A quick internet search for the “best customer experience books of 2018” returns an impressive list of rankings. Among the first 10 results, there’s a top 20 list, a top 13 list, a top 7 list as well as two different top 5 and top 10 lists, each from different sources. The point is that sheer volume of thought and content devoted to customer experience reflects how important the topic is to businesses of all sizes.
Delivering a great customer experience is top of mind for entrepreneurs, middle management and top executives at global enterprises. With the attention of so many smart people focused on this, how can you consistently stay ahead of your competition? I’m reminded of the phrase, “know what your customers want before they do.” Sounds simple enough.
“High-performing teams often achieve an intuitive feel for each other that grows through their shared experiences and success. Like the perfect ensemble cast in a movie, this synergy can be an exponential advantage, increasing efficiency and creativity.”
The good news for the residential real estate and mortgage finance industry is we know home buyers want a more convenient, more digital home-buying experience that includes a digital loan application, online home searches and a more digital real estate transaction closing experience. The better news for the residential real estate and mortgage finance industry is that the stage is set to finally deliver an end-to-end digital home-buying experience in the very near future.
Home buyers have been able to search online for homes to buy and apply online for loans for a while, but now the transaction closing experience is going digital. It’s an exciting time for me personally, because I’ve been engaged in the pursuit of a digital mortgage and real estate closing experience in one way or another throughout my career.
First American’s eClosing solution, which launched in 2018, is an example of the company’s commitment to improving the real estate transaction experience for all the parties involved by applying state-of-the-art technology. The company is engaged in multiple pilot tests with key customers and quickly increasing the ability to provide home buyers and sellers with a digital closing experience.
Along this grand adventure to help make eClosings a reality, I’ve learned a few things about delivering innovative products and services that are centered on a great customer experience.
1. Customer Empathy
The path to a great customer experience starts with empathy for your customer, and really understanding their needs, pain points, journey, etc. To steal from one of my favorite bands, connecting with customers is all about the Head and the Heart.
The Head understands the product or service needs to work well and provide meaningful value in a simple, easy to use way. The Heart wants an experience that feels personalized. At its best, there’s a psychology to intuitive product design. Customers know when their time and effort is respected – “they were thinking of me when they thought of this.”
2. The Production of Product Development
It’s no secret that you need to get close to the customer to effectively define the problem a customer wants solved, but actually delivering a great product to the market involves bringing together a variety of talented people with very different points of view. Think product designers, application developers, operations staff, sales, legal and more.
Savvy product managers understand this and operate like a movie producer. Not the ascot and Gucci loafer-wearing executive type of producer, but the type who’s hustling for a permit to block off a downtown street or running to get coffee for a fussy actor. Aligning the unique personalities, skills and talents of others in an organization in a way that captures their valuable contributions without slowing down momentum can require a deft touch. Like the movie producer, it requires inspiring and influencing a cast of characters toward a mutual goal.
3. The Best Story Wins
Powerful story telling can help engage internal team members in productive dialogue and highlight the product attributes that are most important for each customer. My mantra is “the fewer words the better.” The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a vast understatement. The value of the right picture, diagram, mock up or prototype in providing clarity where words are more subject to interpretation is difficult to measure.
High-performing teams often achieve an intuitive feel for each other that grows through their shared experiences and success. Like the perfect ensemble cast in a movie, this synergy can be an exponential advantage, increasing efficiency and creativity. In the race to deliver a product with a great customer experience, every advantage counts.
I hope you’ll take advantage of this blog and follow it for more insights into how innovation plays a central role in First American’s efforts to deliver superior products and services to our customers.
Andy Cliff is a senior director of product management with First American Title Insurance Company.