You Said, We Did: What Is Operational Transparency & How Can It Lead to Experience Improvement?

On this blog, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the importance of taking action on customer feedback to inspire tangible Experience Improvement (XI). For most programs, this “action” means closing the loop with individual customers while also working to identify and solve systemic problems to improve the overall customer experience. But after closing the inner and outer loop, there are those brands that take even further action with operational transparency.

This additional step communicates to customers the actions a brand has taken to directly improve the customer experience. And for taking this fextra step, brands are rewarded with further customer engagement and loyalty. In our article today, I’ll discuss how your brand can take this final step and reap the benefits. Let’s dive in!

What Is Operational Transparency?

“Operational transparency” is a behavioral science concept that refers to a company that purposefully exposes its processes to customers to help them understand the work being done on their behalf.  Think watching employees at Subway build your sandwich, or make your coffee at Starbucks. Another example is seeing a progress bar during a software update that lets you know you’re on item 5 out of 20 updates, just so you know how long it will be before you can work again.  

Research has shown that customers value this glimpse into a company’s process and that being transparent builds engagement, trust, and loyalty. Why? Customers appreciate the work companies do for them.

How Operational Transparency  Improves Your Customer Experience  

Operational transparency can be a two-part process embedded into your customer feedback efforts. First, you can combine your transparency efforts with your immediate “thank you for participating” message after a survey. This can look like providing a short overview of how you as an organization plan to look at the feedback and take action. This message can be sent to both participants and non-participants.

So what does this do for you? It lets you be completely transparent about the process and show how feedback will shape the organization. It’s not necessary to identify the exact actions the organization is going to take based on the feedback. Instead, you could mention previous actions you’ve taken as evidence that you aren’t just making empty promises

Secondly, it is important to communicate the actions you’ve taken after the fact to bring feedback full circle. This communication can piggyback on existing marketing communications, be included in feedback invitations, or be a standalone communication.

The key is to be short and focused on a few specific actions, sharing both the feedback driving it as well as the actual improvement (and maybe even how it’s been received). The idea here is to say to your customer, “you said, we did!”

How Does This Work in Practice?  

We have many clients who successfully communicated their Experience Improvement actions to their customers. Here are just a few of those examples: 

  • One client, a global supply chain company, sent out an email from their COO in early January to all of their customers, thanking them for their business and sharing the results of their survey alongside the improvements the company planned to make.  The company tracked the number of customers who opened the email and found that the vast majority of customers opened the email.
  • One of our superannuation clients builds operational transparency into their ongoing newsletter to fund members and employers. They include in the newsletter an update of any action that has been taken based on their voice of the customer program. 
  • A shipping company has automated their customer communications through our platform. They have an email that explains their action process and also highlights several initiatives they have implemented based on the feedback they’ve received. They update the email regularly to keep it fresh and relevant.
  • A global technology company has created a page on their website which they continuously update to reflect the actions they have taken based on customer feedback. In an annual email, they incorporated a video from the CEO regarding how feedback was used to make changes, including a summary of the items implemented.

In the end, this type of transparency not only engages customers, but it also communicates how much you value their feedback. It is a way to show appreciation for the customer while also building loyalty. And that’s what we like to call a win-win.

How Operational Excellence Now Leads to Experience Improvement Later

Operations have everything to do with both your business’s bottom line and its relationships with customers. This makes ops’ importance to Experience Improvement (XI) pretty self-explanatory.

However, as foundational as operational excellence is to a company and its experiences, there’s more that brands can do to build a bridge between operations and Experience Improvement. Today’s conversation focuses on that bridge’s two main elements: optimization and innovation.

Element to Connect Operations with Experience Improvement

  1. Optimization
  2. Innovation

XI Element #1: Optimization

Creating operational excellence isn’t a one-and-done. It’s a process that requires constant attention and tweaking. Your experience initiatives can help here by shining a light on systemic issues that might need a closer look. That spotlight can also be used to help come up with fixes for those problems. Of course, a tried-and-true process for identifying and then responding to problems like these is a must here.

Fortunately for brands and organizations everywhere, a lot of the optimizing work has already been completed by the time you hit a stride with your operational excellence! Being good at ops means skillfully gathering the deep analyses and intel your brand uses to be better. This means you’ll already have some idea of what your north star should be as you begin the optimization phase. Desiloing data and sharing it with every team in the organization is also key here.

XI Element #2: Innovation

Innovation is what optimizing your operations builds toward. It’s what allows brands to actually implement their proposed solutions, study how they go, and realize their benefits. Having operational excellence in place makes it easier for brands to forecast market trends and, ultimately, predict exactly what their customers will want. In other words, ops-fueled innovation keeps your company robust and ahead of the curve.

Staying ahead of the curve is a major part of Experience Improvement, and it can only be enabled by:

  1. Operational excellence
  2. Optimization
  3. Innovation

Anticipating what your customers want before they may even know goes a long way toward building the relationships that cause them to ignore the competition (and that let them know you care about them as people). Unstructured feedback, especially from Voice of Customer (VoC) programs, is one of the best sources of additional intel on how to stay ahead of the curve and keep pleasantly surprising your customers.

Click here to learn more about how operational excellence leads to Experience Improvement. Expert Jennifer Passini, Ph.D., goes over additional means of using ops to better your experience and how it all feeds into the grander goal of meaningful transformation for your bottom line and your customer relationships.

How Operational Excellence Can Drive Experience Improvement

Operations is a central part of brands’ day-to-day activities, as well as their aspirations to become industry leaders. “Operations” means something different to everyone, but in the end, ops seek to impact two things: your business’s bottom line and your relationships with your customers. 

Operational excellence can also allow organizations to tap into something more fundamental: Experience Improvement (XI), i.e., creating fundamental connections with customers that go deeper than just transactions. Today’s post covers how brands can steer operations toward Experience Improvement, as well as why it’s well worth their time to do so.

Table Stakes

Customers don’t usually expect the worst when picking a brand or product, but that doesn’t mean organizations shouldn’t track performance objectives related to being operationally effective. Aside from helping to prevent a bad experience, which is obviously important, operational excellence helps ensure consistency. No matter whether it’s employee teams or brand locations, organizations need to make sure that they’re being consistent with interactions and experiences. This approach further cements those fundamental connections with customers.

Another variable that brands need to be mindful of when it comes to operational excellence is customer expectations. As we’ve all seen in this digital age of ours, customer expectations are not just changing; they’re growing more complex. Meeting these ever-more complex expectations means closely measuring performance, which is another reason consistency is so important.

How This Relates to Improving Experiences

As we said earlier, brands that go about operational excellence in a certain way will end up achieving Experience Improvement, or at least laying a lot of the groundwork that makes XI happen. For example, consider a retailer that, as a matter of operational excellence, builds up its omnichannel strategy and tries to reduce customer friction wherever it can. Both of those elements help ensure the consistency we talked about earlier, but they also create opportunities for deeper relationships with customers.

What’s handy about looking at Experience Improvement this way is that the methodology is pretty much the same for any brand regardless of industry. Reducing friction, being more multi-channel, and desiloing data are all helpful for improving customer relationships (and your organization’s own view of your customers) no matter how or what you serve them. This is why it’s important to begin your Experience Improvement efforts with operational excellence—consistency creates connections.

Click here to read more about how operations fits into Experience Improvement (XI) in our latest article by experience expert Jennifer Passini, Ph.D. Jennifer reveals additional ways to leverage operations toward Experience Improvement, as well as other handy tips for creating stronger connections with your customers!

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