FOR years, when organisations discussed customer service, they most often referred to the department that supported customers.

Today, leading customer-focused organisations are making customer experience a core component of their overall corporate mission and values.

Embracing an organisational culture that delivers on outstanding customer experiences has become a competitive advantage for leading enterprises.

Fostering a workforce that creates defining moments for customers is essential to driving revenue, differentiating the brand and retaining loyalty.

AchieveGlobal — which provides skills training and consulting in leadership development, sales effectiveness and customer service — recently conducted a study to investigate the extent to which organisations in Singapore leverage service excellence as a strategic business enabler.

The study found that while organisations agree their leaders do communicate and drive customer focus, many are least likely to incorporate customer focus in employee training or utilise customer feedback for decision-making.

Fostering a culture of service excellence is not limited to only those in retail or hospitality because customers are the lifeline of any business.

Forward-thinking organisations are developing strategies to own the customer experience, which involves focusing everyone in the organisation on the simple, yet often overlooked task of ensuring that a customer’s perception of a particular company or brand is greater than his expectation.

When implemented, owning the customer experience is a strong differentiation strategy that provides the organisation with a leg up on the competition.

Organisations can draw on the following five critical components to help create defining moments for their customers:

1. Establish a clear definition of the desired customer experience

All members of the organisation should be able to say with conviction: “I understand why this is important, what my role is in achieving the desired outcome, and I am committed to being a part of the solution.”

Engaging everyone to say “I know, I care, and I can” is a transformative strategy — one that is best if it emanates from the top management and permeates every level down to the frontline.

2. Develop a consistent customer engagement strategy

Once a clearly defined experience is developed, resources, skills and behaviours must be identified and aligned to the critical touch points or “defining moments”. Doing so will support the implementation of the strategy.

A consistent, enterprise-wide set of focused tools should be developed to support the acquisition and application of skills and behaviours at all levels.

Without this step, many organisations will fail to see long-term success.

3. Individuals utilise the skills and exhibit the behaviours

Customer expectations are based on several factors including past experience, marketing, word of mouth and experiences at other service organisations.

Through the use of defined skills and behaviours that have been aligned to the defining moments, frontline staff have the opportunity to create a positive gap between what a customer expects and his perception of the actual experience.

These critical components provide businesses with the opportunity to create loyalty among customers, a higher referral rate to potential customers and, ultimately, greater sales opportunities.

4. Leadership support and coaching

To truly see the desired outcomes that a customer experience strategy can achieve, there must be active leadership at all levels to direct the processes that invigorate the strategy and develop its people on the appropriate skills and behaviours necessary through constant feedback and coaching.

5. Effective corporate support at all levels

Too often, corporate leadership pays attention only to productivity or revenue metrics. While this is important, so is the need to align those metrics and other dashboard measures to the appropriate skills and behaviours aligned to the customer experience.

Doing so will align the tangible tasks and measures — like revenue, inventory and marketing — with the proper skills and behaviours that impact those results.

A critical component of any strategy is to continually assess and evaluate business data, and make course corrections before it is too late.

By assessing the current strategy, evaluating the outcomes and fine-tuning the strategy, organisations can raise the bar and stay ahead of their customers’ expectations.