Step into your customers’ shoes

At our customers I am currently observing an ardent desire towards more customer-centric service processes. Primarily, this transformation aims to increase external brand loyalty. For me, this demand is created by the feeling of uncertainty when being exposed to and forced to deal with rapid changes and developments of the future. If no one can tell how industries such as the automotive, finance or retail sector are going to change, then an individual and strong brand loyalty reduces the risk of losing customers immediately to the most innovative competitors. One of our customers, an international automotive manufacturer of exclusive sports cars, approached us at the beginning of the year, asking if we could develop an innovative management workshop for them. This workshop was supposed to sensitize senior managers for the needs of their customers and to enable them to implement customer-centric processes at their dealership. During the initial needs analysis, we realised quickly that rather a holistic approach is needed to comply with the given strategic goals. From our perspective, it was not only about a one-shot workshop but rather about enabling the dealer staff itself, to question existing processes on one’s own responsibility and subsequently align them with the needs of the customer. From our experience, it would be ideal if ideas for more customer-centric processes are not only developed by individuals with direct customer contact but, moreover, customers get the chance to give feedback on the ideas as well. In addition, the concept we developed should also be applicable to other topics. Therefore, we developed, in collaboration with the customer, a holistic concept of several, consecutive (mini) workshops, that contained valuable components from Design Thinking: a fixed number of employees volunteer to participate at the initial workshop and every participant chooses a tandem partner from the organisation to go jointly on a customer journey. For this journey, the participants receive typical personas with characteristics derived from the customer base. From the viewpoint of these personas, the participants explore the online and offline brand representation of several exclusive brands and own competitors. The findings are brought into the next workshop and based on positive and negative experiences, ideas for implementation at the dealer evolve. In a next step, these ideas are presented to the whole dealer staff and refined by all employees in creative sessions. Shortly after, the best ideas are presented to selected customers to test them on attractiveness, usability and customer orientation. Finally, iterated selected ideas are implemented at the dealership. Unlike familiar process and KPI-oriented measures, this approach was completely new to the organisation and revealed the main challenge: All workshops are not designed to reach a defined goal, but the outcome of the workshop is totally dependent on the intrinsic commitment of the participants. This requires a precise facilitation of the process and all participants need to be constantly motivated to push their own creativity. For pilot testing, we accompanied our client to two European markets to support local adaption of the concept without losing the focus on a consecutive process. We also conducted a Train-the-Facilitator event for market key account manager to impart a new understanding of roles. Moving from a process consultant towards a facilitator who steers a process that enables the participants to question existing processes and align them with the needs of the customer. Changes in the future do not only apply to organisations but are even more relevant on an individual level. We are best prepared to handle upcoming changes by focusing on distinct self-responsibility and self-guidance. Individually and within our organisations. A contribution from:

Andreas Grotekemper Senior Consultant of TCJG