Tag Archives: #lexdenthinking

Free Customer Experience Progress Assessment

As independent Customer Experience Consultants, we have launched a free Customer Experience Programme Assessment tool to help clients review their internal practices against several areas where alignment is required to achieve distinction through customer experience.

We see the benefit to you as follows:

  • Identify the key areas involved in progressing CX
  • Identify where you are ahead or behind others in terms of your CX progress
  • Assess what progress looks like, to ensure you are good shape to get there
  • Help you assess where you are ahead of any resource decisions coming up
  • Get a quick read (within 3 days) with minimum impact on the business
  • Provide current state insight which you can share with others helping you take CX forward
  • Validate or challenge advice and recommendations received from current CX partners
  • Receive an independent observation separate to any vendor supported opinions

As independents we have no invested interest in the outcome

We include consideration of feedback platforms and other technologies alongside the other key areas of CX rather than the focus as is often the case with vendor assessments. We are in the business of best practice guidance and effective advice rather than tech solutions. So our report provides you with a broader appreciation of how far you’ve progressed.

Each of the key practice areas (such as channel management, accountability, tech, adoption, measurement and culture) are graded from ‘Unaware’ to ‘Differentiating. The grading is based on Lexden’s extensive experience in setting up and improving clients CX programmes. Your progress is plotted accordingly with an output report highlighting your overall progress and breaking this down across key areas. A comparison of your performance to other companies is also made across each area.

More than one assessment per company can be completed. This means you can use the approach to gauge the variance in perceptions of CX progress across the business between different individuals, levels, roles, departments, locations or even brands in a group set up. Let us know if this is the intended purpose and we will aggregate results as well as supply specific reports.

Click this link to the survey which will take 10-15 minutes to complete. Information collected is confidential. Once the assessment is complete we will confirm this and forward the output within 3 days.

How to achieve 600% from your Customer Experience Programme

If you are looking for something more comprehensive we also provide a robust assessment of the profitability level your CX programme is achieving, bench-marked against over 1,000 organisations. Adapting the award winning CX Typology(c) Measuring Customer Experience research of Dr Professor Phil Klaus, we assess your current programme against 47 practice points. Arriving at a score, CXPPA (Customer Experience Programme Profitability Assessments) pin points where improvements in your programme should be focused, and how to align your actions to those of organisation who are driving 600% more from their CX programmes. To receive more information on this exclusive assessment please contact us.

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.

If you’ve got a CX challenge, see if we can help.

Showing the Human Side of (n)Power

npower’s Head of Customer Experience explains how customers are taking centre stage in the business

The utility sector has been through some tough times, with press scrutiny, regulatory pressure and customers who are starting to vote with their feet, but despite this backdrop npower, spearheaded by Kelly Iles (Head of Customer Experience), is determined to embed a customer first strategy in order to gain back the trust of customers in the energy sector.

Kelly Iles,Christopher Brooks, Managing Director from Lexden Customer Strategy Consultants caught up with Kelly to find out just what npower has in store for its customers.

Christopher: You’ve been with npower since 2012. It’s a sector which is striving to provide better customer experience and has a way to go in this space. As head of customer experience at npower, what are your key responsibilities in driving npower’s customer agenda forward?

Kelly: We have come a long way, npower has put a lot of focus and effort into making it better for our customers but it’s fair to say there’s still much more work to do. Our mission to achieve this should never stop. My team’s remit is to be the voice of the customer, championing what they want, need and deserve. I have the accountability and authority to set our customer experience improvement agenda which for us right now is getting back to the basics and delivering the energy experience that customers expect. This means addressing core processes, people capability, systems, communications as well as changing the culture of the organisation. It’s a pretty full on role!

Christopher: Already I can tell you are clearly passionate about customer experience, what do you find most interesting about CX?

Kelly: I love the fact that CX touches every facet of the business. There are no hiding places; all areas of the business are involved in the delivery of a seamless experience and to make it work, activities need to bring business and functional silo’s together, which has always been a management challenge.

Christopher: So what is your ‘customer first’ ambition for the company? 

Kelly: We’ve only been serious about building CX capability in the last 3 years. It requires a wholesale business transformation and we continue to move through the different stages of maturity. Whilst this started as a programme ultimately building an enduring capability and culture as well as a well-recognised discipline is our aim.
The core stages are; 1) building a customer insight capability – to understand the issues are customers experience and to measure our progress and performance, 2) map the customer journey to understand when, how and why these issues occur, 3) build and execute an effective improvement plan and finally, 4) embed the methodology, approach, ethos, and culture so that it becomes everyone’s responsibility.

Christopher: What’s driving CX up the utility sector’s agenda?

Kelly: CX has become a core priority across the entire sector. As choice widens, customers become less inert this results in, energy providers have margins being squeezed and commoditisation increased, however for sustainable growth pricing can’t be the only answer. As a result providers are recognising that offering a good service may mean customers are less likely to shop around and might move away from choosing their provider based solely upon price.
Ultimately retention of customers becomes key and delivering a great experience will help to build long standing sustainable customer relationships.

Christopher: In the insurance sector the metric is ‘effort’. In a sector such as utility which is very much an essential service, what are the priority areas of CX improvement to impress customers?

Kelly: Opportunities to delight and impress customers are far less than in other sectors such as retailers. Like insurance firms, the key is to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with us, effortless in fact. Developments such as SMART and the introduction of digital technology for example our new energy app allows our customers to track usage, manage their energy usage and ultimately keep costs as low as possible. For us it gives an opportunity to build engagement with our customers as well as giving us data that can be used to build a better picture of our customers upon which to offer more targeted products and services.

Christopher: It sounds as if there is much going on, can you give me an example of a one of those improvements made for customers?

Kelly: Listening to our customers we understood the anxiety that a house move creates. During any home move, Customers have lots of other things to sort. Managing their change of energy to their new property is the least of their priorities. as well as their energy. Our processes made customers contact us at a time suitable to us and we were only prepared to process Home moves by our telephone channel. Ultimately we quickly realised we could do a lot to make this process much less effort and one less thing to worry about at the time of the move. As a result we’ve digitised the whole journey and removed the restrictive contact window so that customers can inform us of their home move when it suits them. At the same time we built key checkpoints so we are able to reassure the customer that everything is going through as planned.

Christopher: You’ve mentioned a number of customer improvements being made. Where do the drivers for improvement come from?
npower

Kelly: Our Voice of the Customer programme is complimented by our Voice of the People and Voice of the Process programmes. This gives us a complete view on what’s happening to both our customers, our people and why. By bringing together multiple data sources and developing insight, we are able to clearly see the priority customer issues that need to be addressed. Our focus is on what matters to the customer.

Christopher: What are the contributors to your CX programme you value the most?

Kelly: There are many areas, but three I’ll highlight. Firstly, it needs the support and buyin from the snr leadership team which will ensure that CX remains on the agenda. The leadership team need to take ownership, set the agenda and ensure followership. Secondly, our people on the ground. These are the team that deliver the experience to the customer day in, day out. They also know what the issues are and often how to fix them. Listening, empowering and giving them the accountability to make a difference for customers is vital.
Finally, the ability to upskill and embed CX capability into the DNA of the organisation. For this I look to my team who have the right skills and expertise to work across the business and define what good looks like. This could be practically how you delivery change in a customer centric way right through to building the right operational lead metrics to monitor and evaluate CX change.

Christopher: Are you pleased with the progress you are making?

Kelly: We’ve come a long way but CX isn’t a project, it doesn’t stop. There is always a better way to serve the customer. Real-time feedback as a measure shows the power of ‘in the moment’ feedback. It gives you the opportunity to address a poor experience and to build advocacy through heroic recovery activity. To take a customer whose expectations haven’t been met and then exceed offersa powerful opportunity to build loyalty.

Christopher: Who do you look to for customer first thinking inspiration?

Kelly: For me, I think those companies who just make the whole interaction effortless impress me the most. The AA breakdown service – I was on my own when I found myself stuck on a side of a road, they asked me specifically whether I was accompanied and then applied a very targeted to experience based upon my situation; text updates to manage what’s going on and even a message to help me recognise the recovery vehicle (driver flicking his lights)importantly it was executed perfectly and against the expectations met.

Christopher: CX is evolving fast, what do you think the major trends in your sector will be?

Kelly: The winners in the industry will be those who get the basics right, make interacting with the company seamless and then ongoing, build a proactive relationship with the customer that he or she values. Using data and insight will be key so we can put customers back in control. Ultimately, helping them to manage their energy more effectively.

kelly iles 1Christopher: it’s been so insightful, your passion is infectious and your expertise evident. So how could you help an organisation just waking up to the potential of customer experience?

Kelly: Okay, so I’d have to say strong leadership is key. It can get ugly and you need to be prepared to go through the journey. Leaders need to believe and recognise the phases you will go through. They will also help ensure you get your message out there in the organisation. Also it takes time – there are no short cuts. Many organisations transformation programmes can take up to 10 years. Perhaps most important of all, be relentless in your quest. Never give up. It’shard work but the rewards are great.

Christopher: Kelly that’s great. I’ve seen you at the CX Awards, so you are obviously doing the right things. It’s been a pleasure hearing more about where you’ve come from and where you are going. All the best with your mission. Thank you.

This article is published in the CXM (Customer Experience Magazine)http://cxm.co.uk/showing-the-human-side-of-npower/

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.

 

Is being ‘So Money Supermarket’ always a good thing?

I was at my brother’s 40th birthday celebrations at the weekend. As the evening drew in and the beers were flowing, as happens at important milestones in life, you begin discussing what really makes the world go round and what is important in life.

Of course the first point that came up was happiness. About being happy in the moment and leaving those you meet happier than when before they met you and giving back more to the society than you take from it. Money was not mentioned and nor was keeping up with the Jones’s next door which often comes up in research focus groups. I was surprised the money point was not mentioned so raised it. My brothers’ friend Dave laughed. Apparently he has a neighbour they call ‘Money-Super-Moron’, this is his story;

msmMoney Super Moron (MSM) spends weekend after weekend searching online for the best deals on anything he is looking at purchasing. My brother’s friend knows this because their raised garden means they can easily see into the neighbour’s conservatory where the computer is and because the MSMs kids are always round his house because their Dad never ‘has time’ to play with them.

Dave said that recently MSM was looking for travel insurance deals. He apparently spent all morning shopping around for the best deal while Dave, his kids, MSM kids and other neighbours went to the park to play cricket. Everyone returned from cricket for lunch and an afternoon of den building. Everyone except MSM. In the afternoon they heard him ranting on the phone. The insurance he’d bought, whilst cheap, didn’t cover what he needed so he was trying to get it sorted.

So Dave spent time in his garden. Dave put smiles on his own children’s faces and made his neighbour’s children smile too. Dave returned to work on Monday feeling like he’d had a decent fulfilling weekend. MSM bought travel insurance he didn’t want, albeit a few pounds cheaper, and drove the wedge of resentment between him and his children even deeper.

So whose so moneysupermarket now?

There are many causes which have created this warped sense of what’s most important in life. And to blame a comparison site or Martin Lewis alone is unfair.

Everyone has a different register of what’s valuable to them. If for MSM, and his type, saving a few beans is more important than quality time with his family, so be it. This is largely influenced by where you come from, where you have got to, where you want to get to and your surrounding influences. To the uber rich, truth is the most valued commodity. But to the poorest in society hope is a valuable commodity.  There’s no fixed answer.

nationwide curr accWhen I said to my wife recently that we’d need to consider travel insurance for our forthcoming family holiday to Turkey my wife reminded me we are covered under the package with her Nationwide bank account. And that’s as long as our search took. Two things raced through our minds (without us aware they did) in those few seconds:

  1. We trust it will be good enough cover for us because it’s from Nationwide, a brand who have always done right by us
  2. If there is a like for like cheaper policy out there from a brand we equally trust, why would we waste time to find it and set it up when we could be doing more meaningful things in life

Time is our most precious asset so ‘bundled accounts’ work for us.

MSM types might think they are smart and savvy. Marketing departments may label them as such too. But I think given the MSM experience, I suggest knowing where to invest time to get the most meaningful fulfilment is the true definition of smart and savvy.

With that in mind, I’m returning to the garden!

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Strategy & 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.

Unordinary Thinking No.44 – Is the lost glove theory the ultimate customer loyalty strategy?

Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison TolmanI was watching the concluding part of Fargo this weekend. It’s no Breaking Bad, but it has had threads of steel holding it all together and brilliant casting in Billy Bob Thornton as the commercially astute and emotionally cold assassin, Martin Freeman as the hapless insurance salesman anti-hero and Alison Tolman as the dogmatic everyday saviour. It contained many deep and sometimes amusing anecdotes used as references to highlight the way the characters lived their lives. In the final episode there was a story about a lost glove not being a lost cause. As soon as the generosity of the act sunk in it triggered a curiosity in me which was, ‘Could this be repeated in business?’ The story  went something like this….

“A man boards a train. He sits in his seat and looks out of the window at the platform he’s just walked down. There on the floor he sees a glove similar to his own. He checks his pocket to discover he only has one glove. Realising what has happened he immediately rises from his seat with the intention of retrieving the glove.

As he does the train starts to move away slowly. It’s a lost cause.

In a split second, he opens the window and throws the other glove out on to the platform. It lands next to the lost glove. Seeing where it settles the man smiles and sits back down.

The passenger opposite him quizzes, “Why did you throw your glove out of the window?” The gloveless man replies, “I can’t enjoy one glove. But perhaps someone else can now enjoy two”.

Does this model play out in the world of business?

We have ‘throw away’ food bins in supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda. But this is less about the store contributing and more about the shopper contributing. It’s also about a considered charitable donation rather than a charitable donation driven by the shoppers own loss.

tesco voucherWe also have supermarkets offering a ‘brand match’ redemption coupon against a future purchase because their competitors are cheaper. It’s good for the customer, along as the customer wants to shop in their store again. So whilst they accept they’ve lost out to another brand (on price), the objective is to still keep the customer.

It might not always work. On a recent trip to Tesco the brand match on our shop was over £7. It prompted my wife to comment, “Goodness, that’s more than a little worse, perhaps I should not shop there anymore”. So this model may well drive the customer to the competition, but that wasn’t the intention of the promotion.

So do models exist where businesses improve a competitor’s outcomes ahead of their own interests because it’s in the best interest of their customers?

The concept of putting customers at the heart of the business is alien to most economic schools of thought. And the concept of handing customers over to the competition is seen as lunacy even to the most liberally minded CMO.

Meet Zappos, where happiness drives customer first thinking

That is unless you are Zappos. The online shoe retailer from the US is perhaps now more famous for their service than their shoes. CEO, Tony Hiesh promotes that Zappos ‘deliver happiness’ and is ‘powered by service’.

zapposThose involved in CX will know Zappos well. They along with Disney and Amazon are heralded as the kings of customer experience. Along with the Disney Institute, Zappos has it’s own customer experience academy. Like Disney it’s open to all.

So it was unsurprising that I found the example I was looking for to prove the lost glove theory in business.

Here is how it works…

…if a customer calls up for a pair of shoes that Zappos doesn’t have in stock or sell, their call centre operators will track down a competitor who has the shoes in stock and transfer the customer to them.

An economist might shudder at the thought. The seasoned customer experience  practioner might call it genius. Genius because customers referred onward spend a reported twice as much on their next purchase from Zappos whilst telling as others about the integrity of the brand.

It does feel unnatural to push customers away, especially towards the competitor. That is unless you take the unordinary view that the customer relationship is not defined by sales but by commitment to the brand. The customer will experience a lesser quality service with the competitor, reminding them of Zappos strength and bringing them back for their next purchase.

This generosity demonstrates confidence in the Zappos brand whilst putting customers 100% at the heart of their decision making.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Strategy & 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 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.

 

How to start a Customer Experience Strategy: 4/5 Remember, once you are in, you are in!

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? It made me think. The lessons we have learnt have ensured we don’t start off on the wrong foot. Having pondered 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

4. Once you are in, you are all in and you are in for the long haul if you intend to profit

We typically find brands will move through many levels of customer experience improvement (see Branded Customer Improvement Model below) before they really reap the competitive advantage of customer experience investment. Some sectors require lesser effort; such as airlines and retail and some more; such as utilities and telecoms.

Either way it’s something that needs to be explained at board level if you are hoping to see the plan through. Expectations need to be managed. I recall a utility being informed by a major management consultancy return would be seen in 3 months. 3 years later and they are still at the foot of the customer satisfaction leagues.

Working through the levels allows the brand to make connections with the customer at an appropriate level depending on how broken the experience is. It may need to be on a functional level first. This means fixing the stuff that irritates customers the most – issues they probably consider an absolute basic for a business to trade in that sector. With these repaired and hopefully some credibility with customers restored the business can start to fulfill on a rational level (through efficiency and integrity) before ultimately developing an emotional connection with the customer through an enjoyable and differentiating relationship. When we say emotional we mean the brand is fulfilling the customers deep rooted inner drivers in life (such as achievement, growth and legacy); be these every day requirements or more significant purchases.

Understanding what matters most to customers is key in this respect. Functional fulfilment is extremely difficult to sustain a differentiated positioning on, which is why even the latest technology brands move from function to emotional connections.

customer triangle

Diagram: Customer Experience Improvement levels

Aiming low – less intrusion, moderate investment and stay in business

If you are in it to just fix negative feedback then the left hand side of the diagram should be the focus. Focus on replicating what the better practioners do and you will find complaints reduce and NPS scores improve (less detractors and more passives). I’d call this a passive strategy and anyone embarking upon it should point out its limitations to those approving it before you start.

Does it work? Yes – albeit a survival position rather than thrive. But well supported with an employee engagement programme to root out poor internal practices that lead to these low NPS or complaints, and an ongoing PR strategy reaffirming the firms adherence to sector standards for customer experience and you will probably get back what you put in.

If that’s the ambition avoid the right hand side of the diagram otherwise you will over engineer solutions and over invest in quality of customer experience improvements which other parts of the business haven’t signed up to replicating. This leads to an inconsistent experience which means the brand is ultimately compromised.

That might seem like a simple undertaking and whilst we have found functional projects like this that can last just a month when there is a specific problem to fix, there are still unforeseen barriers which take time and investment too. For instance MI may not be available or organised in a way that can be extracted to understand scale of impact and the type of consequential behavioural change in consumers occuring following poor customer experience. In this scenario, at best an analyst locked away for a couple of weeks is needed. More likely it means a small team of analysts, new analytics kit and bids for resource slots on an already over booked IT prioritisation schedule to get traction.

It’s also a challenge to get employees to commit to change if the fix is recommended in isolation of any CX vision. Made all the more challenging if reducing complaints and increasing NPS performance aren’t tied to employee performance.

We have seen industries such as financial services taking this approach when they’ve been needed to adopt new regulation (such as TCF). In these cases what passes for customer experience is that which will keep the business the right side of the regulator. Which is fine, but it’s not optimising the commercial and competitive advantage of customer experience. It also makes it harder to implement later because employees have seen the ‘quick-fix’ option previously employed.

Aiming high – more disruption and greater investment delivering sustainable returns

Setting out to differentiate on customer experience is life changing for a business. It’s a philosophy rather than a project. It also means every single action and intention is directed around a customer vision (key foundation stone for any CX strategy), which means outcomes are invariably built with customer betterment, colleague ease and business benefit baked in. It also means the business understanding what really matters to customers and building an experience which fulfils this is in a meaningful way that differentiates the brand firm it’s competitors. Which means no other can replicate it because it has the essence and the values of the brand baked in.

Each level passed through impacts the entire business. Jumping levels can be fraught with bear traps. For instance, if a third party is controlling a very basic IVR router and you pass over this to get to the call handling, which the business controls, efforts in this area will be undermined if the IVR router creates an initial poor customer experience. It seems obvious but too often businesses will jump to the ‘make a difference’ space without forensically analysing every step in the customer journey. When the cultural mind-set is set to ‘in it for the long haul’ the customer experience team have space to investigate these critical areas. So along with improvements it requires a heavy helping of supporting ‘culture engagement’ and ‘governance’.

If the ideas to improve customer experience are to land as intended and drive customer advocacy and loyalty (which drive the business performance) they also need to energise and inspire internal stakeholders along the way to see the value of putting customers first. This requires investment of time from HR, internal comms, the board, the continuous change team and many more. For the customer experience team to win over these stakeholders they need to demonstrate the business is ‘in it for the long haul’ so that training programmes can be updated, inductions reviewed, internal comms dominated etc etc.

But established, launched and managed correctly, the direction of travel is upwards in terms of reaching and winning business on a ‘differentiating’ model, upwards in terms of NPS and CSAT performance, upwards in terms being known for esteem and value and upwards in terms of Business Value Creation.

Business Value Creation for CX means – Lower cost to serve + attract better quality customers so reduce cost of acquisition + therefore able to divert marketing spend to nurturing, growing and retaining existing business.

Again a significant strategic shifts in thinking is  required. Customer Experience challenges conventional business models, so the customers experience team’s proposal must be clear and the board (and all those who are key to delivering an improved customers experience) need to be fully aware of the commitment they will need to make gain the riches. This is a challenge if you haven’t done it before.

So we’d suggest building a Target Operating Model with a few check points and contingency considerations built in (such as extra analytical support required allowance). It’s how we approach a new project (alongside the activities from the other 4 papers on starting a customer experience strategy). It will ensure the CFO, the CEO and the CMO know what they are signing up to and gain their much needed support when you start to make inroads and climb the pyramid.

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 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook  and Twitter @consultingchris.

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.