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At two recent events in Sydney and Melbourne, business leaders in Australia shared how companies are navigating the increasingly complex customer experience journey. The events were part of an annual series organized by an Australian industry association.

In a couple of panel sessions, I joined business leaders from AMP, Aussie, OPSM, Carsales, Ansell and Bendigo Bank to explore strategies and best practices in customer experience (CX). It’s a timely topic given that CX is now a top priority for many Australian companies.

Speakers from both events shared tips and insight on how companies can align business objectives with customer needs, improve CX and become truly customer-led. Here are four of my top takeaways from both events.

1. Make your strategy about your customer

Companies can’t become customer-centric without identifying their customers first. According to Jee Moon, vice president of marketing at OPSM, companies must start by understanding the language of their customers and looking for underlying consumer needs and desires. “The idea of getting really intimate with customers is important,” she added.

Putting customers first also means doing the right thing for your customers, even if it might mean less revenue for your organization. Kim Clarke, chief customer officer at EnergyAustralia, challenged executives in the room to answer this question: “Would you choose to sell your customers less, if it’s in their best interest?” For Clarke and her team, that’s not a rhetorical question since EnergyAustralia’s mandate includes encouraging Australians to use less energy. To meet that goal while driving business results, Clarke prioritizes building customer trust and investing in long-term solutions. One of the company’s recent initiatives, for example, is a “go neutral” program to offset $100 of carbon emission for every customer, at no cost to consumers.

2. Unwrap the “why”

Bendigo Bank knows a thing or two about keeping customers happy—after all, it sits at the top of the Forrester Customer Experience Index in Australia. According to Ian Jackman, head of customer voice at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited, the company’s success in pushing the CX agenda is a result of a deliberate strategy to put the customer at the center of everything it does. Eighty percent of the company’s workforce reports under its chief customer officer.

“We’ve spent a lot of time understanding why our customers do what they do,” Jackman said. Understanding the “why” behind customer behavior allows the company to meet the evolving needs of its customers and meet its commitment to remain Australia’s most connected bank.

Having a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program helps Bendigo get a comprehensive understanding of customers. Vision Critical’s customer intelligence platform is part of Bendigo’s VoC program, enabling the company to pursue co-creation projects. According to Jackman, the success of Bendigo’s VoC program is measured against customer-led metrics like brand equity, customer ease and customer growth.

The big lesson from Bendigo’s story: transactional data isn’t sufficient to truly understand customers. Ongoing engagement is crucial to getting to the “why” and creating a more authentic relationship with customers over time.

3. Empower and engage employees

Strong leadership drives customer-led thinking in the company, but employee feedback brings it to life. In the same way that companies need to invest in customer insight, they also need tools to drive employee engagement.

As I mentioned at both events, a company’s workforce can help significantly improve its CX strategy. Employees, especially those on the front lines, can help identify pain points in the customer journey and provide actionable ideas on how to eliminate those challenges. Investing in your own people and in tools that harness employee feedback shows true dedication not just to your own people, but also to your customers. Companies that listen to both customers and employees will see more traction in their CX efforts.

For more insight on how businesses approach customer-centricity, watch a recording of our recent webinar, The Future of Voice of the Customer Programs in Australia.

Webinar: Use your customer understanding to optimize your CX strategy

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Peter Harris

Peter Harris helps brands build authentic customer relationships through technology. Pioneering customer intelligence since 2010, Peter Harris has led Vision Critical Asia Pacific to become the largest customer intelligence software provider, supporting over 140 customer-led brands, in Asia Pacific such as Telstra, Adobe and Cathay Pacific. With deep roots in research and strategy, Peter has championed the future of research and technology across his leadership roles at prominent research organisations, including AMSRS, APRC and GRBN.
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