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.

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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Do you have what it takes to become a CCXP? The new certification programme for CX Professionals

0 ccxp

Are you passionate about Customer Experience? Do you believe that organisations should be ‘customer led’? Do you work in the field of customer service of customer experience? Do you want to be recognised for your skill set, knowledge and expertise as a customer experience professional?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, you will no doubt be interested in understanding more about a brand new Customer Experience Professional Certification programme (CCXP) that is being officially launched in January 2014. The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), the global non-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement of customer experience management practices, is concluding the live testing of its brand new programme as we speak. To find out the detail that is available on the CCXP Programme, please have a look at the CXPA website

To become a CCXP, you will need to be able to demonstrate an understanding OF and practical application IN six subject areas. So to answer the question in the title of this post – do you have what it takes to become a CCXP – you need to be able to demonstrate that you know about the following:

  • Customer-Centric Culture – Creating and nurturing a culture, through behaviours, practices and standards, that encourages all employees to focus on delivering outstanding customer experiences.
  • Organizational Adoption & Accountability – Driving change and developing cross-company experience accountability from the C-suite to the front line.
  • VOC, Customer Insight & Understanding – Building collective insight into customer needs, wants, perceptions, and preferences through the capture and analysis of the Voice of the Customer
  • Experience Design, Improvement & Innovation – Implementing practices and approaches to continuously improve, design and differentiate customer experiences
  • Metrics, Measurement & ROI – Creation and reporting of the measures of CX success including their use in business cases to illustrate the ROI and business value of customer experience.
  • Customer Experience Strategy – Development of a strategy that articulates a clear vision of the experience that a company seeks to create in support of the company’s brand values, including its direct linkage to CX activities, resources and investments

Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong! It may be simple to understand in some cases, but far more difficult to demonstrate the practical application in many. It is very important for our profession to continue to build the credibility and authority to influence organisations of all shapes and sizes to put the customer at the heart of what they do. Recognising the skills required to bring these six subject areas to life is an essential step to build both credibility and authority.

As a UK Ambassador for the CXPA, I am greatly encouraged by the advancements we have seen in the profession over the last twelve months. I am now even more excited about the potential 2014 will have. To finally have a formal qualification that proves the credibility of our skills and knowledge will take our authority to a whole new level. I will be taking the CCXP exam at the earliest opportunity. I will not be telling anyone when that might be………just in case!!!

If you are a customer experience professional, I very much hope that you will be as excited by the CCXP programme as I am. If you want to know more about the programme or the CXPA in general, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you want to get more involved in the CXPA, why not attend a local networking session – you will be able to find out more about what it takes to be a CCXP, as well as having the chance to meet like-minded professionals.

Whatever you choose to do, I very much look forward to seeing the letters CCXP being displayed proudly after your name very soon.


Who asked us? Is it right to suspend Sunday trading laws for the Olympics?

It was my good lady wife that drew my attention to the subject of this latest blog. ‘Did you know that from this Sunday the usual trading laws have been temporarily suspended for the Olympics?’ I truthfully had no idea. In fact, almost everyone I spoke to this weekend did not know either – was it supposed to be a secret?

For those of you who also missed it, here are the links to some of the reports in the press

The Daily Mail writes:

The Government has lifted the Sunday trading laws for shops in England and Wales with a floor area of more than 280 square metres(3000 sq.ft) from this Sunday to the end of the Paralympics. The longer hours have been welcomed by retailers but are ‘vehemently opposed’ by the shopworkers’ union Usdaw who said that there is no evidence it will aid the economy. Chancellor George Osborne however, maintained it was a benefit to the UK and warned against Britain ‘hanging up a Closed for Business sign’ in a bid to encourage traders to seize the opportunity to boost the economy.

What interests me in this subject, is that it does not appear that all ‘stakeholders’ in this rather important decision have been consulted effectively. One group in particular – the good old British consumer – seem to have been ignored…….or if not ignored, their views on the situation have just been assumed.

In my opinion, when any organisation makes a decision that will effect a number of stakeholders in a process, they should consider the affect of the decision on all of them. In this case, the decision is not just one of commercial gain. I do agree that retailers have struggled in the toughest of economic climates, but their struggles are down to many factors – and not being able to open for extended hours is not likely to be the greatest. Not meeting customer expectation consistently is of far greater significance.

This decision has far greater impact on people – and as stated in the Daily Mail, in this instance I tend to agree with Usdaw. We live in the most convenient world ever known. If you want something, you are very likely to be able to get it – whatever the day, whatever the time. The current restrictions on shop opening have little effect on that fact. This also means that the hardworking employee, even one working within retail, is able to benefit from a few more hours rest at the weekend. Is that such a bad thing? Do we really need the shops to be open longer on Sundays?

But this decision also goes further than the workers. As I have already said, what about us? What about the consumer? What do we think of this decision? Did anyone ever ask us? It does not appear to be the case, although I am happy to be proven wrong on this. Yesterday we decided that we needed a number of things (food etc) late the day – it was after 5pm. Our local supermarket has not yet taken advantage of the relaxation in the Sunday trading law. Was it the end of the world? Of course not. There are thousands of smaller shops all around the country who already more flexible opening hours on Sundays. I went to a small local store and got everything we needed. If our local Morrison’s had been open, this smaller store would have lost out. Has anyone thought about what might happen to the smaller retailer?

When investigating comments online about this government decision, it does appear that views are mixed. Some thing the decision is abhorrent, others believe that it is the right thing to do in our modern 24 hour economy. It would just have been nice if the biggest group of stakeholders had been asked first. The next time your organisation makes a decision, just question whether every stakeholders (both internal and external) viewpoint has been considered.

What do you think about this decision? Do you agree? You are very welcome to comment on any of my blogs.