Building a new customer experience program is nothing new for Tabitha Dunn. And while 2023 is filled with uncertainty due to economic pressures and ongoing supply chain issues, the approach she’s taking at Hitachi is based on tried-and-true practices.
“When I begin a new role, like I have here recently, I really am looking to do an end-to-end listening tour,” Dunn said during a virtual event hosted by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) last month. “That means I’m listening to our customers. I’m listening to employees at all levels of the company. I’m also listening to my key stakeholders who I know at some point I’m going to need to convince to give me their time, their people, their resources, to support whatever we need to do to move forward together.“
For Dunn – who joined Hitachi following a stint as chief customer officer for Ericsson – listening is only the first part. It’s how she follows up that matters, and how well she can tailor the CX strategies she proposes to each line of business.
“When times are turbulent, it becomes even more important. You have to really say ‘I heard you. I understand what the challenges are,’” she said, adding that understanding doesn’t always translate into agreeing on tactics. “Strategy means saying ‘no’ to more things and you say ‘yes’ to, because the things you say ‘yes’ to you stay focused on, and that’s where you’ll actually deliver value.”
Dunn, who was joined during the event by CXPA CEO Greg Melia and sponsor Glassbox’s global director of business insights Greg Dowling, offered a number of pieces of advice that could guide CX efforts in the year ahead. This includes:
1. Listen for the tangible deliverables that matter
Having either been the executive sponsor or project manager for myriad CX and digital transformation initiatives, Dunn has learned how easy it is for people to get focused on the wrong details. She gave the example of team meetings where people’s updates centered around the fact a software company launched a new release, or about how they added functionality to an existing application.
While those milestones are important, they don’t always lead to substantial improvements in CX or employee experience (CX), Dunn argued.
“If you’re not hearing ‘Here is how we actually made it much easier for the customer to accomplish this task’ or ‘This is how we’ve done A/B testing to ensure we understand that they’re actually being able to do this in a more efficient manner,’ they’re on the wrong track,” she said. “They’ve taken the existing process for customers and employees and ported it to new technology. And that technology can’t solve the problem all by itself. You have to make that process workflow much better for your employees and your customers at the same time.”
2. Design ‘failure loops’ so you can recover quickly
“I know we all hate to admit this, but when we design things, we often tend to forget that processes break. Systems can fail. And people can make mistakes,” Dunn said.
A good example is bill payments. It’s one of the most common customer-facing processes in any industry, but the challenges it creates have kept contact centers busy in sectors ranging from telcos to big tech companies.
“You can have escalations everywhere, lots of people on calls, but it doesn’t work very well,” she said.
Instead, Dunn recommended looking at processes connected to customer experiences and ask yourself: What could possibly go wrong? Then, have a plan in place to help resolve it when customers inevitably reach out.
“This actually makes customers trust you more and builds a better experience, and it causes a lot less chaos for the business impacted business when it fails,” she said.
3. Keep a clear pathway to people when customers need help
It almost sounds counter-intuitive given the hype around automation and self-service, but Dunn made an important recommendation: when customers start poring through knowledge bases to solve a problem, there should be a message for certain cases that says, “The fastest way to solve this is to contact us.” This should be followed by a link that initiates a call or some other direct communication with the company’s team.
“Underneath it you can say, ‘Here’s the process if you want to try for yourself,’” she said. “Flipping that perspective is a really human-centric way of solving their problem. I’m telling you as a customer, ‘We’ve thought about you. And we’ve tested this, but we’re going to let you choose.”
Giving customers alternative pathways that are tangible, clear and easy for them to get to when they most need it will mean they’ll appreciate you so much more, Dunn added and it will be much more effective for your business.
“I go back to the three principles I always say for transformation: make it better for your customers, make it better for your employees, make it better for your business.”
A recording of the full virtual event, which is well worth watching in its entirety, is available on-demand now.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.