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Can You See the Forest Through the Trees? 4 Ways to Get to the Core of Business Success

It is hard to resist the temptation to tackle business challenges with horsepower: big budgets, long timelines and large-scale technology solutions. But often, what is really needed is finesse, sleuthing and a commitment to the human experience.

We tend to over-index the hard outcomes like revenue, margin and under-invest in discovering the critical intangibles that drive long-term business.

What do I mean by “intangibles?”

• A broker focusing on sales commission might not realize that he can improve his closing rate by dramatically reducing the time from first contact to first face-to-face meeting.
• A hotel chain investing heavily to react to negative reviews might blame them on the industry’s high employee turnover rate and miss the opportunity to proactively identify and retain star talent to improve the guest experience.
• An auto dealer pushing a buffet of car choices to make a sale might miss the intent of the buyer, who is a mom with three kids and wants to fall in love with just one car.

Have you discovered your intangibles? There is no magic formula, but finding the intangibles will be extremely difficult if your corporate mission isn’t actionable and you aren’t committed to evolving your business-to-people journey. Below are some examples of how to get to the core of business success.

1. Start with the end
What are your biggest KPIs? For a large hospitality company, positive sentiment was a barometer for future success because they knew their guests were their best sales channel. They significantly expanded their call center so they were always ready to provide the best customer service. Sounds like a logical move, right?

However, they soon discovered that by the time many guests called the center, their anger was heightened beyond normal. Why? Because the fastest growing segment of their customer base doesn’t like to make phone calls. They don’t want to have a conversation with a call center representative.

The hospitality company learned that instead of expanding their call center, they needed to anticipate questions and fix problems before they occurred. This reduces frustration and call center volume, while increasing sentiment. Everyone wins!

How do you find the friction that leads to a call? Start with the end. Reverse engineer from your goal to every touch point to learn where the friction is in each interaction and then solve the problems, watching out for any issues along the entire customer journey.

In this case, a new key metric was created — percent of engagements that answered anticipated questions before they were asked. The call center data had most of the information needed based on past customer interactions.

Embedding the answers intelligently through the digital journey was less about new technology and more about predicting a point of friction. This intangible is measured through call center volume, views of online self-service and surveying customers after engagements.

2. First impressions are everything
We’ve all seen it — an insurance company offering you a free online quote in minutes simply by visiting their web site.

Potential new customers clicked on the offer and filled out baseline relevant information like age, weight and gender, which was followed by irrelevant questions like their phone number and the best time to call. Consumers quickly discovered that the company wanted all kinds of information about them before they could get a free quote. Most of the information was for the benefit of the company and not the consumer.

The company didn’t understand a simple concept: you need to give before you get. If you make a statement, you have to deliver on it. When they asked for something the potential customer values before they gave anything of value, the result was distrust and massive abandonment. The company wanted to go straight for the kill because their key metric at the time was % of submitted quote requests.

The intangible is now about delivering value. Ask a little and then give a little more than you originally committed to do. When the company changed their strategy and only asked for the absolute minimum information up front, the top of the funnel increased 3x and they exponentially increased the final pull through. The takeaway? Make a great first impression by delivering on your promise and delivering value, and you can earn the trust to ask for a little more value in return.

3. It might be under your nose
One RV manufacturer was spending millions of dollars to drive traffic to their RV buying centers. The company measured the success of their salespeople by closings, thinking closings were the ultimate indicator of positive customer service. However, closings are the results of many inputs, some more significant than revenue.

They glossed over the simplest metric: time. Someone who has intent to buy wants to see a model. A sale pivots on how quickly the customer moves from the first touch — the phone call to actually visiting the model.

The intangible is valuing the customer’s time and measuring it beginning with the first engagement. Sales people are now empowered and incentivized to do what they can to reduce the time and accommodate the client’s schedule, instead of the dealer’s schedule.

4. Look up, not down!
A real estate client couldn’t figure out why their new CRM performed equally as bad as the one it just replaced. They looked at the output KPIs like customer spend and closing rate and not at the intangible inputs that build relationships and drive business goals. They exhausted time and money playing detective, believing it was a technology issue with the new system.

The problem was literally staring their real estate agents in the face. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone while their attention is buried in their computer? How does it make you feel?

One of the simplest intangibles to spot is the “feel and look” of a meaningful engagement. Many customer relationship systems create friction at a point of contact because they do not display prioritized and actionable information. This means that associates have to read through unnecessary information on-screen rather than keeping eye contact with the customer.

Reducing down the amount of information an agent has in front of them to only the most critical and actionable enables the agent to build relationships. The intangible is simple on this one: quality conversations and eye contact.

Are you outcome focused or are you willing to craft your best outcomes?

Stating your goals is easy. It’s something else entirely to understand the little things that get you there. Your goals might not change as much as they will grow, but your intangibles will always be in flux as experiences and expectations of engagements evolve.

Half the battle is finding them. When you do, commit to making them your new priority.

David Clarke, CxO & Principal, Digital Services – Experience Center Leader, PwC | +1 786 552-3211

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