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How to create changes your customers will appreciate

Author - Anders H. Warming, Executive Officer. Thomas Lange, Senior Leadership Consultant

Is your goal to be a customer champion? The process may seem overwhelming, but it is actually pretty simple to go about. With action learning, your data-driven insight can be converted simply and easily to action and concrete improvements in your customer journey – that customers will quickly come to appreciate.

 

Creating valuable change and thereby becoming (even more) customer-centric in your interactions with customers often requires doing things differently than you are used to and than you do now. In fact, it is a premise for succeeding as a customer champion. We know that the goal of becoming a customer champion can seem ambitious, and that the process can be scary, but with action learning as a tool, it is actually quite simple.

You have most likely heard – or yourself used – expressions like “We have to be better at meeting the customer where they are” and “We want to understand our customers even better”. The intentions are good – but how do you go about doing that in your meetings with the customer?

Action learning helps you to close the gap between good intentions like the above and real-life interaction with the customer.

Our experienced occupational psychologists have therefore designed an effective approach based on action learning to turn well-intended (and abstract) expressions like those above into specific behavioral measures that optimize your customer experience.

Read also the blog post: Do you (also) not get enough out of your customer surveys?

Define a goal and identify your challenges
Action learning focuses on small behavioral changes. The goal is for customer-facing staff in your company to challenge their own habits and behavior towards the customer. Therefore, it is important first to define the goal you want achieve. Next, you need to identify the challenges you face in your daily work that negatively affect the customer experience and prevent you from achieving your goal.

An example of a goal could be to become a customer champion. What criteria for success does being a customer champion entail for your organization and the respective teams? How will you react to the number of complaints in the future? The degree of churns? Or the evaluations on Trust Pilot? These are some initial questions to think about, so your goal is as clear and specific as possible.

Next, the challenge you pick to work with during your action learning should not be just any random challenge. It should be precisely the challenge(s) you believe stand in the way of your achieving your primary goal and the defined criteria for success. When identifying your challenge, the best way to do it is to use data from your own customer experience. When did you last (re)visit your customer journey? 

Our experience shows that a fact-based foundation is the best starting point for identifying the most significant challenges that are keeping you from achieving your defined goal. Therefore, it is important that you get a clear indication of where the potential for improvement and the need for behavioral change is greatest before changing behaviors and becoming solution-oriented. It could be, for instance, that data from a customer feedback survey shows that you have not been able to adequately meet customers’ needs and therefore need special focus here. When you identify your challenges on a data-based foundation, you find out exactly where the shoe doesn't fit. You can follow up that insight with in-depth interviews or focus groups, for example, to collect ‘thick data’ that explains why the shoe does not fit in those places. In that way, you can work more precisely and in a target manner on developing the behavioral changes needed for you to reach your goal of being more customer-centric.


Brainstorm, experiment, reflect and adjust
Once you have identified and chosen the challenge you want to work with, you should brainstorm to find simple behavioral changes you can make in the interactions that can help you surmount the challenge. One simple change could be to change the way you welcome the customer, ask a specific follow-up question or summarize the discussion/the most important points at the end of the call/meeting. If you find it difficult to identify potential changes, you can discuss it with a colleague or supervisor. The behavioral change you come up with should be simple enough that it can be tested directly.

When you have found a change you think will have an effect, it is time to test it in practice. Try it for a week and note how customers react to the change in behavior. Here, it is important that you take brief notes on what improvements – or deteriorations – you observe during the experiment. These are used to reflect and thus move to the next step in action learning, which deals with reflection. Now you should reflect on why your change in behavior improved or deteriorated the customer experience. If possible, do this with a colleague or supervisor who can bring an outsider's perspective and contribute thoughts and ideas that are different from your own. It could be that the new change worked particularly well with one customer type, but not so well with another type, for example. Make adjustments to your change along the way and tweak the adjustments until you are satisfied with the feedback you get from customers. When you have succeeded, you can start over with a new challenge, brainstorm possible experiments with your behavior that you can test and, hopefully, optimize this part of the customer experience, too.

6 things you should know to be successful at action learning

There are a few important things that need to be in place to ensure an optimal action learning process in the quest to create a better customer experience in your company:
    1. As a participant in an action learning process, you must commit to the entire process. You need to experiment and train to get better.
    2. You are responsible for your own learning. So remember to note your insights, observations and thoughts throughout the process.
    3. You should ask for feedback from your immediate environment, for instance, your colleagues and supervisor.
    4. Make the new experiments as small and specific as possible, so they do not become a project of their own.
    5. Your supervisor must allow you to spend time experimenting. Even more importantly, your supervisor must accept that the experiments will fail from time to time. In other words, it must be acceptable to fail.
    6. Your supervisor should be your coach, supporting you throughout the process. We recommend having a colleague and/or supervisor as your sparring partner throughout, who can help you to specify, reflect and learn.


Action learning creates lasting results

We can see that action learning creates lasting results for our customers, because the manner of working during the action learning process builds a capacity for change internally in the company. It means that people who go through the action learning process benefit in two ways:

  1. First, they get the short-term benefit of an improvement in the concrete interaction with the customer, which contributes to an improved customer experience.
  2. As a more long-term benefit, the individual builds strong action learning skills that can contribute to optimizing the customer experience over and over again.

If the action learning method takes hold and is worked with seriously, over time it can create a culture in which your staff – at their own initiative and together – will have the courage and desire to experiment with small new behavioral changes in their everyday work as the starting point for all work to optimize the customer experience. It is hugely beneficial that those who meet with the customer can help to optimize from the bottom up, because it is often those same employees who best know the customer’s reality.


Changed habits can make for a better customer experience

Changes in habits can be hard to make because it takes mental resources to change stubborn habits and daily routines. To change your habits, you have to stop thinking about what you do now and think more about what you should do going forward. It is precisely because it is so hard for people to change their habits that it is critical to break down the behavioral changes into micro steps using action learning. Changing behavior cannot be done “routinely”. Working systematically with action learning takes highly specialized skills and experience that ensure you get the desired effect from your efforts and come a step closer to an even better customer experience and employees who are even more customer-centric than they are today.


Authors


anders_hansen_warming

Anders Hansen Warming

Partner, Executive Officer

 

thomas_lange

Thomas Lange

Senior Leadership Consultant

 

Anders H. Warming, Executive Officer. Thomas Lange, Senior Leadership Consultant
Author

Anders H. Warming, Executive Officer. Thomas Lange, Senior Leadership Consultant

Anders Hansen Warming is partner in Ennova and advises some of Ennova's biggest customers on things like measuring customer feedback, with strong focus on holistic solutions that help to create the desired effect at operational, tactical and strategic levels. Thomas Lange is head consultant in Leadership & Team Development and works with data-informed management and corporate development, process facilitation and coaching, so that data can be converted to specific behavioural changes that create commercial value.