How could a great Customer Experience possibly spoil an Australia Day BBQ?
I’m all for technology enhancing my overall experience. But not when it gets between me and an Aussie BBQ.
It was Australia Day and we had friends and family over to our home enjoying the Public holiday celebration with the traditional dips in the pool, cold wine and, of course, the delights of my culinary skills on the BBQ.Just as I was about to serve, a phone call. Thinking it must be important, I left my Snags, Corn, Burgers and Steaks in the hands of the BBQ gods to answer the phone. Imagine my surprise to hear an automated message from a certain Financial Services provider wishing me a Happy Australia Day!!!
This has led me to think whether this seemingly innocent “customer experience” has added or detracted from my view of their brand. To me, it was intrusive and unnecessary, or maybe I was grumpy because I was hungry. Nevertheless, although well intended, I do not enjoy unsolicited calls even to wish me well. Being automated, it was low cost yet also insincere.
Please people, use technology as a tool to enhance a Customer Experience by all means but please think through whether that experience will add or detract from a customers perception of your brand.
Fortunately, the beers stayed cold, the steak was perfect and I was soon a happy camper again.
What is the X Factor in building a profitable brand? This post argues that it is the Customer eXperience and demonstrates why organisations have to deliver a consistent and compelling customer experience across each and every touchpoint.
Forget your TV. The real X Factor will allow you to perform better than your competitors and achieve long term results to delight your shareholders and stakeholders.
The X Factor is on most CEO’s agenda’s yet it often alludes many organisations.
The X factor is widely known, yet rarely understood.
So what is this corporate X Factor?
The X factor is eXperience. The Customer Experience or Cx as it is often abbreviated to.
It includes the User eXperience (or Ux), whoever the “user” might be, as a user could be a customer, a partner, an employee, a Supplier. It all adds up to a perception gained by an individual or collectively by an organisation which will affect the relationship between both parties.
Every interaction between an organisation and its Stakeholders is a “moment of truth” where these perceptions, either positive or negative, are gained. The sum of these “moments of truth” lead to an overall “customer experience” that can affect the economic relationship. Let me use an example of how this might apply to Financial Services.
It used to be that upon getting your first job, you set up a Bank account (often with your parents bank) and you banked with this organisation for life. When you came to buy your first house, you might visit your local Manager who would interview you and then arrange a loan. How times have changed. These days, Banking is highly competitive and has moved to touch every point of our lives. It is easy to change banks, or have many banks. Some specialise in certain types of products but they all want our hard earned cash. The transactional cost of changing banks has lowered so that customer loyalty is far less than it was in previous generations. Therefore the retention of customers has become more important than acquiring customers to most banking organisations. So how does a bank retain your business? It can make its products more attractive and tailored, but this comes at a high price to the bank and has not always been a unique differentiator. Therefore banks have gradually come to realise that by improving every touchpoint with their customer, it not only makes the bank easier and convenient to do business with but also improves our perception of their brand.
The Customer Experience must be considered across every single touchpoint, across every single channel and needs to be consistent for every single customer. Therefore if a Bank has great, customer centric staff in every branch, this is clearly advantageous but a Telephone Banking service which uses a poorly designed Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) menu, long wait times or is not 24/7 might negate all the good work done in the branches. Similarly, a great Mobile App which allows you to do your general banking might be negated by a difficult to use Online Banking web site.
It is true that different customer segments are likely to use different channels, depending upon their needs but few Banking customers will stick to one channel. Therefore every single touchpoint must be looked at and tested from a customers perspective to ensure that they receive a positive and consistent experience. The loyalty generated will drive longer term financial reward, especially in a Social world where good and bad experiences can be shared and communicated globally in seconds.
I have used Banking as an example but the laws of Customer Experience are universal. Create great and lasting Customer Experiences and the rewards will repay the effort over and over.
The difference between experience and wisdom is a subtle one. To learn from an experience, one will make a mistake and learn not to do that again. That is learning by experience.
To learn from wisdom is to learn from the experience of others so not to have to make that mistake in the first place. That is learning by wisdom.
Therefore I find it puzzling that many organisations still prefer to learn by experience when attempting to fulfil their promise to become a truly customer centric organisation. Therefore, here are five quick tips that uses the wisdom gained from other organisations (who shall remain nameless but all of whom I have worked with) that can help on that journey towards customer centricity.
Tip #1: To change behaviour, change the comp and hire appropriately.
If you want your Managers accountable for delighting the customer and improving retention, then change the comp plan to focus them on that objective. If it is important, make it something that becomes an economic necessity! In a similar vein, ensure that your hiring policy is aligned to ensure that only applicants who can demonstrate a passion for customer centricity are hired. Gradually, the culture of the company will change.
Tip #2: Give the Customer a voice in the Boardroom
Invite the voice of the customer into the boardroom by appointing a Chief Customer Officer. If you cannot afford one, get a cardboard lifesize cut-out and sit it on a chair in the boardroom. At all relevant moments during a board meeting, turn to the cardboard cutout and ask “What does the customer think about this?”. Believe me…it works!!!!
I had been preparing a blog post on this subject but I would rather defer to someone who has the experience of being a Chief Customer Officer. You can learn more from her excellent blog here.
Tip#3: Interview your churning, loyal and indifferent customers
Do you provide Employee Satisfaction surveys, exit interviews and other such HR charm offensives? Well, why not extend similar concepts to former customers, current customers (noth advocates and the silent majority). Hold focus groups, use Social Media, surveys, bribes whatever it takes to gain the insight you need to gain a true customer perspective on what you do well, what you do not do well and what they would like to see you do. It is very powerful. I heard a stat recently that said in a survey of clients, 95% said their customers “loved them”, a perception that was only supported by 6% of their customers.
Tip#4: Educate, Empower and Enable everyone
Everybody within your organisation must feel empowered and able to provide an outstanding customer experience. To do this, everyone needs educating. Who are THEIR customers? What benefits will this approach bring? What behaviours and values need to be developed? This education should not be a Webex or DVD to watch. It must be participative, ongoing and cross functional, involving every staff member from Chairman to Janitor. One organisation invited all of its directors to spend a day answering phones to “real” customers. Only half took their turn. Those who did found the experience “career changing”. Those who didn’t turn up, in my opinion, should have been given an ultimatum to do their stint or leave. Customer Centricity needs to be fully inclusive.
Tip#5: Consistency across customer touchpoints
Finally, the great experience being delivered by Sam in Sales could be completely undermined by a poor after sales experience by Paul in Service. Not only is it important for everyone interacting with the customer to behave in a customer centric fashion, but it is also vital to offer a consistent LEVEL of Customer Service. I believe it is better for everyone to be very good than have one excellent and another mediocre. That alignment can be measured by surveying each different department at each customer touchpoint. The internal initiative should then focus upon improving the “lagging” departments to provide greater overall consistency.
Oh, there is a sixth tip: “Do not let I.T drive the initiative”, but that deserves a blog post of its own!
Of course, this list is not inclusive or exhaustive. Success could be achieved without these tips but I believe that they will increase your chances of success.
First organisation in the Customer Experience Hall of Fame: Youi Insurance. This post describes the great experience I have received and explains why it is driving my loyalty
In the interests of trying to improve the customer experience, I regard it as my civil duty to name and shame organisations who “say” one thing but “do another” to their customers, resulting in a poor customer experience. Similarly, I will credit where credit is due to organisations who are delivering a great customer experience. Step up and take a bow Youi Insurance.
I was about to nominate Youi simply from the experience I received when taking out insurance with them. They promise to answer the call in 5 rings and did. They were friendly, personable (not robotic) and empowered to help you in any way they could rather then push you on to another agent. They explained the quotation process very clearly and offered to call me back at a time to suit me. This was great but it is all to easy to deliver a great sales experience only to be let down by delivery. Fortunately for this blog post but unfortunately for me and an unsuspecting Wallaby, I experienced the delivery aspect of Youi after my wife ploughed into a Wallaby late one evening. The poor Wallaby was killed instantly but my car suffered non terminal damage which would need extensive surgery.
I rang to report the incident and the first thing the agent said was “OMG- Is your wife alright?” I instantly connected with this agent. We chatted about how shocking it is to hit an animal and she gently uncovered the set of facts. She spoke to my wife and very quickly she explained what would happen next. Sure enough, we then got a text from Youi (having said that was our preferred channel) confirming that a pick up truck would tow the car to the repair shop. After collecting the car, we got another text confirming that it would be assessed within 24 hours. Next day, another text confirming that they had approved the repairs and the time it would take. Youi have clearly built this process around the customer, removing the pain of the organising of each aspect away from the customer. I found it clear, non invasive and very pleasant. A very good customer experience.
Now here is the acid test. Next year, my premium may well rise due to the altercation with Australian wildlife. Will I shop around for a cheaper quote? Probably NOT because Youi have proved their value to me and for that, I may well be willing to accept that little bit of extra cost. Youi have therefore quickly turned me into a loyal customer through providing a great experience based on process, people and technology. One final thing, after posting this, I received an email survey from Youi. However, it was not your normal bland survey. It was a transparent and simple survey which shared your views with other customers. Take. Look at this!
A personal case study of how TPG did everything they could to lose my custom and defect to one of their competitors by providing poor customer service.
In the interests of trying to improve the customer experience, I regard it as my civil duty to name and shame organisations who “say” one thing but “do another” to their customers, resulting in a poor customer experience.
Now I know Internet Service Providers are not exactly renowned for providing great customer service. Perhaps you might think they are a soft target…however:
I have been with TPG for 4 years. They provide a good Broadband product and I’ve had no issues….until last week. Then I had to contact them……..
Last year, we moved house so I called TPG to tell them that I wanted an Internet service at my new home and that I wanted the service to my old house to terminate once we had moved. TPG created a second account for me and all was good.
However, last month I noticed that TPG had been debiting my bank account twice each month for the last year. When I investigated, it appeared that they hadn’t ever terminated my old account.
I called the TPG Contact Centre and struggled to explain my situation to an agent whose first language was certainly not english. She closely followed a script and a process and appeared unable to deviate from either. In fairness, she was only doing her job but it fell far short of a great customer experience for me. I felt my blood pressure rise dramatically during the call.
The crux was that TPG insisted that before they could close the old account, let alone refund me, they needed “proof” that I had cancelled the account a year ago. They asked me which phone number I had called them on ( 12 months earlier) so that they could search the voice recording archives!
I argued that it shouldn’t matter. TPG had clearly received monies for a service that hadn’t been used or asked for. I pointed out that my loyalty was at stake. I think this point went right over the Agents head as she just repeated that TPG needed proof.
I then spent over 3 hours last week getting increasingly frustrated at TPG’s reluctance to just refund my money. Having threatened to take my business elsewhere, I think my explanation that I was probably a High Value Customer and that the cost of TPG “replacing” my custom was far greater than refunding my overpaid account was wasted.
I think my justification was lost on the agents who were not empowered to do anything other than impose the rules. My empassioned speech regarding customer lifetime value felt like one of those moments in history where the speech would be quoted in universities for years to come. I felt good! However, perhaps not surprisingly, the speech made no difference.
I then resorted to using “angry” words in the hope that TPG use Contact Centre voice analytical software which identifies when customers are getting frustrated and can cause an escalation to a Supervisor. That didn’t work either!
Therefore, I made a stand and refused to pay my bill on my existing account saying that my refund would cover it.
Yesterday, I got an email from the billing department threatening to cut off my service!
When I called the Accounts department, I had to explain the situation all over again only for me to be eventually routed back to the long suffering Customer service agent who must be getting sick of my attempts to exhaust the english vocabulary searching for escalation trigger words!
That was the point I realised that TPG clearly have not developed a single integrated view of the customer! The left hand had no idea what the right hand had done or said to me!
Finally, today, TPG finished their investigations (to establish blame) and declined to refund me. I therefore was at that “moment of truth” that long suffering customers eventually face when the value of the customer relationship and/or product/service is superceded by the pain of the poor service . I had to make a choice to put up with TPG’s poor service and good product or churn.
As of today, I am now a Dodo customer and got an even better deal than I had with TPG. The initial thoughts on their customer service was favourable too but it is early days.
My point is this: If TPG had understood customer loyalty, lifetime value or even about the need for a great customer experience, they would have immediately sought to take steps to retain my business (see above). They should have taken ownership and recognised that it really doesn’t matter whose fault it was. The cost of keeping me satisfied would be paid back many times over by my ongoing loyalty and by the recommendations I would make. Had they been keener to resolve the issue without question, I would not have considered churning. In other words, they had not taken any of the six steps that organisations should invest in to create greater customer retention.
I hope that someone from TPG gets to read this post. My personal churn will not cause them to be overly concerned but unless lessons are learnt, their business will be outstripped by others who do understand the value of customer retention strategies.
On the other hand, I also had a fantastic customer experience with YOUI Car insurance so will post about that soon.