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.

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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 know the facts? 4 steps to deploying a customer focussed measurement system


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A few weeks ago, I introduced my perspective on the significance of a customer experience framework and how it can help an organisation to focus its customer experience efforts (http://ijgolding.com/2013/03/26/strategy-measurement-people-a-simple-framework-for-managing-customer-experience/)

The framework I personally deploy when working with an organisation has three core components – STRATEGY (or proposition); MEASUREMENT (or facts); and PEOPLE (or engagement and advocacy). In this blog post I want to expand on the importance of the MEASUREMENT component, and how you can go about arming your business with THE FACTS it needs to become truly customer focussed.

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Firstly, let me just clarify why understanding the facts is so fundamental to any organisation that aspires to have a customer focus. All businesses, large or small, B2B or B2C, possess a huge amount of data. Businesses use this data to produce report after report and KPI after KPI. Senior leaders use these reports and KPIs to run their businesses. They will use them to determine the performance of their staff. They will use them to determine the performance of the business strategy. From my experience, much of the time, the reports and KPIs that are produced in great number are generally missing something quite vital – any link to the customer!

To test this statement, and what I am saying I have experienced, let me ask you three important questions:

  1. Is ‘customer’ on the agenda of your regular business meetings (from board level down)?
  2. Is a customer metric(s) included in your performance management process and/or incentive programme?
  3. Are the metrics used to measure business performance related to anything the customer would deem important?

If you have been able to answer yes to these questions, you are definitely in good shape when it comes to deploying what I would describe as a customer focussed measurement system. If you cannot answer yes, or know of organisations that cannot, you will understand what I am referring to when I describe organisations who make decisions ‘without having all the facts’.

Organisations who do not know all the facts, or who have the ‘customer piece of the jigsaw’ missing, are taking a big risk. They will be reacting to issues not fully understanding what the cause of the problem is. They will be making judgements as to what customers want and need. They will potentially be investing money and resources in products and processes that are not significant to their customer. It is not a surprise that the organisations that usually tend to fail are the ones who have not understood what it is they need to do to continuously meet their customers’ needs.

Implementing a customer focussed measurement system as part of a customer experience framework will complete the often missing piece of the jigsaw. It will provide invaluable insight and understanding into what it is the business needs to focus on to improve customer perception. So how do you do it? Let me talk you through the four steps to deploying a customer focussed measurement system.

STEP 1 – UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMER JOURNEY

Before you are able to implement the right customer focussed measures, you must first understand what it is you are measuring! It has become very fashionable over the last two to three years for companies to create customer journey maps. Visualising and understanding the customer journey is a very important step in any customer experience framework. Understanding the journey and the key touch points or ‘moments of truth’ within it allows you to understand what it is that needs to be measured. Customer journeys can be very simple and very complicated. I always advocate the ‘keeping it simple’ method. Here are two high level examples of ‘getting started’:

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Once you understand the key ‘stages’ of your journey, you can then drill down to the next level – identifying the touch points or moments of truth. Once you have done this, you are ready to move to step 2.

STEP 2 – UNDERSTAND HOW CAPABLE YOUR BUSINESS IS IN DELIVERING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY

Understanding your customer journey and the key touch points within it, enables you to start contemplating how able you are to measure the effectiveness of it. Going back to what I described earlier on the subject of KPIs, how many existing KPIs in your business relate to the customer journey and the interactions customers have throughout it? Without needing to know the answer, I can confidently assume that many of you reading this will not be able to answer this question positively. Implementing a customer focussed measurement system is not just about understanding customer perception. Your customer journey will deliver a CAUSE and EFFECT relationship. Your ability, or not as the case may be, to do what you are supposed to do at every customer interaction will be the CAUSE that will determine customer perception of that interaction. Customer perception is the CAUSE. Understanding how capable you are at doing hat you are supposed to do will enable you to a) determine how far away from ‘perfection’ your customer journey is, and b) act as a predictor of customer perception. If your capability drops this month, you will almost certainly be able to predict that customer perception will also drop the following month.

I strongly advocate the introduction of a customer focussed index that acts as your internal customer metric. The index known as the OMI or ‘operational measures index’ allows you to measure the gap between current state and perfection – perfection is defined as the level that you aspire to get each customer touch point to. If the OMI were to be 100%, all touch points would be as perfect as you aspire them to be. Below is an example of how an OMI dashboard might look for a vehicle rental business (number of journey stages and metrics is dependant on the business):

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STEP 3 – UNDERSTAND CUSTOMER PERCEPTION

Understanding customer perception is a step in deploying a measurement system that most people are relatively comfortable with – and as such, one I will not dwell on too much. Many organisations have customer feedback mechanisms in place. Whether they be driven by Customer Satisfaction (CSat), or Net Promoter Score (NPS), it is obviously essential to understand what your customer actually thinks about your relationship with them. It is important that you do measure the relationship as well as individual transactions. Aligning your internal metrics (step 2) with customer perception will allow you to have a clear understanding of what may be causing the problem. At the end of the day, one of the key objectives of any customer experience programme must be to identify what your priorities are to improve customer perception, which in turn will lead to greater loyalty, revenue and profit.

STEP 4 – CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY

This all leads to the fourth step – and perhaps the most important. A customer focussed measurement system as I have described, will give your organisation invaluable insight. This insight will enable your business to clearly understand what it needs to do to better meet customer expectation. Embedding a continuous improvement programme to address the ‘priorities’ for improvement from a customer perspective will ensure that the insight you are capturing will provide the focus your business needs. Most pieces of work to improve a business should sit in one of two camps:

1. Keeping the lights on (infrastructure, technology etc..)

2. Improving the customer journey

If your business is focussing resource and investment anywhere else, it should question why. Continuous improvement in your customer journey is what will ensure the sustainability of your business. If you keep measuring the right thing, and addressing the priorities that come out of your measurement system, you will be constantly adjusting to the changing needs of your customers

So – 4 steps to deploying a customer focussed measurement system. It all starts and ends with the customer journey – just as your customer would like it to!! As always, your comments on any part of this blog post are most welcome.