Customer experience is a term that has certainly grown in importance over the past few years, as organisations look more and more towards a holistic approach of delivering a memorable service. In many instances organisations develop a number of different approaches to delivering a customer experience that are not aligned, usually a symptom of different business silos growing independently of each other. This may give an acceptable customer experience, but it may also be disjointed in terms of how it delivers against the values of the company.
Recently we have seen a number of clients seeking to align their customer experience across all business units and/or channels. In all of these cases, the outcome of such exercises only has the greatest impact when the change is one that has complete buy-in from the top down.
Customer experience research programmes typically involve a number of key stages:
- Mapping the customer journey (both from an internal perspective and an external perspective).
- Assessing how the company performs at all stages of the customer journey, and at key touch points.
- Developing a core set of values or a brand promise that can be brought to life at all touch points in the customer journey.
- Tracking performance and customer satisfaction on an ongoing basis.
Start from the top
In order for all the stages to gel together, and deliver dramatic change within an organisation, there needs to be full senior support. With that in mind, for any organisation looking to conduct such a programme, we would always recommend involving all senior stakeholders in the key stages of the research. This should be from the very first commissioning meeting, right through to the final strategy workshop. Taking this approach ensures that all senior staff not only feel ownership of the project, but are also able to deliver change quickly.
Take a hike
When working through the stages of such a research programme, there are a number of tools and approaches that can be used to bring (in hypothetical terms) the customer to the heart of the business. At the start of customer journey-mapping research, it may be that we want to take the senior stakeholder on a clue-spotting safari. As grand as this may sound, it can essentially be a trip around a company’s store, offices, or similar place where customers might interact with the organisation.
On this trip we would encourage the stakeholders to take pictures of the small details that build up their perception of the customer experience, anything from loose shopping trolleys in the car park to faulty TVs on display. Although these small details may seem trivial, it is indeed the small details that help us build our perception of things (indeed, even the ends of a toilet roll being carefully folded in a luxury hotel give off the message that the hotel has close attention to detail and yet it costs the hotel nothing to implement).
Once the stakeholders have an understanding of how these elements can influence the customer experience, just as much as any product guarantees or a product’s quality might, it enables us to deliver a much more comprehensive and thought-out strategy at the back-end of a project. Placing the stakeholders in the shoes of the customer and focusing on the detail highlights just how much a company’s values can be shown through so many different aspects of what the organisation does.
Research and insight has moved on dramatically in recent years in terms of the creativity that it can deliver when bringing data and information to life. Customer experience research especially lends itself to this creativity. One of the key elements of success in delivering change within an organisation is ensuring that all staff are ‘bought in’ and understand the changes, and one of the most effective ways to do this and to bring research findings to life is through video.
A picture does indeed speak a thousand words and when a short video clip can highlight a particular problem that customers face, or a particular event that fills them with delight, the message is instantly clear to staff. Some of our clients have been keen on video clips merged with customer journey maps, whereby particularly troublesome touch points are highlighted with video evidence so that employees know how to deliver effectively against them in the future.
Social media monitoring
Another key recent development in customer experience research is the advent of social media monitoring. As many companies know, a good or bad comment on Twitter can spread like wildfire. With most customer experience programmes, we now suggest that clients consider combining social media monitoring exercises alongside customer satisfaction research. In many cases this can be delivered as part of a tracking dashboard so that all information is accessible in one place.
Small things make a big difference
One of the areas that is enlightening to many clients is just how much of an impact small (and often cheap) changes can make in improving customer satisfaction. As a follow-up activity to customer satisfaction research, it is fairly obvious that something should be done to improve the relationship with those that are not satisfied.
But something that is often overlooked is thanking the people who are truly satisfied – the promoters. These promoters are the lifeblood of any company, and often something as simple as saying ‘thank you’ and displaying gratitude can go a long way.
In summary, customer experience research is both simple in its aim and highly detailed in what is involved and what can be delivered. The points mentioned above do indeed only scratch the surface of this exciting area of work. But one point to always remember: any company that speaks to its customers and is seen to pride itself on an excellent customer experience automatically raises expectations. Once people have taken part in a satisfaction survey, they expect to see a change.
Euston Tower, Floor 33
286 Euston Road
T 020 3463 8686