Nobody said it was Easy! How to Build an Exceptional Customer Experience

Delivering an exceptional customer experience is good for your long-term business prospects. If you accept that premise, the unavoidable question is how to go about creating that experience. There are no cheats and no shortcuts. It’s hard work but it might just safeguard the future of your business.
In the construction sector, we tend not to talk about customer experience. And we are arguably a long way from consistently delivering customer experiences that customers and end users value.

The fundamental issues don’t stem from aptitude or professional competence. It’s more to do with entrenched attitudes. The compartmentalised, contractual nature of projects engenders a short term view. Defensive behaviours proliferate thanks to the ‘them and us’ culture that has grown up in the industry.

Additional pressures from funding cuts, skills shortages and quality concerns are making us look inward, when we should be looking outward. We are in danger of losing sight of what a customer is, what they need, and how to engage with them.

Clients, end users, contractors and consultants are customers of each other. We all need to engage openly and lose the mutual suspicion that can drive unhealthy behaviours.

By looking outward at other industries and markets, where customer expectations are equally high, we can learn how they have changed the relationship between customers and suppliers for the better.

Adapting to deliver an exceptional customer experience will probably involve the following:

  • Breaking down silos and building cross-functional awareness so that everyone sees the entire journey and how their actions have knock-on effects.
  • Getting everyone to accept ownership of ‘what happens next’ so that they actively seek to improve the quality of subsequent customer interactions.
  • Open mindedness, innovation and an unwillingness to accept how things have always been done.

Improving customer experience starts with people. A renewed focus on recruiting the right people and training them well will pay enormous dividends. Motivate and incentivise people to do the right thing and ensure their goals are fixed on doing what is best for your customers and seeing beyond the next project deliverable.

You might not immediately think that our industry has much to learn from Amazon or John Lewis, but they can tell us plenty about how a focus on customer experience leads to profitable and sustainable growth. And that’s a lesson we definitely need to learn.

Above all, avoid the temptation to impose fixes. If changes are to be sustained there needs to be a shift of culture to one in which everyone takes ownership and develops the empathy to see your business through your customers’ eyes. This is what top performing brands do and what the construction sector needs to learn how to do.

Nick Sterling, Managing Director of Osborne Communities, will be presenting and discussing more about customer experience within the construction industry at the Pellings ‘What’s next for procurement’ seminar on 28th September.

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