Take the Hype out of Customer Experience Mantras
It sounds so easy
At a recent Customer Experience Conference many of the “key notes” and exemplar speakers were from glamourous industries such as entertainment (Disney), high end hospitality or up market retailers. These industries talk about the exceptional customer experiences they are able to provide. The speeches emphasise the special experiences that have been created when front line staff do that “unexpected thing” that generates a positive emotional reaction from the customer. You can walk away from these conferences thinking the secret of “CX” is to exceed expectations at all times. It all sounds so easy.
That’s great at the luxury end of the market like a five star hotel, but it is much harder to replicate elsewhere. Exceeding expectations is a tough gig in grudge purchase industries similar to insurance, or in situations where the customer has far less interest in the product or service like government or utilities.
Many of the so called “wow” experiences” described are person to person interactions. Yet every company we know is going digital and trying to take away these people based interactions. This paper explores what great experiences look like across industries and cover how less contact can also be a “wow”. We will also review the role of new proactive channels in creation of customer delight.
Less Wow more Brilliant basics
Customer experience is not all about “wow” moments. Disney for example, doesn’t talk much about the queues for major attractions at its theme parks and the “class system” that they have developed to bypass queues. They’ve built special apps to help customers monitor queues to try and obviate these poor experiences. Even Disney works at doing basic or ugly experiences like queues really well. It is harder for a utility, government department or a bank where the product or service has far less of “wow” experience than visiting a theme park.
We covered the “non wow” experiences in our book Your Customer Rules a.k.a YCR (Josey Bass 2015). We documented a “hierarchy” of customer needs where the three basic needs are:
Know me remember me
Give me choices
Make it easy for me
The research for the book showed that every organisation can deliver “good” experiences by delivering against these three needs consistently. When Disney lets customers choose one or two rides where they can skip the queue they are giving choices and making it easy for the customer. A utility or a bank can use similar thinking. They can recognise how customers pay or deposit and tailor how they inform the customer of choices and options. Instead, most organisations send out a one-size-fits-all bill regardless of the patterns of behaviour that they know and understand. Why do all bills look the same when customers demonstrate different payment channel and timing behaviours? It is just lazy use of technology and data.
In our service design projects we follow the needs principles from Your Customer Rules. We help front line staff provide effective choices and make the customer’s life in processes as basic as paying bills or making claims, simple. [SG1] Customers love hearing things such as, “I can do that for you now”, where we empower front line staff to meet basic customer needs. We also challenge processes that break two other YCR principles, namely; “trust me” and “value me”. For example, treating all customers like fraudsters, when they need to perform a basic enquiry. In YCR we called it, “putting all customers through the exception treatment”. Instead, we work hard with our clients to find ways to isolate the exception.
The So What:
A prerequisite of “wowing” the customer is doing the basics well because we know that in many industries even this exceeds customers’ [SG2] expectations. Working with front line staff and customer feedback to take away painful, stupid or “blanket” processes, is a trick we have pulled many times and this has boosted customer loyalty and reduced work for company and customer alike.
Why no service is a Wow
Another common set of conference stories mention situations where something went wrong and then the staff or business “went that extra mile” to fix the problem.
This concept of service recovery has been discussed in many books. NPS scores post recovery exceed those before the incident. That’s what you would expect. The company has given that customer individual attention and often done more than “make good” on the previous problem. Some people use “recovery theory” to challenge the methodology we recommend in our book “The Best Service is No Service” a.k.a BSINS, (Josey Bass 2008). Our method promotes getting rid of problems at their root cause. The recovery theorists argue that this damages loyalty obtained through great recovery. We [SG3] counter this in two ways. The first is that creating problems and solving them for customers is a very expensive way to run a business. The costs include many contacts, the cost of “make good’ transactions like rebates and refunds and often extra staff in areas like complaints. No company would survive if they deliberately created more problems so they could fix them and thereby delight the customer. The more complex flaw in recovery theory is loyalty. Deeper research confirms those who never have to contact the organisation (and experience no problems), are more loyal over the long term and more profitable. It is harder to research their loyalty as the organisation may not be top of mind in the same way as those customers who have had a recent problem fixed. A leading ISP in Australia did this research and found that their most profitable and loyal customers were those where everything just worked and they never had to make contact. Amazon often tops the American Customer Satisfaction Index which tracks all businesses. They have worked tirelessly to reduce problems and the need for contact and can demonstrate a reducing “rate” of contact over many years. At the same time, spend per customer, loyalty and profit increased. Fixing the root cause of issues is clearly a better strategy than brilliant recovery from each issue, but it is difficult to do because it’s often a whole-of-business problem.
The So What:
Customers do become loyal to those companies who prevent them having unneeded or high effort experiences. Some companies have worked out that reducing the need for the experience is in itself a “wow” experience. A simple way we work on that problem is to increase the rates of resolution and reduce the need for second and third contacts. We also equip organisations to work on the systemic causes of interactions that customers don’t want to make. Reducing the need for some experiences is a “wow” for the customer (who has time for other things) and a profitable strategy.
Being proactive is another “wow”
Chapter four of “Best Service is no Service is titled “Be Proactive”. In 2008 we recognised that emails and SMS were cheaper and easier ways of contacting customers. The previous barriers to proactivity like mail delivery time frames were no longer a problem. The progress of big data and analytics means that companies can really “wow” customers by understanding them well and anticipating situations.
For example utilities and telcos can start to warn customers when their usage reaches unexpected levels or those that might cost more. AGL Australia now sends texts to customers when their power usage is higher than similar periods so that customers can investigate. This is a double win. The customer can manage their power use and keep their bills down while AGL avoids long and complex calls associated with “Bill shock”. This caters to an advanced customer need in YCR namely, “help me use less of your stuff”.
Technology sophistication has increased the availability of proactivity. Some luxury cars have an ”internet of things” chip embedded in the vehicles and can warn of potential thefts or problems with a vehicle’s performance. Many banks in Australia now help customers monitor credit card use and warn of potential frauds. One bank calls a customer when a fake company mimics taxi fares on a credit card and help the customer and company reign in a fraud. They also monitor overseas use that is suspicious.
These combinations of data use and proactivity create “wow” experiences. The crucial element here is that the company is using the data and proactivity to help the customer. Customers are willing to trust companies with their data if and only if, it is used in their best interest. Start Up Pocketbook has acquired over 500,000 customers by offering them proactive monitoring of their bank accounts in order to achieve their financial goals. They help customers pay bills on time and warn when expenditure categories hit certain limits. Customers trust the app because it works in their interest.
The So What:
The latest data and contact techniques enable companies to move from a reactive and “recovery” mode of operation to a proactive care way of handling customers. This intelligent data and channel use can create real “wows” for the customer if the company uses data and tools to help the customer. Proactivity can be a real “wow” and is now far more economical. We try and help companies move from reactive ways of operating to a proactive strategy.
This paper demonstrates that customer experience is about a little more than “exceeding expectations”.
Doing the basics well is a crucial part of delighting customers and is a building block for everything else.
Getting rid of the need to contact is also something that can delight and;
Proactive contact used well, creates moments of surprise and satisfaction.
LimeBridge works with clients to achieve all three of those outcomes. Our PRISM operating model framework also creates the environments in which staff can be freed to delight the customers by exceeding expectations, when the opportunity exists. We hope you agree with our definition of “wow” experiences and this paper has provided some valuable alternatives. This is getting even more complex in a digital world so our next paper “Digicare” will talk about that in more detail.
We are happy to provide more detail to any of these ideas that are of interest. Please get in touch if you think you would like more information by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 03 9499 3550. More details are at www.limebridge.com.au.