Having worked with a multitude of clients in many industries over the years to help address these issues, I’ve discovered what appear to be a series of alternate perceptions of reality that conspire to jeopardise an organisation’s potential for success.
In fact, wherever one individual (or organisation) supplies products or services to another individual (or organisation), there is a risk that four alternate perceptions of reality can exist that can undermine product and service quality, and ruin customer experiences.
Natural misalignments that drive poor customer experiences
These alternate realities cause a series of natural misalignments that, if not carefully re-tuned and adjusted, lead to business inefficiencies, reduced levels of employee and customer satisfaction, cause potential conflicts, and wasted costs. For most businesses and public sector organisations, these misalignments can have a serious and measurable impact on the bottom-line.
These four alternate perceptions of reality can be summarised under the following headings:
- Reality 1: Corporate vision
- Reality 2: Customer needs, wants and expectations
- Reality 3: Ability to deliver
- Reality 4: Customer experience
The four alternate realities of the corporate / customer universe
Reality 1: Corporate vision
The first perception of reality is established when the organisation creates a corporate vision of what it wants to achieve for its customers. It will often base this vision on its own experience, and its expert knowledge of the products and services it provides. This vision often defines the way it develops its business and customer communications.
Reality 2: Customer needs, wants and expectations
The second perception of reality exists in the hearts and minds of each of the organisation’s current and potential customers. Each will have expectations of how the organisation and its products and services will meet their needs and wants. These expectations may result from previous experience with the organisation, something they’ve heard about the organisation from another customer, something they’ve seen in the media, or even in a communication from the organisation itself. From whatever source, good or bad, these expectations will be the yardstick against which the customer will measure their next experience.
Reality 3: Ability to deliver
The third perception of reality is the degree to which the organisation may (or may not) have the ability to deliver its corporate vision. This reality is influenced by every step in the design, production, promotion and delivery of the products and services it provides, and is reinforced during every customer interaction.
Reality 4: Customer experience
The fourth perception of reality is the one that defines the success of an organisation. It’s the cold, hard reality of what the customer experiences of the organisation’s products and services and whether they meet, exceed, or fall-short of their needs, wants and expectations.
Risks and opportunities: Are you tuned for success or failure?
These four (potentially conflicting) perceptions of reality form the cornerstones of a sustainable customer-facing organisation. They support an organisation in meeting its objective to create value for its customers, its staff and its stakeholders, and determine whether the organisation is tuned for success, or tuned for potential failure.
Our research has found that these four alternate realities can place more than 10% of a businesses profits at risk, and double the operating costs for customer-facing activities in the public sector!
An organisation tuned for success
When these four alternate realities are perfectly tuned and “in sync”, the organisation is most likely to be operating in harmony, running to peak efficiency like a well adjusted machine so it can maximise the value it creates.
- Its corporate vision will be perfectly aligned with the needs, wants and expectations of its customers
- Its ability to deliver will be perfectly aligned with its corporate vision
- Customer experiences will be perfectly aligned with its customers’ needs, wants and expectations
- It will be successful in satisfying customers and achieving its own strategic outcome objectives
Such an organisation is “tuned for success”. The potentially alternate realities are operationally efficient and working as a single, harmonious, value-generating, corporate/customer ecosystem.
An organisation tuned for failure
However, when any of these four alternate realities are misaligned, they undermine the potential for value-creation, and place the organisation’s business objectives, its financial viability, and its customers’ satisfaction, at risk.
If these alternate realities are only slightly “out-of-tune”, customer relationships may trundle along with occasional misunderstandings, problems and complaints.
But the more the alternate realities diverge, then the more frequently the discord, the more serious the consequences, and the bigger the impact on the cost of running the organisation, and the bigger the drain on the potential value it can create.
OK, so what can be done to keep everything tuned for success?
Taking control with a customer-driven framework for continuous improvement
To align these potentially alternate perceptions of reality, organisations need to adopt a framework for continuous improvement, driven by a robust and actionable approach to collecting customer feedback and measuring customer experience.
We developed the CTMA framework for customer-driven value-creation, and a portfolio of supporting workshops, training and measurement services, in response to decades of research we’ve conducted in public and private sector organisations.
The framework forms a strategic foundation for customer experience improvement programmes and provides ongoing measurements that help management adjust the alignment of one reality with another, and continuously tune their corporate vision and ability to deliver, to the needs wants expectations and experience of their customers.
For more information about the CTMA framework, please check-out our website, join our reading room, or if we can help you more directly - please get in touch, and we can schedule an introductory discussion.
From time-to-time we also run workshops, masterclasses, roadshows and online training courses to help organisations accelerate their progress towards being tuned success. Please check here for information about our upcoming public events.
© CTMA New Zealand Ltd.
About the author: Paul Linnell
Paul Linnell is a customer experience and service quality improvement champion, working internationally with senior managers and their teams to help them achieve business success, reduce risk and build customer loyalty and advocacy by improving service to customers. Paul specialises in the design and deployment of customer experience measurement, service quality improvement, complaints handling and preventive analysis programmes. For most of his career he has worked in Europe and North America and for the past 10 years Paul has been based in New Zealand, continuing to serve clients globally.