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Lexden’s Christopher Brooks is the host of the Customer Experience Superheroes series. Voted a top 10 CX podcast, the CX Superheroes is now in its ninth series. What a legend of modern business practice to have as the guest for the latest series. Fred Reichheld’s work has touched more people on the planet than anyone else in customer experience. As the inventor of Net Promoter Score, he has seen the concept applied with great effect but also wildly abused. In his new book Winning on Purpose he helps to set those who have gone astray right and prove how enlightening customers lives is the most powerful purpose, underpinned with a new measure to prove the commercial advantage of getting it right.
Join Christopher and Fred in a brilliant discussion and discover why Fred remains loyal to Bain and who this book is really written for.
Customer Experience as a concept is as old as the first purchase made. There would have been an experience the buyer received and the seller, probably unknowingly, provided. But customer experience management, is a more recent addition to the business world. It’s still very much in its infancy. With many commentators originating from marketing invariably it was first presented as a different or complimentary way to secure sales and retain customers. It was all about ‘squeezing the customer’, just in a different way.
Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels
And we still see this in the commentary popularly socialised on customer experience. Whilst they are out of date notions, the poster statements stand out – on first glance. But when you investigate further you find chasing CX platitudes creates more losses for your organisation rather then gains.
So, beware, the marketing strap-lines sold on the metaphorical street corners or LinkedIn they look great as a caption, but wear terribly badly as a corporate endeavour. Here are three of my favourites:
1. Create a frictionless experience for your customers. STOP. What sort of advice is this! Take out any hurdles, bumps or reasons to engage with your business from the experience. Imagine that, a relationship with a business where you have no reason to ever interact. What happens? Human nature is to cease to recognise the value and eventually look for alternatives where there is attention. I met with the CEO of a leading UK bank who explained how this approach had led to customers leaving the bank. Not because the bank had done anything wrong, but because the customers didn’t appreciate the effort the bank put in everyday to keep the customer from hidden friction points. But as soon as a competitor came along with a promotional offer to switch, customers did, citing their bank didn’t do anything for them. If you are asked to create a frictionless experience add an acquisition strategy to recruit at least 15% of customers who will leave mistaking efficiency for neglect.
2. Be No.1 for customer satisfaction. OH DEAR. Success means you grow. Growth means you attract more customers. More customers mean different types of customers. Different customer types invariably mean different expectations. Different expectations mean varying levels of satisfaction will be achieved. So, satisfaction will drop. How crazy is that. I recall a hotelier, a few years ago, explaining to me they needed to reduce the length of their survey to hit their satisfaction targets! They had added some new facilities which attracted a different, more demanding customer type. The ones filling out their feedback survey were those less impressed. They were the only ones prepared to hang around for five minutes to get their point across. But even a proportion of the satisfied types would complete a 1 minute survey. So to get satisfaction up, they changed the survey and ignored the issues creating low scores. I could tell this story ten times over, with different examples I’ve heard – that’s what happens when you make a target your CX goal.
3. Exceed your customer expectations. REALLY! Luxury brands struggle with this concept perhaps more than others. It’s such an easy thing to say. But what your FD is hearing is ‘erode margin unnecessarily’. As a consumer I have expectations of what to expect from organisations. For example, when I order from Amazon I expect a good choice of products available, goods to turn up undamaged and on time, for payments to be secure and any issues with my product to be dealt with swiftly. That’s quote a lot, but Amazon recognises these are all reasonable expectations and meets them. So I compare the experience provided by others against this criteria. But if Amazon started to provide free gifts in the box, asked the courier drivers to sing at my door or provided assembly of my goods when needed, they are now exceeding my expectations. Perhaps they are not even things I want, but let’s just go with them being appealing to me for the sake of the story. They didn’t need to offer these, I was happy enough before, after all its home delivery, whistles and bells aren’t always needed. But now I expect them and for no extra premium, they’ve raised my expectations. When they realise, they cant deliver this or afford to deliver this, my expectations wont drop and so my perception is the once adequate service is now sub-prime. So, unless you are prepared to explain to your FD why you are giving away margin, simply meet your customers expectations, don’t try to exceed them. Trust me, knowing what these are and meeting them 100% of the time can prove a big ask. And remember, todays ‘exceeding’ will become tomorrows ‘expecting’.
So how do you get on track with Customer Experience? Fortunately, there is an enlightened group of practitioners and professionals pulling away from this pedestrian narrative. They are looking at a more holistic approach. It started when operations came on board, because they were often responsible for the internal decisions and processes which enable or restrict the quality of the experience. The researchers ears pricked up as they realised they could help understand customers expectations. KPIs were applied to measure gains. And where there is a measurement, there’s a technologist not far behind with both tracking performance and providing solutions to enable better experiences. Not an ideal state but a start. It also meant what got measured got managed. This attracted the attention of finance and the CEO. The former is still trying to figure out how you accurately measure customer centric contribution.
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels
Looking in at the chaos curiously are the CXers good friends from the world of agile, design and continuous improvement squads (although CXers do have a habit of claiming service design as their own) who checked their own toolbox and saw great overlaps. They’ve added a lot. Finally, HR recognised that with so much time and effort committed to creating better outcomes for customers, organisations needed to hold a mirror up and see are they providing the right experience for their employees to deliver. So, the culture became more customer centric when everything is organised around customers. It takes time, it requires a changing mindset, improved skillset and often a new environment to nurture authentic customer led thinking. In fact, it’s at this point when you finally get why its helpful to define the organisations customer purpose.
Those who have worked in and with clients shifting from a product or service focus to become customer focus will recognise these evolutions. You will also know you don’t sell customer experience, not through marketing to your customers or preaching to your employees about CX. You are the enlightened. Stick with it, ignore populist hyperbole. It’s designed for social media likes, not for business change.
Internally, the focus is on becoming more customer centric. This means understanding what matters most to customers, why, how, when it matters and fulfilling this in a way which amplifies the relevant distinctiveness of your brand. It’s at this point it becomes improved experiences customers can value. It’s driven from within the business in collaboration with all stakeholders. If everyone around the table agrees there is a better outcome achieved, then it’s progress. Increasingly ‘everyone’ means more than the customer. It’s also employees, supply chain partners, the communities it impacts, society and even the competition (both Tesco’s and Burger King promoted the competition recently).
This is the direction of travel systematic and sustainable customer centricity takes. There are 25 alternative customer centric operating models, but only 5 of them are profitable and only one reflects where your business is now and where it wants to be. Do you know where you are? Get this wrong and you are compromised from the outset. Reach me on LinkedIn if you wanted to hear more.
Posted by Christopher Brooks, Global CX Expert
I write a series entitled, ‘CX leaders’ which has included number of CX practitioners. The selection criteria for the interview is simply companies, or CX leads within those organisations who have impressed me with their commitment to a customer-led approach.
I’ve covered a range of sectors, including financial services. There is inspiration to be found from talking with those who are pushing forward with a customer agenda in a world dominated by transactions. As the interviews featured in this FS special show customer experience is a great way to transcend from a customer transaction focus to a customer relationship culture.
Against a backdrop of FCA regulation, historical lack of consumer trust and the arrival of nimble ‘cloud’ inhabiting digital brands, the established FS brands have their work cut out to stay relevant. But as these three interviews show, FS has a lot to gain from an effective CX strategy.
Newcastle Building Society – interview with Stuart Fearn, Head of Customer Contact
“Our priority is to make it easy for our customers to deal with us and to create positive, memorable moments and connections.
Link to the full interview – CX Leaders: Newcastle Building Society
The Bank of Cyprus – interview with Scott Fleming, Chief Customer & Commercial Officer
As his job title suggests, the Bank of Cyprus see customer-led thinking as a key growth imperative. With a customer base spread across branch usage and online banking, BoC’s challenges are familiar to most in retail banking.
Scott highlights the key requirements and support needed to make customer experience a priority focus in a financial organisation, including KPI management and backing from the CEO.
Link to the full interview – CX Leaders: Bank of Cyprus
One Savings Bank – Interview with Stephen Plimmer, Head of Customer Strategy & Insight
Their story is of interest to anyone with a specific product or demographic looking to broaden their reach further.
link to the full interview – CX Leaders: One Savings Bank
These three interviews highlight some of the challenges and solutions financial services brands are dealing with in order to pursue a more sustainable profit from committed and content customers.
If you would like to be, featured in our CX Leaders series please drop me a line.
If you’d like to understand more about the value of CX and how to apply it to your business, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward details of how to ‘improve’, ‘prioritise’ and ‘lead’ with CX.
Posted by Christopher Brooks, Lexden – The Customer Experience Practice
With the unfortunate circumstances surrounding House of Fraser and Debenhams, not long after British Home Stores disappeared from the high streets the giants of retailing are falling.
Has the high street kept up with the expectations of the modern customer? This means making itself more relevant and attractive than other channels. At best retail will be part of our shopping experience, but indicators are that many are being sacrificed as the online retailers take a bigger slice of the retail pie.
A couple of recent retail experiences demonstrate to me how old cost reduction models are still dominating the high street. Whilst online retailers use the assets they have to develop technology which fulfils customer requirements. See if you can spot the future of retailing from these three examples:
ASOS – Search and select outfits capability
You see an item someone in a magazine or on the high street is wearing and you think ‘I like that, where did they get it?’. You snap it and load up on your ASOS app. they then search (using their trickery magic) and select a match or similar looking items for you. Easy and a ‘go to’ option for any impromptu clothes shopping.
Next turn away sales to save employee effort
I haven’t been in Next for so long, but I was passing and saw a 50% sale poster outside. I popped in and my eye was drawn to a dress shirt wrapped in it’s packaging. I am never quite sure what size I am, so wanted to try it first. The pattern was very colourful and just what I wanted, but I again wanted to see what it looked like on.
I headed to the changing room with the shirt and a pair of trousers I liked the look of. I hadn’t meant to pick up the trousers, they sort of jumped in to my arms on the way to the changing rooms. I didn’t think they’d look any good but thought I’d try them om anyway.
At the changing room the member of staff took my shirt off me, asked my collar size and gave me a cream, silky shirt in my collar size. I looked confused so the changing room manager told me the problem was that people get the shirts out, they can’t put them away properly so have to hang them up and then people don’t buy them because they are not in packaging. I meant to get a picture of the ‘prison shirt’ at this point, but was so gobsmacked I forgot. For some reason I went alone with this and tried the garment others used (I didn’t think about that at the time) on – it didn’t even fit. I took it off and headed to the till with just the trousers which I didn’t think would fit, but once tried I realised did.
At the till I explained the shirt didn’t fit, to which he replied, ‘well not all shirts are the same cut’. So what was the point of the charade of the ‘trial’ shirt! I asked if I bought the shirt and took it home to try it on and it didn’t fit could I bring it back to which he said of course. So I asked why do I need to come here anymore, he just smiled knowingly. I left, unlikely to ever need to return.
So I’ll shop for from home now. The only problem being when I am in their store, they have my attention but when I am at home, I never think of them and always default to ASOS.
Argos reduce store size, and the customer base with it
In the town I live, like many others Argos has shed its retail footprint skin and become incubated within the Sainsbury’s supermarket. I needed a lap top case and thought Argos. Having seen the shopped moved I headed to Sainsbury’s. I found a small corner of the store with Argos tablets and a counter which was stacked full of good behind it. It reminded me of Screwfix or The Tool Station. The grand stacking and conveyor belt set up, which I always felt was quaintly Generation Game like, had gone.
I punched my request on the key pad and a perfect laptop case came up. I requested to buy it but it was out of stock. I paused and thought I can never remember EVER going into an Argos and them not having the item in stock. The option was to have it delivered at home, despite the fact I was in store. I reluctantly agreed and was asked to go to the front desk/til to pay. The member of staff then punched my order in asking all the questions I’d given the tablet and more to arrive at the answer, ‘we don’t have it in stock’. I replied that I knew this and could he order it to be sent to my home. He explained further, that they didn’t have it in stock at all locally, ‘we don’t hold as much now’. Really? I would never have guessed!
I concluded that the transfer into the supermarket space had both reduced stock space and required new, yet to be compatible stock management systems.
I asked what I do now. He helpfully explained I could go back to tablet I used before, and when it told me to pay, he would then check again and tell me if it was in at all. I asked whether it would be quicker to go home and order, to which he said they’d probably see a wider national coverage of stock and it may be available somewhere in the country.
So my conclusion was that by visiting the new store it made it clear I would be wise ordering online from home from Argos. The challenge is, when I’m in store Argo don’t have to compete with Amazon, they have my business. When I am at home, I never think of them and always default to Amazon.
Retail CX revolution
These experiences tell me two key points:
If retailers want to outlast their digital cousins, they need to update their mindset and then their CX, because they are making it ‘less painful’ to shop online. Online retailers only need to set up and fulfil the basics and they look streets ahead (pardon the pun).
Here’s hoping the best practice lessons from other service based sectors with human interaction can be carried over to the retailers, before they become completely irrelevant to us all.
Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Consultant Lexden, The Customer Experience Practice
I had the rare opportunity to make a first hand impression of two competitors customer experience. It highlighted to me how two companies can have very different views of what matters most to customers, and consequently where investment and importance is placed.
With a new puppy joining our family we agreed to take her with us on holiday. Both Eurotunnel and Brittany Ferries accommodate, or in fairness I should say encourage pets to travel with their owners so
‘Customer Experience’ is a very popular business expression these days. It features heavily in everything from boardroom agendas, to Amazon book lists, to the events & conference circuit to LinkedIn posts.
But what you must be careful of is making sure you only reading content relating to the correct of the two wildly different definitions of customer experience which have been established. One is a force for gain for all, the other a force for gain for a few.
The correct and healthy CX focus if one that delivers value to clients and their customers and has been around since before ‘CX’ had a label. It is expressed (broadly) as follows:
“The value created from the sum of the interactions between a customer and company throughout the term of their relationship”
The focus here is on helping companies to identify what matters most to their customers and how to improve the associated experience to attract an increasing level of commitment from customers on a sustainable basis.
And there are a myriad of great books (see below), helpful practitioners guidance notes and insightful case studies to fuel your CX thinking. These are penned and provided by some great practitioners who happily stay in the wings; clientside or consultants who recognise the solutions are the true heroes and they are merely the enablers.
Accepting CX evolves and everything from customer expectations to the way it’s measured updates with it are the hallmarks of progressive and proactive professionals in CX. We’ve found being connected with an elite number of practitioners, professionals and professors in CX keeps us up to date and always seeking a higher ground.
This is an inclusive approach where the collective create gains for clients and customers alike dominate. Customer comes first.
I was approached to write a book on CX. In response to which I pointed out the set below – explaining there are enough books covering many angles.What more could be said. So now the effort should be on application.
So it’s very important to avoid the second definition of customer experience:
“The value created by often uqualified individuals or companies using CX primarily as a means to create personal financial gain”
Sadly these leads to many mediocre books, second rate speakers (poor content overpowered by delivery style) and case studies (without the context connected). These serve the providers and presenters well,feeding egos and euros in equal measure. But they are nothing more than re-purposed content often featuring outdated or unsubstantiated ‘observations’ from others or outdated polished pomp. But it’s getting easier to spot these pretenders from the true professionals.
CX is an evolving discipline and many of the conventional ideas, models and measures have been proven less reliable. Like a one hit pop star, it’s a challenge to dismiss previous hits if they provide an income, so the ‘CX pretenders’ continue to play to any audience willing to listen.
Their advice and inspiring soundbites may quench a thirst and even taste good but will ultimately be difficult to digest and add little to no value, soon leaving you hungry again.
So how can you tell the good from the bad? Simply beware of those putting ME before the CUSTOMER. Now we’ve shared the signs, you’ll spot them every time you pick up a CX book click open a webinar, pay to hear a speaker or scan an article on customer experience.
But if you are unsure simply ask of anything CX related, ‘does it put the customer first?’. If the answer no, walk away.
Posted by Christopher Brooks, fan of progressive and productive CX which inspires practitioners and delivers gains to clients by generating genuine value for their customers.
I once attended a meeting discussing with a company who had an issue with their speed of delivery and getting it right first time. What they delivered was falling below expectation of customers and they wanted to put in place processes to speed things up. We intended to kick-off by reviewing the correlation between this issue and attrition, so it was a key to resolve.
Five minutes in to the meeting one of the attendees excused himself and popped out, without explanation. They arrived back 5 minutes later. I asked what happened and he said he’d forgotten his notes for the meeting. Ten minutes after we started another of their colleagues arrived, apologising for being late with explanation and everyone carried on.
At this point I asked how confident they were they could fix things. They said because it was simply a process issue it would be fine. I played back the lateness and incorrect information at the meeting. They recognised it was more than a process, it was cultural.
Lack of cultural alignment of CX is the second most cited reason for failure of customer experience. The focus for this company then shifted from customer experience to employee experience. It was agreed standards needed to be established which changed behaviours. With the employee experience improved, many of the customer experience issues disappear, specifically much of the bad demand – as in this case.
You can’t complete one without the other, but neither should you separate them. Working on customer experience initiatives is a great mechanic for staff to value the importance of delivering a great employee experience too.
10 stats highlighting the importance of Employee Experience on Customer Experience
How understand how you can improve your customer experience performance through a more resilient and rewarding customer experience contact email@example.com
Depending on which report you’ve read, Brits spend between 6 and 10 months of their lives complaining about the weather. We grumbled because it was too wet in March and then put our winter coats away in mid April when we saw a glimmer of sun only to get them down a week later when the heavens opened again And now we are out in t-shirts and shorts once more. All of which provides a wonderful source for a moan about ‘will it make it’s mind up’.
So how have companies tapped into this nation obsessed by the weather?
Here are three examples of organisations who have used the weather conditions to demonstrate their value to their customers through enhanced customer experiences.
Chessington Rainy Days Experience Promise
This isn’t unique to Chessington. In fact, Blackpool Pleasure beach and many others offer it too. For Chessington it’s a wonderfully simple message, ‘you don’t need to stay away because of potential bad weather’.
Not only do they highlight the park is typically quieter when it rains, so you get to experience more, but they offer a free like-for-like return day pass if you come on a day it rains.
Just one hour of rain entitles you to a return trip.
Direct Line drones help lifeboat searches
Lifeboat crews often rely on their eyes to spot a person in the water. When the weather is against them, it’s a race against time in poor visibility. The lifeboat can only cover a small space at a time.
Direct Line have invested in a batch of drones for Caister Lifeboat rescue. These coordinate as one using mobile-controlled “mesh networking” tech meaning they can cover a far greater reach than before. It means the lifeboat crew can find people at sea five times faster.
For me this demonstrates to customers a couple of things about Direct Line; 1) where technology can reduce risk, they will use it and 2) they are always thinking about how to help others. These are two attributes that are easy to say, but hard to demonstrate unless a claim is made. They call it high performance fixes for everyday problems. With initiatives such as this, Direct Line project the experience their customers can expect should something go wrong.
Hive’s IFTTT channel triggered by the weather
‘If this then that’ is a principal logic which connects several devices together to trigger actions based on conditions identified between them. For instance when driving home in your BMW, Hive recognises the temperature around the car, so it can change the heating settings at home. Similarly, if you are out having a run and connect your Strava fitness app, Hive Active thinking will track your closeness from home and make sure the hot water is read for a bath (Strava is less about the weather, but a nice illustration all the same).
All three of these, and others such as framing management apps, are great examples of how brands can take something as unpredictable as the British weather and use it to improve their own customer experience.
How do you get to ideas like this?
You need to think beyond the conventional customer journey map. Start at the end rather than the beginning. Understand the exceptional customer fulfilment that can be achieved and work back. If you go beyond the map you can discover new customer opportunities which you can fulfil with existing assets. If you stick to close to touch-point management, you’ll miss the disruption storm that’s going on around you.
Of course, keep close to touch-points to deliver an excellent (but often expected) customer experience, but stand back from it to find exceptional experiences to shine.
For more on disruptive customer experience techniques contact us and find out how we can help improve your customer experience.
Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Specialist, Lexden Group, home of the independent customer experience thinkers.
Each year there are over 100 Customer Experience events and conferences. The event junkies attend at least a handful, most of us aim to get to one or two and others miss out altogether. Whichever you are, I’m sure you’ve also found out about a conference after the event that you wished you’d attended.
With so many events, how do you know what’s happening and when?
Good news. At Lexden Customer Experience Consultancy, we’ve decided to pull together a listing of the CX events so you don’t miss out anymore. If you would like a free copy and updates, reply below and we will give you access to an ‘always up to date’ listing.[contact-form]
We hope you find it a useful source.
At Lexden we provide advice and support to enable customers to make the most from their customer experience.
* Beware of sinking most of the CX budget into a customer feedback system which gives a performance number linked to something which doesn’t correlate to profit. Verbatim doesn’t need to come in torrents through every data touch point. And don’t forget, feedback platforms becomes part of the experience, not just a measurement of it.You do need a truth and a prioritisation model. We use EXQ (Experience Quality Measurement) which is 25 customer behaviour drivers which have been proven (1,100 case studies) to account for 90% of customer’s decision-making. If introduced as the foundation layer of customer insight, at this stage it’s well established as the ‘customer truth’. Put ‘customer value’ at the wheel (to paraphrase Jane) and it becomes clearer. Stage 7 – Don’t stop me now With all involved, the right customer insights driving decision-making and priority improvement calls being rewarded with greater customer share of category commitment as a result of their value appreciated in the improved experience. If at this stage customer experience is set up as a growth strategy, then progress will be made. The Vanguards of CX enjoy 600% ROI, but only 3% of organisations are classed like this. With success behind you, growth opportunities to build improves experiences, a road map pointing to sustainable competitive advantage and colleagues who feel good and are rewarded for adding customer value, nothing will stop you now. Stage 8 – Perfect Day Everything is aligned around adding value to the customer. Both business planning and customer management processes are now revised to add value to the customer. Listening systems are in place so feedback informs what needs further improvement and why. And with commercial and data analysts on board, any improvement can be measured against new agreed customer performance measures. In this perfect world, new recruits, both employees and customer mention CX as a reason for joining, the experience as a consideration on their decision-making. The CEO asks whose idea it was to become customer-centric and the response is, ‘all of us. And then you find the transformation is wanted by the HBR or similar for a CX Case study – What a perfect day. Stage 8 – Happy ever after – Lovely Day As long as the CX team are focused on helping the business driving value for customer, CX is a long and sustainable strategy. It becomes a new way of working. Keep CX positioned as a growth opportunity. Keep listening customers. Keep understanding what matter most to them. Keep ensuring the business knows it’s purpose is to fulfill these and keep highlighting where the organisation can work harder to meet and exceed customers expectations in a more motivating (on brand) way than the competitors. From here on every day should be a lovely day. Everyday is a Lovely day thereafter. So there we go, from start to a continuous non-end, my soundtrack to our CX life. Do you agree? If you’ve got a better soundtrack thought for any of the stages, I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s only a bit of fun. But that’s both important in CX too. Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Consultant, Lexden (London) If you’d like to receive more articles on driving more profitable Customer Experience, please sign up to our free monthly ‘Customer Experience Update’. Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience insight, strategy, content and creative activation clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.