A new report from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) suggests that the suspicion of many customers is actually true – that most executives have no idea what their customers really want. In addition, these same executives are charged with ignoring the ideas coming from their frontline teams because the board already “knows” how to run a business.
The statistics from the ICS research (which questioned 650 UK employees) paint a sorry picture:
- Only 51% of line managers believe that their executive team is interested in customer insight
- Fewer than half of line managers believe that their executive team understands what the customers want
- Just 36% of line managers believe that customer ideas for service improvement are listened to
- Only 28% of the companies questioned in the research have an executive at board level with customer service responsibilities
This analysis of the ICS research in Forbes magazine lists some examples of UK companies that are taking customer service seriously:
- At Boots, customer service is the first thing on the agenda at every board meeting
- The CEO of Halfords was hired specifically because of her track record on improving customer service at McDonalds.
- Supermarket chain Morrisons has created a staff bonus scheme that directly connects the bonus paid to customer satisfaction.
I think that it’s great to see these well-known brands putting the customer experience at the top of the executive agenda, but as the ICS research shows, far too many companies are detached from what their customers really want.
Several industry analysts have noted that this is becoming a key strategic battleground. Smart company executives are already placing the improvement of the customer experience above reducing cost and increasing profit on their list of priorities because these leaders can see that customers are expecting more. The brands that ignore what their customers want will soon find that this has become more important than they could ever imagine.
However, I believe that smart companies with go further than just including customer experience in their list of board priorities. The way that companies are structured today has to acknowledge that in the age of the customer, business is different. Companies needs to understand – far more than ever before – how customers think and behave.
Every customer-facing function within the organisation needs to be connected and synchronised. This includes customer service, but also advertising, marketing, sales, and functions like PR that reach out to the media. All these functions create an impression of the brand with the end customer and therefore they need to be managed together.
This is why the board needs an executive with a customer experience focus, not as a token gesture, but in a genuine coordination role managing any part of the business that faces externally.
The ICS research shows that many companies are not thinking this way yet, but this creates opportunity for those that are ahead of the curve and realise the importance of their customer relationship.
What do you think of the ICS research and the idea that boards need to be focused on the customer experience? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.
Photo by Eli Sagor licensed under Creative Commons.