The Customer Experience strategy cannot be provided at a loss if profitability, or even sustainability, is important to your organization. Customer Experience is at the heart of most of today’s executive strategies, but it is execution that matters. Execution determines when and if objectives are met.
Strategic plans come complete with all sorts of objectives; of late, financial objectives occupy center stage. This is an area to proceed with caution. Financial objectives exist at every level within the enterprise; poor or costly operational execution is deadly to these objectives. Effective operational execution is not an option but a requirement! We must acknowledge that it is not easy and it is rare. Fortune Magazine reported that less than 10% of effective strategies are effectively executed, largely based upon operational execution approaches.
Financial objectives as well as strategic goals must be aligned, communicated, and adopted at each and every level. This seems like a “no brainer.” However, there are many – too many – frontline customer interfacing parts of operations that do not understand financial goals and their particular role in achieving those goals.
What to do? Communication is a start and really the heart of the matter. Leaders at all levels are responsible for translating the financial language of the executive suite into the tactical, operational elements of each department. This remains something of an art form. We often mention the labyrinth to which customers are too frequently subjected, being bounced about and getting lost, while trying to do business. Staff also navigates a maze of operational silos and political minefields, performing specific tasks and activities that make up operational execution. These contribute to the cost and quality of the Customer Experience.
Communication is at the core of successful execution. I never cease to be amazed at the Public Relations budgets dedicated to communicating to the outside world, with little or no budget allocated to communication within the enterprise. Sometimes, there is a level of over-confidence that disseminating information is done effectively. This spells risk. Remember the old telephone game. By the time the phrase is whispered to the last person, it is barely recognizable from how it began. This type of communication deterioration is common, especially when a communication plan is weak or poorly crafted.
A communication plan requires some kind of feedback in order to acknowledge understanding and subsequent adoption of any initiative. When it comes to the communication of financial objectives, it may be a worthy exercise to ask leaders to document their understanding of how their business unit contributes and how they will report on contributions. Leaders down the line are able to use the same methodology. ASK for input. Generally speaking, the masses are much smarter than given credit for. They just need the opportunity.
When looking at financial objectives, the communication mission is to “keep it simple.” For example, provide definitions for terms like Top Line and Bottom Line. I found this definition below at www.investopedia.com.
“Bottom Line describes how efficient a company is with its spending and operating costs and how effectively it has been controlling total costs. Top Line, on the other hand, only indicates how effective a company is at generating sales and does not take into consideration operating efficiencies which could have a dramatic impact on the Bottom Line.”
Providing both definition and objectives enables most individuals and departments to know that what they do influences both additional sales and additional costs. It also illustrates the importance of operational efficiency gains to the overall financial health of the company.
Today the Contact Center is one of those departments with substantial customer contact – one where efficiency gains, selling skills, and impact on customer retention make a major contribution to the overall achievement of meeting financial objectives.
When we look at Top Line growth, the Contact Center may be contributing via add-on sales or referrals to other parts of the company for products and services. Some Contact Centers are the “closers” for money invested in advertising campaigns and/or special promotions. If the Contact Center views itself as order taker only, failures occur.
If Marketing neglects to communicate properly with the Contact Center regarding its campaigns, failures occur. If systems or processes introduce obstacles, failures occur.
Failures cost money and compromise the Customer Experience. It is critical to identify Top Line activities that the business units are responsible for; let them tell you how they can positively impact these areas. Take it a step further. Ask them what gets in the way. Brace yourself! It could be BUREAUCRAP … silos, politicos, fiefdoms, etc. Only the senior level has the ability to smooth out the obstacles in this type of operational maze.
What about Bottom Line? Contact Centers are generally ripe for efficiency improvements. The key is to take the time to identify areas with genuine, long-term returns. Ask the Contact Center front line to reply anonymously to this question: “What are the dumbest things we do here? How can we improve?” You may well find seeds of inefficiency in the answers.
Taking action; providing necessary training; clarifying objectives; analyzing frequent, complex, and critical tasks; improving processes and technology; and defining specific desirable behaviors for all contributors builds momentum for efficiency gains, improved sales, smoother processes, and better use of technology. These all contribute to the Top Line and the Bottom Line as well as to the Customer Experience.
Take this to the masses and get to work on connecting the Customer Experience to growth and profitability. In the long-term this is what works!