The American Customer Satisfaction Index, which looks at various sectors and industries, shows only modest improvement from its inception in 1994 at 74.8 to its current standing of 75.6 for the same period in 2014 for overall satisfaction across industries. This equates to roughly a 1% improvement for 20 years of effort.
Why aren’t we doing better?
It’s a simple answer. An extreme emphasis on metrics has come at the expense of neglecting other parts of the CX value chain.
The key to successful customer experience systems is in actually doing something with information.
The Customer Experience Value Chain
There are several stops along the way from measurement to action. The CX Value Chain is a series of steps or “links” with dependencies that start with measurement and travel all the way through changing the customer experience. A customer has an experience, that experience is measured, that information is communicated as insights to stakeholders, those stakeholders commit to action, and then action is taken. Any break in one of the links in the chain will destroy the goal of improving the customer experience.
When we talk about customer experience we typically think of transaction-based service encounters activities such as making an enquiry on a bank account online or having a vehicle serviced at an automotive dealership. But the customer experience is the complete journey with the brand from awareness through disposal. The customer expects and demands one coordinated voice that knows them without regard to channel and increasingly, companies are embracing the concept of an omni-channel approach to interacting with customers.
While most of the industry has focused on more rational issues involved in their evaluation of brand, the future is understanding the multi-faceted emotional response customers have in their interactions with a brand.
The most glaring hole in current CX measurement is the gravitation toward asking hard operational questions like “cleanliness” and “timeliness” versus more emotionally charged issues such as “honesty” and “low pressure.” While harder to diagnose, we have found that emotions are much more predictive of important business outcomes than such hygiene factors.
Good measurement is the way to gain an understanding of these emotions and evaluations. The central questions to have nailed in measurement are: are we asking the right things, at the right time, to the right people and in the right way.
“Customer Insights” comprises three different types of information for different purposes:
Tactical Insight - Tactical insights, the basics of CX systems, can be very powerful if applied correctly. They are usually at the individual level where there is an unmet need and the problem and resolution can be identified and acted upon immediately.
Operational Insight - While tactical insights are typically a one-step process (problem then solution), operational insights are usually accompanied by an intermediate step. Also, operational insights can thwart the frequency of certain tactical problems by solving the problem at the root.
Strategic Insights - This is the holy grail of CX and consumer research in general. In this scenario, the problem, the cause and the solution are readily apparent. In fact, much of the effort is spent on defining the problem in the first place.
The first step is getting very focused on what the business problem is that you are trying to solve. Good business questions include: Why are my customers defecting? Why do my customers choose Brand A over other brands? Who likes my product/service the most? Agreement and alignment on that question is critical if you are to be successful.
A Necessary Pre-Requisite: Curiosity
The Corporate Executive Board did a study a few years ago looking at a variety of factors that influenced being a successful researcher. The board looked at type of education, amount of education, breadth and depth of experience, personality and a variety of other factors. None of those attributes was a significant predictor of individuals generating consistent strategic insight. Guess which attribute did? Intellectual curiosity.
Commitment to Action
Without commitment to action, the final resting place for the best insights, whether tactical, operational, or strategic, will be as a colourful but space-consuming place on your bookshelf or hard drive. Getting buy-in and commitment to all forms of insight, CX or otherwise, from business stakeholders is critical. Showing the relationship between delivering good customer experience and positive business results can go a long way in selling the religion with sometimes skeptical retailers and operators. The first important step in ensuring action is making sure that stakeholders who are responsible for taking action know how to use the tools.
So we come full circle back to the experience. We can see the CX Value Chain is much more than measuring and reporting an experience and hoping for the best. Vitally important – don’t set expectations with customers that your organisation is not prepared to honour. A customer experience program must be carefully constructed with emphasis on the ensuring insight and commitment to action, while confirming that the action actually occurs.
By Dave Fish, SVP Expert Services and Nigel Clover, VP Business Services Europe at MaritzCX.
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