Tag Archives: cX strategy

The soundtrack to our CX lives

It was only a matter of time before someone pulled together this ridiculous notion. So I thought, why not me. I often dive into popular culture forms to find examples of the outcome or process I wish to convey. Which got me thinking, what would a customer experience programme sound like if it was set to music? Each track links to Youtube should you wish to enjoy the full surround sound blog experience. Alternatively, click here for the full playlist as one.

So with that in mind, here is the set up and launch of a Customer Experience programme soundtrack – I told you it was ridiculous. By the way, this is cast around my limited knowledge of music, so if you feel there are better tracks to convey how things evolve as the CX matures, then please comment with the stage and your suggest track.

Stage 1 – Unawareness so Nothing Ever Happens 

That surreal time when customers complained unheard,  fell away because of unattended problems and the hero was the sale. A time when models such as ‘pathway to purchase’ misinformed budget allocation. Call centres acknowledged customer frustration, but unless execs could see it directly impacted the here and now sales figure, ‘Nothing Ever Happens’. From Del Amitiri, and released in 1989, this protest song about not taking responsibility for improving things for society (or in our case customers), I feel captures that time where as a CX leader you knew there was a better way, but history kept repeating itself whilst customers defected or stayed through apathy or lack of choice.

Stage 2 – Madness (from a fresh perspective)

Perhaps the break though came when a piece of customer insight on the value of experience is shared internally either with your own, or borrowed insights. These show that the value economy had shifted from products and services to experiences. Enabled by an array of technologies, market entry and rapid growth meant super brands arrived in months with slicker smarter and more engaging experiences. Many retailers have fallen and at best those who survived have seen the standards of experience delivery expectation rise as customers no longer see as much value in the conventional differentiation points as they once did. Indeed, the economic value of a company’s worth has moved to how the customer experience is delivered before, during and after the transaction.

At this stage, with this CX idea in mind, a few brave souls embark upon a journey of enlightenment to discover ‘what matters most to our customers’. Data highlighting the performance of the experience endured by customers supported by customer verbatim feedback on why it’s important creates the conversation around investment prioritisations and ways of working. But the gathering of the right data (such as measures to identify what actually drivers customer behaviour), the understanding of what it means, and wrestling with the realisation of how far impacting across everything the company does it stretches could give you a headache. You could even say it was a time of Madness.

Path A (embracing customer experience) or Path B (resisting a customer-led approach)

We are at a junction here. Not all take path A. The evidence and the data can be overwhelming and challenging for some to understand. Especially if the excuse of regulatory change or short term sales cycles are also on the agenda. This is where, some take path B even though it feels right to start with, it will become an uncomfortable journey full of technology delays and IT contractors. This is the path of ‘digital-first’ or ‘mobile-first’ or ‘AI-first’ or ‘VoC first’ (you get the picture) where gathering the insight to find problems outweighs consideration of it’s value. With the sales pitch of chrome brushed applications, speed of light turnaround promises and ‘go-to-market’ capability, the IT priority list becomes clogged with new ‘customer’ requests. But don’t forget this in a world where often the customer isn’t seen as an asset. At the town hall, the CEO is sending his people down path B too, ‘if we don’t have an app that customers can use and buy through, we wont have any customers.’ To the preacher it feels like ‘putting customers first’, but as their soundtrack would show it’s a long, long winding road with no particular place to go. They are inevitably on the road to nowhere (another blog perhaps).

So back to the more exciting Path A

Stage 3 – The Impossible Dream

So back to the Path A followers and with a USB stick full of customer interviews, perhaps a few AS IS journey maps and evidence of how short-term sales advantages erode value in the customer relationship, a story of a better way can be sketched. A story which dares to dream to judge the company’s purpose and prioritisation against one question, ‘do we add value to the customer?’

With the right playbook, storyboard, video showreel or whatever high impact media format you choose, this should be that moment when your customer and market insight is presented in a way that the boards’ only question is, ‘why haven’t we done this before?’. You need to think big, but bring others with you to ‘dream the impossible dream’ too. As Matt Monroe told us. It’s a moment of truth for the budding CX leader so you don’t under invest in this one wrong.

 

Stage 4 – Absolute Beginners

Whilst companies been delivering products and services to customers for hundreds of years, as they have become commodities, Customer Experience is where customers place value. So those leading the CX Strategy and Transformation have to forget much of their ingrained ways of working and rebuild process, practices, people skills, platforms and propositions (to name a few) with a very different source of ‘value’ in mind. And although many of the tasks are the same, such as gathering insight, what you ask, how, when and the interpretation requirements are very different.

KPI’s are redesigned to drive value for the customer, not extract value from the customer. In fact, whilst the company has been historically been marketing itself to its customers, this is a time where the customer must be marketed to the business to get stakeholders on board.

Taking time to work through the strategy, requires diligence and rigour. Getting it right here is critical. Quite often those who start the CX strategy aren’t around to see it come to fruition. That’s not such a bad thing. It’s a very different set of skills needed to reshape ways of working and win over execs than it is to drive through innovations and creative improvements.

At Lexden, we use an award-winning academic stud underpinning a CX Capability Assessment tool which enables a company to benchmark its current CX set-up against 1,100 brands, across 40+ business activities identified as proficient among the best of which achieve 600% ROI from their CX. This enables any company to understand what value they are achieving from their Customer Experience Strategy. It also highlight where attention is needed across the CX critical dependency points and in what order – the head start you need.

Getting the right stakeholders onside is easier with a strategy and programme aligned to a successful CX blueprint. As David Bowie sings in his anthemic Absolute Beginners track, ‘if my love is your love, we are certain to succeed’.

Stage 5 – See for Miles

Getting the Customer Experience vision agreed provides clarity of the expectations of the business and more importantly adoption that creating customer value is a business model to create sustainable profits.

To achieve this, the foundation must be the customer insight which identify what matters most to customers in terms of what drives customer behaviour drivers (to secure more of their share of category). These drivers (scientifically proven drivers if you choose to use EXQ)  are fused with the brand values to create a unique set of Customer Standards. These provide the organisation with an accessible and relevant framework for all employees to review their role and actions against and ensure internally and customer facing improvements are consistent.

They are energised by an overarching Customer Experience vision; the poster boy/girl of the cultural change. This becomes the reference name (hopefully at the top) on the board agenda. When underpinned with a sound customer experience programmes covering the five pillars of CX Management; measurement, culture, challenges, process management and governance.

Now it’s all in place, we can dare to dream with a vision and a road map to take us there. The calm before the storm where you can see for miles and miles ahead of you as The Who remind us.

Stage 6 – Rush hour

With the permission to fail, underpinning governance, budget to upgrade data sources, dedicated personnel and a vision to create value for the customer, we are off! But there is so much still unknown so the first 6-12 months are frantic. It’s like a corporate rush hour. As each ‘AS IS’ customer journey is mapped, more data gaps and embarrassing breaks in the journey are unearthed. Individuals dash-off to repair their mistakes, the digital team can run very fast and new ideas become reality and are launched.

It’s a time where discipline is needed. You need appointed ambassadors to help manage the pace. The CX activities such as Customer Journey Mapping and Improvement Ideation need stewardship by the CX team in collaboration with areas of the business, a measurement of progress is set* and prioritisation is aligned to what matters most to customers and gives the greatest advantage gain.

* Beware of sinking most of the CX budget into a customer feedback systems at this stage. Systems which gives a performance number linked to something which doesn’t correlate to profit. At this stage setting a CSAT or Recommendation figure to acheive will become a road to ruin. Verbatim doesn’t need to come in torrents through every data touch point. And don’t forget, any feedback platform you add becomes part of the experience, not just a measurement of it. If customers feedback and you can’t keep up with the pace of improvement, your customers will think less of you.

You will also need a prioritisation model for improvements. We use EXQ (Experience Quality Measurement) which is 25 customer behaviour drivers which have been proven (1,100 case studies) to account for 90% of customer’s decision-making. If introduced as the foundation layer of customer insight, at this stage it’s well established as the ‘customer truth’ and priorities can be aligned to the incremental gain they will achieve. 

Put ‘customer value’ at the wheel (to paraphrase Jane Wiedlin), enjoy the rush hour because it becomes clearer with the customer’s value as your goal.

Stage 7 – Don’t stop me now

So now all in the business involved, the right customer insights driving decision-making and priority improvement calls are being rewarded with greater customer share of category commitment as a result.

If at this stage customer experience is set up as a growth strategy, then progress will be made. The Vanguards of CX enjoy 600% ROI, but only 3% of organisations are classed like this (according to studies by Dr Prof Phil Klaus).

With successes behind you, growth opportunities to build improves experiences, a road map pointing to sustainable competitive advantage and colleagues who feel good and are rewarded for adding customer value, nothing will stop you now. There is the momentum an purpose felt in Queen’s high energy, ‘Don’t stop me now’ track. And who dare to!

Stage 8 – Perfect Day

Everything is aligned around adding value to the customer. At a strategic level the continued success and growth mean business planning and customer management processes are now revised to focus on adding value to the customer.

Listening systems are in place so feedback informs what needs further improvement and why. And with commercial and data analysts on board, any improvement can be measured against new agreed customer performance measures.

In this world of CX, new recruits, both employees and customer mention CX as a reason for joining. The experience as a consideration on their decision-making. The CEO asks whose idea it was to become customer-centric and the response is, ‘all of us’. And you find your transformation story is wanted by the HBR or similar for a CX Case study – What a perfect day, Lou Reed.

Stage 8 – Happy ever after – Lovely Day

As long as the CX team are focused on helping the business driving value for customer, CX is a long and sustainable strategy. It becomes a new way of working.

Keep CX positioned as a growth opportunity. Keep listening to customers. Keep understanding what matter most to them. Keep ensuring the business knows it’s purpose is to fulfill these. Keep highlighting where the organisation can work harder to meet and exceed customers expectations in a more motivating (on brand) way than the competitors.

From here on every day should be a lovely day. Everyday is a Lovely day thereafter.

So there we go, from start to a continuous non-end, my soundtrack to our CX lives. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey and maybe listened to a track or two as well? Do you agree? If you’ve got a better soundtrack thought for any of the stages, I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s only a bit of fun. But that’s important in CX too.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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

Driving Cultural Change to Improve CX Performance

The Financial Services Forum recognise the growing importance of customer experience for financial services companies. So we were delighted to speak earlier in the year on the topic of branded customer experience. Our content and delivery gratefully chimed and we were asked back to share with FS practitioners our views on how to culturally embed customer experience within companies. It’s an area we find has a massive impact on ROI and profit from CX when understood and structured effectively.

On the day Direct Line joined us as speakers to share their ‘front line’ experiences. The parallels between the two presentations were reassuring and encouraging given Direct Line’s recent CX and marketing award winning successes. The Lexden presentation is available to members of the FSF through their website. For Lexden followers, the presentation can be found on our website www.lexdengroup.com. When you sign up you will access all whitepapers and presentations including those from our recent ‘Masterclass in FS CX’ event where Professor Dr. Phil Klaus was a keynote speaker.

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Can you deliver the 3 in 1 CX equation? Waitrose do.

We spend most days at Lexden helping clients to improve the effectiveness of their CX performance. That may result in a more valued brand differentiation, a new business model, an interactive employee engagement game, an increase in cross-sales strategy etc etc.

That’s the point; CX has moved on. Positioning CX as the only holistic all-encompassing new way of life for all to religiously follow is too much of a shift for many leadership teams? We don’t think it’s needed always either. In fact, we see it as a more effective business model to drive sustainable profitability. If that’s your aim, then bingo, you are the type of client we work well with. So read on and then we’d love to hear from you.

Rolling your sleeves up and working in the smaller ‘everyday’ customer experiences can be as fruitful and rewarding as seeking to exploit those defining moments which enables your brand to pull apart from others. Don’t get me wrong, we recognise the 8:1 ROI from the extraordinary branded CX opportunity is superior to the 1:1.25 potential of the ‘brilliant basics’. But let us not forget brands need constant feeding to keep their value and customers need as many touch points to experience that brand as possible.

So finding opportunity for the brand experience to shine is key. Finding these amongst the invisible spots, the unnoticed nooks and crannies is still a playground of opportunity for those clients prepared to look a little further and those of use helping clients who look beyond the conventional.

With this in mind we will bring you a number of brands who do this, effortlessly well. So easy in fact you trip over them. Many talk about delivering memorable CX at the start and the end of the journey; the CX rainbow.

Of course the chasing the pot of gold matters, but we do find a sprinkling of experiences in between can help pep up the customer performance indicators and encourage higher levels of average usage throughout too. To demonstrate how natural they are, pick a brand and find 3 in 1 minute that qualify.

Here’s 3 Waitrose experiences we found in 1 minute. Not every brand can deliver this. But those who do have CX baked in to their business model.

waitrose 1 waitrose 3waitrose 2

1. Flowers – here they are with a bunch of flowers you can buy in store. They brighten up the place and say, they are good enough for us too. They also sit there for a week to show the quality.

2. Local community – Waitrose keep close to their communities and this much copied approach to local charitable donations speaks it in volumes. The fact that these are three cricket clubs adds a very appropriate ‘middle England flavour to Waitrose too.

3. Recycling the promotion – Waitrose may have moved the coffee cup behind the counter to keep out the M&S Food pretenders, but they are still squeezing more out of that cup as this poster I spotted shows and oozes Waitrose values.

Virgin Trains next!

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Experience & Value Proposition Consultancy 

We help clients build memorable customer experiences and create 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.

How to start a Customer Experience Strategy 5/5: Resist short cuts. Only the short-lived use them.

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

5. Short cuts exist, resist. Only short lived programmes use them

With CX there is impatience to see improvements quickly. In our experience it can encourage the wrong behaviours within a business. There are two drivers of short–cut mentality:

a) Improved Performance
b) Differentiation

Both are of course achievable from customer experience. In fact, there is quantified evidence to show in many sectors, CX is more effective than brand, product, price or communications when it comes to retaining customer relationship.

However, pre-fix either outcome with ‘immediate’ and you have a recipe for disaster. We worked on an assignment where one of the main international consultancies whispered into the CEO’s ear that CX should deliver incremental commercial gain within three months. So the CEO informed the board. The board informed the group. The group told the business to deliver it. So it became a race to the bottom with everyone searching for short-term gains. Two years later I’m not sure they’ve moved forward at all.

In this paper we will demonstrate even though ‘short cuts’ exist in CX, they result in a short-lived focus on customer and long-term damage to the business.

The silver bullet is not it seems to be. After all it is famed for sleighing werewolves; itself a mythical creature which has no place in the our world. Certainly not customer experience.

a) The short-fall of using CX to deliver immediate performance improvement

The parallels with brand investment and return are relevant on more than one level. If the brand team were told, “we need some quick sales to flow from you brand investment now at any cost” what would they do? If there existence depended on, they may well ditch the focus of reaffirming their unique differentiating positioning using emotional and rational engagement to create meaningful existence in their customers lives. But instead opt for slashing prices, being everywhere and shouting ‘free’.

The reaction of the CX team wouldn’t be too different. They’d dive for short cuts to demonstrate return. Short cuts such as giving customers refunds rather than fixing root causes creating mistakes (to pacify NPS) or remove personnel who engage in dialogue with customers until a resolution is achieved rather than drive queries through e mail only with 72 hour response times. Such short cuts aren’t providing a better outcome for the customer. Whilst ticks appear on the business performance report, customers will be left less satisfied and move their custom elsewhere, barking about your business. Like the brand team you will have killed the very thing you aimed to invest in for the future of the business.

Technology troubles

Technology seeps into customer experience at every level. From feedback surveys, to mapping software, to text analytics, to social listening tools all the way through to improvements driven tech such as web chat avatars and personalised pricing QR codes. It’s all good stuff. But efficiency shouldn’t be achieved at the detriment of quality and understanding.

cx 5 word cloudLet’s take text analytics. When you are dealing with a mass of customer data, such as 400 hotels feedback or 200 supermarkets, the thought of wading through every customer response is challenging. The truth is the real time required to cover this (assuming a minimum of 50+ comments per location per session) means you’d never get out of the ‘VoC’ lab! However, throw it all into a sentiment sensitive text analytics mixing bowl and you will find what you have is a blended version of the truth.

Story telling is a key component of customer experience. Customers want to tell you their story. Reducing this outpouring to a word means the power, the passion and the potency is lost.

For example, “My wife and I had looked forward to the break because it would be a treat for our 4 year old as a well done for starting school. Sadly on arrival the pool was under renovation due to an scheduled building work. It was heart breaking for all of us because we’d spent weeks getting our daughter excited about the idea of learning to swim now she’d started school. If our expectations had been better managed, we could have chosen another hotel on this occasion. Instead you’ve lost our custom forever.”

When you read this through, you feel the parental pain and child’s heartbreak. As well as recognising the consequential impact of not managing guests expectation. By not updating the website or informing those who have already booked, bad will has been created.

Would you recognise this with an effective text analytics system? What you might have returned is NEGATIVE | BREAK | POOL BUILDING | LOST. It’s a weaker picture with no sense of what needed to be done.  In our view customer feedback reviewing is the hard yards needed to understand issues and their impact fully.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share the load around. We have found VoC sessions can be great ways to get more people within an organisation engaged with customers. All that is needed is a standard operating framework.

Praising individuals rather than improvements

We’ve come across programmes which focus on rewarding positive outcomes which is great it encourages participation.  However, where the individual is rewarded for an NPS idea before it’s performance has been realised. This only encourages ideas which have no grounding in reality. But rewarding an individual when an idea is live means most ideas are short-term fixes which is not desirable. CX should deliver sustainable improvements.

cx 5 cool ideasIt’s worth remembering that NPS is not a performance measure it’s a measure which informs performance. Customer experience is a philosophy not a project. In the above example we would recommend placing effort on rewarding the improvements that delivers the uplift in NPS over time, identifying other areas across the customer experience where it can be repeated and recognising those behind the improvement. Save the rewards to end of year ceremonies or annual appraisal demonstrations of ‘acting in the interest of customers’

b) Using CX to deliver immediate competitor differentiation

We spoke in part 2 of this 5 part series about how a brand must fix what’s broken and then build a better customer experience. And that making what matters most to customers better through values of the brand achieves brand differentiation in CX which creates competitive advantage when delivered well

However, many are tempted to jump the layers. But jumping layers doesn’t work. Making things enjoyable when the basics are still broken is a shortcoming of the naive customer experience strategist, or one under pressure from the board to deliver. It’s seen as cosmetic by employees who will class it as ‘lip service’ and they will then stop believing in the customer too.

Customers will quickly see through your papered over the cracks

cx 5 old ladyAnd customers themselves quickly see through inferior or fob off solutions, becoming cynical of the motive and more frustrated with your brand. A CEO reportedly took a bunch of flowers to an elderly lady who had complained about his company’s service. As a PR stunt it was positioned as a, ‘Showing We Care’ exercise to demonstrate warmth comes from the top. However, the flowers were viewed as a cover up by the customer who told the CEO she wanted resolution to her issue, not flowers. A resolution the CEO had to concede he didn’t know how to fix!

Have faith, differentiation can be achieved through customer experience. www.zappos.com is a brand arguably more famous for their customer experience excellence than the ladies shoes the retail.

Getting it right means delivering in a coordinated manner aligned with business priorities. To fulfill the customer’s expectations and then exceed will them creates a positive customer noise and advocacy as well as internal support. This takes time. Ryanair know those 15 years of low cost, no frills budget airline positioning won’t be reversed with a national TV ad and a new website. But they are starting with basics. They are rolling their sleeves up and investing the time needed. These efforts take years to turn around. But with a positioning of 250th in the Nunwood Customer Experience Experts UK league, it’s going to be along haul.

Proving the case to the board to get the investment to differentiate

One of the most challenging but most rewarding undertakings is to correlate customer experience improvement (often recorded as NPS or CSAT) with the business performance targets. Like proving the value of sponsorship towards sales and brand equity, it’s not easy, but the links are there.

You should in any business case for a CX programme how the performance measures will change, including brand profile and market share. But to propose brand metrics will move early in the programme leads to problems later on. It takes time and requires customer performance patterns to build up before it starts to come through.

Our advice would be to first look for connections between improvements and a range of easy to identify measures such as:

  • Reduced cost to serve,
  • Drop in negative social feedback on specific issues,
  • High levels of claimed advocacy,
  • Reduced level of drop out from ‘not proceed with’ during sales process,
  • Uplift in usage patterns from loyal customers,
  • Usage of more effective channels,
  • Preferred to competitor equivalent experience

cx 5 many thumbs upFirst, see which of these marketers measures the customer experience improvements affects. Then use these small wins to gain confidence internally, not least of all the Heads of Brand, Propositions and Communication. You will need these stakeholders to commit their budget to build experience as priority component of their focus. They also often hold the budget you will need to promote the differentiation. Differentiation will be driven from within.

Like all of the 5 points raised in this series, this is all very manageable. Critically with customer experience it’s the experience of the team which will determine the success of the strategy.

At Lexden, we find a blend of enthusiasm and a fundamental understanding of how things work from the client blended with our team’s decades of customer experience development across various sectors and borders ensures we have the right synergies to achieve a best in class solution for every specific engagement.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the series. Lexden’s Best Practice Customer Value Propositions series is available free from www.lexdengroup.wordpress.com

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.

 

The communication weak spot in customer experience

Whilst marketing communications is just one of the ways Customer Experience can be demonstrated, it is often overlooked and the impact it has on customers not fully appreciated. There is little excuse for not getting customer experience right when it comes to communications, especially with the information feed from the CRM system and the ability of the data experts to translate it into meaningful insight.

In this blog we bring you two examples highlighting the impact on CX when communications aren’t aligned.

cx delivery channels The challenge for the customer experience, data analysts and communication teams should be figuring out how to make the communications a brand differentiating experience. In order to achieve this all aspects of the experience (of which communications is a very visible one to customers) must be beautifully aligned and complimentary to achieving a defined customer experience vision.

But let’s get real. Let’s get back to a world where the promotional communications are sent when customers don’t expect, need or want them. A world where products and services are released promising betterment but fall short or fail to even use communications effectively to get past shortfalls.

Typically these ‘glitches’ occur because of a poorly integrated communication strategy. Getting it right isn’t that challenging if everyone has ‘customer’ central to their planning.

Here are our suggestions on how to align communications with customer experience:

1. Make sure you communicate ‘what matters most to your customers’, in a format they prefer to consume, rather than what matters most to you through your most commercially efficient communication channel.

2. Make sure you know where your customer is in the buying process (easier for B2B to achieve, but equally important to D2C and B2B2C).

3. Only launch propositions, products and offers when they are adding meaningful value to customers by taking them forward in their lives. Otherwise expect your PR resource to be spent compensating for your brands lack of customer understanding.

Stick to these when devising communication plans and it will ensure customer experience and communication budget isn’t wasted nor brand equity eroded.  With this is mind we bring you two recent examples demonstrating what happens when you ignore this advice.

The airport emails that lets the customer experience down

Sending the wrong message during the customer relationship leaves the customer feeling confused; ‘I thought you knew me, but this proves you don’t’. This example from Stansted Airport landed in my inbox. It told me I could fly from Stansted to hundreds of destinations. I knew that – I was actually away on holiday at the time having used Stansted Airport in the previous week to travel to my destination and returning there in a few days. So there was a good chance I’d seen the array of destinations on the departure and arrival boards or through various websites when I’d been checking out flight options.

stansted2The shame of this poorly timed email is that at the time of travel, my wife and I had commented when we travelled how relaxing Stansted Airport was compared to some airports. We went as far to say they really understand how to look after their passengers when they travel.

The email diminished that positive feeling created from the customer experience. To make matters worse when I sent a note to the sender explaining the situation to help them with their communication planning, I received a new communication offering car parking discounts. I only live 15 minutes away.

It highlights unless the communication planning is aligned the investment in customer experience will be wasted and returns fall short of expectations.

The Box which isn’t fit for purpose

Who doesn’t like to relax and listen to music on holiday? Me and my family do. The advertising for Blink Box Music had caught my attention and the customer reviews hadn’t put me off. I decided to trial the free option with the intention of a subscription if it worked out. I created a small library of tracks which took about an hour so we were set. Most importantly I was able to cross something off the holiday list much to my wife’s surprise and gratitude.

Fast forward to the holiday in France. Day one and I opened up Blink Box full of anticipation. Instead of the fruits of my invested time I was greeted with this message.

blinkbox3 #disappointing

The message itself is jovial enough, but because it hasn’t been made clear when I set up the account, it wasn’t the right tone of empathy. I also was on holiday and not living in France which did frustrate me because I’d input my home details to activate the account so BlinkBox know I’m not living abroad.

I checked and buried as Point 17 in the T&C’s, there is reference to territorial coverage. If earlier in the experience BlinkBox had posed, ‘how are you intending to use BlinkBox?’ it would have saved time and effort, ensured my expectations were managed and kept the reputation of the business for me, in tact.

However, the anticipation and experience of the service as an alternative to itunes, is undermined by not presenting the ‘limitations’ up front. Which is why knowing ‘what matters most’ to your customers and fulfilling these criteria is critical in communications for brands which embark upon customer experience as a differentiation.

Tesco as a brand does has a ‘customer first. Profits follow’ philosophy. These are classic growing pains of bestowing values to sub-brands, but as much as they may hope it wont, it does impact consumer perceptions of the mother brand and suggests that the brand has over stretched this time.

Keep communications in line if you hope to exploit customer experience fully

For customer experience to be employed as an asset and a differentiating advantage, all parts of the business must be aligned and follow the CX strategy. Communications, like Customer Service and Complaints have always had a closer relationship with the customer than others, so will be the most challenging areas to get to fall in line.

But without their alignment, investment into customer experience and customer propositions to create advantage instead of relying on price will always be compromised. Sadly the FD wont see or care about this when reviewing the overall return of a CX strategy investment. Either get all communications aligned or run the risk of CX being ditched as ineffective in favour of the less sustainable pricing approach once more.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Strategy Consultant

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.