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3½ Customer Experience Lessons from Copenhagen Airport

Airports are busy places with many different stakeholders and very different objectives. In that environment, the end customer can often be marginalised or even forgotten. With frustrations such as being taken on a meandering detour through a retail jungle when you are in search of a departure gate, struggling to understand why it feels like there is only one loo for every 1,000 passengers or having to sprint to meet the person picking you up so they avoid a £50 fine for waiting to greet you for more than 5 minutes.

That said, despite pressures from retailers and regulators, some airports can be places of inspirations with a wealth of Customer Experience ideas for any practitioners to learn from.

#1 Managing your customer’s expectations

Too often brands miss the opportunity to reduce their customer’s anxiety. Explaining what will happen next and when it will happen helps customers. As well as creating an extra engagement point. It also demonstrates a company know how to help customers by improving their emotional state. Which in turn connects the company to it’s customers at a deeper emotional level.

It’s played out brilliantly here. The time it will take to get to the departure gate is blasted to the ground (picture above). The anxious passenger can now assess their situation. With markings updating distance to the gate in time every 30 seconds, they can track their progress. If enough time, the passenger can relax more. If the passenger is short of time, they can speed up. Either way the signpost is helpful and increases appreciation of the airport facilities.

#2 Personalising the experience

I’ll never forget being invited to speak at an Airline conference when a customer aviation expert claimed the future of airline travel was about ‘personalisation’. He then presented several airline ticket, insurance and hotel bundles labelled as propositions such as ‘the weekender’ and ‘family fun’. He boasted that when bought together by passengers they were actually more expensive than the individual parts. But it would be made so complicated that customers wouldn’t be able to work it out! Even worse than this, the audience applauded! I felt very alone sitting on that ‘customer’ panel. It showed how outdated some thinking is in this space.

Customer Experience works when it’s ‘personal’ to a customer’s needs rather than personalised. I feel this example explains it well. At Copenhagen, like many airports, passengers need to pass through the baggage collection section to get to the exit. Those with only hand luggage don’t want to get caught up in there they want to find a way through.

For these passengers they want to get on with their trip sooner. That’s partly why they’ve crammed everything in to their hand luggage. This ‘fast exit’ message decal shouts out to this audience. Personal doesn’t need to be 1 to 1, it’s about being relevant to specific needs.

#3 Keep customers before you lose them

Some sectors are guilty of this more than others. Here’s the scenario; Retail company ‘A’ knows it has a problem with its returns because they receive social media noise reports and get angry calls to the call centre from disgruntled customers. But it’s not tracked in VoC because the VoC vendor hasn’t scoped that journey in their requirements. So, first the additional work is scoped and paid for. Feedback is then collected.  The CX team can then get to work on the issue (maybe after some more mapping). Eventually the team identify it’s down to the poor service contract in place with the outsourced collection courier. But procurement tell the CX team the contract with the courier was a keen one and is locked down for 12 more months. Following which a change can be looked at. 6 months on and the CX team start to work out what’s needed (a new collection courier company) and put together the Requirements Specification for a new vendor selection process. Which they initiate 6 months later. Which is also the first time customers find out about it.

However, in the meantime all the customers have left!

Why not share progress with customers throughout? If you know something’s wrong, flag it earlier. As you start to get an inclination of what’s gone wrong, get on with it. Keep customers updated throughout – tell them you know it’s not working, why it’s not working and that you are doing something about it. Share your plans with on how you will get it right and by when. Offer customers the chance to put in their views to help get to a better place. This involvement demonstrates you care and you are progressive. Customers value this sometimes as much as the fix!

At Copenhagen Airport there is major disruption, but it doesn’t feel like it becuase passengers are brought into the story and shown what’s coming and why. Even if the passenger passing through isn’t around to benefit from the final change they know it’s happening and accepting of the move from ‘AS IS’ to ‘TO BE’.

So that just leave the extra 1/2

For me this is about observation. It’s only half a lesson because it’s an approach rather than an outcome. Customer Experience is all around us. We interact with it daily and are a part of a company’s well worked plans too every time we enquire, purchase, use, enquire, visit or transact. There are lessons to learn from these experiences too.

I didn’t make a b-line for Copenhagen Airport to write a blog on my customer experience observations, I was there to help a client structure a business case for CX investment against return. But whether it’s walking through Copenhagen Airport on the return leg of a work trip, purchasing corner flags online from Sports Direct for a team development workshop (which turn up after they were needed) and getting radio silence when trying to return them or noting how many companies didn’t follow-up having given my details to them at the Grand Designs Show and how well those few that did have done from their attention, opportunities for CX ideas are everywhere.

So, put a Moleskin pocket-book on your birthday list, set you iPhone to camera mode and build your own insight bank of CX ideas and inspiration as you go about your daily business.

In the meantime, feel free to review our blogs, or contact me to raid examples from my much always growing collection of good, bad and ugly examples.

To finish, when it comes to finding new ideas for CX, as Ferris Bueller, the most eligible bachelor of them all, put it…

Happy CX hunting.

Posted by Christopher Brooks.  Director, Lexden Limited, Customer Experience Consultancy.

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Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience insight, strategy, content and creative activation clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

Achieve World Class Customer Experience in 3 Steps

Most organisations have invested in a customer experience programme. Some are making a real success of theirs. We’ve had the pleasure of supporting some of these with their endeavours, interviewed CX leaders about their progress, judged winning CX award entries and experienced award success with our own clients.

However, we’ve also seen the evidence of programmes which fail to make the grade. There are a number of reasons for this. Sadly, it often boils down to investment in technology choices, neglecting to bring key stakeholders on the journey and chasing the wrong KPI’s.

But, any company can be transformed into delivering an award winning, world class customer experience which they are recognised for and their customers choose them over other choices for, in three steps. Furthermore, all three steps can be complete with 4 months.

3-steps-pic

Step 1 CX Programmes Profitability Alignment

Make sure the CX Programme activities are aligned to those which are known to drive success

Only 10% of CX programmes achieve their profit potential. It’s not surprising, research conducted in this area has identified there are 47 critical activities, which managed effectively, increase programme profitability by 600%. Now available as an evaluation tool (CXPPA) developed from CX Typology research(1), any organisation can benchmark how they are set up and managing CX against the world’s most successful performing programmes.

This evaluation not only benchmarks, but identifies how programmes compare to the best CX performers, as well as recommends what needs to be improved in which order to increase profitability. This step is achievable in 3 to 4 weeks.

Step 2 Prioritising What Matters Most 

Know what experiences matters most to customer’s decisions to choose one brand over others

Attention should always identify ‘what matters most to customers’ early.

By which we don’t mean, how to ‘make it easy’ or how to ‘personalise the experience’, we mean understanding what drives customer’s behavioural change. This is the most reliable indicator of customer’s decision to choose one organisation over another. In addition, it is a very effective way to understand how to improve both Customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores.

Research conducted(2) into what drivers customer experience behaviour has identified that 25 customer drivers account for over 80% of everything any CX leader needs to know about what customers want fulfilled.

However, many of these 25 drivers have little to no influence on customer decision-making so are surplus to requirements. Which means if you reduce investment in them, performance scores stay the same, but costs can be taken out. Meaning the company is more profitable overall.

In addition, those drivers which are the most influential, are highlighted. This is where a company should focus CX investment to increase NPS, CSAT, profitability and success.

These drivers are known as Experience Quality Measures (EXQ) and are the work of Dr Professor Phil Klaus, world-renowned Customer Experience Academic.

Through Lexden, all companies can now identify their own EXQ set and with it know what to prioritise to improve their NPS and CSAT performance. This step is achievable in 4-6 weeks.

Step 3 Competitor Advantage with Customer Experience

Make sure the brand difference is amplified through the experiences 

The third step, enables a company to achieve competitive advantage through customer experience. Why is this worth noting? Much customer experience efforts are operationally or technologically efficient improvements. These are typically delivered with little consideration of how to build brand distinction. This means competitors can copy the ides and therefore neutralise any brand advantage which could have been achieved. In fairness, brand doesn’t help as the brand architecture is not seen as accessible working tool to apply

However, by designing a Brand Experience Platform, this is overcome and the brand becomes an asset to the customer experience. It is made up of two principal elements:

  • Brand Experience Idea – which acts as a rallying cry for all colleagues to connect the advantage of the brand to the importance of customer experience, in a way which all can understand.
  • Branded Customer Standards – these are the set of drivers (as mentioned in step 2) which matters most to customers, translated into standards the company must deliver to in a way only they can. This is most powerful when standards relate to profitability. These ‘standards’ can then be used universally by the company to design internal practices and ways of working and external delivery and experiences. All employees can then confidently work to deliver consistent experiences, which will further reinforce brand distinction.

Step 3 is about putting a framework in place to ensure consistency and making the most of the brand. Achievable in 6-8 weeks.

So there you have it. Three steps to take any programme from where it is to world-class.

All three programmes are available from Lexden should assistance getting there be needed. We’d be happy to share more with you and see if we can add real value to your endeavours. However, ownership of what you do and why, must stay within the organisation, not leave with the consultancy or customer feedback platform provider (the fourth reason for failure!).

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Lexden delivers effective customer experience solutions for clients serious about sustainable customer relationships.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer Experience’ Update for monthly ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours.

(1) CX Typology is the copyright of Prof Dr Phil Klaus.

(2) Experience Quality Measurement (EXQ) focuses on the behavioural change achieved by a brand through customer experience. EXQ is the copyright of Prof Dr Phil Klaus.

Can you really coach Customer Experience?

Because I’m totally sure you can.

A recent visit to Bluewater involved buying some new shoes for my wife. On inspecting two different colourways of the said shoes, we inadvertently swapped their designated positions on the wall display. Having worked as Floor Manager between College and University (a good few years ago) in the Nike store in Brighton, I understand that visual merchandising does have a purpose, but what happened next led me to ask the above question.

As we stepped back to review the range again, an employee of the shop then walked over (without asking us if we needed any help may I add) to stand in front of the shoes, and moved the two shoes back to their original positions, while being so far in to our personal space that we had to take a couple of steps back.

No big deal really, but I can think of at least six very simple things that were wrong from a CX perspective within this ten second (non) interaction.

How did it impact our behaviour? We went and got the shoes at a direct competitor.

The thing is though, if I had gone through this with the assistant, I really don’t think he would have for one second understood why any of those six points were a poor experience, and I think his response would have been something like ‘well the shoes have to be in that order…’.

Saving the conversation about customers’ having poor experiences because internal rules and processes for another time, can you really coach Customer Experience to someone this oblivious to what’s best for the customer at any given time?

Satisfied at having a new customer experience to talk about, I began to think back to my time in the Nike sto
re – did my customers have poor experiences under my watch when I was young and single-minded? Well, yes, they did.

I can remember two instances. Firstly, obsessed with my sales figures vs. the 1st floor of the shop, I would routinely send customers upstairs for refunds so my figures weren’t affected. Secondly, I remember closing the changing room to customers once, just so I could get in and out to access mannequins/shelves/fittings etc. to work on merchandising. The area Manager turned up that day, and at the time I scoffed at his disgust that I was making people go upstairs to try on their clothes – of course now practising customer experience I acknowledge how right he was!

So, here I am now able to recognise and improve poor customer journeys – what happened? Was I coached, or did I just learn through osmosis, working in organisations who care about the customer? A mixture, is the answer. Formal coaching has had a place, customer focussed programmes and developing a Customer Experience Centres of Excellence have too, as have particular managers, whom I had great respect for.

The true answer though, if there is one, lies for me in recruitment (and the resulting culture). While my conclusion means that I slipped through the net as someone who didn’t really understand the value of every interaction with the customer at the time.

If your recruitment programme has genuine focus on recruiting staff (consistently and at all levels) who understand that everything they do has a positive or negative emotional impact on the customer at each touchpoint, the organisation itself will begin to take the shape of one that customers want to join, stay with, and talk about positively.

If you run or are involved in a customer experience programme consider how central are Recruitment to that? do they look for people with suitable customer experience tags, or individuals who can talk about emotive and commercial impact in the same sentence? I’d argue the former gives you shoes laid out in the right order, the later a deep understanding of why customer experience matters.

With 89% of companies prioritising customer experience in 2017, attention to all impacting areas on CX success come in to play if you want to drive success. If you’d like to know how to recruit the right customer experience types, contact us and we will let you in on the secret.

Posted by James Edmonds, Senior Consultant, Lexden.

Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience strategy and solutions for clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer Experience’ Update for monthly ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours.  

What will the 2017 Voice of the Customer priorities be?

Voice of the Customer (VoC) has emerged as one of the most invaluable tools for companies to prioritise investment, remove inefficiency and create a differentiating experience for their customers.

Commissions from clients, have meant we at Lexden have had the opportunity to review the most worthy customer feedback platforms and support set-ups available. We often find from the dozens available on a few truly meet the clients spec, and then when you add in key ‘soft’ criteria such as working style and sector understanding one or emerge.

It has helped us advise clients on which platform will give them the results they need to drive CX forward in the business. A poor VoC set up can suffocate CX potential in an organisation

It has also led us to creating Client Only VoC discussion groups, where VoC and CX managers meet and discuss their challenges, their vendors and drive out solutions amongst themselves. The non-compete, free gathering has proven useful to those with established programmes to understand the value of new techniques and technology as well as to those starting out to understanding how to avoid the pitfalls.

We have are not aligned to any tech vendor, so can objectively facilitate the group to ensure all benefit. One of the discussion areas is the future of VoC, so we have pulled together a questionnaire to get a view on what VoC practitioners believe 2017 priorities will be.

If you manage or play an active role in customer feedback in your organisation (clients only), please can you contribute your opinions to the 4 question survey below.

Results will be published as an anonymous representation of VoC practitioners in an article The Customer Experience Magazine in January 2017. Once you’ve completed the survey, if you would like results sooner, please email on christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Consultant, Lexden

Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience strategy and solutions for clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer Experience’ Update for monthly ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours. 

The free-range customer. Using the element of surprise in research

beth

Andy Haldane doesn’t understand pensions. As chief economist at the Bank of England, we might expect him to understand better than most.

But the point he made in his recent speech ‘The Great Divide’ is that we – consumers – find it difficult to engage because of the way financial businesses communicate.

He’s right. But in all the (many) pensions research focus groups I have observed, consumers rarely admitted to not knowing the detail .

The problem is, much of the qualitative research we rely on in business assumes people are self-aware.

We construct our research around what’s important to the business, build a survey or focus group and ask the questions.  People answer to the best of their ability.  Then go and do the opposite of what they said they would do…

Unlike Mr Haldane, most of us find it incredibly hard to say “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know”. We really don’t like to appear anything other than considered and rational, and generally clued up.

Let’s try it on you.

Why did you choose your pension provider? The honest answer might be “I didn’t”.   But your answer mentions tangibles like pricing, and convenience – and possibly the less tangible ethics and reputation.  If you have ever contacted your provider, you will be able to give me chapter and verse on whether they answered quickly, and were helpful.

How does the plan work – indexation for example?  You might know, but you will probably preface your answer with the words “I think” or “I imagine” or the old chestnut “It’s pretty standard”.

What do you need from it in the future?  Apart from the obvious thing –  money – you will struggle.  Right now you are not sure what you will need, when or how.  You don’t have a crystal ball.  But you will give me an answer anyway and talk about what “most people” want.

It’s not that you’re being untruthful.  But you are – like all of us – extremely good at rationalising.  We think we should know the answers.  We filter out anything which looks like flaky or half-baked thinking.  Even to the point of fooling ourselves.  We constantly take shortcuts to make sense of the vast amounts of data we’re bombarded with at every waking moment. Often we are not making active choices, or even noticing the detail.

So people like me come away from qualitative research with lots of answers.  But those answers turn out to be a poor predictor of what people do.  This is because our research only gets to part of the story.  We expose the sanitised version.  But the instinctive, gut responses can’t find their voice.

And the longer the time lag between event and research, and the larger the size of the focus group, the greater the effect.

So how can we catch our research subjects unawares, before they have had a chance to rationalise?

1. State a broad research objective – to better understand the context This means admitting that we don’t know everything yet.  Take a deep breath, channel Andy Haldane and ditch the script (for now).

2. Design a programme which intercepts research subjects in real time. Observe them before, during and after interacting with us.  Do it in the moment.

3. Conduct research in the most realistic and unobtrusive way possible. In the wild, or in conditions which simulate all the stresses and competing priorities of real life as closely as possible.  Do people usually buy the weekly online shopping in laboratory conditions?  No, they do it while watching TV, sitting on a train, chatting to the family, musing about cholesterol/weight/fridge space.  That’s where the research needs to happen.  Context is everything.

This means bringing ethnography and diary techniques into research plans.

Look over their shoulder and see how much time they spend researching and reading about pensions.  Or their definition of getting advice.

Use the focus groups and surveys to zone in on the detail, but let’s wait until we know which details are most important to customers before we drill down.

Grab a notebook and camera first, and just watch customers doing what they do – free range.  This helps us develop a true understanding and respect for their point of view.

Posted by Beth Richardson, Customer Experience Consultant, Lexden

Lexden helps deliver Customer Experience Strategy and Programme Management for clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer’s World’ Update for ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours. 

For further information on how we can help with your customer challenges contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 orT: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebookor Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.

 

With customer experience design, functional is good. But don’t stop there.

“Focus on the whole journey, not just the transaction”.  In the world of Customer Experience (CX) you will hear this phrase frequently.  But what does it mean?

It’s the difference between a task and a purpose.  The difference between a user story like the one above, and meeting a customer’s overall goal.  It is important to understand the difference between the two, because how you frame the interaction determines how your customer will experience it.

This is perhaps best illustrated with an example:

The background.  You are a lifelong customer of Locality Bank.  Your parents took you in to the bank open your first account when you were a child, and you remember how you felt when a moneybox was presented to you as a thank you.

Your dealings with the bank over the years have always been consistent, efficient and straightforward.  You don’t usually give banking too much thought, often using online services.  It just happens in the background.

But recently you decided to strike out on your own and start a business.  This is new and uncharted territory, and you are looking for help to get started.  Locality Bank are the first people that spring to mind.  You phone them to make an appointment – you don’t want to leave anything to chance.

Scenario 1.  The person who answered was fantastic.  She knew exactly what you were looking for, apparently quite a few customers are in the same boat, so they have put a package together just for people like you.  She invited you to come in , walk through how everything works, then decide which elements will work best for you.  She knew you had been with them for years, so they know you pretty well.  There will be very little form filling, and lots of talking about your business and what excites / worries you most about starting up.

Scenario 2. The person who answered was polite and efficient.  She asked if you would like an appointment to see a new business adviser.  You  asked whether that was the best thing, but she didn’t have any other options, so you booked an appointment anyway.  She promised to send a pack in the post which you can fill in and bring along.  It will help the Bank assess your suitability for a business account.  You felt a little unsettled by this.   What if they can’t help?  If you can get through this stage, it’s another step towards your little business getting up and running, but you will look at other options just in case.

Scenario 1 leaves you reassured, and looking forward. Scenario 2 leaves you anxious and looking for a plan B

We’ve all encountered these scenarios, where we’re left feeling a certain way by one supermarket/airline/store/bank and completely different by another.  It’s something you can’t put your finger on, but it makes you feel…something.

So why the difference?

In scenario 1, the business understood this customer’s whole journey.  The history of the relationship, their context right now (nervous excitement), and their goal (I want to start my own business, I need help to understand how it works).  It was efficient and easy, but it went beyond the transaction and delivered the total experience – which was reassuring, empathetic and human.  Almost as if they were standing beside this customer when she made the call.

In scenario 2, the business focused purely on delivering an efficient, easy transaction for their customer.  The customer’s goal is likely to have been framed as “I want to make an appointment to speak to a new business adviser”.  Nothing wrong with this – efficient and easy is the foundation of a good customer experience – but they were looking at the wrong goal…

It was all about the bank, not the customer.  The experience was functional, and process-driven, and left this customer feeling unsettled.

 Customers are human.  We all have complex brains.   When I set out for the supermarket I can be very task focused and impatient; I want to get in and out quickly (rational).

But I also equate food with home, and making people happy (not so rational).

Perhaps what I am really looking for is kudos from the family – a hugely effective distraction from price labels, and the reason why I often come out of the supermarket without the items I went in for (completely irrational).

So how do we avoid falling into the trap of designing purely functional journeys which miss the point for customers?

Map the journey.  From the customer’s point of view.  Journey mapping is a brilliant method of stepping back from the minutiae and seeing the whole picture:

Map the journey.  From the customer’s point of view.  Journey mapping is a brilliant method of stepping back from the minutiae and seeing the whole picture:

  • Get close to customers, in the moment.  This helps you to understand how customers think (and ex-customers, and near-miss customers)
  • Decide how you want your customers to feel, and what you want them to say about you.  What does your brand stand for?
  • Use journey mapping to show where you are hitting the mark, or not.

Journey mapping helps to clear the mist, so you can design interactions with purpose, which meet their true goals and deliver the total experience.

Reproduced with kind permission by Beth Richardson, Lexden Consultant – helping business get closer to customers.

An interview with Head of Customer Strategy & Insight, Stephen Plimmer, Kent Reliance

Stephen Plimmer

In a continuation of Lexden’s series of interviews with Customer Experience leaders, MD Christopher Brooks caught up with Kent Reliance’s Head of Customer Strategy & Insight, Stephen Plimmer to better understand the role of CX in the business.

Christopher Brooks (CB): OneSavings Bank was the toast of the FS Sector at this year’s Financial Services Forum’s Marketing Effectiveness awards, collecting the Best Customer Experience Award, among other accolades. Does the recognition come as a surprise or is this something you’ve been working towards for some time?

Stephen Plimmer (SP): For us, this was never a completely new way of thinking. The Marketing function always understood how important customer loyalty and experience was. But as a function, knowing that isn’t enough. The whole organisation has to be on-board and understand it and that’s what we’ve been working on over the last few years.

We’re lucky in that we have fantastic customer facing staff, both in branches and over in our call team. How we improved our customer service was a key part of our Customer Experience story and the recognition is all to do with their dedication and enthusiasm. Customer Service is such a key part of the overall customer experience.

Our call team always wanted to deliver exceptional service, to go beyond expectation and to embrace Customer Experience Management. Listening to customer feedback helped empower them to do so.

CB: Would it be fair to say OneSavings Bank is a relatively new brand for consumers? With a very busy banking services market well established and a host of distinctive new entrants arriving, what is OneSavings Bank bringing that others have failed to do?

SP: OneSavings Bank trades as Kent Reliance, a brand with over 150 years of heritage. When we started out on the Customer Experience programme we needed to know how important that brand name was to people and what it meant. We conducted several focus groups and surveys and aside from spitfires and the White Cliffs of Dover (something people always associate with the country) the recurring themes were around words like traditional, heritage and trusted.

There was a clear affection for the brand and of course at the time, most high street banking brands were considered quite the opposite. We discovered that many customers wanted a brand they felt they could trust, a need for those values. We just needed to make sure we understood and lived up to them. It was from this research we were able to start planning our Customer Experience programme – by setting clear objectives.

CB: Does a digital age increase the challenge for FS brands to deliver a great customer experience, or can it improve things?

It’s a fast evolving sector, mobile technology, greater expectations over speed of transacting; instant gratification and confidence in security are some of our greatest challenges. It is an incredibly competitive market now, with lots of new entrants. It’s about understanding your customer’s requirements and, if you can, staying one step ahead of that. I think that can only improve things but we’re not losing sight of the fact that not all our customers need great customer service delivered only online. Many expect the same level of service in branch and over the phone. It’s about delivering that consistency of service across all channels.

CB: ICS (Institute Customer Satisfaction) figures show that customer satisfaction has dropped despite more firms investing in it, so do you think this is a reflection of customer expectations increasing, a focus on the wrong things by companies or is there something else to consider here?

SP: I think expectation levels have certainly played a part. I also think that although Customer Service is an incredibly important part of delivering a great customer experience, I think many people still think customer service and customer experience are the same thing.

Customer Experience is in fact the sum of the whole, customer service playing an important part in that, but it is also about brand perception, relationship building, understanding your customers – what they like and dislike. It’s about delivering the brand qualities consistency across all channels and during the entire customer life cycle.

CB: Collecting the FSF’s Awards for CX demonstrates it’s a key priority of your overall proposition, how important overall would you say it is for OSB?

SP: It’s very important. We continuously engage with our customers and measure experience at every touchpoint. For Kent Reliance this has enabled a business transformation rather than a marketing function revolution. The crucial part was getting all customer facing functions on-board, otherwise you are just producing metrics. Unless all customer facing functions, and ultimately the business strategy units understand what customers were telling us, then key indicators are pointless.

CB: With trust from consumers being typically low in FS, do you think delivering great CX in financial services has its unique challenges other sectors do not face?

SP: There are so many alternatives in the FS sector now that product differentials and relying on customer inertia (as some probably still do) is no longer going to cut it. You need to be easy to deal with and you need to understand just how your customers want to deal with you. Gaining that understanding and then secondly delivering it is key.

CB: Do you think CX is a viable approach to demonstrate and deliver a more trusted brand to consumers?

SP: Trust was one of the key words associated with our brand and one of the traits we are naturally always working hard to retain. Our Customer Experience programme looks at these brand traits and makes sure we keep coming back to them in all we do.

CB: Can you provide an outline on your winning entry and why you think the judges saw merit in your submission beating retail giants RBS and Santander among others?

SP: The entry was around how we had engaged with our customer base, understanding their perceptions of us and what was important to them. This knowledge then prioritised operational change projects and channel development.

When the guest speaker joked at the start of the evening about a poor experience he once had was probably because the hotel group in question had put an accountant in charge of customer experience – the joke wasn’t lost on my colleagues around the table. But actually, my management accounting background has proved incredibly helpful when it comes to Customer Experience programme. From the very start I wanted to track and prove the impact the programme was having. And I think it was that evidence and the clear targets we set ourselves that made the difference.

CB: What would you say has been the key milestones or step changes at OSB in bringing customers more to the forefront of business decision making?

SP: Understanding what our brand meant to customers – existing and potential new ones. From that setting clear objectives to make sure the actual experience was consistent with what our customers wanted.

We gathered an in depth understanding of our customer base, from which we could segment and better understand their needs and how they wanted to transact with us.

We worked with a third party survey provider which allowed us to automate and expand surveying, also providing us with alert functions to be able to gather feedback across all channels and touchpoints – some in real time.

CB: Your CEO, Andy Golding has been associated with some more innovative Customer-led financial services companies in recent times. How important is it to have a CEO who backs the customer too?

SP: Within Andy’s first week here he wanted to sit down with key internal stakeholders and understand what our customers were saying about us; what they liked and disliked and how they rated each channel. Since then, customer feedback has helped prioritise all operational changes – what the operational managers needed to change or improve. He receives detailed customer MI, not just metrics but verbatim – what his customers are actually saying about the business.

We needed the whole business on-board if our customer experience programme was to be a success and having a CEO who feels passionately about delivering great customer service naturally helps convince people.

CB: What would you say is your proudest moment so far at OSB?

SP: There are many projects and initiatives that we’ve been a part of, but I would say the work we did with one of the call teams stands out.

New regulations across the mortgage market led to the call team struggling to answer even the simplest of customer queries; this led to poor CX metric scores and customer frustration. Working with various teams from across the business we were able to provide the call team members with training and simple to follow guides for dealing with customer calls. From call monitoring and understanding the issues customers were facing, we were able to improve the call team’s score dramatically; literally overnight. The call team were able to deliver a far better service which made them more confident which in turn we could see made a very positive impression on our customers.

The team are still improving and learning. It was a fantastic ‘quick win’ which really got them engaged with the customer experience programme.

CB: So the journey has started, what’s next for OSB and what can we expect to see you doing to wow your customers?

SP: More employee engagement, we are redefining our desired employee behaviours and making sure they are aligned to the brand image.

We are also increasing the research programmes, competitor analysis and using NPS from a more strategic perspective.

CB: Who do you admire most in terms of CX – either FS or beyond, and why?

SP: Some of the names here will probably be of no surprise, but in my experience it’s Amazon and John Lewis. Amazon make it easy to transact with and in terms of the whole business brand experience it’s John Lewis. For me, it’s the whole end to end process and in particular post sales. I’m confident that even if there was a problem post sale – it would get resolved. It’s about staff delivering the brand and ease of transaction.

CB: We are talking customer experience; can you give me a personal example of brilliant customer experience from any part of your life, not just financial services, you can recall you really liked and remember?

SP: I always struggle to recall a brilliant experience; like many consumers I can usually recall bad ones very easily. A certain laptop/tablet manufacturer springs to mind.

CB: So getting it right for customers clearly matters to you at OSB. How do you keep track of what matters most to customers? Are these enduring or changing needs?

SP: As we’ve said, this is a fast moving sector with lots of new entrants. For us, it was always more about the verbatim, monitoring shifts in verbal feedback patterns to know first what our customers wanted, liked or disliked and then from acting on that how that changed customer sentiment. Not just a score. A score is just a way of tracking, but it doesn’t tell you why it is what it is and how to change it.

We have also recently launched an online focus group. A panel of customers that we can engage with on specific topics. This allows us to research a new product concept or test new literature to make sure we are getting it right.

We also produce detailed journey maps, into which we put customer sentiment, scores measured at various touch points and data from the complaints team. We then use these maps when looking at key journeys with operational managers so that we can see how we can improve things – see what the pain points are for customers and how we can make these better. Sometimes this is as simple as making a letter clearer but then sometimes the whole process is re-engineered.

CB: Finally, there are many firms just waking up to CX (customer experience). What wisdom would you give anyone starting out on their venture?

SP: Have clear objectives by gaining a deep understanding of current perception of your brand and how this compares to where you want to position it. Let the voice of the customer prioritise change and get buy-in from the highest level.

Also, demonstrate some quick wins, if there is mistrust of CX Strategy then demonstrating how effective it can be helps change perceptions. This doesn’t have to be a profit measure or a traditional CX metric, but more helpful is when you can evidence that you have reduced call wait times or complaints about a specific process – these are real impacts for both customers and staff.

Finally, make sure you take everyone on the journey with you – staff and customers.

Many thanks to Stephen and we wish him and Kent Reliance continued success.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, MD, Lexden, Independent Customer Experience Consultants.