Placing the customer first can only be achieved when the company and its culture position them so.
Today, customer-centricity is often discussed, but rarely achieved; we all like to say that we value customer experience, but in our industry the phrase has become a marketing gimmick.
A gimmick because although companies do think about the journey’s of brand and consumer more often now, many ideas fail to capture the required momentum, or public engagement, because they fail to involve the customer in the design of the re-brand.
In this way, not only do you fail to capture the potential for your new marketing strategies to engage both existing and new customers, but you also miss out on the opportunity to learn more about what services or products are most required in the future by your customers.
In short, not only will the inclusion benefit your understanding of the customer’s journey, but it will illuminate your own company’s direction too.
It’s an outside view approach that we apply at TNT, and it’s an ingrained feature of how we operate culturally.
This year, TNT will be 70 years old.
When Ken Thomas, the founder, started the overnight tracking service in Australia, the foundation that has allowed it to become a global organization was by following the customer’s needs, and it’s held us in good stead ever since.
The idea is formalized today: brands consciously voice the customer journey trend within their strategies, and we are no different – but we did start slightly ahead of the curve.
In 2007 we decided to create one department within the organization that took full accountability of the customer experience design, to meet or exceed value proposition, and to continually iterate the quality of service we provide.
It’s customer experience design and it’s typically where you would find the marketing activity that understands how to drive the customer journey; how to simplify it; what the value proposition is; how we want people to behave towards customers; and then reviewing each of those steps to make sure they are manageable.
This area of customer care can almost be seen as a single point of contact.
This team are empowered to make multiple decisions across financial, logistical and technical queries, and, behind our drivers, have the most customer contact with TNT, because the customer demands this level of care and attention.
Our customer experience design in 2007, required a robust culture of customer orientation, and this was helped, in part, by a decision we made during the mid-1990s to create a customer program that our employees should undertake.
We have a program called Voice of the Customer, developed by an American company for the sole usage of TNT in our industry.
It’s a four day program that everyone at TNT has to complete, from driver to executive lead, which focuses on how to develop relationships externally and internally.
External customer needs are examined and completed, and the program then focuses on how we treat each other within TNT, to teach us how to treat each other as customers and suppliers, and be held accountable for each step in the supply chain.
Over the years, Voice of the Customer has evolved of course, but it’s still mandatory to attend and the skills are still as valuable.
Furthermore, board members at TNT are sponsors of our largest customers, our strategic accounts.
Each of those has a board member assigned to them to aid account managers to help push new business through the organization, interact and engage with the feedback from the customer directly, and understand how TNT needs to evolve in order to meet those expectations.
It means that every level of employee at TNT is engaged in some way around the concept of customer experience design and the customer journey, aligning us all on the same task and enabling a culture of customer-centric care.
The focus on this is because customer care has become the differentiation factor in this industry.
In the past our products and services were fairly unique, but they are now more of a commodity that leaves us with the relationship between us and the customer to sell our brand: you have to deliver on time; pick up on time; be flexible; and aware of each customer’s needs.
This personalized approach really develops each customer relationship, and our understanding of our customers stems from asking them more meaningful questions at each touch point.
More meaningful questions create more insightful answers, and it’s a proactive approach which the customer now demands. We can then begin to dictate the direction the company is heading, and even how the industry will adapt in the future.
Achieving this can only be fully achieved with the customer-centric attitude that has become such a popular term.
A true customer-centric approach to your products and services is best facilitated when your company culture is based around it.
This requires prioritizing customer experience design in company decision making, because not only is it a more transparent way of operating, but you are then able to learn more about how a customer uses you, and as a result what your next steps as a company should be.