Customer experience. CX. These terms seem to be appearing everywhere these days, right? In fact, customer experience as a strategy within disciplines such as marketing and PR has been around for decades. But what does it even mean? And why is it becoming so prominent over the recent years? Nat Brown ACII, CX strategy manager and Chartered Insurance broker at jewellery sector insurer TH March Group reveals what you need to know.
Often, the term ‘customer experience’ (CX) is confused with customer service. This is understandable of course, but technically CX is much more about the emotional effect or outcome of the service the customer receives: essentially, how do we make the customer feel at every touchpoint they have with us? Well-respected CX educators, CX Academy, helpfully define CX as ‘how a customer feels as a result of every interaction they have with a company’.
Interaction, in today’s world, means the vast list of methods of communication now available to us. It could start with advertising campaigns, through to choosing a product, asking for support, making a payment, to aftercare.
All channels are now used by customers to communicate with businesses: social media, websites, surveys, consumer review platforms, live chat, apps; it is no longer expected that businesses communicate via just face to face, telephone, letters and email.
Customer expectations are much greater now and what is more, it is no longer safe to assume that as a business you are being compared only to your peers in your own industry. In recent studies by Salesforce, during which they interview thousands of consumers each year across the globe, well over half of those asked say their experience with one industry influences their expectations of another! This year’s study also revealed that 66% of UK customers felt that the current pandemic even increased their expectations of companies’ digital selling and communication capabilities.
Studies show that consumers are walking away from brands after just one bad customer experience, and that they are willing to pay more for impressive CX. Organisations with better CX have been shown to have not only better customer retention and acquisition, but often reduced costs, higher levels of employee engagement and productivity, and more revenue. It’s a win-win situation. Our customers feel good, staff are happy, and we’re making more money.
There are some useful frameworks out there that organisations have devised after years of research and working with multiple leading companies over many years. For example, KPMG created its Six Pillars: the factors they believe define CX excellence; and CX Academy’s framework is all about six key emotional drivers that lead to one outcome. In essence, these foundations revolve around some important key focuses – integrity, personalisation, expectations, time and effort, empathy and resolution.
For CX Academy, the expected outcome of using these key drivers is the creation of a successful bond with the customer, evoking loyalty, recommendations and future purchases. Analysing your organisation against the key focus areas is a useful method for seeing how well you are performing in terms of CX.
When an organisation gets the CX right, often the customer will go out of their way to recommend that company, its service, product, or person with whom they dealt. It could be via a simple word of mouth comment to a family member to an actual public review on a platform such as Trustpilot or social media. Having customers as advocates is a great free method for customer acquisition and for generating trust and loyalty.
So where is the best place to begin? A useful starting point to help initiate thinking about where these opportunities lie is through ‘Customer Journey Mapping’. This involves stepping into the shoes of the customer and identifying all those interaction points they might have: from considering buying from you, all the way through to purchase and afterwards.
Consideration of personas of your customers is also important, and you will find various maps will be created in this process as you consider the different customers’ perceptions of their interaction with your business and their different ‘journeys’.
For retail, it is worth thinking about the not-too-obvious touchpoints too, rather than solely the in-store service. Do digital channels offer help – for example with stock levels, descriptions, sizing, reviews? Are you making it easy for customers to buy and collect items? Are social media accounts monitored and customer queries answered?
Some businesses are lucky enough to be able to provide the good old-fashioned service of addressing each customer by name and remembering their previous purchases, preferences, hobbies, names of pets…However, it is more and more rare for this to be the case and even for the smaller, bespoke retailers it is worth looking at the methods you use to help record customer details and preferences. How do you keep in touch with customers after the purchase? Are there opportunities for future contact and purchases?
There is an oft-quoted statistic, that 80% of CEOs believe their organisation delivers superior customer experience but only 8% of customers believe they are getting this (Bain & Co, 2006). At TH March, we conduct customer journey mapping and are constantly seeking feedback from customers and staff alike. Obviously, there are times when this hurts. However, I cannot think an occasion when feedback has not been helpful. From providing training opportunities for staff involved, to helping improve processes in a way no one has thought of previously: it is all useful stuff.
Journey mapping and seeking feedback is just the start. There are ample sources of help, from training providers, publications, even products that will enable you to dig deeper and identify areas for improvement and help you reach your goals. More and more research supports that the happiest, most productive and profitable companies have well-developed CX strategy. What’s not to like about that?
Six pillars that define CX excellence
1. Trust: does the company have integrity and can I trust them?
2. Personalisation: does the company show that they know me and make me feel valued? Are our values aligned?
3. Making it easy to do business: providing transactions and service that is without friction;
4. Understanding and empathy: showing that you understand my personal circumstances and going the extra mile to accommodate this;
5. Delivering on promise: do you do what you say you will?
6. Resolution: fixing things when they go wrong, apologising when it is right to do so.