The customer feedback experience – an experience not to be taken for granted!

taking customer feedback for granted

Last week I made a telephone call to my bank. A routine query, I chose to pick up the phone and call with my question, rather than use any other channel open to me. Having gone through the usual number selection process (or IVR as it is known technically), I was connected to a human. The chap I spoke to was very nice – he answered my question in less than thirty seconds. The entire experience lasted no more than 90 seconds ‘end to end’. All pretty simple. I disconnected the call without another thought.

Now you may be wondering what this rather banal story has to do with the subject of customer feedback. Let me explain. Approximately five minutes after I had concluded the telephone call with my bank my telephone rang. I was greeted by an automated message from the very bank I had just been conversing with. The message asked if I would be happy to participate in a short survey regarding my ‘recent’ experience. I was slightly taken aback. I had not given anyone permission to call my home telephone number to ask for my feedback on the call I had just made. The nice man I had spoken to did not say anything about it either. Rather than providing feedback, I disconnected the call with a sense of annoyance at what had just occurred – and that is why I am writing about the customer feedback experience.

For many years I have been troubled by one of the key pieces of the Customer Experience jigsaw puzzle – VOC (Voice of the Customer). I have not been troubled by the need for it – quite the contrary. VOC is one of three essential, obligatory elements of any Customer Experience measurement programme (VOP – voice of the process and VOE – voice of the employee being the other two).What has troubled me is the way organisations go about getting it – or in other words, the suitability and appropriateness of the very experience we put our customers through in order for us to find out what they think.

When was the last time you provided feedback to an organisation? Whilst we are able to deliver feedback without any prompting from the companies we interact with, the same companies are constantly trying to get us to tell them what we think via a variety of surveying methods. The same channels we use to conduct our transactions are also used to solicit our thoughts – both in words and numbers. Most of the methodologies used are the same today as they were many years ago – not a great deal seems to have changed. Doing what I do for a living, I often provide feedback when asked – I feel it is critical to allow companies to understand how I feel about my experience with them whilst I am always interested to understand what they want to know.


So let me ask again – when did you last provide feedback to an organisation that asked you for it? What did you think of the experience of actually doing it? Did you even consider the act of giving feedback to be an experience in itself? Too often the experience of giving feedback is not a great one. Regularly faced with lengthy online surveys, many consumers become disengaged very quickly. That is why methodologies such as NPS (Net Promoter Score) and Customer Effort have been so successful – radically simplifying the capturing of information can make it a better experience for the customer in providing it.

The challenge for customer focused organisations today is that they need to be able to design the customer feedback experience in the same way they design their customer journeys. As with the customer journey, capturing customer feedback should have a clear business need as well as defining some form of clear purpose for the customer to align to. It is very common for me to come across customer feedback mechanisms that have defined neither. I therefore urge all those responsible for customer feedback in their organisations to consider the following:

Business Need

  • Do you have a ‘customer feedback strategy’ in place?
  • Have you mapped/designed the customer feedback experience?
  • Is your customer feedback mechanism(s) actionable?
  • Is your customer feedback mechanism linked to employee performance and incentives?

Customer Purpose

  • Do you know how your customers want to provide feedback?
  • Do you know what customers think about the experience of giving feedback?
  • Do you have any defined way of keeping customers informed of actions you take as a result of their feedback?
  • Do you have a defined strategy to maintain customer engagement in continuously providing feedback?

Businesses will always need measurable and actionable customer feedback to continuously improve the experience they have with their organisation. Unless companies get better at designing the experience of providing feedback, there is a risk that too many customers will just not bother to give it any more. The extremes of customer perception will always make their voice heard – the unsolicited voice of the very happy or very angry – via a variety of social media channels. However, if we want the silent majority to keep helping us make our businesses better at giving them what they want and need, we must ensure that we make the experience of giving feedback one that the silent majority can more comfortably engage with.

Businesses will always need measurable and actionable customer feedback – without it, sustaining a focus on customer experience in an organisation is made very difficult We must therefore NEVER take for granted that customers will carry on giving us the feedback that we so urgently need. Go and review your customer feedback mechanism today – walk the experience for yourself and ensure that you are able to maintain your approach to customer feedback in the future.

Dare to be Different – The ‘Dignity in Diversity’ of Customer Experience

Dare to be Different

People often ask me where the inspiration for my blog posts comes from. Whilst there is no single answer to this question, I will say that the best blogs are usually those that are unplanned. In other words, I am regularly inspired by the things I see and hear – my posts will almost always be as a result of a recent experience of my own.

At the weekend, I was fortunate to hear a sermon from a retired Anglican Priest. I must admit that I was not particularly focused in absorbing what he was saying. I did hear him repeat three words at least three times though – those three words were ‘Dignity in Diversity’. I heard the words, but they did not really touch me….. not until my wife brought them to my attention again a little later.

The Priest was describing the importance of being different – trying something new. In what I now recognise as a very poignant speech, he was telling those that were listening why there is actually something to be proud of in driving and accepting change – change is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. It is his speech that is the inspiration for this post.

Delivering great Customer Experiences – consistently – is all dependent on an organisations ability to repeatedly and continually evolve/adapt/change/transform (delete or include as appropriate). Continually doing what you have always done is rarely a recipe for success – it is almost impossible to stand still as the world and the people who populate it (your employees and customers) constantly demand something different…. something better.

Therefore the discipline of Customer Experience is all about knowing what and how to change – easy to say, yet not so easy to do. There are challenges with both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Let us explore knowing ‘what’ to change first of all. For me, this is the bit that requires a structured, fact based approach to Customer Experience. This is where it is critical that a business understands what it is supposed to be doing for its customers and has a clear understanding of what works and what does not.

The problem is that too many businesses still make decisions on what it is their businesses should focus on without putting customer focused facts on the table. It is still very common for companys to look towards their competitors – often from only their own industry and attempt to do the same things……slightly better. Either that, or they look to who they consider to be the best and attempt to emulate them – if only I had a £ or a $ for every time a senior leader has told me that they would ‘like to be like Apple’!

Not like Apple

This is where the headline from this blog post comes in – Dare to be Different – there really is dignity in diversity – we should aspire to be different, not the same as everyone else. There is nothing wrong in learning from others, both inside and outside the industries from which our own businesses exist. However I strongly believe that our organisations should have the dignity to be as diverse as their customers need them to be – as different as they need to be – to constantly provide customers with better Customer Experiences.

In my time leading Customer Experience programmes, I have often been ‘knocked back’ for suggesting things that have not been done before – or that have never been tried by another company. ‘Dignity in Diversity’ is a different way of saying ‘Dare to Try’ – it plays to innovators and transformers. Being different is not a bad thing – it is what can truly make your business differentiate itself. To enable your business to change it is vital to unlock the potential that comes from within – this is the ‘how’ to change. Don’t be constrained by the negative (it has never been done before); look to the possibilities of being the first to ‘dare to try’!

In my final blog post of 2014, I suggested that we should ‘sweep the steps’ of Customer Experience in 2014 and move onwards and upwards to the land of opportunity ahead of us in 2015 – we could do this by truly daring to be as different and as diverse as our customers really want us to be. So go on – give it a go – don’t dare to dream of being like Apple – dare to dream to be the first to do something that has never been done before!

Dare to be Different


‘Customer excellence is here: it’s just not very evenly distributed yet’. The Nunwood 2014 UK Customer Experience Excellence Report

0 Nunwood 2014 6 pillars of Excellence simple

‘Customer Excellence is here: it’s just not evenly distributed yet’. A fantastic quote that I wish I could claim was mine! Whilst it is not, I can recognise a particularly relevant and accurate quote when I see one. The quote is in fact the very first line of the executive summary of this years Nunwood UK Customer Experience Excellence Report – a report that should be essential reading for any customer experience professional in the UK.

The reason why I think the quote is so apt is because I personally agree very much with its sentiment. In 2014, it is very difficult to find an organisation who does not believe that the customer experience or being customer centric is NOT of value. It is far easier to find companies who might say it, but demonstrate something completely different! At a time when even Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary, has publicly linked improving the customer experience with improving financial performance, we are possibly living in the most customer centric society ever (that may be a subject for a future blog post!).

Ryanair do not feature in the top 100 of Nunwood’s report into the Customer Experience Excellence of 250 companies operating in the UK – maybe Mr O’Leary will make entering the top 100 an objective for 2015! The report is a fascinating assessment of the customer centric nature of brand names that we interact with on a daily basis. Focussed around 6 pillars that Nunwood use to assess ‘excellence’, the brand names that are considered to be ‘customer champions’ will probably not surprise you. I am often asked who the most customer centric brands in the UK are – the 2014 top 10 are a very good reflection:

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It is difficult to disagree with this bunch – although I am sure some will try!! As I have already stated, Nunwood produce the listing using their 6 pillars of Customer Experience Excellence. What is important to remember here is that their study does not just produce a league table – it more critically gives you an insight into exactly why these brands are at the top of the list. So let us look at what makes an ‘Excellent Customer Experience’ in a little more detail:

1. Personalisation

Described by Nunwood as – using individualised attention to drive an emotional connection. This is so important and a pillar that has become necessary as we, the consumer, are demanding more emotionally engaging experiences every day. It is absolutely true to say that emotionally engaged customers will interact with you more often – the Nunwood top 10 are demonstrating excellence in achieving this.

2. Expectations

Described by Nunwood as – managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Not difficult to understand – it does what it says on the tin. To be at the top of the Nunwood list, you need to be consistently good at delivering both the basics and the ‘sprinkling of fairy dust’, as I and my colleagues like to describe it!

3. Time and Effort

Described by Nunwood as – minimising customer effort and creating frictionless processes. Now that would be nice! If you read my blog post last week, you will understand just how important this is in delivering ‘excellent’ customer experiences – maybe it is not a surprise that the companies involved in my experience are not in the Nunwood top 100.

4. Integrity

Described by Nunwood as – being trustworthy and engendering trust. Integrity is a word that few would associate with many industries in 2014 – it has been eroded so significantly since 2008. However it should be noted that the brand that has come top of the pile in 2014 (and was also third in 2013) is one that comes from the industry that many of us still trust the least. The fact that First Direct have maintained their integrity whilst the industry around them have failed to do so in such dramatic fashion, is absolute testament to their unrelenting focus on the customer.

5. Resolution

Described by Nunwood as – turning a poor experience into a great one. Recovery of poor experiences is well known to have a potentially galvanising effect on loyalty. The ability to respond to an issue is a vital skill for any business. However, I would argue that it is still better to have to recover as an exception!! Interestingly, my experience last week saw one of the organisations involved responding in ‘best in class’ fashion – I was very impressed. Yet despite this, my opinion of their brand has not changed. Do not get me wrong – the ability to resolve is vital – but getting things right in the first place should take precedence.

6. Empathy

Described by Nunwood as – achieving an understanding of the customer’s circumstances to drive deep rapport. Getting the emotional component of the experience right is still the thing I see most commonly missing from the organisations I interact with. Understanding and empathising with customers is a critical competency that drives the most customer centric of organisations.

To get into Nunwood’s top 10, your business needs to demonstrate excellence in all 6 of these pillars. Some might be good in one or two – yet competency in all 6 is what makes you a Nunwood Customer Champion.

Wherever your business sits today, it is wonderful to see how the excellence pillars are becoming more commonly embedded in businesses all over the UK. The report makes it clear that there is a demonstrable shift in the upward direction in 2014 – this is echoed by reports from other agencies in the US. As customers we are receiving improving customer experiences – some businesses are better than others. Some are improving faster than others. What is important is that the improvements we are seeing are maintained and even more importantly sustained.

If you want to read the report in detail, or find out more about it, please have a look at Nunwood’s Customer Experience Excellence Centre.




The gift that is Customer Feedback. How not to accept it by Southwest Airlines & Easyjet

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Customer feedback comes in many different forms. Often sought out by companies, it can be captured via email, web pop up or telephone surveys. It can be recorded in face to face customer focus groups or received in person before, during or after an interaction with a customer. Some still leave good old-fashioned paper forms for customers to fill in, whilst new-fangled QR codes attempt to entice consumers to use modern technology to tell companies what they think.

It is no big secret that the newest form of customer feedback’ is of the unsolicited kind. This is feedback that is not necessarily asked for, yet can potentially have the most significant effect on the companies it relates to. This is the feedback that is being produced on a daily basis across social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Despite the fact they have been in existence for a while, companies are still struggling to adapt to their very existence. On a regular basis, social media customer experience horror stories are being exposed – in this blog post I will be sharing two of them from the airline industry.

The two stories I am going to share relate to customer feedback posted on Twitter. Before I do share them with you, I would like to make you aware of some amazing statistics about Twitter. These statistics were posted in an excellent blog by Brian Honigman called ’10 Surprising Twitter Stats for Community Managers‘. You can read about all ten on Brian’s blog – the ones I want to draw your attention to are as follows:

  1. The average company is tweeted 39 times a day and 273 times a week
  2. 53% of brand followers expect them to respond to their comments in an hour. That number jumps to 72% when it’s a complaint
  3. 60% of company mentions are posted when you’re not at the office
  4. 30% of tweets including company names don’t include their Twitter handle
  5. Only 9% of tweets mentioning a company are directed at the company
  6. 97% of major brands are on Twitter

Companies cannot hide from the fact that Twitter is a hugely important vehicle for BOTH customers and their own businesses. Customers (whether existing or potential) use twitter as a way of stating a number of things. They use it to praise companies and their employees. They use it to ask companies specific questions and to ask for help. They use it to make complaints requiring a response. They also use it to express their dissatisfaction with companies who do things they do not like. In all cases, the insight that can and is being captured via Twitter is an invaluable feed into an organisations customer feedback engine room.

The beauty of Twitter and other social media platforms is that the feedback being placed on them is completely free and unprompted. There is no bias. There is no skewing of data. Customers will say what they will whenever they want to say it. It is therefore VITAL for an organisation to know what to do with the feedback they capture – how to deal with it when it comes in. Twitter is just ONE of many sources of customer feedback – the key is to ensure that all forms of feedback are linked together in someway to ensure that the strategy for dealing with it is in context with the priorities for improvement in the end to end customer experience. Feedback is a gift – but you need to know how to accept it and what to do with it.

Two organisations who have recently failed to deal well with Twitter feedback are both from the airline industry. Let us start with Southwest Airlines. When a good friend of mine brought this story to my attention, I was disbelieving. I had to check the date to make sure it was not April Fools Day. Sadly the story is not a joke. It is very real. It is one of the most amazing stories of the mistreatment of customer feedback I have seen to date. The story is about a frequent Southwest Airlines passenger called Duff Watson. Usually flying with the airline on business, Mr Watson was on this occasion travelling with his two children. Being a frequent passenger, Mr Watson benefitted from priority boarding. Although his two children did not have priority boarding tickets, he did not think it would be a problem for them to stand in the queue with him. To cut a long story short, Mr Watson was flatly refused entry to the plane via the priority boarding queue. As many consumers would, whilst making his way to the back of the normal queue with his children, Mr Watson tweeted his dissatisfaction at the way he had been treated. What happened next is quite simply amazing.

Having taken their seats on the plane, Mr Watson and his children were told to leave the aircraft immediately. When back at the gate, he was told that his tweet of dissatisfaction constituted a ‘safety threat’. The only way he would be allowed back on the plane would be for him to delete the tweet. With two distressed children, Mr Watson did this – waiting until he arrived at his final destination to tweet the airline again. Quite a remarkable story – you can read more about it here.

Just when I thought it could not get any worse, my good friend sent me another story – this time about Easyjet. Mark Leiser, a lecturer at Strathclyde University, was on the receiving end of some curt, uninformed customer service. Concerned that a delay to his flight would cause him and other passengers the inconvenience of missing important travel connections, all Mr Leiser wanted was help from Easyjet staff. Being dissatisfied with the response he received, Mr Leiser, like Mr Watson, took to twitter to express his dissatisfaction. Mr Leiser tweeted the following:

Flight delayed 90min. Soldier going to miss last connection & @easyjet refusing to help pay for him to get to Portsmouth. Get right into em!

As a result of this tweet, Mr Leiser was allegedly threatened with not being allowed to board the aircraft. Told he was not allowed to tweet ‘stuff like that’, he was genuinely at risk of being refused access to the plane. Astonishing. Eventually Mr Leiser did board the plane, but like Mr Watson before him, the story of the way he was treated will rumble on long after his flight ended. You can read more about this story here.

In both cases, valuable repeat customers of two airlines used their democratic right to leave ‘feedback’ about companies they were interacting with. In both cases, the actions of the companies were wildly inappropriate. Rather than trying to prevent customers from saying what they think, these organisations should be LISTENING to vitally important feedback that identifies weaknesses in their ability to deal with certain scenarios. Rather than defending the actions of employees who have clearly not be trained to deal with these situations, Southwest Airlines and Easyjet should be giving unreserved apologies to Mr Watson and Mr Leiser and reassuring customers that they welcome feedback in the quest to continually improve their customer experience.

I hope I will not read more stories like this in the future – sadly I expect I will. I was told a long time ago that feedback is a gift. I thought that was a very wise statement. Receiving the gift is easy – knowing what to do with it is the hard bit.


Guest Post: Mystery shopping reveals three common sources of profit leakage in professional and business services

I am delighted to introduce a new guest blogger this week – Tim Dixon-Phillip, Director of Service Reality. In his post, Tim talks about the term ‘Profit Leakage’ – as you take the time to read it, you will recognise where many organisations are experiencing it!! I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did.


Increasingly, buyers of business or professional services expect more for less.  Tough economic conditions, increased promiscuity and aggressive new market entrants with deep pockets and marketing savvy have permanently changed the rules of new client engagement. 

The following article draws on mystery shopping evidence from professional and business services providers which reveal three of the most common leaks in the new enquiry pipeline which are impacting enquiry conversions, profits and returns on marketing investment. For ease of reference, clients and customers will be referred to collectively as customers. 

Profit Leakage

Profit leakage usually occurs following a mediocre or poor experience which causes a prospective customer to hesitate and/or go elsewhere. This can happen at any point of interaction in the new enquiry journey, from visiting the website, talking to the switchboard/call centre through to the initial consultation with an adviser.

The following evidence is drawn from mystery shopping the top 50 law firms (Consumer and SME- facing teams), the top 10 accountants (SME-facing teams), global B2B software providers (SME- facing teams) and major financial services providers (SME-facing teams).  Our mystery shoppers pose as credible business owners or buyers of serious personal injury across a variety of new enquiry scenarios, ranging from a referral from a friend or existing customer, to a website enquiry. Across all the above sectors, the three most common sources of profit leakage were as follows:

  1. Ineffective search functions and broken links on the website
  2. Lack of empathy from switchboard or call centre operatives
  3. Reluctance from advisers to show enthusiasm for working with the customer and/or agree a next step

Customer journey experience as a measure of profit leakage and marketing ROI

A growing number of business and professional service providers see benefit in measuring what happens to prospective or existing customers when they start a dialogue with people at various levels in the company, either to get something done or in response to a referral or a marketing event.

Some of the companies that have adopted this approach have witnessed an exponential impact on profit, revenues and customer retention as a result.

Conversely, companies are learning that a negative customer experience is punished more severely than ever before and even dissatisfied business customers are increasingly likely to broadcast their complaints on social media.

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Higher expectations, lower tolerance of mediocrity or failure

You only have to think about your personal experience with websites and call centres in retail, leisure and utilities to acknowledge that we expect companies to be easy to buy from and work with, and how frustrating it is when they fail to meet our expectations.

How quickly do you leave a website if it doesn’t give you the information you want or the content bores you?  What do you do if the link you click on is broken or the call-back button doesn’t work properly?  How do you feel if you are put on hold for longer than a minute or two, or you get put through to the wrong person or voicemail without being asked?  How irritating is it when you have to keep repeating what you want each time you are transferred to yet another person in the same company?

High service expectations extend to buying business and professional services – why wouldn’t they?  They also lead to an increasing willingness on the part of disaffected customers to publish their feelings on social media, including Linked In, or rating sites like Trustpilot.

Customer experience as a brand differentiator

Service companies are finding that the unique way in which they deliver their own version of a great customer experience is something that differentiates their brand.  It is also something that is very difficult for competitors to mimic. Retail and Leisure brands have known this for years, which explains why the global annual mystery shopping spend in these sectors is estimated to be $3 billion.

How does your company measure what it feels like for a potential or existing customer when they use your website, switchboard or call centre?  Do you know what impression your partners or account managers create during an initial telephone consultation with a prospective customer?  Which member of your senior management team is accountable for improving end-to-end customer experience across the company?

The biggest influence on customer loyalty and buying behaviour will probably always be the quality of the advice and strength of their relationship with your front line relationship managers.  However, the rules of engagement have changed.

Customers have learned to expect more.  They are more discerning and less tolerant than they ever have been.  Relationship strength and the customers’ propensity to buy is increasingly influenced by their overall experience of using your company.

Case study

During a recent project with a top 50 law firm, we audited what it felt like for customers to make a new enquiry from start to finish.  We quickly identified that they were leaking profit in several key points of interaction between customer and firm.

We tested a variety of customer personas (business and personal) and simulated a number of evaluation and enquiry journeys.  We tested the performance of the website, and taped the subsequent conversations with switchboard, support teams and fee earners.

It was easy to see the points at which they were losing potential customers and where they were giving new and existing customers a negative impression of the brand.

It was also easy to see where new enquiries were tying up fee earners with non-productive conversations due to poor filtering at the front end of the new enquiry process.

The impact of this project was immediately noticed by partners and staff.  The evidence (good and bad) generated by the audit was irrefutable and emotive, which proved to be a powerful catalyst for change.  Our client was able to galvanize teams into action and unite partners in a way they hadn’t seen happen before. New enquiry conversion rates doubled across the firm within 6 months.

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Lessons learned: eight steps towards reducing profit leakage and maximising marketing ROI

  1. Remove silos – one senior individual should have ‘ownership’ of the end-to-end customer experience
  2. Ensure they are accountable, with clear and measurable objectives for:
    1. Maximising the enquiry-to-customer conversation rate (minimising profit leakage)
    2. Increasing fee earner productivity through improved qualification of new enquiries
    3. Improving customer experience
  3. Ensure they are mandated by the Board and have the influence to make the necessary changes to behaviours, processes or technology
  4. Identify the customer segments, profiles and buyer personas that have the biggest impact on achieving your strategic goals
  5. For each customer segment, map out what a great customer experience looks and feels like for every service line and at every level of interaction in the company (including website, switchboard support teams and fee earners)
  6. Test what it feels like to be a new or existing customer today – identify strengths and opportunities for improvement
  7. Engage your front line teams in identifying the root causes of any problems identified and for implementing solutions

Commit to continuous improvement and keep measuring progress.

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The Net Promoter Score No No – Do not use NPS if it makes no sense to do so

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Net Promoter Score (or NPS as it is also known) has been written and spoken about thousands of times over the last few years. Whilst some see it as the simplest (and cheapest) way to capture customer feedback, others dismiss it as far too simplistic with an inability to allow the organisation using it to understand what issues need to addressed.

Using the NPS scoring system as an analogy, I am neither a promoter nor a detractor of the methodology – although I would say the same thing for any customer feedback mechanism. As I will tell any business that asks me – every organisation is different – different customers; employees; business structure; issues; environment etc.. What each individual organisation needs to do to improve the customer experience will de dependent on its situation. This includes the adoption of a customer feedback programme.

NPS is a very effective tool to help a business understand customer loyalty – but it does not apply to every business. I have very successfully encouraged organisations to adopt it.  These tend to be businesses looking to grow – the more likely one customer is to recommend the business to someone else, the greater the likelihood is that they will achieve the growth they are looking for.

NPS is obviously not the only customer feedback mechanism available. Customer Satisfaction is very commonly deployed, whilst ‘Customer Effort Score’ has become more prominent in the last couple of years. None is right, none is wrong – what is important is that an organisation deploys what is right for them. More often than not, I will recommend using two methods – one to galvanise support in the organisation, and one to provide a granular understanding of the priorities for improvement.

Sadly, NPS is often abused and misused – I would like to share with you a very current example. Yesterday, Mrs Golding unfortunately had to pay a visit to the Accident & Emergency department of our local hospital in Chester. Naomi’s injury was a long way from life threatening, but she was sent there by our General Practitioner. To cut a long story short, Naomi had a piece of ceramic tile stuck in her foot – a little like a splinter – and it needed to be removed as quickly as possible.

I dropped Naomi off at the hospital at 11:30am, and collected her at 15:45. We did not expect her visit to be swift!! In the hours Naomi was at the hospital, she observed and experienced a number of things – from the packed, not particularly clean waiting room, to friendly nurses and helpful doctors. By the time she hobbled out of the hospital, her objective had been met – her foot was sore, but the problem was solved.

Of all of the experiences we have today – especially in the UK – the one that we might least expect to be asked about is our experience at an NHS hospital. When Naomi looked at her phone later that day and saw a text message from an unknown number – she was intrigued. The unknown number turned out to be from the Countess of Chester Hospital – the image below is of the text message:

0 nps no no no

Instantly Naomi knew I would be interested in seeing it – she was right. My immediate thought was No No No!! Why on earth is an Accident and Emergency department of the only NHS hospital with an A&E department in Chester asking the NPS question??? What better example can be provided of an inappropriate use of the NPS methodology? Why on earth would anyone NOT recommend the A&E department in a city where there is only one??? Would anyone ask a paramedic to drive on to the hospital in the next city as they were told by a friend not to use the local one??

I think that the intent of the text message is correct – the method is completely wrong. I once attended a meeting where the now defunct NHS Direct shared with the group that their NPS score was close to 100% – this was yet another example of an organisation using the wrong method – NHS Direct was unique – you would never have NOT recommended it!!

I can tell you right now that the Countess of Chester Hospital will learn nothing from this survey – they will not have any idea that the waiting room was not clean, that certain members of staff were kind and polite, that the waiting times were satisfactory or not. The NPS score they receive will be extremely high. They may perceive as a result that the A&E department is doing a great job.

There is NO POINT capturing customer feedback unless that feedback enables your organisation to understand what the priorities for improvement are. If you want to get a great customer feedback score for the purposes of vanity, put your business in a monopoly situation and then ask the NPS question. The A&E department at the Countess of Chester Hospital would be much better served asking patients how satisfied they were with a small number of touchpoints during their visit – from waiting room, to triage assessment, to staff engagement etc.. If they carry on asking patients if they would recommend the unrecommendable, the result will be quite simple – a complete waste of money!


Innovating the market research industry – a startup perspective

One thing is certain in the environment we live in today – innovation is essential if organisations want to achieve sustainable growth. Innovation will help ensure that our ever changing and more demanding needs as consumers are met. In this guest blog post, I am delighted to introduce you to Ben Claxton – Ben is the Founder and CEO of a new, innovative company called nativeye – a mobile research platform that in his words ‘helps your business stay relevant’. Ben talks us through his thoughts as to how innovation can help to transform the way we seek feedback from customers…..

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Anyone who has tried to get traction for an innovation – whether startup or internal initiative – will recognise the challenge. You have a view of a better future for your customers, if only you can convince them. Sticking doggedly to your grand vision on the one hand may not bring along enough people to achieve market success, while being too customer-centric limits your potential and fail to deliver the game-changer.

The trick of course if navigating a third way of market-driven innovation that meets people’s unarticulated and unmet needs – giving them the thing they didn’t even know they wanted but from which there’s no going back.

The following are some personal experiences from the last 3 years of launching and growing a mobile research platform – a tool that seeks to transform the market research industry. The examples are specific but hopefully the lessons are relevant to anyone trying to get their innovation off the ground.

Mobile – the next frontier in market research

When asked at the recent Insight Innovation Exchange in Amsterdam when the time of mobile market research is coming, Ray Pointer of Vision Critical replied, “About 18 months ago”.

This anecdote gives you some insight as to a market that has been hotly tipped for a while now but is still waiting to catch fire. (that said Survey Monkey recently reported that they had seen x14 increase in their mobile traffic in the last 3 years).

The case for mobile is various but includes: massive smartphone penetration and usage, an intimate and ‘in the moment’ channel,  the richer data made possible by smartphones’ communication, multimedia and location functions. This all adds up to a new way of engaging and learning from customers. At nativeye we talk about doing research that doesn’t feel like research.

Predicting real need is hard but vital

Prior to coding a single line we put together a clickable prototype and received strong encouragement to proceed. However those nodding heads we had initially were not necessarily our first customers. In fact, some are only starting to buy now, 3 years on. Possibly there was more we could have done to validate need, but there are a whole host of other factors beyond your control that dictate when people are ready to buy.

A clue to validating real current need is to look at whether people are already trying to solve the problem right now. They might be using other products, hiring people or inventing workarounds to try and do the thing that your product does.

Find your tribe

Some people resist just change (including new technology). This is certainly the case in the market research industry. Either because it requires effort to learn new techniques or because people feel threatened by it (which is probably justified if you are an Amazon warehouse picker). David A. Aaker advises innovators to ‘beware the pessimist’ that will attempt to derail innovation projects based solely of their irrational fear of the new (interesting to note that he also mentions to be aware of the over-optimist).

Some people you’re just not going to win over. The best you can hope for is to quickly identify them and move on. For others to try something new the Benefit must > Pain. Pain comes in many forms – the mental effort to work out where your product fits, the risk of an untried approach, bugs in a new product.

However, some people are much more inclined to give something new a whirl – the benefit to them being the potential transformation of their day-to-day. These people are like gold and will be your champions. I think Seth Godin provides the best advice here which is, “find your tribe and grow out from there.”

Learn to explain innovations in terms people currently understand

Of those that do embrace technology, many initially consider it in old frames of reference. Initially nativeye was seen as a mobile survey tool. Common questions included, “How will I get all the survey questions I want on a screen that size?” This made our spirit sink somewhat as we didn’t see nativeye this way – we saw it as a two-way customer channel that captured people’s experience in unprecedented richness and timeliness.

It’s sometimes frustrating when trying to push things forward only to be pulled back into old frames. But if your product is truly transformational and you can get people to try you out, then this should bubble to the surface and they will tell others of their great experience. In the MR world a tool has to deliver on old measures such as ‘response rate’ before people will countenance the new stuff. It’s a reality that you have to navigate this while still not losing track of the larger potential.

Don’t sell features, solve jobs

Clay Christensen talks about innovating by solving the jobs people want to do. Selling in these terms also makes your proposition much more compelling whereas only talking about features leads you to sell yourself short. This is why about 18 months in we started selling “relevance”. This is the bigger benefit that helps bring people on board by speaking language they can understand. As a customer, I don’t know if I want a ‘mobile research platform’ or to ‘open up a channel to my customers’ but I certainly want my brand to stay relevant to its customers.

Ben Claxton is the founder of nativeye, a mobile research platform that helps your business stay relevant.

Contact Ben for ideas on how nativeye can help you

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