Delighting by Anticipating

Una Morabito, SVP, Client Management, MassMutual Workplace Solutions
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Steve Jobs, former CEO and co-founder of Apple, famously said, “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”

It was that insight that helped Apple to become a globally admired brand after developing now iconic products such as the iPod and iPhone. Did customers know they wanted or needed these devices? Who knew that we would want to carry around 1,000 songs in our pocket or perform personal computing on our phone?

What Jobs understood is that you could delight your customers and build closer relationships with them by anticipating their needs before they did. It is precisely the goal that the most successful customer engagement (CX) programs pursue, marrying a “live for service” culture with a robust tracking and measurement infrastructure. The result may allow companies to gain deeper, more intuitive understandings of customers, and offer new products and services before they even dream of them.

In the financial services and insurance industry, it is widely believed that few customers understand what they want and fewer really understand what they need. Products and services such as retirement savings plans and insurance are often viewed as being esoteric. It is up to financial firms to understand what can be done to help customers meet their goals, solve their problems and realize their aspirations.

And that is where CX comes in. We want to better understand our customers with the goal of better anticipating their needs. We want to develop solutions before our customers discover they have a problem. The end game is to delight them and, ultimately, earn their loyalty.

In any industry, effective CX starts with the customer experience being central to your value proposition. Your employees need to live for service and take pride in earning their customers’ loyalty. But it is not enough to connect to customers on an intellectual level. It is critical to establish an emotional buy in.

  ​No matter who your customers are or what products or services you sell, your goal should be the same: delighting by anticipating   

Everyone in your organization who connects with customers must be singularly focused on delivering great customer service. Every interaction with every customer should be a positive and memorable one. If not, you need to take immediate action to correct the situation.

CX must be embraced; it must be incorporated into your culture and lived daily. We have all heard that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Well, if your employees are not consuming what you are serving, the leftovers may not be very appetizing. Not for you, not for your employees, and certainly not for your customers.

Experience tells us that when employees do buy in, they can make a tremendous difference for your company. Not only might your employees focus on doing their utmost to help your customers, your employees actually may become brand ambassadors. You want your employees not only to buy in but be proud of what they do and who they work for—and then tell others.

But it takes more than culture alone to stay ahead of your customers. It starts with a CX program built on top of a powerful data analytics platform that allows you to gather, analyze and act on customer feedback in real time. Having the right technology may allow you to continuously improve your company’s performance as well as the customer experience. You need to capture real-time feedback from all customers, across all channels, and transform the data into actionable intelligence.

The best CX technology allows for the tracking and reporting of each interaction. Depending upon your business model, you may need to connect to everyone who is responsible for external interactions, including service and sales representatives, both internally and externally situated. By collecting immediate feedback, you have the opportunity to gauge how you are doing in real time.

If your associates are not living for service, then it will be immediately evident. The feedback is immediate, so anything less than your best effort becomes a real time learning opportunity, helping managers coach their people, and leading to improved behaviors and better results. A cultural aspiration where every associate lives for service won’t be successful without an infrastructure in place to support it.

On the customer side, when a problem arises, the immediacy of the feedback allows for instantaneous action to correct and adjust. In today’s world of immediate gratification, resolving an issue in minutes or hours rather than days or weeks provides an opportunity to instantly satisfy your customer. Doing so gives you the power to turn around customer attitudes about a potentially disappointing experience. Instead of a dissatisfied detractor, the customer is transformed into a happy promoter. And we all need more of those.

The longer-term value of CX, though, is the ability to get closer to your customers, learn more about them, and deliver what they really need and want. The CX platform should facilitate a dialogue between you and your customers, helping ensure that their voices are considered in every decision. Because in the end, customers do not want products and services, they want solutions.

Harvard professor Ted Levitt had a brilliant observation about what customers really want from the companies with which they do business: “People don’t want quarter-inch drills,” he observed. “They want quarter-inch holes.” Companies can be most successful when they focus on the end game.

In the financial services business, the end game translates into helping customers accomplish their financial objectives, in the short term as well as in the long term. Do people really want insurance? No, they want security for their families. Do people want retirement plans? Not really. What they want is a comfortable retirement free from financial worries.

Employing a robust CX program that underpins a “live for service” culture with powerful tracking and measurement technology can be the key to uncovering and fulfilling those needs. Whether your customers seek financial security, want a catalogue of 1,000 songs in their pocket, or just want holes, customer engagement helps your company to deliver.

No matter who your customers are or what products or services you sell, your goal should be the same: delighting by anticipating.

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