Right or Wrong?
Two of today’s hottest company interest and investment areas are the Customer Experience and Analytics. The tough economic climate and hard lessons learned as companies stem customer defections and struggle to win new ones has resulted in the growth of senior level appointments with “Customer Experience” in the job title. If companies now care more about their customers, this is truly a great thing. But it indicates that customers were a low priority were when markets were booming.
The increased availability of customer experience technology tools is not the answer because these don’t tell what really happened – just where to look. When great tools are put into the hands of the inexperienced the results are at best mediocre and, at worst, misleading.
Customers have always mattered, but many senior managers didn’t notice as they enjoyed the go for growth and cost cutting bare-knuckle ride of the boom (or bust) years. Many companies herded customers into a one-size-fits-all process that satisfied the corporation’s needs and made little effort to address the customer’s, while few developed a close-but-respectful relationship with customers. They relied on brand strength, customer loyalty and consumer tolerance of “not quite right” as they pressed ahead, urgently feeding their own beast. Examples are plentiful as companies – utilities, banks, credit cards, airlines, government departments, TV, broadband, mobile phones and many other sectors and segments – systematically mis-sold, ignored, denied, and misrepresented to build their business, grow revenue, and hold on to the customer money they had received.
What happened next is that the economy crashed and they were caught out. Customers cut hard to make ends meet and decided that what companies provided wasn’t valuable enough. Or they fell out of love with the hype and dished a dose of reality. Or, as happened in the UK and Europe, regulators finally stopped the abuse and ordered companies to make it right with customers.
If we look at the current experience of customers in traditional high volume, low ticket price sectors, grocers, fast food chains, parcel delivery networks and retailers that have maintained a good reputation with their customers, and contrast it with the ones hit hardest during recession. As the image (right) shows, these sectors outperforms others
Today, Customer Experience managers are busy understanding what customers face when they interface with the company, and are rebuilding the business from the outside-in to simplify life for consumers and not the company. Their success is winning the affection customers who feel they are being treated fairly, and they will remain loyal for longer, and spend more of their money, and call customer service fewer times, and become (therefore) cheaper customers to support.
During the ’90s quality systems, such as ISO9001, were gaining attention. Companies believed that quality made the difference that customers would pay more for. Such systems achieved this for only a short time, but have succeeded and become integrated into businesses because they helped drive out wasted effort and materials, and enabled companies to deliver a better quality product or service for equal or lower cost.
Back to the customer experience, the tools used to boil the ocean of customer interaction data helps by identifying what customers are interested in, such as understanding their phone bill, or checking the status of their laptop repair, but it doesn’t analyse anything. It simply reports on what it sees or hears. Analysis comes through running an expert human eye over the interactions to understand what lies behind it, and to identify those improvements that remove the need for the customer to call without making their life more complicated.
Today’s Call to Action is to engineer processes, products and services with the Customer Experience in mind – as successful companies typically do already.