, and work out where we can make incremental improvements, and where wholesale changes might be commercially viable.


Culture and communication

The data and insights that we expect from an program such as Citizens of TMRW will flow into the way we do business, which includes how our employees create great customer experiences for every customer. The challenge is to break through the necessary functional silos to ensure that every employee adopts a customer-first mentality.

To do that, you have to communicate and describe where their contributions make sense. Improving labelling in warehouse that makes if easier and faster to pick items leads to a faster delivery times, for example. So too does considering every interaction with a customer as an opportunity to make a difference.

Creating a culture of great customer experiences takes time, and is something that is never completed. Part of any successful CX program is culture and communication, starting with the leadership. Single emails are out, continuous dialogue is in.

Finally, creating a CX culture that’s supported by CX delivery processes makes that culture real, and in time helps it become embedded in an organiSation’s DNA. That’s a winning combination, not least when customer experiences change (and they always do).

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