In my view, the change to a customer-focused organisation is greatly underestimated
‘We want to put the customer first’. Numerous organisations shout it and most undoubtedly want to do so. But between dream and deed, practical objections stand in the way. Find Nicole van den Heuvel, formerly Customer Experience Manager at VodafoneZiggo : “Becoming a customer-oriented organisation is really transforming your company. It requires the power to change. Too often I see organisations thinking they can do this in a jiffy, in addition to the usual routine. In my view, however, changing into a customer-focused organisation is seriously underestimated”.
Change = people, processes + resources
According to Nicole, this underestimation lies mainly in the comprehensive nature of such a transformation. “Suppose the management decides that the organisation needs to become more digital and they only start working with the technology, for example. Or they teach their employees to work agile and only do so with part of the organisation. But you can only achieve lasting change if you involve 3 axes: people, processes and resources. Usually, when change occurs, the focus is only on one of these axes and that is not enough to succeed”. In Dialog Group, she recognises an organisation that focuses on more than just technology (and therefore resources). “They also look at the world from the point of view of people and processes. A good example is a recent online event of theirs, The Future of Customer Interaction. Among other things, it was about how important it is to involve the customer in digital transformation. Instead of just looking at digital KPIs”.
Playground for change
Nicole considers her period at VodafoneZiggo as a ‘playground for change’. As CX Manager she has experienced that ‘putting the customer first’ is not something you can leave to a project group, but should be an integral part of an organisation’s strategy. And yes, you need a willingness to do that at the top of your company. “I have also noticed a difference in this. One director really wanted to make a difference when it came to customer service. The other actually thought turnover and costs were more important than customers. The latter will undoubtedly be recognisable to many organisations. Then it requires flexibility and persuasiveness to demonstrate that a better customer experience has everything to do with turnover and costs. So it’s not about either costs or customer experience, it’s an and-and, where relevance is crucial for every manager/department”.
Stick with yourself
Nicole now works as Value Delivery Manager at VANAD Engage. With a CX model she has developed, she helps organisations in the transformation to customer focus. She is happy to share practical first steps, because how do you tackle this transformation, how do you create the power to change? “It really starts with seeing who you are as an organisation. What is your raison d’être, what distinguishes you from the rest? A pitfall here is that you start mirroring yourself to a well-known existing company. For many years I have heard Coolblue being mentioned as a shining example. A beautiful organisation, of course, but above all, don’t copy them. Stick to yourself. After you have done this, go and identify your client. Who is your client and what are his needs? Finally, add your strategic plans. Only when all this is clear, you actually get to work with your people, processes and resources”.
Photo caption: Nicole van den Heuvel
The Dutch market vs. Europe
Nicole also sees quite a lot of differences between the Dutch market and that of other countries. “When I look at The Netherlands within the world, we are absolutely at the forefront. That, in turn, is also related to urgency. Competition is fierce due to the favorable business climate and a population with an average high level of education and available resources. So you always have to stay ahead of the ball. In addition, The Netherlands is an ideal environment to try out innovations, which are then rolled out in the larger countries such as the UK, France and Germany. If we compare ourselves to Germany and France, we see that our culture and employee training enable us to show much more decisiveness. Management can and dares to give confidence in its employees. After all, change does not only happen in the boardroom.”
Nicole also points out that customer needs differ from country to country. “The Dutch focus mainly on convenience, more than in other countries”. However, Nicole does indicate that change within The Netherlands is quite slow. Consider, for example, the implementation of chat for Customer Service.” We spoke about this 6 years ago and now organisations label this as a revolutionary organisation. And think, for example, of working from home for Customer Service and office staff. In my experience, we have been doing this for at least 10 years. But when I see how much homeworking has taken off in the past year, we really came from the classic model. Then you also see how quickly changes can happen when there is an urgency. Under pressure, everything becomes fluid.”
The course for 2021
According to Nicole, 2021 really is the year of the digital transformation. But in combination with customer service or digital omni-channel transformation. “If you don’t have your website, delivery and customer service in order now, you have a serious problem. Business Intelligence is crucial in this, because where and why does it go wrong?” That is the second focus for 2021. Continue to invest in Business Intelligence where you also look ahead and predict instead of just analyzing what happened to us. And the third focus is relevance. Why is the customer and therefore the customer experience relevant to your job? “For a time, there was a commercial on the radio in which the question was asked,” Did you earn your salary today?” In fact, everyone should be asking themselves the question: Have I earned our customers’ money today? Your customers are not a cost item. So service (and for me that also includes sales, which is a form of service after all) is a value and not a cost center.
Digital Interaction Made Easy according to Nicole:
“For me, Dialog Groep is the club that understands that customer service is part of the digital transformation. That there is always a connection between people, processes and technology. Only then do you make digital interaction easy. Easy for the customer and for the internal users. It becomes easy when it is relevant and valuable to people.”
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