Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru
What were the biggest challenges in delivering Exceptional Customer Experience in 2015? And how to overcome them in 2016?
In September 2015, we set ourselves up to studying the reasons why companies struggle to deliver exceptional customer experience. It was an intriguing question to ask and the goal was to, ultimately, assist companies in identifying the similarity in challenges faced by other organisations and then help device the right strategy to overcome those challenges in 2016. We reached out to our readers, twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook network, and also our clients and their extended network asking about their unique challenges in delivering exceptional customer experience at their company. Although we received just over a 1000 responses, we have been thrilled by the kind of discoveries it led us to. On behalf of the entire team at Customer Guru, I would first like to thank everyone for taking the time in answering the survey. I am delighted to share the results of our small study in an Infographic (downloadable at the end of the post).
Most interestingly, we got a 100% ‘YES’ on “Was improving customer experience one of the key goals in 2015 for your organisation?” Given the diversity of our respondents in terms of seniority, geography, and industry, the response to this question led us to the profound realisation that almost every person in an organisation believes that improving customer experience is important. With so much emphasis on improving customer experience, it is quite surprising that customer experience is still not being measured in several organisations around the world. The single most important step towards improving something is measuring it first. One of my friend and mentor in sales, Steli Efti, says
Having a big dream to achieve undying customer loyalty is great, but organisations need to be prepared to put the hard work in achieving that dream. The first step is to start measuring customer experience, because customer loyalty is strongly correlated with customer experience. Gone are the times when big corporates used to command a major percentage of the market and the customers wouldn’t have any alternative but to stick with such organisations despite the terrible customer experience. The story of AOL in Fred Reichheld’s and Rob Markey’s book The Ultimate Question 2.0, is a great example of how bad customer experience can turn even the biggest organisations upside down. AOL pumped all its resources in customer acquisition but didn’t do much about improving customer experience. Customer unhappiness increased steadily because of unavailability of service, difficulty in reaching customer services, and poor pos-sales support. Even employee dissatisfaction rose tremendously because of the negativity ensuing AOL customers. However, because of lack of alternatives, customers were bound to do business with AOL, and eventually competitors like MSN and Earthlink turned AOL’s steep climb to market leadership into an equally sharp downward cycle. That was early 2000’s. Today, the customers are more connected and alternatives in every industry are plenty. Therefore, keeping a tab on customer experience is going to be critical in the coming years. If your organisation isn’t measuring customer experience, or is looking for some help, reach out to me and I will help you get started.
Let me point you to another interesting finding from our research. Almost three-fourth of the respondents strongly agreed that customer experience is a key differentiator for their company.
This is another reminder why customer experience is important. In one of our earlier blogs, we’ve talked about 9 indisputable reasons why customer experience is supremely important NOW. Our research has further validated our belief that customer experience is the true differentiator for any brand. Brands that are not focussing on delivering a unique and memorable customer experience will see a declining share of market in the coming years and will grapple to regain sales momentum if they do not start focussing on customer experience soon. Delivering great customer experience doesn’t have to be difficult, most times it is simple and genuine gestures that win customers’ heart. Most importantly, improving customer experience requires consistency in delivery and a constant push from the top.
I have been a proponent of the Net Promoter Score® (NPS) as a measure of customer experience and loyalty and our research deepened our belief in that metric. At least three times more respondents selected NPS than the respondents who selected CSAT as the metric being used to measure customer experience. It shows that the Net Promoter Score has gained immense popularity and is being adopted by not just industry leaders and major brands, but also by small and medium businesses as the go-to scale for measuring customer experience. I highly recommend Genroe’s blog: New Insights: Net Promoter Score® Vs Customer Satisfaction for anyone interested in looking at an empirically derived difference between NPS and CSAT. Adam draws a very interesting conclusion, which I am sharing for quick reference:
“Perhaps in these results we can see part of the reason that CSat is less good as an indicator of future business growth. Our hypothesis here is that because customers refer to fewer themes in their responses to the CSat question than the NPS question, CSat focuses more explicitly on the immediate service experience.”
Finally, having established that customer experience is extremely important in differentiating a brand and that it is critical for organisations to start measuring and managing it actively, we were keen on understanding what exactly are the challenges that organisations are facing when it comes to delivering exceptional customer experience? Because of our experience in helping companies improve customer experience, we had speculated the top reasons why companies struggle to deliver exceptional customer experience.
70% of the respondents pointed that inter-department disconnect is their biggest challenge in delivering exceptional customer experience.
Indeed we were in for some surprise! We knew that inter-department disconnect in terms of customer experience being a priority, will be the top reason. But we were most surprised to see that ZERO respondents said that customer experience wasn’t a part of their department’s goal! Everybody in the organisation believes that customer experience is an important part of their department’s goal but still cite inter-department disconnect as the biggest challenge in delivering great customer experience. Isn’t that ironical? As contradictory as it sounds, we believe it is not the disconnect but a lack of ownership that leads to this problem. Everyone knows customer experience is important for their department, but no one really knows who owns it.
Well over two fifth of the respondents also claimed that they lacked the understanding of what needed to be done to deliver exceptional customer experience.
In my opinion, this is a bigger problem compared with inter-department disconnect. Without a clear understanding of what needs to be done when a customer raises an issue, your employees would end up pointing fingers and ultimately the customer will suffer. If there is anything you need to plan before the start of 2016, spend most of your time chalking out an action plan to solve customer issues as they are raised. Indifference to customer complaint, or at least that’s what it looks like from the customer’s point of view, is the biggest reason why customers defect.
Similarly, it is important to setup the route to recovery for every detractor when implementing NPS in your organisation. Companies go as far as collecting NPS data, but fail to close the feedback loop because of lack of preparedness in handling responses. Focus on building a customer success team or an NPS Champion, reporting directly to the CEO so that strong and decisive action can be taken on behalf of the customer. Train your customer facing staff on how to manage customer complaint and what to do in case of negative customer feedback. What’s most important is to plan several training and repeated workshops to keep coaching your employees on what to do to improve customer experience. Companies like Ritz-Carlton ensure that their employees understand and do whatever it takes to deliver customer experience.
There are other insights you would find in our infographic below. We sincerely thank everyone who took the time to respond to our survey and hope that this research adds value in planning your 2016 Customer Experience goals!
Are you facing any other challenges in delivering exceptional customer experience in your organisation? Please share your experiences and feedback below so everyone could learn from it. Thanks!