The commercial benefit of improving the customer experience
The purpose of all enterprise is surely to get, to keep, and to grow the business it does with its customers. Companies place a lot of importance – and spend a lot of money – on getting new customers but rarely is the same focus placed on keeping and growing customers. Yet, much evidence says that keeping and growing costs less than winning.
By focusing on improving the customer experience, companies will improve their long-term relationship with customers and their profitability. Research conducted by Forrester (2008) shows a correlation between the quality of the customer experience delivered and vital commercial factors – likelihood of switching suppliers; likelihood of buying more; likelihood of recommending to others.
What this research shows is that across 12 industries there is at least a medium correlation across all three of these commercial factors with customer experience.
There is a greater reluctance to switch; a greater willingness to buy again; and a greater likelihood of recommendation if the customer experience is excellent.
Characteristics of customer-focused organisations
Delivering a consistently excellent customer experience requires an organisation to put the customer at the heart of its thinking – it isn’t simply about training staff to do a better job. Although that is probably a part of what is required.
In Cape Consulting’s experience, customer-focused organisations have six key characteristics:
• There is a clear definition of the desired customer experience which fits with the overall purpose of the business
• Front-line staff know how it should feel for the customer and therefore how they should behave
• The importance of the customer experience is consistently communicated by management
• Focusing on the customer experience clearly fits with other business priorities
• Measures and rewards recognise good customer experiences
• The organisation feels ‘seamless’ – the customer gets a consistent experience at each and every touchpoint
Our three-staged approach to improving the customer experience
Cape Consulting has developed a 3-staged approach to improving the customer experience that leads to sustainable and measurable change.
The first stage is an Experience Audit™ which assesses the current experience, compares this to the ‘desired’ experience and identifies the gap between the two. The Experience Audit™ assesses
• the existing customer experience – the strengths and capabilities at the front-line
• the desired customer experience – what is the company promising to its customers?
• what is driving the current experience: management capability; clarity of direction; measures and rewards; training and ongoing development; existing customer-handling processes and systems, to name a few.
At the core of a Behavioural Improvement Programme is a Customer Experience Model™ – a clear definition of the desired customer experience. The modules of training for customer-facing staff and their management are developed specifically so they can deliver the agreed and desired experience – to every customer at every touch point. Other factors may need aligning to enable staff to do things differently but the core of their development will be training followed immediately by on-the-job practice.
Our training is all about doing lots of little things differently – it all makes good sense… so staff pick it up, apply it, and quickly enjoy success!
The third stage is Sustaining the Change, where we guide management in their role to sustain the changes – creating a culture where focusing on the improved customer experience becomes business-as-usual. This typically involves a commitment to coaching; realigning what is measured, what is targeted and what is talked about. The concept of ‘input measures’ and ‘output measures’ needs to be understood – so that measures drive people to do the right things …and the results will then happen.
A Customer Experience Model™
Developing a clear definition of the desired customer experience is the starting point in implementing a behavioural change programme that will deliver an excellent customer experience. At Cape Consulting, we develop a Customer Experience Model™ with our clients that:
• clearly links to their business purpose and ‘customer promise’
• defines in detail what customer-facing staff need to do each and every time they ‘touch’ the customer
• underpins a detailed behavioural change training programme for customer-facing staff and their management
• is reflected in the measures and rewards that define desired staff behaviour.
The Customer Experience Model™ should underpin an internal communications programme in order to assist with sustaining the behavioural change so that the desired customer experience becomes business-as-usual.
Within a matter of weeks, companies should see that the experience delivered to its customers has improved and will continue to improve. This might be an ongoing customer satisfaction index or, more immediately, a post-contact customer survey, if appropriate.
Equally, business metrics that are affected by the experience delivered should be positively impacted. Depending upon the nature of the business and the role of the customer-handling staff this could be:
• an increase in sales conversion
• a decrease in non-value adding calls
• an increase in up-selling or cross-selling
• a reduction in the time it takes to settle insurance claims
• a reduction in re-work
• an increase in customer retention or customer value.