These days, it seems that every big company has rewritten its Mission statement and brand values to be ‘all about the customer’.
Financial services tend to run with quite generic promises such as Aviva’s poetic “Everything we do is full of Good Thinking for you” or Legal & General’s more traditional version of “Our customers are at the heart of our business.”
Travel companies seem to prefer adding in something about the longevity of their customer commitment, such as the National Express assurance that “customers are at the heart of everything we do. We continue to work to achieve their lifetime loyalty through delivering excellent services” and Thomas Cook’s pledge of allegiance that “we are here to deliver the best possible customer experience today offering value, flexibility and choice…. our very essence is to deliver inspiring personal journeys”.
It’s all very moving. But how can we actually tell if a company has genuinely built its proposition to live up to such fine words?
More importantly perhaps, can we identify from this whether a company really puts customers first, or simply a commitment to deliver a service that is profitable to its shareholders?
At Customer Faithful, we’ve tried to help explore this, by adapting some thinking by Peppers & Rogers (2012), which examined what builds trust. The table below, taken from our CX Fundamentals Course, highlights a fundamental distinction – the difference between delivering what you promise, and acting in the customers’ interests.
Highly regulated industries such as financial services and telecoms will wrap huge amounts of small print around their propositions – this means that if you go overdrawn, or use minutes or data beyond your product package, they can impose high costs whilst still delivering their service in full.
Yet, this is a world away from proactively alerting customers to a potential overspend, and showing customers ways they can avoid them (such as transferring money in from another account, or advising on ways to reduce unneeded mobile phone data consumption. By doing so, companies are likely to create much higher levels of consumer trust, and so extend lifetime purchases and customer advocacy. But this requires a long-term customer commitment, which may not always align well with quarterly City updates to investors.
Occasionally, it can require political intervention to try to nudge a whole industry to shift from service delivery promises to a customer centric model. This week, a cross-party group of almost 90 MPs supported a report which demands that UK mobile phone providers should enable cross-network roaming for its UK customers when individual companies are unable to provide a good quality signal themselves (just as they already do for foreign visitors to the UK, and for everyone ringing 999 emergency services).
The UK telecoms industry has a history of making service pledges that are not often kept, and even were they to be, regulators struggle to ensure that the standard of customer experience is what sets the bar for service levels, rather than internal industry assessment of what is appropriate and affordable.
So – next time you’re choosing a service provider, side-step the marketing strapline and try asking the company for examples of how it puts customers’ interests first.