Tag Archives: ceo

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.

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Before we start, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no silver bullet or magic CX pill which will transform a business overnight from having a poor customer experience to a great one. And if there was, it’s the customers who will be the judge of the shift rather than the company. And our memories last longer than a ‘customer transformation programme’ does.

I’ve witnessed, less informed, but more globally located management consultancies inform CEO’s they can go from bottom to top of their sectors CX charts in just 3 months (which was then extended to an equally unrealistic 2 years). Well those years passed and whilst the management consultancy earned a seven figure fee, the CEO lost his position and that business is still rooted at the foot of those same CX charts!

So the formula, whilst not magic, is one I pass on to all; CEO’s, CX Directors, PhD students through to owner friends of small businesses:

Infinity LoopThey are interdependent and continuous. Beyond this I would question the value of any investment.

Knowing what ‘matters’ and defining the ‘meaningful difference’ are the first steps. Once understood and valued, the scale of what can be done and the return it delivers can be assessed.

The outcome of which must be measured in business performance rather than inferred intentions such as NPS. Also the brand differentiating standards of delivery must be consistent across all areas of the business and effect behavioural change others can’t emulate. Customer experience has to work hard, and brand (often an ever hungry cash requestor built on a model of fear of not spending) can be wholly accountable.

Some pursue this path by building a differentiation using strengths to exploit a shortfall in the sector (take the fixers at Direct Line), For others it is about delivering experience when it matters most to customers in a very brand centric way (which others will struggle to emulate).

Either way, they are not tradable – deliver both AND if you want to have the CFO’s support, ensure all endeavours are measured against something meaningful than a customers inferred intention to tell someone else about your brand, make sure it’s pegged to behavioural change resulting in increased share of category spend (take a look at EXQ). One approach will keep the interest of your CFO, the former will highlight gaps and can be the start of the end of CX for some companies.

It’s a fascinating area of business, and one which Lexden are delighted to support clients effectively. To find out how to apply this approach to your business contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com. Alternatively, take the formula and pursued effectively, you will succeed on your own.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Lexden CEO

Why the CEO is king when it comes to CX

“We break china for our clients”

broken chinaThis is an expression I heard from the CEO of a private bank I was developing a new rewards programme with. I am not quite sure exactly what it means, but I got the sentiment immediately. It convinced me the CEO cared about his clients above anything else. It also set a standard by which the rewards programme and any other customer programme had to live up to. This was over ten years ago so there was no supporting VoC, no customer charter and no continuous improvement programme in place. But it served them well then,  as it does today, to prioritise actions which delivered more for their customers.

This commitment, in part, inspired me to focus on Customer Experience. It led me to find the correlation between experience and profitability. Which led to the creation of Lexden as a Customer Experience and Value Proposition Consultancy. I have a lot to thank that CEO for.

It highlights the impact having an authentic CEO onside has when it comes to driving customer strategies through the business. We’ve flagged this support as a key contributor in customer experience programmes ever since.

This CEO clearly got it. In fact 80% of CEO’s believe they get it according to Bain & Company.

merc2Steve Cannon, Mercedes Benz CEO has described Customer Experience as the new marketing. He goes as far to say, “Operational excellence is the ticket for entry. We need to eliminate the word satisfied from our vocabulary. Satisfied for me is vanilla. We need to delight. We need to amaze. We need to provide extraordinary.”

Whilst some CEO’s have committed and are driving customer experience through as a new business model, consumers of many brands have yet to reap the benefits. In fact, the same research from Bain & Co identified only 8% of consumers agree the CEO’s do get it.

And some CEO’s seem to believe they can flick CX on (and no doubt off) like a switch. I heard this perception reportedly shared by a CEO of a low-cost airline who stated, ‘They <customers> will walk across glass to get to our planes if the price is cheap enough’. Needless to say that whilst a CEO with this approach to business might momentarily commit to CX because of the profit potential, a less sustainable ‘squeeze more and give back less’ strategy will turn their head too.

If you want to know if your CEO is really committed to putting customers first in order to drive greater profitability, take a look at our 6 point check. On the left are the behaviours and business actions pushed through observed from CEO’s who prioritise customers:

CEO ranking.pptx

When the CEO leads; the business, all employees, customers and ultimately shareholders profit. CEO as king of CX is crucial to maximise the profit potential from such an investment.

The CEO is key, but a successful CX strategy is much more involved. If you want to know if your overall CX plan is effective, try Lexden’s ‘The Right Direction’. In two weeks we will identify where you are now, where you could be and recommend how to get there.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Consultant, Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Experience & Value Proposition Consultancy 

We help clients profit from customer opportunities and challenge | We achieve this by helping to understand what makes customers tick, building memorable customer experiences and creating engaging customer value propositions.

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 contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.

 

Customer-centric thinking at its best, we believe

At Lexden, we spend our time on various customer strategy commissions across Europe and occasionally further afield. Whilst we are engaged in a project we are thinking ‘customer first’. But when we are not running a live project we are still thinking ‘customer first’. That’s our business so it keeps us fresh and up to date. The truth is we are always thinking ‘customer first’.

newBy looking at the world this way we sometimes come across brand new propositions which are outstanding. Ideas which are brilliantly simple and simply brilliant.

Often the client isn’t aware that the perfect solution is out there and because the solution provider hasn’t positioned it in a way that it chimes with the clients requirements they don’t see how it’s the right solution.

But we live in two worlds; 1. the client side world thinking about customers and their emotional and rational needs and 2. The consumers world thinking about how brands can make lives better by fulfilling emotional drivers. This means we can see how to connect innovations and product ideas from one market to client needs in another.

We are always hunting down small ideas which have a big impact as per our recent blog. Those which cause the least disruption to a business stand the greatest chance of actually getting to market.

That’s why we’re are rather excited about our latest finding. It’s simplicity is brilliant and it’s potential has stunned us, and that’s not easy.

We’ve come across a NEW customer experience concept that answers so many of the client requirements we come across on assignment. This idea is up there with the best of them and we anticipate it will revolutionise some clients business models. Reassuringly the developer has a global track record of success too.

If you are the CEO, CFO, in customer experience, e-commerce, marketing strategy and planning, customer insight, customer services or brand, you will find this idea really interesting.

You’ll know straight away if it’s something you should look at if you are tackling any of these issues at the moment:

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“(1) We need to reduce our call volumes down because our (2) cost to serve is too high (3) our quality of call resolution is impaired or (4) our call waiting times are unacceptable.

“(5) But we need to achieve this and increase our customer satisfaction scores at the same time. Our customers are leaving because they can’t get hold of us”

Beyond this there are a host of further benefits to a business improving its customer strategies it provides…

“(6) When we have unresolved queries from customers we are unable to effectively or efficiently get a resolution back to them meaning that often they remain unresolved even though we have an answer or it costs us heavily to set up a ‘work around’ to contact them and resolve their query”

“(7) We are unable to move between channels as quickly as our customers choose to and we are not able to keep an up to date record of the conversation between channel either which annoys our customers, makes us looks stupid and costs us in duplicated effort time”

“(8) Depending who a customer contacts in our business, through which channel and on which day will determine what answer they get back. It’s this inconsistency that means we end up spending money dealing with ‘over promises’ and ‘under deliver’. We upset customers as we’ve let them down which then impacts CSAT scores and retention rates”

“(9) We’ve got some really good customer service people and some less good ones. If we could bottle the good ones and deliver that experience to customers we would be market leaders, but it’s impossible isn’t it?”

“(10) When we close at the end of the day, there is no way of helping customers beyond what they find on our website. Because we have no ‘night shift equivalent’ we offer to resolve their basic or more complex needs they leave us for our competitors who do. But we haven’t found a cost effective alternative which would be accepted by customers”

“We are looking for more customers to self-serve online to reduce servicing costs but the truth is (11) the experience online isn’t as good as it needs to be at the moment or (12) even if it was great (or on a mobile app) many of our customers would still want to talk to someone to get the answers they can get online. It’s just how they are”

“(13) We are unable to control the quality or the consistency of the way the brand is presented when customers interact with the company. It’s fine when it’s presented in an ad or through a mail pack, but as soon as it becomes ‘personalised’, such as the call centre, it becomes unpredictable and inconsistent”

“(14) Our customer feedback tools are disparate and provide conflicting insights which we have to work through and interpret. (15) Whilst they can inform what the issues are and what is irritating customers they can’t provide planning intelligence such as which products are most effective to cross sell to which segments at which point in the journey or what products are trending with our customers at the moment and why”

“(16) We are in a commoditised service market where brand and experience are the most important driver of relationship, we need an innovative USP that could give us the competitive edge”

“(17) I need to reduce my call centre costs overnight but wont be able to switch off the calls”

If you could relate to more than one of these issues it’s worth taking a look at this solution. But if you are looking to reduce call volumes and improve you customer experience at the same time then bingo – it’s well worth an hour to take a look.

Solutions to these challenges can actually all be delivered through one platform and be operational within a few weeks.

If you know us at Lexden, you will know we are only interested in customer centric solutions that are commercially advantageous to our clients. That’s where we fit in? Lexden have partnered with the innovator to pioneer this new concept into market as an advancement in personalisation, presentation and performance for the customer experience industry.

Sorry but we are not revealing anything more unless we know you are interested. So if you’d like meet up to learn more and how it can relate it to your requirements, email me christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com. Sector exclusive deals will be considered.

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency. We put customers at the start and the heart of the business strategy.

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers. We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read sign-up to our ‘Putting Customers First’ Lexden newsletter.

For more information about how we can help you take your customer strategy forward please contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548. You can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris.