How do you go about making improvements to the customer experience that will make a real difference for customers? You know things are not working for customers, you get feedback to say so and you even experience it yourself when you ‘walk in the customer’s shoes’. You are probably already busy implementing fixes, but are you fixing what matters?
The move away from one off or ad hoc customer research studies towards real-time, on-going customer experience management systems has been driven by a recognition that organisations view of the world isn’t usually the reality of their customer experience. Organisations know that it is essential for them to listen to, understand and act upon feedback from their customers.
For companies, there are also a number of feedback sources and channels to tap into for that evidence and insight; from complaints data, to (transactional) nps surveys to social media monitoring, website feedback and contact centre interactions. The integration of these sources into one common feedback framework provides an organisation with a hugely powerful consolidation of what appears to be actionable insight – but it does not necessarily steer them towards the right customer activities.
The problem organisations face is that these customers and their issues that form part of these data repositories are not always representative of the whole base or of the typical customer experience.
There needs to be a more rounded and value based approach.
Questions that come to mind are:
1. If a typical business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers and for every one of these dissatisfied customers who bothers to complain there are 26 others remain silent; how can you assess what of the experiences of those who do stay silent?
2. If only 10% of customers were to participate in a survey after having had a transaction or interaction with an organisation; what are the experiences of the other 90%?
3. Often transactional surveys are based on a set of internally generated assumptions or attributes to be measured; are these the things that the customer values or need to feed back about
4. In surveys, customers tend to feedback about the rational parts of their experience; what about their emotional experience (as these things are usually high up on the list of customer priorities)
5. Does highest incidence = biggest issue? Are the most commonly mentioned problems the most important customer related issues?
6. Is there a cumulative effect? A singular interaction may have low significance, but do cumulative experiences (similar or not) across a journey have a whole new impact (1+1 =3!) for a customer?
7. Is feedback influenced by possible ‘negative baggage’ or industry perception? This often depends on the sector or organisation, but could be causing over-amplification of issues that a company hears about
By way of example, a recent hotel visit comes to mind. I was asked to rate the cleanliness of the room. But, I wasn’t asked about the welcome received by staff. I had been to this hotel three times already in the year and what was important to me as a customer was more of an emotional connection around being recognised when I checked in. One could deduce that cleanliness is deemed by the hotel group as highly important to customers; but that the personal welcome to the hotel, is less so. I’m deliberately forcing the point here.
A customer may have a hundred or so interactions with a company during a journey. These interactions aren’t all important. Customers don’t give many interactions a second thought – until the moment when they go wrong. What’s important is which journeys and interactions add most value to the customer so that time spent improving and fixing, focuses on making a real difference for the customer and the organisation. When forced to make trade-offs, a customer will let you know which things are nice to have fixed and which are highly important. Not all interactions are created equal.
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least – Goethe
If companies don’t know what matters most to customers i.e. what they really value and what adds value to their relationship, how can they measure the right things and improve? Act on the right insight to place resources and efforts in the right place.
In an ideal world, an organisation would have an in-depth understanding of their customers and their journey. A process and an on-going framework would be employed that does give this insight about what is important to customers. When the organisation receives any feedback from a customer, they can link that feedback to customer priorities and know which action to take, which solutions to prioritise and which initiatives to ignore.
There shouldn’t be any customer blind spots – but there are few cases of the ideal world scenario.
Many organisations, as I alluded at the beginning of this piece, have come in at the last step of the process diagram – at journey analytics. They are probably receiving lots of customer feedback on their current experience. They may well be acting on some of this insight; but I come back to my very first question, are they fixing what counts?
If they are missing the obvious, it doesn’t mean that it is too late to go back a step or to the beginning. It is ever more important to connect their current feedback programme with a prioritisation of interactions and customer journeys.
Taking a value based approach to CX and designing customer research that can identify the value within each journey, will help provide the business with a graded shortlist of things to focus on, fix and improve. It can also use it as a framework by which to judge existing initiatives around the business that impact on the customer experience.
Employing such an approach would deliver greater return on VOC & nps investment, as precise research will make the difference between what could currently be ‘interesting insights’ that can be actioned and those that actually do drive improvement and better returns.
Obtaining the right insights, prioritising customers’ journeys will lead to smiling companies and happier customers.