Customer Experience: Playing maturity catch up…

Observations from the Sydney CX Design & Implementation Conference

(11 November – 12 November 2015)

I was lucky to be able to attend the Customer Experience Design & Implementation conference in Sydney last week listening to and speaking with organisations as each shared their experiences, success stories (of course) and learnings (can’t be enough) from organisations covering (but not limited to)  Telco’s, Financial services, Age-care, Government, Recruitment, Logistics, Design, Technology vendors, Fintech and Startups.

It was great to hear the variety of ways organisations make an effort to improve customer experiences across different industries. Such perspective across industries becomes increasingly valuable as many of the experiences people have to one industry drive their expectations and perception of others. As a result, a glass ceiling is put over industries with lower maturity levels in regards to customer experience and related expectations. From my view, which focuses on financial services and wealth management, those industries with lower customer experience maturity levels must play ‘maturity catch up’ versus other more established industries and/or organisations.

In case you are not interested to read further for more detail, buzzwords to summarise the conference include: #Employeeengagement drives customerengagement; #Designthinking; #Listening; #Empathy; #ValueExchange; #Culturalchange; #Differentiateyourexperience; #Multiscreen/#Multidevice; #Rewarddrivescustomerbehaviour; #Customerownsthejourney; #Actionable; #Beingandfeeling; #Voiceofthecustomer; #Nuroscience;

‘Maturity catch up’

Customer Experience can be seen a ‘container’ definition with multiple meanings except for one which stands out: The focus on the end-customer. The reality is many organisations say their primary focus is on the end-customer; however, in the way they are organised, act, respond to, value their customer relationships and focus their efforts – they are actually not. The question then becomes, ‘How long do customers forgive them for this? Or, when do organisations simply realise their reality and take action. Many organisations currently struggle with this and actively market a client centric mindset, but initiate tactical initiatives to ‘show they are’ acting in the best interest of their customers and related experiences. When in reality, these organisations are primarily driven by profit, often product siloed, focussed on internal activities, undervalue (sometimes without knowing) the overall relationship a customer has with their organisation and fail to acknowledge and/or reward customer loyalty. Additionally, such organisations lack an integrated customer first culture and have a limited focus in how they go to market. Some industries, like the financial services industry, have external drivers such as ongoing/new regulatory requirements that limit their ability to do so.

In regards to the financial services industry, my perspective is that larger organisations cannot keep pace with the amount of change expected from them by regulators, shareholders and clients! In some situations, these organisations have technology that is old, in-flexible and/or fragmented, which  restricts the ability to act quickly, rely on single sources of truth for customer data to perform value adding data analytics and/or facilitate front-line staff with tools to provide value added advice in client interactions. Furthermore, these organisations often struggle to understand how they should re-evaluate their business models as margins become under pressure. Aligning the technology with customer needs creates a viable opportunity to really make an improvement and shorten the maturity catch up gap.

Customers expect to have the ability to interact with their financial services providers across their channels of preference. Accessibility via multiple channels must be emphasised as in many situations customers start their interactions with their financial service provider not on the channel they use at the end of their journey. Generally, customers do not want to provide the same (most of the time very basic) information any time they switch across channel. If they leave some data online and they decide to call the call-centre or their relationship manager because they need some additional expertise, they expect the information to be known and not have to endure an authentication process.

As noted previously, expectations of the companies customers deal with are shaped by their experiences in their daily life no matter which industry the company is in. Organisation should not limit their sights to their competitors next door, but look to other industries and how they achieve and deliver simple, straightforward, and seamless experiences to their customers. Key words here to remember are differentiation and focus: Differentiation in the market and focus on where to invest in.

A general challenge

Although there are many great ways organisations deliver experiences to their customers, there is still a general tendency to look at customer experience improvement initiatives in isolation. Different teams within organisations want to implement something new to address a certain issue that has come to surface. For example, in customer satisfaction reports or market issues that make headlines (e.g. what we have seen with mobile apps in the past years – having a mobile app for the sake of having a mobile app). While developing different customer experience initiatives, most organisations do not directly align initiatives to an overall positioning of their customer experience strategy. What do you want to be famous for in the market? Is it your product? Do you want to be the cheapest? Is it providing the greatest service or providing the best digital and channel solution possible? If your customers do not know the service experience you are seeking to deliver then you are missing the mark! This perspective was confirmed during the conference where people unanimously agreed that a differentiating, consistent and focussed customer experience is critical for longer term success of organisations.

Thus, if you want to be good at something you have to be able to make good decisions around it. Data quality and analytics capabilities are critical in driving compelling customer experiences to your customers. Reliable, quality data helps identify behavioural patterns and goes beyond the analysis of transaction only based data. If you collect customer data and not use it you are ignoring your customers.

Employee engagement and cultural change

Another critical area that is being underestimated by many organisations and is crucial in driving customer experience improvements is employee engagement and the importance of changing company cultures to become more customer-centric. Although the importance of data, technology and innovation is commonly accepted, the best customer experiences still start with the people, internal people from the organisations. Especially, in industries that have direct client interactions-regardless of the channel leveraged.

Organisations should increase efforts to empower employees to become more customer focused coupled with the structure to support such efforts, including aligning remuneration/KPI’s to customer centricity, celebration of customer experience successes etc. Recently, @MichaelKitces tweeted his desire for “NPS-based remuneration for financial advisors, that would be a fascinating change,” and I completely agree. To be honest, customer satisfaction should be incorporated into remuneration of financial advisors, or all client-facing staff to be honest. Why not?

Understandably, this customer first type of mindset should be led by the executives as key leaders of influence within the organisation as a customer centric agenda must be supported at the executive level. Although at executive level there still is sometimes reluctance to invest in customer experience initiatives, it is widely known that bad customer experiences cost organisations significant money.

Measuring customer experience and satisfaction

Improving customer experience is one thing; however, one must really understand if it indeed improves the customer experience. This starts with understanding what to you want to measure as an organisation? This is done by creating a clear overview of the current state of how you interact with customers covering the key touch points (e.g. captured in customer journey maps).

The next thing you have to identify is how you are measuring and using the customer satisfaction value chain, which includes the following steps of: listening/measuring, interpretation of data, reporting, responding and monitoring.  In these steps one must assess the channels he/she is using to collect data; the amount of data and then test this approach before implementing. Once you start reporting one has to identify the reporting needs or information needs for each individual business area.

Once the insights are obtained one must align internal metrics and incentives to the organisational goals set and also ensure there is a continuous feedback loop to make certain customer feedback is being acted on. Again, to reiterate there is no point in collecting customer data unless you know what to do with it!

These messages are a combination of my personal perspective coupled with key ideas/insight as shared during the Customer Experience Design & Implementation conference in Sydney on 11 and 12 November 2015. Please find the full agenda here.

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