Facebook, DBS, MyRepublic talk customer experience

Enterprises know the success of their business depends on satisfied customers, which is why companies are racing to provide better customer experience in a world where the bar is constantly being raised. But in a large enterprise, how can a customer-first attitude be instilled in throughout the organization?

The answer, according to a panel discussion hosted by Zendesk at its Showcase event’s Singapore leg, is to make sure the organization is internally aligned towards a customer-centric goal. To do so effectively, enterprises cannot merely issue a directive for employees to follow, but must instead implement workable strategies within the company culture.

Here are five straightforward tips to orient the internal compass of the enterprise towards the customer, based on panelists’ experiences in their own enterprises — featuring MyRepublic, Workplace by Facebook, and DBS Bank.

Think like a customer

The first strategy is to ensure that everyone within the organization thinks like a customer, an oft-repeated maxim which sometimes fails to hit home, especially in industries where customer experience has often taken a back seat.

According to Vaughan Baker, Group Director, Government & Corporate Relations, My Republic, the telecommunications industry is susceptible to such an oversight.

“We happen to come from an industry where the customer isn’t necessarily put in the forefront all the time…When you start to think about customers, you think ‘what does the customer want’? But we’re all customers ourselves.”

He drew a parallel with common advice given by accountants. “The biggest beef that accountants have in the business is they say ‘I just want you to treat the money as if it’s your own.’ With customers it’s no different.”

Start from the leadership

Any effective change within a large organization has to start from the top, and customer experience is no exception. Rather than being focused on numbers, statistics, and ROIs, the enterprise’s leadership team must themselves take a customer-driven approach before expecting those lower down to follow suit.

DBS bank has implemented such a strategy, and is now seeing the fruits of its labour after undergoing digital transformation for a decade.

Jonathan Hwa, VP of Experience Strategy, DBS Bank, elaborated on the details of such an approach. According to him, DBS has trained management teams to begin each presentation with customer experience, rather than profits and losses. Each idea is first justified by showing how it can help the customer, rather than what it can do for the bank.

He said, “[Management teams] are also asked a list of question to answer such as, ‘How do you know these customers you’ve spoken to are representative of the population?’, or told ‘Show me the verbatim of what people actually saying’”. This helps reduce misinterpretation or miscommunication that might ensue due to layers of bureaucracy.

Encourage a collaborative workplace

Sometimes, providing the best customer experience is not a question of will, but a question of ability. Many employees are highly motivated, but either do not know how to take customer experience to the next level, or do not have resources available to do so.

Encouraging cooperation and collaboration amongst employees, even across countries or regions, can pave the way for better customer engagement through the sharing of new ideas. This is what Facebook attempts to do internally, as well as by providing appropriate platforms for their clients.

Said Anthony Russell, Workplace by Facebook – Head of Channel Partnerships (APJ), Facebook, “As a product vendor, we are helping drive success by putting customers at the centre of what we do. But [we also do this] through the tools that we provide to customers, by being able to break down silos within organisations, being able to ensure the right data is in the right place at the right point in time, so that one team can very quickly innovate and then drive that across the company.”

When describing how collaboration can boost customer experience, Russell cited a case study from Starbucks. By collaborating on a digital platform, managers from Starbucks outlets within a certain region discovered customers were requesting a specific drink that was unavailable at the time. Together, the managers collaborated to produce a recipe within three days, which would otherwise have taken them weeks.

Imagine the future

Due to changing customer expectations, enterprises sometimes have difficulty predicting what consumers want and crafting a strategy based on that. A way to overcome this is to imagine the future, and then reverse-engineer an organisation’s timelines based on that.

Hwa described an event he attended, where the feasibility of driverless cars was discussed. He said, “Someone said, ‘can you imagine a future without driverless cars?’ and nobody could. ‘If driverless cars will be in the future, we’ll do it.’ So that was one way of working with the future and then reverse engineering the timeline to be able to do that then.”

Stay agile

In doing this, however, most traditional organizations choose to implement a three or five year plan, which can cause them to lag behind customer demands. For this reason, many startups and digital-native companies choose 6-month plans instead of 5-year plans, which enables them to adapt and react quickly to their customers.

Said Russell, “One of the biggest challenges I had was this question of roadmapping and how to define strategy for a period of time. I concluded that we have, at best, 3-6 months. Due to the fact that on a global level, significant changes happen around the world, and we need to make sure we navigate through that.”

For Zendesk, this means listening to customers and innovating on-the-fly based on their feedback.

Said Elisabeth Zornes, Chief Customer Officer, Zendesk, “Innovation is not static, it’s a living, breathing system, accelerating with the changes. In Zendesk, we have created a system that allows us to, real-time, get the data and information and experiment, and see again what the responses are from our customers.”