Welcome back to our “Customer Service Heroes” series, where we invite inspiring customer service leaders to share their advice for running successful teams.
Roman Odinokov is the Head of Research and Customer Experience Evaluation at AUTODOC, Europe’s leading online retailer for car parts. From shock absorbers and exhaust systems to interior elements and repair kits, AUTODOC sells approximately 2.5 million products from 870 manufacturers for 166 car brands. Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, AUTODOC currently operates in 27 countries and plans to continue their global expansion in 2022.
Designing and refining an engaging ecommerce customer experience is a team effort. The buyers of today are accustomed to personalized and ultra-convenient digital experiences: entertainment platforms predict your next favorite TV show, grocery delivery apps give you back hours of time each week, and interconnected devices work in concert when you speak a command. To truly give your audience the seamless experience they deserve, a customer-centric mindset has to permeate throughout your entire organization — it can’t just be a single team or department that’s working to understand and delight the customer.
Start by doing your research
To provide a five-star customer experience, you have to know your customers inside and out. Continuous research and observation is crucial for understanding what really makes people tick. AUTODOC is a global company which means we conduct market research and collect feedback from customers across 27 different countries.
CX research entails identifying all of the touchpoints a customer has throughout their interaction with your company and determining how you can make their journey more enjoyable and frictionless. This includes viewing advertisements, clicking through pages on a website, navigating a mobile application, calling a customer service agent, receiving an email from a sales representative, and much more. At the end of the day, you want all of these interactions to leave people with a positive lasting impression of your brand.
At AUTODOC, one of our major “north star” metrics is net promoter score (NPS) because it is very valuable for assessing long-term customer loyalty and happiness. It can also be combined with other KPIs, such as order frequency and lifetime value (LTV), to determine which “detractors” and/or “passives” have the most substantial financial impact on the business. In some cases we might prioritize solving the pain points of those customers — since we can show the correlation between NPS and revenue, it’s easier to get buy-in from someone in the C-suite to provide resources for solving these problems.
Think like a designer
I firmly believe that design thinking is a very important part of CX improvement. When many people hear the words “design” or “designer,” they picture someone drawing with a sketchpad and pencil or creating digital graphics in Photoshop. In a broader sense, thinking like a designer is about understanding human behavior, identifying common problems, and coming up with practical solutions. Much like conducting market research and collecting customer feedback, design thinking is a constant, non-linear process — an infinite loop, if you will.
The AUTODOC team combines design thinking with lean UX and Six Sigma processes (define, measure, analyze, improve, control, repeat) to maximize efficiency and minimize idle time before the next iteration or development. Every month we have three-day or five-day service design sprints that we use to tackle specific projects and initiatives.
For example, perhaps a recent NPS pain point analysis has revealed that customers in a given country are reaching a dead end when they hit a certain page on the website that doesn’t correctly address the cultural preference of how they like to shop. In such a case, we would spend time before the sprint on what we call “theory” — refining buyer personas, identifying where in the customer journey the pain point is occurring, documenting why it is important, collecting good examples and bad examples, and mapping out emotions that are involved.
After that, we will move onto implementation and improving our service design or, in some cases, creating a new service or function altogether. These cycles help ensure that we are always putting the customer first and understanding their mindset when they make particular choices.
The customer is the heart of the business
Every organization must understand that their customers are the beating heart of the business, which means making them happy should drive a lot of decision making. Even if you have a rockstar sales team and work with a super creative ad agency, the business will die off if the customer feels they are not truly understood by your brand.
AUTODOC is proud to promote a customer-centric mentality throughout our entire organization. When a person or team has identified a certain issue in the customer experience, they will go directly to the leader of the business function that problem is tied to. This often involves having a very high-level conversation with our CFO, CTO, VP of data management, head of logistics, etc. to talk about what the challenge is, why it’s important, and how it could potentially be solved.
From there, the discussion can spread to managers and heads of other departments to ensure that everyone is able to weigh in and contribute their unique perspective to our customer-centric strategy. Once a solution has been implemented, we circle back and ask, “Is this working? Has the issue been resolved? If not, why? If yes, how can we improve and make it even better?” This is another instance of an infinite loop contributing to continuous improvement at AUTODOC.
To help get different departments on the same page about design thinking and the agile methodologies I mentioned earlier, I work closely with our professional development team to create resources and training to educate everyone on how to think like a CX expert. I don’t want these valuable skills to be siloed to just my team. Sharing this knowledge helps scale empathy for the customer throughout the whole organization.
In many ways, I believe every employee in a modern business should think of themselves as a CX professional. Through a hivemind of continuous ideation, research, measurement, and improvement, you will only make your customers happier and more loyal to your brand every year.