Tag Archives: customer feedback

Are we compromising customer experience in pursuit of customer feedback?

It used to be said consumers will see 5,000 (Walker-Smith) advertising messages every day. From how frequently I am asked I’m sure that number will soon be overtaken by ‘customer feedback requests’! I was at a CX event recently where one company alone claimed they had over 300 listening points! As customers we seem to be asked at every key stroke or foot step to provide feedback for one thing or another.

Is the purpose to better understand how to enhance the experience to fulfil known customer outcomes or to be tipped off about processes which weren’t fit for release? The question is will this use of feedback by companies to discover their own faults enhance the the overall customer experience or over time impair perceptions of the company?

I’ve heard it said, ‘but it’s feedback, that’s different to comms’. Organisations can’t afford to believe feedback systems are in a bubble and won’t impact the customer’s overall perception of their experience? Our evidence, from research and from helping companies caught in this space shows that whilst ‘being listened to’ is important to many customers (so much so it can be a driver of decision making), it still needs to be timely, measured and meaningfully executed if it is to be recognised and valued by customers. We once collated a number of feedback survey data sets for a client for analysis to discover that two of the top five reason for detractor scores were the quality and quantity of surveys received by customers!

Too often the brand experience is absent in VoC design. Like customer communications and brand activation, the voice of the customer presentation to the customer should be aligned to the brand value and visual identify, and most importantly adhere to the brand experience standards. However, the flexibility here is often limited by vendor platform capability which may be limited to a logo, colour palette or font change.

I saw an example recently where the company’s feedback button had been launched on top of the customer ‘contact us’ button used for sales. Brand should be at the table when it comes to  VoC feedback design as well as being grateful recipients of the insights.

Is quality sacrificed for quality?

When I walk through an airport, I’m asked to feedback how the experience was at security, passport control, at Starbucks, WHSmith’s, the loos etc. – it seems everywhere. And any bored 5-year walking to the gate ahead of me gets to whack the same set of buttons as me. I chose not to tap because of the floored value, even though I had an experience I wanted to feedback. How useful is that data exchange?

If this was a polling station, or online questionnaire, the child’s feedback would be recorded as a spoil. But not here – every ‘whack’ and ‘whacker’ is equal. Worryingly there will be a group of execs sitting around a table analysing this data and deciding investment choices for the airport experience!

Doubling up. Dumbing down.

The ease of serving online feedback might ultimately become the catalyst for their demise. I’m This recent personal account, highlights my point. Having spent less than £6 on a screen cleaner fluid for my son’s laptop  using Amazon Prime, I then received two requests for feedback (on a product I’ll never use).

First Amazon came knocking. They wrapped three questions into one answer (ouch), not sure I’ve seen that in any MRS training manual. The third of which isn’t applicable to most customers. The questions are also about the seller who Amazon highlight as unnamed ‘seller’. Well the seller to me is Amazon. I bought my product through their platform and I paid them. So, the buck starts and stops with them surely?

And then the actual seller approaches me and ask more questions. They want to know about the product. They want ‘2 min’ of my time, that’s twice as long as it took to buy the product! I am then confused because the refer to leaving a review on Amazon ‘for millions of shoppers awaiting your feedback’. As useful as screen cleaner is, I’m not sure four times the population of Iceland are glued to their screens uncertain of their

screen clean purchase until I make my case for it! Sack (at least) the copywriter.

And then I look at the choices for feedback which feel rather loaded to me. I asked my 11-year-old son whether he was ‘very happy with the screen clean’. He looked at me like I was mad. I didn’t pursuit it.

Whose benefit is it for after all?

The value of customer feedback is to improve things for the customer. However, when the focus is on socialising the feedback, the priority shifts to getting volume with the intention of creating a free (weak) marketing tool. And undermining the importance of insight collection for the rest of us at the same time.

Shortly afterwards, we bought a £180 keyboard for our other son’s birthday. That’s a significant purchase to us, and emotively means something as I want my son’s face to be full of joy on his big day. So how it was presented online, the reviews, the packaging, the delivery and how it performed really mattered.  However, because we get feedback requests for everything we buy on Amazon, I can’t be bothered to feedback on anything from them anymore.

Listening but not hearing what really matters

Digital capability has really enabled the popularity of this continuous feedback obsession. Where an interaction occurs (either commercial or service based), there’s an opportunity to capture feedback. Sometimes it feels appropriate, other times it’s as welcome as a powercut. The driver is the need for vendors platforms to consume vast lakes of data to ensure analytics are substantial (and some price per response aware of this dependency too, although most have moved beyond this pricing model now).

What happens when the digital data collection touch-point isn’t there? 

Silence! I was in my local 3 shop a couple of weeks ago. We have 5 devices with them. Some had finished their initial contracts, but I hadn’t been contacted, so I have been paying a fair chunk more than I needed to for months (thanks). The service rep had to switch between two CISCO systems to see my devices and actually needed to look at my 3 app to get the details. But much of the information was missing, such as how much I pay. It made it very difficult to work out what was what. In fact, we resulted to a scrap of paper from my pocket and a pen to work things out. By the end of it we’d worked out I could be about £90 a month better off. That conversation turned me from being frustrated to impressed with his perseverance.

But at the end of it I hadn’t completed a transaction so there was no survey triggered. I’d gone from detractor to promoter but I couldn’t feedback my more important observations on the lack the integration between the app and the retail tech experience or the impact a lack of transparency has had on my confidence in 3, the neglectful CRM system, or most importantly (in my mind) the patience and brilliance of the service rep (not sales rep because he didn’t try and push things on me). But he turned it around. In all the time I’ve had 3 contracts, that was the moment that has mattered most, and 3 missed it. How many organisations miss moments because their listening posts are tied to technology platforms capabilities?

This highlights the challenge faced by VoC managers in gathering feedback appropriately, from the right customers, when it matters most to them,  not the organisation.

The customer feedback asset journey map is usually an interesting one but ironically often neglected.

With so much to learn, but so many trying to learn from it customer feedback must be treated with as much importance as any other customer experience reflecting its value to the company. Otherwise you will get less than you put in and could find your feedback programme cited as a driver of customer attrition – ouch!

Posted by Chistopher Brooks, Customer Consultant, Lexden (London)

If you’d like to receive more articles on driving more profitable Customer Experience, please sign up to our free monthly ‘Customer Experience Update’.

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

Advertisements

How to get it ‘Carpetright’ for your customers

Continuing my series of interviews with heads of customer experience, I caught up with Toni Adams, Head of Customer Experience at Carpetright.

Based in Purfleet, Essex the retail giant serves almost 600 stores across Europe. From under one roof everyone including marketing, accounts, customer experience, the board, storage, customer service and cutting operates. They’ve come a long way in the last 30 years since the first store was opened in Canning Town, founded by Lord Harris in November 1988.

As I arrived at their offices I was greeted by a delightful receptionist who showed a personalised greeting I’m sure would be envied by any high street retailer. Toni, who joined Carpetright from Nationwide at the start of 2015 took me on a guided tour of the business, where I soon discovered the delightful welcome offered at reception was a repeated trait from everyone I met.

Following a trip to the new concept store close at hand and often visited by head office staff to remind themselves what customers experience, I wanted to find out how much of the recent return to profit had been down to a commitment to customer. 

Toni Adams CarpetrightCB: Thank you for an impressive tour. Earlier this year Carpetright posted an equally impressive return to profit across the group. Clearly you’ve invested in customer experience – is there a link between the two?

TA:

Absolutely. We have spent a lot of time reviewing our customer’s journey as we needed to better understand what our customers wanted. It has helped us make sure the productswe stock and the services we provide are right for our customers and that they are available when customers want them. We have adopted an end to end journey focus – moving from silo to seamless. We’ve come a long way in a short time,realising the key moments of truth and aligning processes to them. There is always more to do, such as systems work to further enhance CRM.

CB: You have joined Carpetright from Nationwide; a company recognised for their focus on customer service where much has been already complete. So how different were the challenges you faced when you started at Carpetright?

TA:

When I came to Carpetright I was looking forward to the new challenge. The culture needed to shift from sales to service. We have put in place a new customer feedback programme called; ‘Do We Measure Up?’ and we use what we hear to put the customer firmly at the centre of the business. One of the first things to change with this programme was to take ownership of customer issues from stores. We have over 142,000 surveys complete and 97% are satisfied or highly satisfied. ‘Do We Measure Up?’ is embedded in the business which allows us to focus on delivering our customer promise of doing the right thing, which relates to our brand values. This has also meant internally thinking about stores differently. We think and treat them as our customers, which in turn means they think more about their customers rather than worrying about level of support from head office.

CB: Is the expression ‘customer is king’ still relevant in retailing today?

TA:

Trends from The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) show satisfaction levels have been declining over the last five years. So customer expectations are increasing. Product, price and processes can be copied, but customers won’t forget how the experience made them feel, so it the emotional differentiator. People buy people first. So the challenge is to ensure that the spark and connection that comes from great people understanding customers is a constant rather than sporadic.

Carpetright

CB: From all you’ve said, CX is clearly becoming a priority at Carpetright? What would you say has driven this?

TA:

Customer Experience certainly is at the centre of everything here. Wilf (Walsh, CEO) is passionate about making this happen. He personally attended my interview which said to me he was serious about CX. We have a top down leadership approach surrounded by customer-centric people who reinforce our value of exceeding expectations by putting customers first. Our feedback shows this is happening. The content at our internal roadshows is now focused on the customer. In fact, this year’s annual conference is prioritising customers, whereas beforehand that would have been sales.

CB: Are there any specifics about your sector that makes creating a brilliant customer experience more challenging than other sectors?

TA:

We are in our customers’ homes. It’s a sensitive purchase so how we handle it is very important. We look to respect our customer’s home as if it was our own.

CB: Has digital changed how you deal with customers?

TA:

Customers understandably want to touch and feel carpets and other flooring products. But we are using digital to make other parts of the journey easier, such as researching products. Initiatives such as centralised estimating allow customers to book a slot for a Carpetright estimate based on who is available in the area, rather than the estimator being solely linked to the store they visited.We are particularly pleased with how well the ‘find an estimator’ initiative has worked which has meant customers are visited by an estimator earlier. We’ve been shortlisted for this year’s CX Retail awards, which is great for us.

CB: You’ve been involved in customer experience for much of your career, so what do you find most interesting about this area?

TA:

It’s part of who I am. My parents ran a hotel, so I grew up in a service environment. I’ve always been considerate of customers because of it. I love the challenge of making something work better than it did and seeing the results.

CB: So are you pleased with the progress Carpetright is making?

TA:

We’ve made good progress and huge changes. It’s a cliché but we are on a journey. We want to ensure our customers have a seamless, hassle-free end to end journey with great service each and every time. This means customer performance targets managed through HR, aligned to our customer promise to continue to drive the right colleague behaviours for our customers. Colleagues who have demonstrated ‘going the extra mile’ for customers’, have been nominated for our Customer Champion Award presented at the annual conference. Wilf rang each nominee up to tell them they had been shortlisted which he said was amongst the best things he’s done since starting. In fact, the winner will become a ‘customer ambassador’ for the year as an example to all others of how committed Carpetright is to putting customers first.

CB: It’s been great hearing about how the customer first philosophy invested in Carpetright is measuring up for customers. Is there any wisdom you have for anyone starting out on their own customer experience venture?

TA:

I’d say you need to decide what you want the customer experience to be and then you can build your business decisions with that in mind. Also make sure all areas work together from the start and throughout. It’s a company-wide thing rather than silo driven.

CB: Thank you for your time and candid answers. Best of luck with your future experience endeavours and award entries!

This article is published in this months CXM (Customer Experience Magazine) http://www.cxm.co.uk/ when-you-are-in-your-customers-homes-you-have-to-make-it-right/

If you head up a CX team and would like to be considered for a feature interview, we’d love to hear from you:

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 contactchristopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call 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 Lexden Group.

The triple value from VoC – are you getting yours?

Some quick questions to start – Did you choose when to gather feedback from customers? Did you decide how to collect it? Did you organise this around manageable insights?

If so the chances are the truly enlightening customer insights are probably still out there. These are what we define as the triple value insights.

This can happen when the Voice of the Customer programme is set up to find the evidence to support the hypothesis that certain experiences the customer encounters are not meeting a defined criteria of acceptability determined by the company, its key competitors or the sector. In other words, it’s driven by business prejudices.

However, to extract the triple value a VoC programme can deliver the programme should be constructed with the customer’s potential for commitment to your business in mind.

To do so requires an understanding of the commercial value of customer fulfillment over customer transactions, the psychology of responsive behaviour and an appreciation of how to view brand equity. These are not typically entries which appear on the client brief to the feedback agency, which could explain why we rarely see the triple value exploited.

So what is the triple value. Put simply its interpretation of the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ from customer feedback planning.

First layer of value – ‘What’ customers feedback

I demonstrated the importance of this point in a recent workshop designed to help a client redesign a feedback programme which was about to be pulled due to lack of meaningful insights. I handed four attendees a torch each and asked them to lock a fixed beam for a minute on the most important elements in the room which make a workshop run well. They focussed on the coffee, the AV equipment, the air conditioning control and a copy of the workshop notes.

At the end of the session I picked up my feedback sheets which asked what will attendees remember from today – everyone had written down either the outcomes we’d arrived at with them or the facilitator. I asked why they hadn’t locked on these earlier and they said the facilitator was moving and the ideas weren’t formed yet. This helped them understand that whilst it wasn’t possible to shine a light on the facilitator moving about or an idea, that was what mattered and they should have worked out how to achieve it rather than settle for second best.

Feedback systems often measure touch points they can easily track or can get manageable feedback on which can mean the real drivers of behavioural change are missed. Customers can only feedback on what they are asked and when they are asked, so make sure you are shining a light on that which will drive what impacts their commitment and share of wallet.

Beware feedback programmes which don’t offer this flexibility.

Second layer of value – How customers feedback

feedback2On more than one occasion when reviewing a clients key customer issues the ‘feedback’ survey itself has appeared in the top 10 issues. This reflects one of the most undervalued aspects of the VoC programme. Whilst many may think the feedback survey is about a customer journey it is actually a part of that journey. Tone and design must reflect the brand personality. It should blend in. Sadly research companies are not brand specialist and comms agencies aren’t researchers. But with feedback programmes you need the best of both of them.

Read how a Eurostar customer’s high brand experience satisfaction dropped after they received an irritating, poorly branded feedback survey – not what they’d come to expect from Eurostar.

Hold you feedback up alongside you brand manager’s favourite brand activation work – if it doesn’t fit in, you need to rework it.

feedback surveyAlso if your customers have a channel specific way of dealing with you, make sure that’s extended to your feedback survey. If you are famous for phone banking, don’t send a postal questionnaires. If you are a theme park, famous for interactive experiences,  don’t text or email a standard questionnaire.

Bring your brand and your business in to VoC if you want to get a truer reflection and make customers happy to feedback because it’s an extension of the brand experience, rather than a review of it.

Third layer of value – why customers feedback

There is a wonderful misconception that customers’ feedback because they want to help a company improve it’s experiences and for that firm to become preferred by others and ultimately be more profitable. Unsurprisingly, this is not so.

ryanair3Feedback is a release for consumers. It allows consumers to vent the injustice they’ve received versus what they expected or praise what has left a positive impression in their mind or hearts. At it’s best it can even lift a day. To understand the importance of this read Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It explains the role small achievements can play in contributing to more significant ones. It’s great reference material for customer experience managers to better understand the importance a good experience can have on a consumer’s life.

That said there are those who think the ‘why’ means nothing more than to allow a company to score how good (or bad) they are. This example from Ryanair seems to be saying ‘just give us a score, nothing else matters we are not interested in your reason which is why we didn’t ask ‘why’.

if you want to find out more about the ‘why’, take a look at @vexvox. A curious twitter character who re-tweets customer’s gripes but also finds out why the issue mattered to the customer’s life and helps companies understand the emotional impact this has on them. Often companies take profit from the bottom line to repair damage with compensation when all the consumer wanted was understanding and empathy. Emotional context can help prioritise ‘customer importance’ over ‘commercial impact’ which is a big challenge for CX Managers looking to reorder the priority list. Which takes us back to the point of ‘why’ – it’s to help improve the customer’s circumstance.

If you put the customer first, you will release the triple value, which ultimately benefits the company. And success or failure starts with an effective feedback programme.

Lexden provides Customer Experience Strategy and Management support to 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 contact on how we can help your customer strategies contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call 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.

Are your customers starting to suffer from customer feedback fatigue?

A couple of weekends ago I travelled to the New Forest in the South of England for a two night break with my wife and two boys. The trip was focused around a day out at Paulton’s Park as a treat for our three year old. Our seven year old loves hotels so we stayed in two. We ate out a couple of times and overall had a great family time.

What made the stay so good? Well it was the fact that we all get along famously, plus everything worked as it should – because we’d organised it as such and chose brands we could rely upon. Okay, I can’t take all the credit.There were a couple brilliant customer experience moments which added to the occasion such as the yo-yo’s for the boys when we checked in at the Novotel and having the pool at The Best Western all to ourselves.

ikea feedbackOn the way back home we popped in for a typical ‘essentials only’ shop at IKEA Southampton. We won over the boys with the promise of apple flan. £150 later we’d picked up the supposed essentials and headed for some lunch.

As we were eating lunch I noticed a customer feedback machine in the restaurant where people were coming to eat. I asked a member of staff why it was chosen to go there in the restaurant. His response summed it up, “People come here to shop. People come here to eat. Why would they come here to tell us what we should do better? I’ve never seen it being used”.

I think I need a holiday to complete these feedback surveys!

The following morning I was at Waterloo and stopped at Pret’s to get a cup of coffee on the way to work. On the wall was another feedback survey request. My iphone inbox pinged at me with a request from the Novotel to tell them what we thought of their services and facilitates! This was soon followed by Paultons and Best Western.

survey emails

Less than 24 hours since IKEA and I’d been confronted with several feedback surveys! Even as a CX expert with a penchant for interrogating customer feedback to develop differentiating brand experience for clients, I felt worn-out at just the thought of ploughing through the surveys.

nero surveyThe quality across pret surveythese surveys varied wildly. And with some it was clear all they were interested in was a performance score rather than understanding what worked and what could be better. More worryingly not one took time to find out whether my weekend went as planned, was I happy with the jaunt, how their brand fitted into my weekend, which other brands I’d been relying upon that weekend alongside theirs, how their brand compared to those others I’d been pleased with, did they stand out for any reason that had been memorable to any of my party or whether I now saw their brand as a reliable trust agent for just this sort of event or I’d let them into other parts of my life. in fact, the stuff that mattered to me!

Sadly the insight which would richly furnish their understanding of the value of their brand to their customers and the impact the experience had on them was omitted. Instead they asked me questions like:

  • Was it value for money?
  • Would I tell my friends?
  • Was the booking website easy to navigate?
  • Did I speak to a member of staff whose name I can recall and did they exceed my expectations?

I love all the brands I’ve mentioned, with this type of bombardment we will soon see the demise in the value of customer feedback unless a sprinkle of innovation and a large dose of customer relevance is applied.

However, too often customer feedback is seen as a measure rather than a palette to enhance customer’s lives with.

Is this really the best time?

dublin surveyThis example affronted me the moment I’d gone through security at Dublin airport. Now is this a moment I really want to stop and feedback my experience? Perhaps (small ‘p’) if it was less than a great experience AND time is on my side I might. But if time is against, no chance. And would anyone really consider stopping and feeding back on a good security experience?

On two recent commissions I have seen ‘customer feedback’ surveys appear in the top ten issues for a brand in the Voice of The Customer Analysis. One brand was serving ten feedback surveys to customers a year. It seems the survey ‘monkeys’ have forgotten, it’s the customer’s world and we just live in it. To obtain feedback from a customer is a privilege, not a right. We should be mindful of that when asking for it and even more so when considering how to apply it.

Future Trends in Customer Feedback

Feedback systems will continue to be rolled out. But, can brands look forward to customers informing them of their priorities? Or will consumers begin to find their day becoming ever more polluted with feedback requests and drop them from their daily activities.

My prediction is that feedback will be less readily offered in the future. I was reviewing trends in the customer feedback space for an airline conference presentation and noticed two which will mean we might all have to rethink how we engage customers for feedback:

@VexVox The prickly hedgehog listens to tweeters grumbling about brands and brings it to the attention of others as well as engaging the brands affected. As the volume of followers grows vexvox will have not one or two comments to feedback to brands, but acting on behalf of consumers will have hundreds of similar complaints to bring to the brands attention. With such an easy way of jumping the complaints queue and a no hassle way to attain resolution, feed back surveys will become a less attractive route.

The second is still in development so I can’t share the newco’s details just yet. But the principal is this; ‘your data is your property’ – their genie commercialises it for customers. Sources tell me the customer will trade claimed behaviour data for credits. These will increase in value if the ‘claimed’ matches the ‘actual’ behaviour. One aspect is a ‘catch all’ customer feedback survey option which provides back to the brands structured around what matters to the customer. The customer will be discouraged from using any other form of customer feedback.

Don’t get me wrong the health of the feedback survey sector is very much alive. With TripAdvisor we see that the ‘public’ feedback channel is booming. The difference here is it has a commercial model underpinning it. This form of feedback has a future.

Whereas internal feedback systems will be under threat. It’s time to start thinking about the next generation of customer feedback because consumers are getting tired and impatient at a time when business’ are becoming every more reliant.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Strategy Consultant & Director at Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Consultancy | Putting your customers at the heart of the decision.
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 please sign-up to our monthly ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter. Or for a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on  M: +44 7968 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter.

How to start a Customer Experience Strategy: 3/5 Understand the potential and the limits

I was approached recently at a conference and asked, ‘if we are starting out on a customer experience strategy, what are the key pieces of advice you would give a business when embarking on a customer experience strategy? I answered:

  1. Ensure those responsible for the customer experience have the right experience too
  2. If it’s the company that wants to be more customer-centric start with them, not the customer
  3. Understand the potential and the limits of customer experience early on
  4. Once you are in, you are all in and you are in for the long haul if you intend to profit
  5. Short cuts exist, resist. Only short lived programmes use them

 

3. Understand the potential and the limits of customer experience early on

It’s important to understand the potential of CX and invest accordingly. Feedback programmes, rewards programmes, continuous improvement resourcing, customer charter communications can all add up very quickly – and typically are coming from new budget lines (or cut from existing ones) because customer experience is relatively new to many budget allocation models, if not the company. Looking at CRM or loyalty models for read across forecasts, which I’ve seen some well established consultancy practices do, may give you a proxy figure (not that I’d accept such a read if I were the CEO) but not an appreciation of the market appetite or the business impact required to achieve the result. It’s impressive that Disney achieves 4 times the lifetime value from Promoters, but if you saw the time and investment behind the scenes you’d agree they’ve earned that.

monorailIt’s essential to assess the return potential before making grand claims to the board. Often there is a ‘no-brainer’ assumption that it’s just what every business should do, isn’t it? And whilst putting customers first should never be out of fashion, just what dividend it pays the business needs to be understood as well.  As a long-time practitioner and long-term server of customer strategies I would probably start at this point. but I also see CX being rolled out as the new shiny marketing toy. It reminds me of the Simpson’s ‘monorail’ episode where the salesman sings, “a monorail, everyone has got to have a monorail”, beware the salesman I say.

Sizing the prize

A value estimate is relatively easy to ascertain in many sectors. For example with hotels, guest experience is now more important than location or price (two former industry stalwart drivers of customer decision making) according to Trip Advisor. In the energy sector switching decisions are twice as likely to be driven by a poor experience as they are price, despite the market being fixated by recruiting customers on price based deals!

In other markets where factors such as product functionality and brand reputation can carry more weight, experience is a driver  but other factors are more influencing. E.g. car batteries, where there’s not much opportunity for experience differentiation there  beyond it ‘works’ (please someone prove me wrong on this one).

And in some sectors customer experience doesn’t typically feature highly as a standard due to overwhelming alternate factors (think lotteries or personal GI lines) or because the experience is actually owned by too many different parties (think airport operators and shopping malls) it may drop down the consideration list as too problematic to unpick and understand.

Whilst the business may wish to commit to the customer, market conditioning may limit the potential. Understanding this first could save face with overambitious forecasts and wasted investment of resources later.

Missing your potential

cx article 3However, experience typically will feature and understanding the potential is important because missing it can be business fatal. This chart highlights a predicament for a low interest category (utilities), where new insight into what matters most for customers (bar on left) exposed the inefficiency of the existing deployment of resource (bar on the right). A seismic shift in culture and process over a period of time, careful redeployment of resources and sensitive discussions with city analysts will be needed if a transition to a customer-centric approach, achieved through service experience and brand experience, is to be successful.

Seeing this most CEO’s might think twice before turning their business upside down. What this chart also highlights is the value of a brand and comms strategy when customer engagement otherwise is low. This creates a positive association between brand (think about the power of positive association from The Olympics bestowed on Visa’s brand) and customer which acts as a positive experience reinforcement when there is limit significant experience (paying for something isn’t a memorable experience consumers overtly associate with the scheme provider). In some markets such as general insurance and utilities, unless something goes wrong, most customers wont experience the brand. Activities including advertising, direct communications, PR and sponsorship become a surrogate so have an inflated value for customers and are therefore a key part of the experience remit. Ensuring they are in scope  and aligned to what matters most to customers is important otherwise the potential for customer experience will be compromised.

Ascertaining the value of customer experience

cx article 3.1CX purists might argue that in order to ascertain the potential value, first you need to find the opportunities for improvement and demonstrate their incremental return against brand equity, market share and revenues. However, you need to travel a long way through a CX programme to get to this point (often an oversight with CX programmes led by researchers), whereas pragmatic CX professionals would suggest to secure investment, resources and sponsorship for all the tools needed a ‘read’ of the potential is required first.

This can be derived from three simple ‘customer-focused’ questions as highlighted in this chart.

Beware the process wolf in customer experience clothing

I recently heard of a company who had identified 700 IT platform defects it needed to fix to deliver a decent customer experience! They also used a process engineering consultancy at diagnostics stage to ascertain the value of customer experience to their business. Unsurprisingly the diagnostics phase identified millions of pounds of operational savings through lean processing techniques, but not one CSAT or NPS benefit from any of the business improvement recommendations. This has resulted in a business re-engineering approach to improvements which reduce business operating costs but is badged as ‘customer transformation’ where the customer is at best a secondary consideration.

So before a programme is undertaken a short period of assessment is needed for an effective audit to provide the insight to assess the potential of customer experience. For this, our advice is to invest in the right expertise to get a sound reading.

If the ambition of the business is, to create a sustainable competitive advantage through understanding customer experience expectation and desires, then the assessment of the potential must be conducted on the same basis too.

Finally, if there is a poor or non-existent sector experience, it may also mean there is a greater opportunity to differentiate that hasn’t been exploited. For example, returning to the hotel industry, Formula 1 in France (and to some extent Premier Inn in the UK) demonstrated how low cost accommodation could still mean a really good night’s sleep. In fact that’s all that was required so that stripped out costs on amenities such as pools and restaurants and invested in sound proofing and quality mattresses’.

I recall working on the brand & comms planning for the Health Lottery. At the time the CMO was fixated on product and pricing – and with good reason – it was what he knew. But the margin of improvement against the competitor on this factor was limited. However, the sector customer experience importance was way below the broader leisure sectors so it was dismissed. A small investment in this area could have forced players to reappraise their preferred lottery provider on new terms, rather than accepting the much smaller slice of player’s wallet the ME2 gaming angle finally achieved. I couldn’t convince them – you can’t win them all.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | Putting your customers at the heart of the decision

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 please sign-up to our monthly ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter. Or for a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M:+ 44 (0) 7968 316548You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris