Tag Archives: VoC

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)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Are we compromising customer experience in pursuit of customer feedback?

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

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

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

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

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

Is quality sacrificed for quality?

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

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

Doubling up. Dumbing down.

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

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

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

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

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

Whose benefit is it for after all?

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

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

Listening but not hearing what really matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will the 2017 Voice of the Customer priorities be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Consultant, Lexden

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

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

The triple value from VoC – are you getting yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

First layer of value – ‘What’ customers feedback

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

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

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

Beware feedback programmes which don’t offer this flexibility.

Second layer of value – How customers feedback

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

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

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

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

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

Third layer of value – why customers feedback

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

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

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

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

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

Lexden provides Customer Experience Strategy and Management support to clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

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

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

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: 2/5 Start with the company, not the customer

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 used by short lived programmes

2. If it’s the company that wants to be more customer-centric start with them, not the customer

When a company decides ‘customer’ should be more central in its decision making we found it has arrived at this conclusion driven by one of four motivations; cause, compliance, commercial or competitive – more detail on meaning and examples available from Lexden.

Knowing where it originated is critical because understanding which motivation drives the decision to be more customer-focused should influence the approach, framework and governance the business should adopt in structuring a customer experience strategy.

Sadly, this is a very early decision point many business’ miss. To think the starting point should be the customer and how they feel is logical. But misguided, or rather too purist for a commercial climate which is demanding of performance based progress overnight and pinpoint tangible evidence of accountability engraved in a silver bullet. Presenting the case is critical. Trying to deliver this by evidencing the state of CSAT scores or negative feedback verbatim won’t cut it with the even the most emotionally accommodating CFO’s.

The customer strategy needs to be presented on a like for like business case comparison with other decision about productivity, growth and investment.

Being passionate about putting customers first still needs a supporting business case to get buy-in

We work across several borders and in many sectors. Everywhere our findings are the same; the starting point is the same;  the commercial value of a customer strategy. To achieve this, when Lexden are engaged to bring to life or improve a client’s customer strategy, we start by diagnosing the following:

Lexden's CX Diagnostics Tool Kit

  1. BUSINESS MOTIVATION | What’s driving the decision to be more customer focused
  2. CURRENT STATE | Where the business is in terms of its journey to being customer focused (culture temperature check*, capability assessment and commitment to customer improvements)
  3. MARKET VALUE | Market expectation, appetite and opportunity for differentiation by experience
  4. FUTURE STATE | What is a realistic ambition (which business performance measure will CX drive upwards)
  5. CX STRATEGY & TOM | From which a CX Target Operating Model is formulated highlighting what needs to be done, in which order and how it should be done to realise the potential

*Additional point – if the business fails to provide a colleague experience which engages enhanced commitment to the brand and advocacy over others, how can the business expect its colleagues to think or behave in a similar way with their customers? Often this proves to be a game changer in terms of adoption of customer-centric thinking within an organisation to miss this point and not build it into the Target Operating Model will undermine the entire strategy.  

The outcome of the diagnosis phase provides a new view to the business on the current state reality, the future state potential of customer focused strategies and a proven development programme to take them there.

It’s from this sound foundation the customer experience strategy should begin if the business is to provide the best possible experience improvements to the advantage of customers, colleagues, the business and the bottom line alike.

In summary, to put customers first, first the business must get its own house in order.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

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

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

If you like what you’ve read 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 

Unordinary Thinking No. 41 – Cash in on childish complaints

We work with clients who are looking to improve the experience they provide their customers. Some are well on their journey and are looking to ensure their ‘branded experience’ creates differentiation from their competitors. Others are on the start of their journey having recognised that increased satisfied customers lead to sustainable revenues at a lower cost margin.

With these different stages of customer centricity in mind, it is important to match the resource types you employ to steer and deliver improvements to the stage you are at. Ops folk are great at fixing broken process (reducing detractors), but marketers have some advantage when it comes to building a differentiated experience (increase promoters).

But whatever stage of maturity your CX programme is at, it pays to always keep an eye open for those rare little gems that can give a boost to your programme by reminding everyone just how easy it can be to create warmth towards your brand. Which as we know encourages consideration for those in the market.

And there’s no better place to start than among the Voice of The Customer feedback to look for the fun you can generate from complaints. Unordinary Thinking indeed as it’s not something for the legally constrained in thinking. Which is why we recommend letting the content marketers and your brand experts trawl through what they can find. They will find opportunity in the feedback where others find cause for concern. Not forgetting resolution is a key customer attribute so that part of any dissatisfied customer feedback found will still always need attention.

wbac letter

Making fun of a complaint

We came across this example of such an opportunity at a recent customer experience conference when it was presented as a classic case of the brand putting business policy before brand personality. It’s a complaint from a customer who asked webuyanycar.com for a valuation on their child’s Little Tyke car. It fell in the wrong hands first time round with a snooty response requesting the enquirer to not waste the businesses time which soon found it’s way on to the internet.

But that meant it appeared in someone else’s feedback pot at WBAC and this time the customer centric thinking employee responded with a sense of the spirit that the brand can convey. The outcome (which should have been presented first time around)…..webuyanytoycar.com was born. For a few ‘shillings’ (looking at the website it would be surprising if it cost more than that) they’ve trying to get a big impact from a small idea, a complaint in fact. The promise was to buy 1000 toy cars for £10 each and then rehouse them at hospitals, hospices and homes where they would be much appreciated; a charitable response. It highlights what a little unordinary thinking can achieve when you take negative news and add a little personality. Even if you are a second hand car sales brand. The content allows consumers another way in to the brand and the execution helps improve a positive association with the brand which leads to higher levels of consideration – all good news for the ‘sales’ funnel.

wbatc

These opportunities land in the inbox and in tray of companies every week. The trick is to see the opportunity that exists within them and to accept the time taken to make them a reality is still an investment into the customer.

There’s a great saying attributed to Mary Angelou, poet and leading figure in the American Civil Rights Movement, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Which if that means my positive emotional response replaces the still lingering negative bilious feeling I had when I first saw the old ad campaign, I will be very grateful!

wbac

Another opportunity to cash in on a complaint

I have found a similar opportunity on a Facebook feed which is a reference posted by a chap who is organising a trip to the world children’s choir championship for his choir. But he had so much trouble trying to block book 70 flights with a low cost airline brand they nearly didn’t get there. He’s promised to feature the brand in his press release which is due to follow the finals. Can the brand turn this around? Absolutely. And the marketers among you probably have some ideas forming around what you would do. 

So I will track this and see how it plays out. Ideally with a story featuring the brand turning the complaint (from a customer who has bought over 70 products in one hit) into a good customer experience, PT opportunity and shows a reignited warmth to their brand. In the meantime, revisit your own VoC to find fun, positive association and preference for you brand. I assure you great opportunities lie within it. Of course we could find it for you, but there’s more commitment behind these things when you find them yourself. By all means contact us to help make the most of it. Happy customer feedback hunting.   

Posted by Christopher Brooks

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

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

If you like what you’ve read sign-up to our free 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