The Third Step to Building a Customer Experience Strategy – What do Your Customers Want?

In this series, I’ll be talking about the 5 steps to building a differentiating customer experience strategy. The Customer Experience Strategy is a part of the Competency pillar within the Three Cs Framework I introduced in 2010 – Competency, Credibility and Culture.

The 5 steps to building a customer experience strategy.

Step 1: Understand Corporate Strategy

Step 2: Who are you as a company?

Step 3: What do your customers want?

Step 4: Redefine your mission statement

Step 5: Get CEO Buy In

After you’ve done this, start to id your holes.

When I am in my first 90 days of working at or with a firm, I always spend an enormous amount of time gathering all of the data that I possible can about what customers want from the company.  I’ll begin to build a Voice of Customer Program while I’m listening and learning.

I try to gather as much information I can. I’ll read through all the relational and transactional survey data. I’ll spend significant amounts of time with the sales force or the contact center – anyone who actually talks to the customer. I search google for customer complaint data and I read all the executive emails and letters. (There is nothing like a letter written long hand to catch your attention. That means that person really cared enough to sit down, take their time and WRITE it out…)

Last but not least, I’ll spend an enormous amount of time with the company’s customers. I love to participate in ethnographic research (where we actually go into people’s homes and talk to them!) People are always so willing to share what they think with you. You simply have to take the time to ask. If you don’t have time or funding to do ethnography, then go do a feet on the street interview! Call customers and ask them questions. The most important thing is to get beyond the survey results. You need to really get a feel for what people are asking of the company, how they are feeling about you and what they are unhappy and happy about.

Everyone always quotes Ford on this topic.. the proverbial “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.” Well, he is sort of right. In some industries, they are moving at the speed of light – and they need to be ages ahead of their customers. For the rest of us? Well – I’ll tell you that I’ve never been led astray by listening to customers.

You may not always be able to grant them what they want – but you can definitely learn. In healthcare, we always hear: “It is too expensive!!” Most companies can’t make health care less expensive – but they can help people to figure out what the least expensive option is. In banking, we always hear “No fees!”. Well – that is how many banks make their money – and some banks are willing to do away with that revenue stream, others aren’t – but if you’re a smart consumer, you’ll find the company that has a DNA that meets your needs.

When you’re listening, you’ll hear themes. You’ll hear that you’re hard to reach via a specific channel, that your prices are too high, that your website isn’t clear, that you don’t communicate enough (or the right things!). Just remember – you’re listening for elements that you can pull into your strategy. After all, what is a customer experience strategy based on if you don’t understand your customer’s needs?

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