The pursuit of happiness
The blog post originally appeared at Isherwood.co.uk, written by Trevor Isherwood & Dr. Tiia Maekinen.
In 2014 many brands showed improvements in their customer experiences. In fact, just 1 percent of the brands ranked by Forrester's annual Customer Experience Index (CXi) benchmark fell into the "very poor" category for customer experience. That's the lowest number of very poor performers in the benchmark's seven-year history. So it appears that customer experience is gaining attention as a business driver.
Yet many companies are still to prioritise customer experience as a fundamental business driver. Research by Bain & Company demonstrated that whilst 80% of companies felt they delivered good customer service only 8% of customers agreed. This implies that many companies do not fully understand what kind of customer experience they are actually delivering, or what is important to customers in that experience that helps generate greater revenues.
Fully utilising and enabling growth through customer experience requires a shift in mind-set within organisations, moving the focus away from short-term, campaign-based marketing projects normally targeted for prospects and acquiring new customers, into long-term value creation efforts for existing clients. Research clearly shows that happy customers spend more, spend more frequently and tell their friends about the company. Excellence in customer experience with existing customers can become your most effective marketing tool to attract new customers.
Customer churn and negative word of mouth due to poor service experiences are costing businesses valuable revenue. To drive effective return on marketing investment, it makes sense to focus on what is important to customers. Driving business strategy in sync with customer experience strategy not only delivers growth, it also allows businesses to organise themselves most cost-effectively around customer experience.
Customer understanding and experience measurement as basic building blocks for growth
Some customers want to continually be made to feel special, some want more attention than others, some need guidance, and others just want to be left alone. By developing insights on their preferences, needs and behaviours, customer experiences can be improved and more effectively managed at critical touch points. Consistently delivering positive experiences establishes relationships that help build preference and loyalty, and create growth.
What is it that prevents companies from delivering on what their customers expect? Often it's a lack of clear understanding of the kinds of customer experiences that create and sustain customer loyalty and advocacy. It might not be rocket science but the top three expectations as revealed in a recent Forrester study are:
Make me feel valued. In most cases emotion has a bigger impact on customer loyalty than product or service effectiveness or ease of purchase. In particular feeling that a brand values you as a customer is critical in every industry. Customers feel valued as a result of brands showing genuine interest, creating empathy towards the customers’ experiences and generating relevant understanding of its impact on customers.
Resolve my problems quickly. Rapid issue resolution is also a key driver. What makes an experience feel quick to customers? Sales staff who are available when, where, and how it's most convenient for the customer and who are empowered to resolve problems immediately.
Speak my language. Just like billionaire investor Warren Buffett, customers don't like to spend money on things they don't understand. Firms that avoid using jargon when talking to customers offer better customer experiences and achieve more loyal customers than those that don’t.
Measuring customer experience requires a focused, but multi-dimensional view of the customer experience. Overall, the better the company understands its customer experience and the associated value drivers, the easier it is to make targeted and effective enhancements to it. Understanding customer journeys and end-to-end customer experience requires resolute focus on customer feedback and customer behaviour measures. Satisfaction will give a glimpse of where a business stands with its customer experience, however, it will not deliver the full picture of the customer experience. A variety of qualitative and data analytic methods can be used to complete the picture and understanding of customer experience status and trends.
Customer journey mapping can then be used as one of the tools for customer experience management and alignment of internal processes to the customer experience deliveries through variety touch points. All in all, understanding and measuring customer experience is a collaborative effort across the organisation.
Achieving business growth through customer experience
In order to drive revenues, your customer experience management should be an orchestrated effort of strategy, technology, internal coordination, knowledge sharing and dialog building with the customer. Based on our experience the steps required for building growth through customer experience:
Moving from unconscious or unknown customer experience to active customer experience management is essential. Customer experience happens all the time and everywhere in your business. Acknowledging these experiences and their importance to your business will take you a step closer to establishing them as your key source of growth.
2. Insights & Design
Some customer experience improvements can be achieved by increasing basic knowledge about your customers, for example segments, target customer definition and customer satisfaction. Customer experience can also be improved by better design of the individual touch-point interface, such as improving user experience of an online tool. This rather aesthetic improvement of customer experience is important but as a business strategy this alone will not be adequate to drive sustainable growth.
Customer experience management as a process means focusing on the processes and operations that play a part in delivering customer experience. The heart of this approach is cross-organisational collaboration, which incorporates streamlining and simplifying processes, getting rid of silos and systematically sharing the customer insights. Effective processes enable organisational focus on relevant customer experiences and to remove those which do not deliver value, increasing organisational effectiveness and growth.
Engaging employees is often overlooked as a driver for improving customer experience. In fact, 60% of senior executives in a recent Economist survey believe that the biggest obstacles to better customer service are internal organisational problems. Genuinely placing your customer at the heart of your organisation will require more than a change in internal structures or effective client journey management. Customer-centricity comes alive in the values, strategy and attitudes of the whole company. Driving growth through client experience requires a culture of relentless innovation, demonstrating that customers are heard, their actions are understood and a focus for continuous development of customer experience is set. It is essential that enough tools, training and communication are undertaken to enable everyone in the organisation to ‘walk the talk’. Additionally, appropriate reward systems and alignment of organisational interests play a pivotal role. The quality of your employee’s experiences is also an indicator of the overall quality of customer experience.
Orchestration of all these areas we’ve discussed in an effective manner to deliver success is not easy but it can be highly rewarding. Be clear about your vision and the future of your business with a meaningful, distinctive customer experience strategy. The result will be growth and a valuable competitive edge. Ultimately, driving growth through customer experience requires relentless focus on building and operating customer experiences which are meaningful for the client and at the same time profitable for the business.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Trevor Isherwood is a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years experience. He is the founder and Managing Director of Isherwood + Company, a UK based marketing agency serving clients nationally and internationally.
Dr. Tiia Maekinen is an experience evangelist and client advocate. She is a customer experience professional with 15+ years of experience heading client experience in top global private banks and holds a PhD in Marketing. She is the founder and Managing Partner of Musta Experience, a global experience strategy consultancy based in Zürich, Switzerland.