Why would you recommend Virgin Trains? Why NPS should not be the default question to measure all customer experiences

Virgin Trains - why would you recommend them to anyone when there is no other option?
Virgin Trains – why would you recommend them to anyone when there is no other option?

I am very fortunate to work with and alongside some exceptional Customer Experience Professionals. As a specialist in the profession myself, the ability to continually learn from my peers enables my own development. Whilst I love writing about all things to do with Customer Experience (as I hope you know), some of my colleagues are not as keen as I am to rant on a regular basis. That being said, I often try to ‘twist the arm’ of the experts I know others will be keen to learn from.

I am absolutely delighted that my friend and fellow Customer Experience Professional, Maria McCann has finally caved in and written about an experience of her own. If you do not know Maria, you should. Maria is one of the most accomplished leaders I know in the Customer Experience field, having held senior roles at Red Letter Days, ASOS, Spotify and Aurora Fashions. Her story (which I am hoping you have guessed involves Virgin Trains) is one that I am sure we can all relate to – I know you will enjoy reading it:

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We’ve all been on the receiving end of a train delay. It’s often a no-win situation for the train company focused on getting everyone to their destination safely, while passengers are left feeling impotent and frustrated.  I feel protective of the customer facing teams dealing with confused, sometimes angry customers and the social teams whose twitter handles get put under immense pressure to respond with lightening speed.

However a first time trip using Virgin Trains left me with more steam coming out of my ears than one of their Super Voyagers! Let me set the scene. My train was cancelled. The next one was delayed. Updates from the concourse and on twitter citing reasons outside of the train Operators control. A blameless situation and a communicative company.  All ok so far. Expect in the middle of my chaos, I received a survey asking me how my recent travel experience was and how likely I was to recommend Virgin Trains to a family or friend. The good old NPS question.

When I told them there was zero chance of me recommending them, I was asked why.  This is what I told them.

  1. Why would I need to recommend the only operator that runs this route?
  2. My train is delayed. I wouldn’t recommend anyone right now

I’m going to pivot here for a moment and talk about Net Promoter Score; the methodology that Virgin Trains, and countless other businesses use to measure their customer experience.

I was an early UK adopter of NPS, first implementing it at Red Letter Days in 2007. The reason I used it was a purists’ one. I wanted something we could use to measure organic growth. As a company coming out of Administration, it was crucial we had a sustainable customer growth underpinning our strategy and NPS was a great way to measure this.

Since then I have seen the use of NPS evolve into a benchmark measure for customer satisfaction or experience reaching out beyond commercial markets into sectors with consumer monopolies such as train travel, and even NHS Direct in health.I’m all for having a measure that provides insight which organisations can act upon. However, I would challenge NPS as the default question to measure customer experience in all cases. It was certainly the wrong question to ask about my train experience.

Anyway, back to my frustrated self, standing on the platform. NPS question asked and answered. Check. Algorithm picked up key word, prompting more detail from me. Check. Detail given in form of mini-rant. Check.

‘We’re sorry you experienced a delay’ was the answer to my response ‘If you have been delayed by more than 30 minutes, please click here to download a form to claim for compensation.

WOW! I thought; this business is so sorry that I have to do all the work to pick up the pieces.

My train finally arrived and it was elbows at dusk as two trains worth of passengers attempted what looked like a line of rugby scrums as they boarded. Deciding that standard class was going to be more like cattle class, I decided to seek out a member of staff to see if I could upgrade to 1st, (which took up a third of the train and was practically empty). ‘Upgrades are only available at weekends’ was the flat response.  I had no idea what this meant and was losing my calm. And so I turned to Twitter to see if I could get what I wanted. #Epicfail

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I got no response from Virgin Trains after my final tweet and I spent the rest of my journey calming myself over a gin and reflecting on what I could learn from my experience.

Data gives us opportunities to see further ahead than the customer. So why do we often act out of kilter with our customers’ reality?

When I headed up Customer Service at ASOS, I obsessed over being one step ahead of our customers. Especially on delayed deliveries. Then we developed the capability to predict delays, communicate the failure and refund the delivery charge. All in one smooth service experience. This presented a culture problem. If we refunded 100% of failures, we might refund some customers who didn’t deserve it and we would definitely spend more in refunds.

However we decided to put the right experience over our fears and became one of the first retailers to tell customers of a problem before they felt the pain of experiencing it.  Customers who had previously complained fell, rapidly.  Refunds ballooned but we were able to reinvest the resources we had saved from reduced customer contact, into finding the root of these delays and fixing them for good.

Virgin Trains could have mashed up mine and the train’s data. They could have emailed me to tell me of the delay. They could have reassured me I didn’t have to do anything because they were sorting the compensation. And they could have avoided sending me a survey at the worst possible moment in my experience.

 We love training our teams to be empowered. So why don’t we support them to be autonomous?

I know some of you will be thinking empowerment and autonomy are the same and I’ve lost the plot.  Admittedly my mind can sometimes make quantum leaps of logic so let me try to explain what’s going on in my head…

Empowerment is a set of pre-defined powers handed from manager to employee, usually to manage a set of processes. Autonomy starts from the other end. It is an individual using their purpose, self-reliance and judgment to handle any situation, with their leaders supporting their needs. Talk to me about autonomy and I get inspired.

My experience could have gone differently in a completely autonomous environment. 1st class seats could have been sold without referring to process limitations to those interested in paying. If a totally customer obsessed train manager had been in charge, free WiFi and coffee might have been given to the flagging passengers! Although it was clear the team were empowered to manage the overall situation of the delay, I felt like I’d been shoved through a linear process.

To be fair to Virgin Trains, my overall experience is no better or worse than most consumer face everyday. Most brands are just not brave enough to push the boundaries in how we can use data and support our teams to act autonomously.

So I’ll leave you with this thought …  if we did use data to manage and measure the hygiene parts of our customers experience and leave the awesome parts to our autonomous colleagues, I believe most brands would have a better relationship with their customers as a result.


I am sure you will join me in thanking Maria for taking the time to write this excellent post. You can connect with her on Twitter @mariamccann or LinkedIn

‘To be a CXP or not to be a CXP…..that is the question!’

Business leader

This blog post is an article I have written for the April edition of the Customer Experience Magazine – you can read the article via this link as well as some other great content – http://www.customerexperiencemagazine.co.uk/features/to-be-a-cxp-or-not-to-be-a-cxp-that-is-the-question/

Whenever I am asked the question – ‘what do you do then?’ – I always describe myself as a CXP – a Customer Experience Professional. I have been doing this for the last few years. As someone who has had a career steeped in the world of acronyms (I am also an MBB – or Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt), it seems to make perfect sense.

According to Wikipedia, a ‘professional’ is ‘a person who is engaged in a certain activity, or occupation, for gain or compensation as means of livelihood; such as a permanent career, not as an amateur or pastime’ That confirms it then – I can legitimately call myself a CXP.

Calling myself a CXP is further supported by the fact that an association, focussed solely on developing professionals working in the field of customer experience management, was created a couple of years ago. The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) provides its members – individuals looking to make their mark on the profession, and companies that are leaders in their industries – with valuable professional development and networking opportunities. Members collaborate to establish best practices and promote a better appreciation of the discipline of customer experience to both consumers (B2C) and to business (B2B) customers.

CXPA Founders, Bruce Temkin and Jeanne Bliss

All sounds great…….doesn’t it? Or does it? There is absolutely no doubt that in the last five years, organisations all around the world have started to change the way they treat their customers. Businesses who previously took customers for granted are now starting to re-consider whether or not their existing strategies are appropriate. Many businesses never had a strategy that incorporated ‘customer’ anywhere in it – business is all about lining our own pockets isn’t it?

Supported by the global economic downturn, as businesses have started to incorporate the customer into their strategies, they have also started to recruit people with a ‘customer experience’ remit. Ten years ago, the CCO (or Chief Customer Officer) did not exist. Today, more and more CCO’s are appearing on the scene. Customer Experience Directors; Heads of Customer Experience; Customer Experience Transformists; Customer Experience Futurologists; are all job titles that have started to become commonplace.

So why is it that I am still not sure if the CXP really exists? Why is it that I find more people who have no idea what ‘customer experience’ actually is, than those who do? Why is it that I still come across many companies who think that ‘customer experience management’ is not a unique role, but the collective responsibility of everyone in the organisation?

As someone who considers to be a CXP (as per the Wikipedia definition!), there are positive and negative answers to all of those questions. Organisational understanding of the customer experience as a discipline is still in its fledgling state. It may seem obvious to people who ‘get’ customer, but many still do not. This is why (in my opinion) the CXP has been born. This is why more and more CXPs are being created on a regular basis. This is why groups such as the CXPA are so vital to the development of a new industry.

In an ever-changing technological world, consumer and customer behaviour changes quicker than ever before. As a six sigma practitioner, I always had to explain to businesses the importance of continuous improvement – what the customer wants today will be different tomorrow. That has always been the case – the difference is that what the customers wants now will be different in two minutes time!!

Improving the customer experience has become a specialist discipline – it combines strategic marketing skills, with analytical measurement techniques, with journey and process mapping, and people engagement methods. All of this is supplemented by an unerring enthusiasm and passion to do what is right for the customer. It is an exciting discipline that seeks to find the truth, and then address it in a way that prioritises and delivers maximum benefit to the customer, the employee and the shareholder. It is a discipline that is not as easy to apply as I may be making it sound – delivering the harsh reality of customer perception is not what every Board member wants to hear – especially if they perceive themselves to be the cause of the problem!!

So as you sit reading this article, what do you think? Does the CXP exist? I think it does – well over two thousand members of the CXPA spread all over the globe can testify to that. BUT…..there is always a but – it is still very early days for one of the newest professions on the block. It is vital that as the community of CXPs grows, they collaborate together, learning from each others experiences, and building the specialist skill set. The CXPA is developing an accreditation programme for the profession as we speak – yet another step in a very positive direction. Working together, it will not be long before the letters ‘CXP’ after your name are seen in the same light as ‘ACCA’ or ‘LLB’.

This article was written for the April edition of Customer Experience Magazine – http://www.customerexperiencemagazine.co.uk/

Learn to walk before you start running! – do not bite off more than you can chew in your CX programme

All CX professionals have a plan. It is what defines us as passionate leaders in our field. We have multiple ideas in our minds of what we want to do and how we want to do them when we enter an organisation for the first time. Joining an organisation at the start of its CX journey is a little like putting a six year old with a sweet tooth in an unmanned sweet shop!

Many of us take up a CX related role in a business for a reason – because the business is in need of specialist expertise to support its business strategy. The intent of that strategy is likely to involve a greater focus on the customer. This all sounds great. It can therefore be very tempting for the over enthusiastic CX professional to storm in like an excited puppy. I have been accused by former employers of being emotionally immature – I would like to think that they misunderstood my passion and enthusiasm for immaturity – some would disagree!!

All business improvement professionals – whether they be management consultants, process improvement specialists, or CX professionals run the risk of running too fast – getting carried away with the plethora of potential opportunities laid out in front of them. Without wanting to state the obvious, whilst enthusiasm and passion should never be stunted (even when being called immature!!), for us to be as effective as possible, we must be expert at guiding our ideas and plans at a pace the organisation we are working within, or for, can cope with.

I have written a blog in the past that describes the ‘ups and downs’ of our profession (http://ijgolding.com/2012/08/14/you-cannot-be-serious-why-cx-professionals-must-never-give-up/) – it is common for the CX professional to identify many potential actions that are so obvious!! However, jut because they are obvious to you, it does not mean they are to the people you are trying to help.  I have learned (sometimes painfully) over the last few years, that it pays to slow down and pace yourself!

Using the running analogy, in my personal life, whilst not a great long distance runner, I am a committed one. My big issue with running is that I always, and I mean always, go out too fast. By mile 9 on almost every one of the 21 half marathons I have run to date, I have hit the wall – however much I tell myself that I need to slow down a bit, my brain rebels!! My personality is such, that my running behaviour can spill over into my professional behaviour. There is nothing wrong with my intent or motivation, but the end result can suffer.

When it comes to CX, I have found that working to a framework has helped me to compartmentalise my approach, and thus have the ability to take things step by step. My framework focusses on three pillars (as I call them)

  1. Strategy – what is the business proposition? why do customers transact with them? what is the organisations reason for being?
  2. Measurement – do we know how capable we think we are at delivering the proposition? Do we know how good our customers think we are at delivering the proposition? Do we know the key priorities for improvement in our customer journey?
  3. Engagement & Advocacy – are people fully engaged with our business and its proposition? Are employees advocates (fans) of the brand? Are people appreciated and recognised for the work they do?

There is no particular order in which to tackle these pillars – in fact, every organisation will be completely different. Some will be more advanced in one pillar than another. If you try and tackle all pillars at once, you may be guilty of running too fast. This is where I recognise that you need to determine what the CX framework priorities are for the business you are working in. For example, if the business does not quite know what its proposition is, it may be best to influence senior leaders to clarify it, prior to doing anything else. It is difficult to turn employees into ‘fans’ of a brand, if they do not quite know what the brand exists to do!!

Ultimately, we must always remind ourselves that driving a CX programme can take a significant amount of time – especially in a business that has never been customer centric before. When I mean ‘take time’ , I mean years! Treading carefully, and slowly bringing people at all levels of the organisation with you, will reap huge benefits in the long run. Going too quickly may well scare the pants off people, and set you back. You can not address the three pillars above in three months!

As a CX professional, you must believe in yourself, and in your approach. There will always be setbacks, but if you gently encourage, influence, guide, educate, and teach the business you are working in, step by step, you will ultimately achieve both yours and their goals. So even if you think the things that need to be done are blindingly obvious, and must be done by next week – take a deep breath – slow down, and ensure that you are going at the right pace.

As always, your comments are very welcome.

There is nothing wrong with my business! Why sometimes we could all do with Gordon Ramsay

Have you ever watched Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares? Yes I know that Mr Ramsay is the kind of guy that people love or hate, but there is no doubting that the man is extremely talented. Many people have an issue with him due to his choice of language – but I have always admired him – and interestingly, my admiration has nothing to do with his cooking ability. Please do not get me wrong, I would love to be able to write about the culinary delights that come out of his kitchens. However, my current circumstances do not allow for me to dine at one of his restaurants on a regular basis – or any basis for that matter!!

So why do I admire him? What has Gordon Ramsay got to do with the subject of customer experience? Gordon Ramsay is a lot more than ‘just a chef’. He is a man who over the many years he has spent refining his trade, like many restaurateurs, recognised the significance of designing and delivering an experience that would keep his diners coming back time and time again. He does not tolerate anything but the best – from his people, to his ingredients, to the décor of his establishments. What is very clear is that he possesses passion – an intense burning desire to give his customers what he believes they deserve and are paying for – excellence.

Now, a man that stands for the things I have just described, and that has years of experience at delivering excellence, has a huge amount of wisdom to offer others. And that is where Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares comes in. In a TV programme that has featured restaurants in both the UK and the US, Gordon Ramsay attempts to transform struggling restaurants with his own menu of extremely frank and forthright advice – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/ramsays-kitchen-nightmares – it very much sounds like the brief any customer experience professional is given when entering an organisation for the first time. What Gordon Ramsay is essentially tasked with doing is ‘holding up a mirror’ to the owner of an establishment that is not doing very well……that is basically doing very badly.

The job of any good customer experience professional is to enable an organisation to see its own reflection – to hold up the ‘mirror’. To see the truth. To see sometimes the ‘ugly’ truth. For a business to recognise the opportunities for improvement, it first needs to acknowledge that improvement is needed in the first place. This is what Gordon Ramsay is expert at. Although his programme is somewhat predictable, it is so representative of the start of many customer experience efforts. The process goes something like this:

  1. Visit restaurant – gauge first impressions from the décor, building, surroundings
  2. Meet the staff – befriend a waitress and get her to tell you exactly how things really are
  3. Try the product – order a variety of things off the menu
  4. Clarify that the product is not very good (or’ sucks’ for my US friends)
  5. Visit the kitchen and reel off a list of expletives
  6. Chat with the owner of the business who denies that there is anything wrong with it, despite the fact that Gordon has just identified that the food tastes like it has been rescued from a dustbin, that there are live insects populating the kitchen, and that the restaurant has only had one customer for the last three and a half weeks!

Predictable or not, it is vital that this process is completed – in order for any independent expert/specialist to determine what needs to be done, they must first experience what the customer does. What Gordon does is get the credibility to provide his opinion. He gets this credibility by seeing the journey for himself. He has earned the credibility to pass his opinion as one of the most successful restaurateurs in the world. What he also understands is how personal it is to own your own business. He is not surprised that the owners of the business defend it to the hilt, irrespective of what might be the blindingly obvious.

It is not easy to have someone tell you that there is something wrong with your business. I often describe business owners as alcoholics – not a great analogy I admit. But the alcoholic business owner is the one who will not admit they have a problem. Gordon Ramsays job in his TV series is to get them to admit it. The job of a customer experience professional is to do the same. And how does Gordon do it – exactly as the customer experience professional would – by serving up the facts. Gordon’s approach is sometimes rather brutal, and a bit shocking – however, I sometimes think that his approach is absolutely right – to get people to realise the extent of the problem, you sometimes need to shock them. Once the reality kicks in, you can then start to work on the opportunities.

Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares always ends with a reformed business owner who has embraced all of Gordon’s recommendations and who is overseeing the transformation of their business. Yes it is all a bit tongue in cheek; theatrical; dramatic; but the outcome is as any customer experience professional would hope.

I think that all businesses could do with Gordon Ramsay – well someone like him anyway. Someone who has the credibility to hold up the mirror and get you to honestly appraise what you see. Acknowledging and addressing things that are wrong can only be a good thing, and I applaud Gordon Ramsay for creating and leading a TV series that does just that. So the next time you ‘have a go at Gordon’ for using a few expletives, just spare a thought for the hundreds of business owners he has helped. I am sure they have forgiven him for a few F Words!

As always, please feel free to comment on this or any of my blogs.

Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!! Why is it so difficult to understand the importance of customer experience?

There is one thing I can guarantee that everyone reading this blog can agree with – we all know what it feels like to be a customer. We are all consumers. We all interact with different organisations every day – utility companies; the post office; telecoms companies; retailers; restaurants; hotels; petrol stations; dry cleaners – we are customers of all of them. We all have huge ‘libraries’ of experiences built up over the years we have interacted with them. Some of those experiences are fantastic. Some of those experiences are not so fantastic. We have all been customers for years (some of us admittedly longer than others!!). It is when you start to think about the fact that you have been having customer experiences for so long, that it becomes startlingly clear why recognising the importance of the customer is so obvious!

So why is it not obvious? Why do some companies just ‘not get it’? Why do business leaders seem to focus on everything and anything but doing the right thing for the customer? The men in suits that only seem to understand spread sheets and balance sheets are no different to you and I. They are all customers too! They have the same day-to-day interactions with companies as customers as we do.

I have had many conversations with senior leaders about their own customer experiences – experiences they have in their day-to-day lives. Experiences that are very personal to them. When you start to talk to people who run businesses about experiences personal to them, they often get very animated – as we all do. It is the perfect way to get the ‘lightbulb’ lit, so to speak. Encouraging people to talk about the customer experience from their own perspective is a very simple, yet extremely effective way to allow everyone to understand what you are trying to achieve.

You often do not need to tell the business leader, who has just described in minute detail the horrors of dealing with his Telecoms company, that the experience he has just described is bizarrely similar to the experience his own customers are having. If you are lucky, the business leader will twig this fact hallway through their ‘rant’! We will all have strategies for trying to influence organisations to focus on the customer. This is one way of doing it. Obviously, getting business leaders to experience the same customer journey as their customers is another, simple yet effective strategy.

So the next time you are sitting in a room of ‘men and women in suits’ and you are thinking ‘aaarrrggghhhhh!!! why do they just not get it’ – remind them that they are all customers themselves. Get them to talk about experiences as a customer – good and bad. Get them to recount stories of being let down – and the actions they took as a result. None of this will guarantee success – but when people remember that they are customers themselves, it often gets them to think differently.

Your comments on this or any of my blogs are most welcome.

Woah there tiger!! Beware what and how you react to social media

The benefits of social media in the business world have been a hot topic of conversation for a few years now. Many businesses have started to adopt ‘social media strategies’, and are using the likes of Facebook and Twitter for marketing and customer service among other things.

It is true to say that social media has been a revelation for the consumer. Many recognise that social media has put the consumer ‘in control’, and given them a ‘voice’ unlike any generation has been able to take advantage of before. On the one had this is great – especially for those of us who spend our lives working with businesses to ensure that the poor consumer is listened to. However (or ‘but’ depending on which word you prefer), social media has also caused us a problem – and by us, I mean the collective us – customer experience professionals and our colleagues within the businesses that we work.

Whilst social media has enabled the consumer to speak openly about their experiences with an organisation (good or bad), the world-wide web has also enabled senior managers to see what customers are saying about their businesses – whenever they want.

Now on the one hand, this is not such a bad thing. As I have already said, customer experience professionals spend their lives getting senior managers to listen to what customers are saying. The problem is that senior managers tend to look at the comments they see online as ‘red’ – an absolute black and white (sorry too many colours being used in this explanation!!) description of the problems within the company. They tend to see a one-off tweet as completely representative of what is happening in their business.

I personally have been on the receiving end of this ‘phenomenon’ many times – where a senior leader has seen a negative tweet, and then demanded that anyone responsible be summoned for both an explanation and an immediate solution. I am sure that those of you reading this recognise the scenario. It is not wrong for a CEO or a senior director to be agitated by negative sentiment on a social forum – but they way that they react to it is critical.

In an organisation that has an established customer feedback programme, any comment about the business MUST be taken in context with what the ‘representative sample’ of customers are saying – not one or two angry customers who proactively use twitter to get themselves heard. Businesses run the risk of taking the wrong action if they listen to the few, rather than the many.

All too often people make the mistake of responding immediately to negative comments made about their businesses. However, it is not always the case that the consumer making the comment actually wants a response. Sometimes consumers just want to have a rant. At Shop Direct Group (my previous business), the CEO received a complaint directly from a customer. The complaint was not about something Shop Direct did in providing a service. The complaint was because one of Shop Direct’s brands responded to a tweet. The customer complained because they felt they were being ‘snooped on’. We may consider this to be an overreaction – but it is an interesting example of what can happen if you react to everything.

The challenge for any customer experience professional is to ensure that their business has access to ‘the facts’. That everyone in the organisation understands what customers think about them, and what the priorities for improvement in the customer journey are (from the customer perspective). Having access to the facts should ensure that IF a consumer posts something to Facebook or Twitter or any other social forum, the senior leadership who might stumble across it will have the appropriate context. If you have access to the facts but senior leadership do not, make sure they do!!

However (sorry there is another one), the other challenge for the customer experience professional and his/her colleagues is to ensure balance – that whilst making sure negative sentiments are put in context, the business does not ‘under-react’ to what the consumer is saying.

A great example of over-reaction was in the UK earlier this year. Martha Payne is a school girl from Argyll in Scotland. With the help of her dad, she started a blog to rate the quality of her school dinners. The blog exposed some shocking facts about the quality of the meals her school was providing. Martha did nothing but tell the truth. The local council decided that this was not acceptable, and shut her blog down. What happened next demonstrates the power of social media – there was a twitter backlash. Within a couple of days, the local council had no option but to reverse its decision. You can read the story of Martha as reported in the Independent newspaper here – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-council-that-bit-off-more-than-it-could-chew-girls-school-dinner-blog-back-by-popular-demand-7854487.html

Argyll and Bute council reacted in the wrong way to one little 9-year-old girl exercising her freedom of speech. If they had just listened to what she was saying, they could have avoided a PR disasterand genuinely addressed a problem . Martha has now raised over £100,000 to feed children in Malawi – quite remarkable. She has also changed the quality of school meals in her region.

So the next time your CEO comes charging to your desk to remonstrate about a negative tweet, please remind him/her that one negative tweet may not always be representative of the overwhelming majority of customers. Gather the facts and determine if you should just listen, or if action is indeed necessary. Of course, an integrated company wide social media policy would be a big help at negating senior management reaction in the first place!!

As always, your comments to this or any other of my blogs is encouraged and appreciated.

The ultimate challenge! Why doing the right thing for your customers is just that!

I am often asked how best to influence all levels of an organisation to focus on the customer.

‘How can I get the board to listen to me?’

‘I have the facts, but nothing ever changes’.

‘Why do we keep taking customers for granted, despite knowing what to do to make their experience better?’.

All customer experience professionals (CXPs) are used to frustration – it comes with the job title. All CXPs will at some time have experienced the same challenges in trying to improve or sustain their organisations customer experience. CXPs are often specialists in defining strategies, measurement systems, voice of the customer programmes, employee advocacy and engagement initiatives etc.

BUT….there is always a but…….the thing that really makes a CXP is the basis by which they operate – their role is ‘to always do the right thing by customers’. Sounds simple right? Yes and No!!

I will always strive to get organisations I work with to do the right thing by their customers. Businesses are in business to serve their customers – without them they would not exist. I am obviously stating the obvious, but there are many occasions where we could all be forgiven for thinking that our organisations had forgotten that customers exist! However businesses are not charities (as many CFOs will be only too quick to point out), and exist to make as much profit for their owners and shareholders as possible.

This is where ‘doing the right thing for customers’ can often become the ultimate challenge. How can you do what is right for customers when profits are falling? How can you do the right thing is costs are rising? The job of the CXP is use fact (a word I use a lot), to help their business understand the effect ‘not doing the right thing’ might and will be having on customer behaviour.

Whilst many business leaders focus on the numbers – ‘top and bottom line’ (dreadful words that are a million miles away from the language of the consumer), the CXP focuses on how those numbers can improve by designing and delivering experiences that customers are willing to buy over and over again. Using voice of he customer information and operational metrics, the CXP can help business leaders understand BOTH what it is that is driving customers away, thus identifying the priorities for improvement, AND what is generating unnecessary cost.

I found a great blog the other day by Mark McDonald from Gartner. Mark’s blog talks about Customer Experience ‘bridging the gap between revenue growth and cost cutting’ http://blogs.gartner.com/mark_mcdonald/2012/01/06/customer-experience-bridges-the-gap-between-revenue-growth-and-cost-cutting/. Mark says:

“Create a superior, a simple, an engaging and powerful experience and you will grow revenue. Deliver that experience requires cutting the internal clutter that makes it hard to do business.  This view creates a focal point for both rather than a forcing function requiring a choice between revenue growth and cost cutting.”

In other words, doing the right thing by your customer can deliver BOTH revenue growth as well as making your organisation a leaner more cost-effective one. This is such a vital thing to remember when you are in an environment where you are being encouraged to do things that may NOT be in the interests of your customers.

I am always reminded of an online retailer who removed the telephone number from every page of their website. They did it to ‘prevent’ customers from unnecessarily contacting them. The move would save them significant amounts of money from reduced contact volumes. Was it the right thing to do? All I can say is that the retailer in question now has the telephone number visible on their website.

In my time at Shop Direct Group, the decision was made to introduce a ‘free delivery option’ – a bold move that wiped out an income stream overnight. It was done because the business knew it was the right thing to do – not only was the lost delivery income recovered from increased revenue, a greater increase in sales resulted.

Doing the right thing is obvious to the CXP – but not always obvious to everyone else. That is why we have CXPs – it is our job to make sure that business leaders have all the facts to make the right decisions – decisions that will result in customers coning back to them, time and time again.

As always, your comments on this and any of my blogs are both welcome and encouraged.