Failure is one of the most important sources of success – especially in times of Covid-19 – but only when companies allow their employees to experiment and adapt to changing customer needs. And fast feedback is necessary if companies are going to allow their employees the leeway to fail fast.
At Kantar we are running hundreds of customer feedback programmes for our clients around the globe. And the vast majority of those programmes have one thing in common: companies celebrate and reward their employees for good scores – and they penalise low scores. This behaviour of organisations comes as no surprise. For decades, the legacy of ‘Total Quality Management’ has led headquarters to detail every single step of customer interaction and front-line employees are urged to stick to those rules and processes.
But if the last four months have shown us anything it is that such a strict, centralised approach to customer experience management is no longer a recipe for success. And, if companies are honest to themselves, they will admit that this approach has not led to success for a long time. Customer needs and expectations today are by far to diverse and complex to be covered by standard process guidelines. The Covid-19 crisis simply adds to this challenge: functional as well as emotional needs of customers are changing so rapidly that it is impossible for purely centrally organised companies to keep pace with those changes.
However, front-line employees are in ‘pole position’ with regards to learning and knowing about customers and their (new and changing) needs. All of them get direct feedback from their customers– in every single customer interaction they are involved in. But, unfortunately, in most organizations employees are deterred from adapting to a consumer’s specific needs because they have more to lose by doing so than they have to win. If CX feedback platforms are only used for monitoring whether employees are following the customer service guidelines, they can easily become one of the biggest enemies of innovative ideas.
But the opposite is also true, CX platforms can become one of the most important catalysts of customer experience innovation! Fast feedback enables a company to actively encourage their staff to try out new things, to test innovative ideas of how to enchant customers and create lasting, positive memories – even if the chance of failure is much higher than the chance of success.
So, what are some of the success factors for turning CX platforms into innovation catalysts?
- The platform should not only focus on the fulfilment of short-term customer satisfaction KPIs, but rather on revealing future improvement and innovation opportunities
- If the platform contains rankings of customer service teams, those rankings should be based on, for example, the number of suggested or implemented improvement ideas (and not on the teams’ past performance scores).
- (Monetary) goal setting also should be based on implemented improvement measures or other behavioural targets.
- A systematic close-the-loop process has to be established, including inner- and outer-loop processes that allow organisations to scale successful experience innovation ideas across the entire company.
- Besides customer feedback captured via the CX platform, also other sources of customer knowledge (e.g. complaints, call centre recordings) should be integrated in the learning process.
Only if companies are not only celebrating successes, but also failures, only then will an organisation be able to develop a thriving innovation culture. A famous example of a company that celebrates failed innovations is the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s. Known or for its extraordinary ice cream flavours, Ben & Jerry’s Flavour Graveyard celebrates their unsuccessful flavour innovations. Successful companies behave like Ben & Jerry’s – they encourage their employees to try out new things. And they celebrate and reward those ideas not only in case of success but also failure.