Great customer experience is in the news - and about time too. But do organisations really understand how important a driver it can be for business success? Yes, they are beginning to appreciate the speed at which dissatisfied (and satisfied) customers can share their views of the organisation via a quick tweet, a posting on a Facebook wall or LinkedIn update. But do they really understand the effect that great customer experience can have on their business?
Too often, evaluation of the customer experience means a mechanical mapping of the customer journey or conducting post-purchase research. Such mapping - although an important marketing activity - does not deliver true insight into the customer’s actual experience. It is an inside-out view, reflecting what the business has decided to “do” to the customer, rather than the customer’s actual experience of the business. Likewise, post-purchase research risks two flaws. First, the response cohort is self-selecting. Second, it relies on a customer’s memory of the experience, rather than recording the experience as it happens.
Listening to customers - what they like, what annoys them - was always important. With the instant communication of the web, email and social media, the stakes are higher.
Data is not customer experience. Using social media monitoring tools to check out the digital chatter and gathering insight from your contact centres should be only the first steps in opening your eyes to key issues.
Data can tell us a huge amount about our customers. Used wisely and effectively, it makes our communications more relevant and timely, and increases response and life-time value, as well as eradicating annoying and ill-timed messages. But it has its limits.
The recent DataIQ Conference, though interesting and thought-provoking, left me with a niggling concern: that too many organisations assume that increasing the amount of customer data they hold will lead, almost magically and automatically, to happier customers. This is not so. We need to go beyond data, beyond the customer contact cycle, beyond post-purchase research and beyond monitoring social media if we are to fully understand our customers’ experience.
At RBL, we have found that a more robust approach is to build a real-time diary of customer experience. Our customer experience audit is called CLEAR , and it reflects customer interactions in real time, creating a deep and accurate record of what happens, as it happens, in the customer journey. We then analyse the results, identify any problem areas, and work with our clients to improve the customer experience.
For one client, we reduced customer complaints to the DM Commission after our experience audit identified a failure to properly brief the customer service department and that the online and offline marketing teams were not working in tandem. For another client, a charity, the experience audit demonstrated the need to set up a supporter care team to build individual regular giving. A third client was providing US phone numbers and contact details on their website and dealing with enquiries only during the US office hours - obvious issues with hindsight, but it was the customer experience audit that highlighted them.
Today there is no choice. Every organisation must be interested and involved in its customers’ experiences, and this engagement must start at the very top of the organisation. Customer service and our customers’ experience have taken centre stage.