Tag Archives: voice of the customer

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)

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

Virgin Trains deliver the 3 in 1 CX equation

Anyone who has spent time on Virgin Trains will agree the ‘experience’ is different to those on other rail networks. In fact, as I travel on other networks I see more and more of Virgin’s ‘touches’ appearing. However, with Virgin it seems natural because that’s what the Virgin brand investment promises. With others rail companies it often seems awkward and stands out like a sore thumb.

Our preoccupation is to help clients identify what customer experiences drive profit and make those brand differentiating. Simple really. Through years of experience with this focus, we’ve accepted that driving profitable CX is much more likely to succeed when backed by a brand which is:This is the latest in our series of 3 branded experiences in a minute.

  1. meaningful to its customers so they can extract the value it offers;
  2. accessible by its employees to translate into meaningful customer experiences;
  3. envied by their competition who can at best deliver a ‘me 2’ copy of an experience.

Within a minute of arriving on a Virgin Train there are three brilliant reminders of their brand strength, delivered through the least likely of experience opportunities.

The step

This isn’t just any step. Courtesy of the Virgin brand, this is a whooshing, moving into place, Thunderbirdesque gliding Virgin step in to a world of potential (okay, slightly carried away, but you get the picture). It possibly is more attributable to the train manufacturer than Virgin for the steps movement, but none of the other companies have one.. Even if they did, theirs would still be a dirty step on to a train. With Virgin Trains, the brand promise has meant it could be so much more (even when it’s dirty too).

The loo seat

Virgin Trains demonstrate that ‘any’ piece of estate can be leveraged. This message could only come from them though.  You will find it on the back of the loo seat on-board, it’s also in the voice over in the loo…..yep the voice over in the loo. It starts as expected with, ‘please don’t flush nappies, paper towels’…but ends in a less expected place with ‘your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish’. This toilet humour would be strange from any other network, even though they have the same infrastructure, but for Virgin it is spot on.

virgin trains.jpg4virgin trains

virgin trains.jpg3

The loo wall

Apologies. My one minute journey took me from boarding to this room! It’s just a wall, surely! On every other train this is no more than a beige bobbly abyss of a wall. But on a Virgin Train it’s an escape route to another world. Admittedly not every other network has a balloon enterprise to throw up, although I couldn’t see that ever stacking up as a, ‘the reason we don’t do it’ response from the competition.

What it does show, to all, is how the less conspicuous and often overlooked spaces have as much a role to play in delivering branded customer experience as the more obvious areas of improvement such as service, comms and technology.

This issue featured Virgin Trains. Click here for our recent blog on Waitrose.

If you want to find out more about how to deliver brand differentiating customer experience, contact us,

We will bring you more 3 in 1 adventures from the world of CX. Next stops will include Citizen M and Mini. If you have a nominee for the 3 in 1 CX equation please send them through.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

We help clients build profitable customer experiences and create commercially advantageous customer value propositions

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

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

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

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

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

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

a) Improved Performance
b) Differentiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology troubles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praising individuals rather than improvements

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

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

b) Using CX to deliver immediate competitor differentiation

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

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

Customers will quickly see through your papered over the cracks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Testing 1, 2, 3. Is this Voice of the Customer microphone on?

I was invited to speak at a recent event held by Steria. They were hosting a Customer Engagement themed event for retailers. I chose to share some ‘customer insight interpretation’ stories under this heading. It’s an area in which Steria has a growing team of experts. One of their brilliant analysts is Gerard Crispie. I’ve known Gerard for years. He has a similar view to me when it comes to how to leverage customer feedback effectively. Many years ago we worked together on a Building Society brand where he helped me understand the difference that can be achieved between capturing insight and being insightful with what you capture. I’ve since discovered this is a key difference between leading customer orientated organisations and those who aspire to be. I summarise those lessons from Gerard as follows:

  1. Be reliant on the people involved in developing the feedback technology, not the technology itself
  2. When capturing customer feedback, cast the net wide and look under stones (don’t rely on the ‘we’ll get what we need from 60% of feedback’ philosophy – you won’t)
  3. Always leave the mic set to ‘on’, you never know when you might hear something insightful
  4. It’s data – so be agile in your interpretation, not binary

Fast forward 15 years to the present, and at Lexden we now work with major brands to set-up and deliver end-to-end customer experience programmes and other customer strategy requirements. But I still find these lessons being missed. Perhaps the customer research team are focused too heavily on building structured and efficient voice of the customer programmes, only to provide board level KPIs? Or devise tracking studies to provide evidence that a specific customer touchpoint is impaired by a broken process, so they can justify investment to fix it? Whilst all very heroic, and often necessary, it will never transform a business into a natural customer-driven organisation.

garden fenceTo achieve this you need to look for feedback which is less obvious in its meaning. It’s in these margins that you can find the gold that allows you to understand ‘why’ an expectation from a customer is important, or how your customer experience can be differentiated from others based on your brand positioning rather than your service provision. However, it is in this muddled, messy and often confused space where Gerard and I find most fortune for clients.

To get to these riches requires great people, great listening and interpretation skills, and the ability to put a metaphorical microphone in front of customers when it doesn’t really belong there. That way you might hear something of real interest. Capturing insight which falls outside the boundaries of an organised customer research feedback programme will allow the business to hear new conversations (or gripes) and lesser discussed topics.

With this in mind, for my talk I chose examples which highlight why it’s important to think beyond the structured Voice of the Customer programme if a business is really serious about using customer feedback to shape its decision-making, and not just validate what it probably knows already.

Case #1: The general insurer who needed to see tears before it was convinced it had a problem

The customer experience team for this leading general insurer shared wave after wave of well presented VoC results at the board meeting. But despite the evidence showing that the claims process was letting the overall customer experience down, the programme didn’t allow enough flexibility to prove why. The customer experience team knew that the problem was that the business saw the vehicle as the customer, but they had also sold in the VoC programme as THE voice of the customer. The programme didn’t highlight this so they couldn’t get the board to understand what changes were needed.

blair witchThey resorted to a drama to highlight the crisis. The customer experience team hired a professional to buy a car, insure it, create a low impact crash, be left stranded and then make a claim to be recovered. The individual videoed the entire episode. Including the sales rep on the phone thanking him for his valued custom and confirming the ‘customer matters’, the recovery wagon picking up the car after the crash, and leaving the man alone at night for a second vehicle to collect him  –  the recovery driver’s contract was to ‘recover and repair the car’, not the passenger.

The customer experience team took the video to the next boardroom rather than the VoC study. Maybe it was the content, maybe it was seeing the fear of the scared customer stranded at night, maybe it was the Blair Witch Project style filming, but whatever it was it worked. For the first time the board agreed they had a problem – the car was seen as the customer, not the driver. No thanks to VoC, the customer improvement was then commissioned.

Case #2: The utility company who listens to customers to shape the company’s future as well as the current business offer

VoC programmes typically track key interactions between the customer and the organisation. These are mainly focused on what is currently experienced or reaction to proposed changes to the brand, product or service. But one major UK utility company has created a shadow customer board as well. So rather than just hear what isn’t working in terms of product and service experience, they share with customers their strategic endeavours, critical business decisions and the commercial impact of customer experience improvements. Whilst VoC helps them understand how well they perform for their customers today, the shadow customer board helps them shape their future based on their customer’s expectations.

Case #3: The bank who lost business by listening too strictly to the Voice of the Customer

bank teller

This well established national bank noticed, through it’s AUM figures, that maturities of a particular investment product were not being managed, meaning customers’ funds were automatically transferred to a low-interest savings account. This meant that the investment team lost out on valuable x-sell opportunities. The VoC programme identified that a call prompted by a maturity letter was the key ‘moment of truth’ to retain the customer’s investment. So the bank set up a team to make calls to inform customers of their options, including a new investment.

With the trial underway, results started to show a change of events. They noticed that whilst some money was transferred into a new investment and some rolled over into the savings account, 30% was cashed in! A worse outcome than before they were led by VoC. Why was this? What VoC didn’t track is that many customers didn’t see that this was the key MoT or the end of the journey. Instead, customers unhappy with their options, triggered by the call, contacted the branch where they originally took out the investment. The branch advisers, with no incentive to retain the customer’s investment or awareness of the investment team’s trial, helped customers close their accounts.

The investment team contacted the branches and found out what was happening. They then realised how VoC had misled them. The key is to widen the ‘stakeholder impact reach’ when journey mapping, to avoid internal audiences being left unaware of the impact of their actions. Once spotted, the investment team trained a few branch staff to cover regions advising customers of new investment opportunities. The 30% reduced and the investment retention returned.

Each case proves that whilst VoC is a key customer experience tool, helping to inform the business, over reliance on it can blind side the business from the even more important customer irritants and opportunities. Keeping agile and open-minded is key to listening to customers and allowing their influence into the business. A characteristic I now associate with world-class organisations. Connecting with Gerard again has reminded me where my understanding of this originated from and we believe connecting with Steria will give Lexden the opportunity to apply this for more clients at a world-class level too.

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

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

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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