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What not to overlook when creating a customer experience strategy

by Julia Stuhltrager
For as long as there’s been commerce, customer service has been a key priority for sellers, businesses and organizations.

Providing a quality customer experience has proven to be crucial for organizational growth and spurring repeat business. But what does that customer experience actually look like?

In the past, the primary means of customer service was the support or help line, where customers could call and voice their issues. Lacking the tools and technology to proactively address problems, organizations instead settled on a reactive approach — you call us, and then we’ll take care of it.

Today, leading organizations have realized that customer service goes far beyond the simple help line, and that they must be proactive in addressing problems.

Today leading organizations have realized that customer service goes far beyond the simple help line, and that they must be proactive in addressing problems.

Creating a holistic customer experience strategy

Over the past few decades, smartphones, social media and a host of new and emerging technologies have changed the way we live, work and communicate with one another. Amid this changing landscape, organizations began to interact with customers on a number of different channels. We’ve all seen the many ways in which brands have succeeded and failed (sometimes spectacularly) in reaching customers on social media, and companies like Zappos have made customer service an integral part of their organizational story.

But social media and a support line aren’t a customer service strategy. They’re necessary, effective tools, yes — but they’re just tools. Instead, an effective customer experience strategy for the new world of work must consider nearly every aspect of your organization, and proactively employ these and other tools to maximize the quality of your customer service and set your organization apart.

Let’s briefly discuss three areas you may not have considered when it comes to customer experience:

  • Facilities management: You never get a second chance to make a first impression, or so the old saying goes. So when customers come to your workplace, what sort of impression are they getting? Does it take far too long to just get past security? Do you have a work or meeting space that will comfortably fit everyone? Is it easy to schedule a conference room, get online, use the necessary AV tools or even just print? Or do you have scheduling conflicts, connection issues and old technology? Fair or not, these sorts of things affect customers' perceptions of your organization.
  • Critical communications: If you’re like most organizations, you probably produce a number of critical communications. These are things like insurance policies, medical records, invoices and statements, direct mail and a host of other items — communications which often come every month, must be accurate, may contain personal information and are usually subject to regulations and privacy laws. These items may be the only touchpoint you’re likely to have with a good number of customers, meaning that it’s vital to the customer experience that these communications are produced accurately, sent out in a timely manner and adhere to all necessary rules and regulations.
  • Process optimization: Many business challenges are the result of inefficient processes and workflows that kill productivity. Addressing these issues requires a thorough look at all departments, implementing new technologies and effectively managing through change — importantly, with a focus on people, not just the technology. The goal is to allow information to flow freely through your entire organization, so that workers are able to access the information they need, when they need it. If your customer-facing workers have this ability, they’re better able to provide the sort of personalized customer service that leaves customers happy and wanting more.
Ultimately, the same things that hinder many organizational business goals — information bottlenecks, inefficient processes and a lack of access to necessary information or tools — are the same things that negatively impact the customer experience. And this shouldn’t be surprising. Ultimately, customer service and business success are inexorably linked, and they should be viewed as part of a greater whole — rather than being left to social media strategists, call centers and support lines.

Building this sort of holistic strategy will take time, and it looks different for every organization.

Creating world-class customer service

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Julia Stuhltrager
Julia Stuhltrager, Senior Manager, Channel Marketing, Ricoh USA, Inc., has more than 10 years in the information and document management industry. She supports the global and national sales organization with the development and implementation of marketing strategies, campaigns, programs and sales tools that target Global 500 and Fortune 1000 organizations across industries and verticals.