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What customer experience teams can learn from football – Euros 2020 edition

customer experience
(Image credit: Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock)

Excellence in customer experience is built on teamwork and a high degree of collaboration. These are also some of the traits we saw from England in the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship.

From the disappointment of ejection by Iceland in the 2016 European Championship, to their most successful tournament in 55 years by reaching the final this year, it was an entertaining summer of football for England fans. While the outcome will have disappointed individuals across the country, it is impossible not to be encouraged by the huge strides the team has made in recent years.

Much of the attention given to England’s progress focused on the approach of England manager Gareth Southgate. He scoured the sporting world looking for fresh insights and insisted on greater attention to the details that deliver marginal gains. Ultimately though, he still had to decide who would be in his team and what tactics he would use.

For a national manager, getting the team selection right is one of the biggest challenges. Before the start of most matches this tournament, Southgate’s team selection was widely questioned. But he never caved to public pressure and selected the eleven he felt best suited to winning each individual game. On nearly every occasion he seemed to get the team balance just right. But with so many talents to choose from, the wrong combination can lead to consistent under-performance, as we have seen in past tournaments and managerial failings.  

In customer experience, poor understanding or allocation of staff has the same result, as does the selection of the wrong technologies and inadequate orchestration. So, what are the main lessons customer experience teams can take from the world of football?

Customer experience is a team game 

In the same manner as football, customer experience is a team game played by individuals with different roles. Just as footballers represent their country, customer experience employees represent their entire company. 

They are engaged in a cross-functional discipline that requires collaboration between departments. Marketing and sales may be responsible for making the brand promise, such as easy-to-use products, friendly service, 24/7 availability, fast delivery, and quick resolution, but customer service and IT must deliver it. 

Customer experience teams need to think strategically, but they must first have a thorough understanding of their organization’s objectives. The danger is that customer experience becomes like a game of football played by children who all chase after the ball with no tactics and clear direction. In customer service, it is only by playing as a team and buying into the bigger company picture that can teams successfully deliver the customer experience the business expects. The right technology and tools also help to ensure everyone is aligned to work together successfully as a team.

Using technology to provide better insights 

Technology is fundamental when it comes to delivering experiences that are differentiated. In football, technologies such as analytics are being used to a great degree to scout teams and players to ensure the best fit on the pitch. Southgate and his coaching staff drilled into data to decide which players would make the final 26-man squad for the tournament. Technology made those important decisions easier. In the same way that he looked for full visibility of his squad and information about how each individual is performing, technologies like predictive routing capabilities can identify a customer’s need and intelligently direct the customer to the right agent to achieve expected outcomes. Technology applied in this way can improve both customer and employee experiences.

While an organization may have many technologies to choose from, they must work together and be fully connected. Marketing technology may be creating engagement with prospects, but the technology that will fulfill that engagement may well be in another silo. 

Every business needs technology that can help them see and understand the customer journey from website visits to initial contact. While new technology may look good on paper, if it is disconnected in reality, it can create major headaches spanning several departments. However, when the technology properly connects all stages in the customer lifecycle, it all comes together to empower staff. They know the customer and can observe their actions throughout the journey.

Prioritizing empathy 

Whether or not you disagree with his team selection or in-game tactics, the one thing people can’t accuse Southgate of is managing his team without empathy. This was perhaps most evident when three members of the team unfortunately missed their penalties in the final shootout. Southgate was the first to console his players, creating a team bond that the England players have since discussed glowingly. Looking at some of the greatest managers within football, it is clear they standout with their superb management and their empathetic approach to their players. They know what it is like to be in their position as a player and clearly want the very best for them.

Empathy is similarly important in customer service. A recent study alarmingly found a third of UK consumers now state customer service representatives’ concerns sound fake. Employees must engage and listen to customers in a genuine manner so that any issues can be rectified immediately.  Having the right tools and technology can help support staff when the situation requires it.  However, it ultimately comes down to making your customer feel remembered, heard and understood. This is the foundation of an empathetic customer experience.

Everyone plays a part towards success 

If football managers keep their squad and coaching staff happy and feeling valued, positive results will follow. Similarly, organizations must look to design personalized customer experiences that are emotionally connected and their customers’ value. The payback is that customers will stay — and they’ll tell friends and family to use your product and services, even if there are times when you deliver less than optimum experiences. They are more forgiving and allow you the opportunity to make it right rather than simply leaving.

The companies that fail to provide their customers with an empathetic experience often lack the connective tissue that unites disparate data sources, engagement channels and resources. The silos that exist across a company’s technology and business units can make it seem impossible to create this type of experience. When everyone is working towards the same objective to deliver excellent customer experiences, agents can be guided to deliver personal best performances. In football terms, they are hitting the back of the net every time.

Helen Briggs, senior vice president and general manager – EMEA, Genesys (opens in new tab)

senior vice president and general manager – EMEA

Helen Briggs has 20 years of experience expanding sales and leading high-performing teams in the IT, contact center and unified communications industries.