Giving customers online and mobile access does not automatically make a company customer-centric. Those are distribution channels. And they seem to be the migration that many life insurance companies have taken. Moving from captive distribution to independent distribution to the newest strategy of direct to consumer is still distribution-focused.
Those channels are certainly valuable in making it easier for customers to interact with a company. But being customer-centric requires something more.
To truly be customer-centric a company needs to look at the world from the customer’s perspective. There needs to be a shift from the typical process-oriented inside-out view to a broader customer service outside-in mentality.
If a company simply looks at back-end processes and direct touch-points (distribution channels), they are limiting their view of the customer to specific times of interaction. However, the customer journey can include many situations or events that happen before, during or even after the experience of a product or service. And it is the overall experience that affects the customer’s perception of service.
One interesting example I discovered involved a media company but it could very well have been any company with a siloed structure, i.e., a life insurance company.
The company had been tracking customer feedback for their call centers, field services and website. All were highly rated. However, the company was losing customers at an alarming rate.
They decided to do focus groups of pervious customers to see if they could discover what was going on. And here is the valuable lesson on the difference between a channel-focused strategy and a customer-centric one.
The groups revealed that customers weren’t particularly concerned with singular touch-point events, i.e., it wasn’t one phone call or one field visit. What made customers leave was the cumulative experience across multiple touch-points, multiple channels and over time.
In other words, having to call the company numerous times for clarification of product information or help with understanding a confusing bill lowered customer service satisfaction rates from 90% for individual touch-point encounters to around 60% over the course of the entire scope of interactions.
Yes, the employees answered the questions and provided solutions, but the siloed nature of the various product and service areas meant that the overall customer journey was disconnected and disjointed – from the customer’s perspective. And that’s the key – the customer’s perspective.
To be customer-centric doesn’t mean giving up the expertise, experience and insights of the various groups within an organization. It means bringing them together, getting them all focused on the customer journey and allowing them to help build a more cohesive and cross-functional experience.
And that’s where a company needs to start to create a customer-centric mindset:
- Identify the types of journeys customers take in relation to the service or product, from the customer’s point of view not from the transactional or operational point of view.
- Gather data from various sources, such as marketing, operations, IT and competitive-research, to map out the journeys and the context in which a customer navigates across different touch-points.
- Develop an understanding of which areas may have gaps or opportunities for improvement, what’s working and what isn’t, and set priorities as to where to focus first to create a better end-to-end experience for the customer.
The time it takes to change your mind-set or the culture within a company can vary. But it is well worth the effort.
Cross-industry surveys of customer experience showed a correlation between faster revenue growth and perfecting the customer-centric experience through journeying. This improvement also positively affected other business outcomes, such as churn and repeat purchase, over performance on touch-points or distribution channels.
In addition to measurable business objectives, creating a true customer-centric environment can give a company a clear competitive advantage over others still focused on inside-out thinking. Just ask the retail stores trying to compete with Amazon.
We have been using customer journey mapping at LegacyShield℠ to identify the pain points customers experience when filing and storing important legal documents, or wanting to pass along a personal legacy above and beyond the financial aspects of estate planning. We have built our services to address those issues and to ensure a smooth and satisfying end-to-end experience for our clients. It is our number one priority. It should be every company’s priority in today’s consumer-powered economy. For without customers, there is no business.