James Hickman, Chief Customer Officer at Altron Karabina, looks at how channel companies can ensure they deliver the right customer experience.
Few businesses enter into a partnership expecting it is going to be a bad experience. In fact, customers do not consciously think about their experiences with a channel partner; they anticipate that they are going to have a good experience with whomever they engage with.
It is critical to realise that customer centricity is not a single business unit’s function, but rather a function of the business. A simple example is when I recently gave a presentation to a customer during a period of load shedding.
We had to use a UPS that one of our IT staff had. He didn’t hesitate giving it to me even though it meant that he couldn’t work for those couple of hours and had to stay late. Because that customer obsession is bred into the culture of our people, it wasn’t even a decision for him.
To deliver the right customer experience, companies must understand what excellent service means to their customers. Determine this through a discussion of what excellent looks like. Having that discussion early on in the relationship is crucial so that you have something to aim for and you have a customer that can measure you against that.
However, it is all well and good having a mechanism in place to measure excellent service, but if there is no trust from the customer to voice any frustrations there is no point in having a mechanism in the first place.
Pro-active communication is crucial so that both parties don’t wait for the review cycle to discuss any challenges, they can take care of them straight away.
At Altron Karabina, we hire people that are truly passionate about their customers and we build customer success as a key measurement into all aspects of our business and its success. We invest in training our sales staff to equip them with the expertise to deal with customers. They need to be able to understand the impact a solution can make in a customer’s business versus the size of the implementation or the cool technology it requires. The innovation we deliver must matter to our customers.
The first question from sales staff should always be focused around the value proposition for customers and whether the solution makes sense for them. Our sales people are now embracing this approach in almost every discussion we have and it is incredibly rewarding to see. The language we use around the boardroom table is also shifting to being more customer-centric. We often start discussions with what is a good decision for the customer and our employees are frequently talking about the customer’s experience. That is very powerful. It is easy to say I’m customer-centric, but to demonstrate just that is very hard.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you say, what your people say or what your slogan is. To have your customers consistently say you put them first is the ultimate challenge for any business leader driving a customer-centric organisation.