- ensure a sustained campaign to keep your brand alive
There is no denying the fact that the level of effort you invest in any undertaking reflects in its success or otherwise of it. Take the English Premiership, for example; like all others in Europe and elsewhere, for some nine to ten months the teams invest great time and energy to keep a sustained momentum of successful wins. This will eventually result in acquiring the title, as Manchester City has just done or striving to avoid relegation, as the likes of Leeds and Everton have fought hard for. Whatever level you end up with the need to ‘work your socks off’ is imperative.
To sustain your experience at levels that will make your customers want to come for more, you will need to work hard to success levels and strive to maintain those levels if you want to keep them coming and sing your praises through advocacy. To begin with, people they say are creatures of habit; we all enjoy knowing what something is going to be and then having it be that way. Consequently, our satisfaction with any given experience is largely influenced by the expectations we carry into it.
As you may recall the story I shared about the flight attendant who showed concern for the plight of his Fiji customers influencing a response from a customer who kindly offered to spread them on a no-frills flight would leave a lasting memory in the minds of the beneficiaries – the passengers from Fiji. If they can keep that going, imagine how many more satisfied customers would be singing their praises. Consistency of service, therefore, is a fundamental attribute of excellent service. In contrast, if you fail to maintain consistency, the price you pay could be dire.
Here are a few reasons why consistency is important and why focusing on being consistent is the first step to creating lasting experiences. Firstly, note that customers expect you to maintain consistency among your channels. Secondly, consistency can drive satisfaction. Thirdly, address the three steps that make up a consistent experience – namely, the make-up of your organisation, your approach to research, and a commitment to changing your approach to work.
Consistency across your channels
Recent research by Forrester revealed that customers have very high expectations of businesses – such that whether they are researching a product, making a purchase, or working with a customer service department. They expect a consistent experience during every interaction, regardless of the channel they are using. Channels are the touchpoints where we engage customers; so whether I am at the shop front, browsing online, or engaging with the call centre, all the touchpoint experiences must be consistent with customer expectations.
If the call centre freaks out the customer, it is just not on, it will be adjudged as a poor delivery throughout. So, for example, considering businesses with a digital presence and/or customer support, many people (in our context) begin their experience by visiting the company’s shop but then move on to interact with the organisation through other channels. If one perceives that the online service does not align with the way a rep handles a phone call, that person may never visit a physical location or make a purchase.
The reality is that consistency across channels is just as important for existing customers, as it is for prospective ones. When, as a customer, I contact the customer support or the management team for the first time, my experience must be aligned with the expectations created in the other experiences I will potentially have with the company going forward. Any variation in this will be a source of worry and can influence my perception of a service.
So my utility company has delivered a certain level of service (though imperfect for a while). However, now there are frustratingly frequent disruptions. My thoughts and expectations will be more on the poor service currently being meted out, not considering their glowing past. As a Manchester United fan, I am under the strain of frequent disappointments culminating in a poor season [sic], so enduring further stress from poor service delivery can be a real pain, (remember the strong emotional factor in customer experience).
Consistency can drive satisfaction
A good question we must pose to ourselves is how we measure customer satisfaction. A recent survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that: “Measuring satisfaction on customer journeys is 30% more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction”. They concluded that consistency plays a big part in customer satisfaction throughout the customer journey.
Consistency creates a positive emotional response among customers that increases their satisfaction with a company. For example, Zappos.com – an American online shoe and clothing retailer based in Las Vegas, Nevada, is ranked high in consistent customer experiences. The company is adjudged to provide a consistent experience across its touchpoints in the following ways. First, it has a beautifully designed website that is easy to navigate (you don’t need to be a computer nerd to navigate their website productively). Their inventory items are well categorised with easily accessible clickable links.
Second, their ordering and returns processes are simple and thoroughly communicated. The CEO, Tony Hsieh, encourages his employees to use social media networks to put a human face on the company and engage with customers in line with their core value #6: “Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication”. Their employees can easily be reached on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram including a heavy presence on YouTube, making them highly visible. Their email culture is one of timeliness and friendly communication, and is known to readily share very useful information with clients.
Throughout each touchpoint in their journeys, customers experience the same ease of interaction, simplicity of the process, and helpful communication that characterise Zappos’ delivery of service and what they expect from Zappos. When Zappos fails to live up to its brand promise, you can bet that customers will be quick to notice. By setting yourself such high standards for your customers, the weight of expectation is high, you must strive to maintain the consistency to keep them happy.
The three steps that make a consistent experience
Digitalisation has changed the connection between people and business, transforming existing commercial models and creating disruption in very high proportions. This has resulted in new ways of thinking and working to respond to the ‘Mobile mind-shift’ and the digital habits of millennials. (Millennials are those who reached adulthood at the start of the new millennium). According to the definition coined by the US think tank Pew Research Centre, this includes all those born between 1981 and 1996. Therefore, Millennials are now aged between 26 and 41 years old.
Although business leaders these days show a real appetite for change and better customer experience (CX), current research findings by Forrester paint a rather gloomy picture. According to them, 81% of organisations have seen their customer experience initiatives fail in the last three years, and just 25% of CX programmes improve the customer experience.
To arrest this trend, experts recommend a three-step approach – namely, evaluating your organisation, your attitude to research, and the type of work you do.
According to them tackling these three areas, even to a small degree, will increase the likelihood of your CX improvements lasting.
Step one – Your organisational make-up
What is common today is that many established businesses around the world and across a range of sectors are transforming in an attempt to emulate the speed, dynamism, and customer-centricity of digital players like Airbnb, Spotify, and Uber. Chief Operating Officer of ING, the Dutch financial institution, Bart Schlatmann, brilliantly describes the transformation journey.
“We have been on a transformation journey for around 10 years now, but there can be no let-up. Transformation is not just moving an organisation from A to B, because once you hit B, you need to move to C, and when you arrive at C, you probably have to start thinking about D.” in other words transformation is not about a destination, but a way of working that allows you to be flexible and adaptable to steer the business in a new direction.
The following few tips are noteworthy when embarking on your transformation journey. Think big – but start small, engage employees – many people making small changes add up to big change (manage change in small chunks), stop dabbling in CX – it’s a fundamental part of your business strategy so stop outsourcing it and get organisationally committed.
Build multi-disciplinary teams to remove silos with the product, commercial, research, data, and technology; and create a CX steering group – leadership sends a clear signal to the organisation about the importance of CX (https://econsultancy.com/three-steps-to-a-consistent-cross-channel-customer-experience/).
Step Two – change your approach to research
This may involve commissioning user research through an agency or consultancy. Years ago, when I was working for a local consultancy, we were commissioned by a client to facilitate research on the viability of a poultry project. We outsourced this as our team could not run full-scale research of that nature. However, the lesson from that experience was clear, you need to ensure that outsourcing customer research does not mean handing over ownership to a third party. The outcome though useful perhaps ended up on the shelves of the client.
Internal ownership of CX research ensures that the benefits continue after the third party is done. Making research part of your process may mean having in-house researchers who can consistently sense customer sentiments and provide valuable insights for decision-making. For example by combining your research with previous insight and website analytics you have the means to create personas.
A persona is a pen portrait of a typical customer. Build empathy by recording customer goals, needs, motivations, and behaviours. By creating a rough persona (between three and five, not more) you have a clear understanding of who your customers are, to prevent you from ‘flying blind’ as you target their needs. Prioritise your personas to primary, secondary, and tertiary customers to get an accurate understanding of their unique needs.
Step three – Changing the type of work you do
To understand the customer journey, you need to look beyond just your organisation or research. It is more about changing the type of work that you do. The cool thing in contemporary businesses is to be digital. A growing number of customer interactions take place through digital. Consequently, it is easy for the work your organisation does to be all about digital, or for digital to become a standalone department.
However, research by the global market intelligence firm, IDC, indicates that 79% of people want human interactions to form a part of customer service. To this end, your journey map must encapsulate mapping the journey as it is today: a retrospective map and envisioning a point in the future: a prospective map? Your outcome from this process must address customer sentiments across digital platforms and human interactions. Get the balance right. Simply put, being on top of your game with customers is a deliberate undertaking for sure.