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Clive Shepherd, Head of Customer Experience at Shared Services Connected Ltd

Embedding a customer-first culture is absolutely critical to success within a B2B environment. Simply put, services must be built with the user front of mind and now, after the last eighteen months where customer expectations have changed across both B2B and B2C, it’s more important than ever for businesses to deliver a strong end-user experience.

This is especially true when it comes to shared services. Innovation, technology, cloud, standardised, SLAs and KPIs – they’re all words often heard in relation to shared services. But how often is customer experience really given a top priority, as opposed to a cursory box ticking?

Businesses using shared services can follow in the footsteps of the more customer-centric, consumer-facing industries when it comes to achieving improved customer experience. How though, can they do this? Here are three suggested steps:

Moving towards end user satisfaction for internal and B2B stakeholders

Firstly, B2B organisations need to recognise the component parts that make up a user experience, the obligations of each of the parties involved in that space, and then focus on their own stakeholders and obligations before moving forward. But where to start?

The road to improved customer experience begins with moving away from the current focus many businesses have on SLAs and KPI performance (e.g. calls fielded, tickets closed). Instead, the attention needs to be on end user feedback and customer satisfaction. Providing tools for staff to share feedback and openly articulate their levels of satisfaction is essential to happy teams, higher productivity, and better customer service.

Alongside this, tools and platforms which empower workers need to be implemented. Teams want instant answers to questions, they want to work smarter, avoid tedious and repetitive manual tasks, and need a faster and more intuitive service experience to ensure this. This is where digital input and automation come to the fore.

In fact, both can play a huge role in allowing more simplistic, easy to follow processes for end users, making it possible to consolidate hundreds of organisational forms, reduce repetitive tasks and increase employee/customer satisfaction along the way. They can also reduce error rates and therefore free up employees to spend time on more strategic tasks.

Once these measures and mind sets have been put in place and recognised internally, with the ability to understand what is trying to be achieved by different groups of people (personas), organisations can then turn their attention to customers.

Reducing complexity for end users

Now, with the focus firmly on customers, businesses need to ensure they’re working closely with clients to really understand their specific business needs and challenges. Doing so will allow them to develop innovative digital solutions with a primary focus on tailored services which enhance customer experience. It’s about moving away from a standardised shared service.

As part of this, businesses need to look at reducing the complexity of their services for end users. Complexity can hugely impact customer experience – employee on-boarding, for example, is an increasingly significant part of any workforce HR strategy, which includes the navigation of complex guidelines and information. This can incorporate manual paperwork and time consuming data entry.

A high-quality on-boarding experience can lead to high levels of employee satisfaction and increased talent retention however, there are still organisations struggling. Large businesses, especially those in the public sector, for example, still rely on complex processes to ensure they are compliant with all organisational and regulatory processes. But efficiencies can be created – for example, removing the duplication and overlap of different processes, and moves should be made to digitise paper processes where appropriate, if the overall experience is to improve.

‘Once and done’ is an example of a simple mantra which should be employed. For example, avoid processes and solutions that ask for information six times. Instead, approach from a user’s perspective and what is easiest for them.

Consider each individual

Importantly when embedding a customer-first culture internally, organisations need to ensure they’re considering each individual employee. For example, not every worker, especially those in the public sector, has easy access to a PC. There are many teams working in busy environments away from desks and computers – such as hospitals and prison wards – providing valuable customer service. These workers must be taken into consideration and options provided for them to work smarter and share their experiences.

Alongside this, improved accessibility is vital from an inclusion perspective. Any updates to ways of working need to work for all stakeholders, irrespective of ability or background. Assessing and innovating services based on ‘personas’ is key. What’s good for a subject matter expert in an office, may not be good for an occasional user, for example.

In conclusion

Traditionally, a service or product would be provided to end users who would have no choice but to use that product to achieve their business outcomes, regardless of how clunky or difficult it was. Users were being brought to the service.

In today’s hyper-connected and customer-centric working world though, organisations can no longer deny the importance of customer experience, nor afford to keep these traditional views. Happy customers means greater customer loyalty, this creates more customers over time which, in turn, improves market share – it’s really a no brainer.

It’s now time then, for businesses to take their services to the users. Services need to be developed to meet business needs, rather than the other way around and those who both understand this, and make moves to ensure it, will reap the rewards.