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Customer Experience - Why these companies have got what it takes on service delivery

Customer Experience 

Why these companies have got what it takes on service delivery

According to latest research, customers are saying that they don’t want ‘a relationship’ with their suppliers; all they’re looking for is a good experience with the product or service. Dee Bushell examines this and other issues, citing a brand performance league where the automotive sector is conspicuously absent.

In a market place where achieving competitive advantage through product differentiation alone is seen as only part of the equation, the creation of a unique customer experience is seen as the new battleground. The question is: how does one capture, define and measure, and then deliver those attributes that are at the heart of customers’ expectations of a specific brand?

As organisations increasingly experience a plateauing of satisfaction scores, it is being realised by some that pursuit of increasingly higher levels of satisfaction, as defined by process only, is likely to achieve little more than the removal of reasons for dissatisfaction. What brand managers and customer service professionals need today is insight into the reasons for what is becoming known as ‘customer delight’ or ‘active preference’ for a brand, and many will say that this is in the delivery of a unique customer experience. 

What comprises a ‘unique customer experience’ is a number of factors, attributes and emotional triggers specific to an individual brand. They are embodied in a brand promise and give rise to customers’ expectations of that brand. Accepting that not all of these are within the domain of the customer-contact staff to influence, such as price, product and brand image to name but a few, this article explores what some of these triggers are.

The customer experience is a complex interaction comprising rational and emotional components.

There are two responses to all interactions:

• The rational, e.g.” the car was delivered on time”• The emotional, e.g. “I felt that they were just going through the numbers. I had looked forward to this day so much but they didn’t make me feel special!”

Customers are increasingly telling us that they don’t want a relationship with their suppliers; all they want is a good experience when they encounter the product or service.

Maritz Research has recently conducted a web-based survey on this subject amongst all of the delegates to the European Conference on Customer Management and the associate members of eCustomerServiceWorld.com, the organisers of this, Europe’s largest customer conference.

Key Findings

Role of Customer Experience in Brand Strategy

A staggering 94% of respondents believe that the provision of a unique customer experience is an essential feature of their brand strategy. These organisations clearly believe that customers have more power than ever before, with more high-quality alternatives, greater access to information and the unprecedented ability to compare brands. Today, you are only as good as your last customer transaction or touch point.

We asked respondents to prioritise the importance of customer experience in their organisation. 89% rated it as either the highest or amongst the highest for their organisations. There were some interesting differences in this respect based on the ownership of the organisation, the chart below illustrates.

The customer experience appears less of a priority for Asia/Pacific multinationals

It is interesting to see the lower priority accorded to this subject by Asia/Pacific multinationals compared with the UK, where it seems to be very much the “hot topic” at the present time. By contrast, the situation in the US could indicate, as we believe, that they “hit this trail” 2–3 years ago and that the issue is now internalised as part of their business culture rather than being the “flavour of the moment” as in the UK.

Leaders in the Field of Customer Experience

A very wide range of organisations were nominated as being leaders in the field of customer experience. No one organisation received more than 30 nominations (10%).

The six leading customer experience organisations rated by the respondents to this survey were:

• First Direct• Amazon• Disney• Tesco• John Lewis• Virgin

Defining a Vision of Customer Experience

We asked respondents how their organisations defined their distinct vision of customer experience. They used a variety of methods, as is shown below.

Organisations define a distinct vision of the customer experience using many methods

Not surprisingly, smaller organisations tended to use the less formal mechanisms, such as Sector Knowledge and Staff Feedback, whereas the larger organisations used more conventional measurement and research techniques.

Although 94% of respondents claimed that customer experience was essential to their organisation and 89% claimed it was high priority, only 76% had defined their own vision of what customer experience means to their particular organisation. Clearly there appears to be some room for management to start walking the talk in this arena!

When asked why their organisations still didn’t have a distinct vision relating to customer experience, there appeared to be three key reasons:

• Senior management reluctance“My managers are not letting me do what I want to do – making my customers happy”. “Not seen by management as being a key goal”.• No coherent strategy across the organisation“Being a large organisation, there are pockets that are progressing but a totally committed way forward is not yet apparent”.• Not customer-focused“We have defined our channel preferences and expect the customer to work within these restraints. Customer experience has not yet made it onto our radar”.

Barriers to achieving Customer Experience Vision

Despite all the enthusiasm towards moving towards a customer experience-centred organisation, there are still a number of perceived barriers, as the chart below shows.

You need to be aware of the barriers that may prevent your organisation from achieving/sustaining your vision of the customer experience

Return on Investment

Customer experience management can only be truly successful if it has at its central premise the use of meaningful, actionable intelligence focused on achieving tangible commercial benefits. Respondents to our survey support this view with 85% agreeing that the costs associated with improving the customer experience and levels of satisfaction must be justified by the return on investment. Only 7% disagreed with this statement.

Attitude and Behaviour of Customer-facing Staff

The attitude and behaviour of customer-facing staff is seen by 83% of respondents as being by far the greatest influence in delivering customer service. 40% mentioned customer service processes and other 21% (comprising of non-customer-facing staff and managers). This ties in with the findings of many other surveys we conduct in which the overall conclusion is that you ignore at your peril the contribution that other staff make to delivering a memorable customer experience.

Measuring the Delivery of the Customer Experience

Research plays an important role in measurement of the customer experience as the chart shows.

83% of respondent organisations measure the delivery of the customer experience – research plays an important role in measurement

Conclusion

Few companies consistently live up to their brand promises. Those that do are the ones whose people are engaged with their strategy and who reap the rewards of positive customer experiences.

Today’s most successful companies are not necessarily those with the best business strategy, they are those with the commitment and capability to implement. This implementation process requires understanding of the people that matter: employees, channel partners and customers. How to motivate them; how to sustain positive behaviour and how to retain loyalty as an ongoing element of the business process.

Delivery of your brand promise relies upon an active process to close the gap between strategy and satisfaction of customer expectations, as experienced. Achieving this on a consistent basis is no accident. The rewards for those that can are obvious.

For additional information relating to this research study or to discuss further the implications for your business, please contact Dee Bushell on 01628 895518 or e-mail busheldj@maritz.co.uk. Maritz specialises in performance improvement, travel and marketing research services.