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Customer Experience: “Are you walking the extra mile?”

Customer Experience: “Are you walking the extra mile?”

A famous quotation by Roger Staubach says that “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile”. Yet most companies in their quest for superior customer experience are just stuck in the traffic instead of going the extra mile for customers.

So what drives Customer Experience? And how is it best measured?

In the television show called “Undercover Boss”, the CEO of the firm travels undercover to meet his employees to understand his people, his customers and his company better.

The hidden objective: improve the Holy Grail – the “Customer Experience”.

Now not all CEOs may have dreamt of being undercover secret agents. And some may have faces that are too difficult to disguise. So in real life, CEOs need other tools to feel the pulse of customers.

Historically, companies depended on the formidable c-sat, the inevitable “customer satisfaction score” that arrived once a year or so and measured how satisfied the customers were.

But is the yearly depiction of customer satisfaction enough to understand customers’ experience in today’s dynamic and social times?

After all author Jeffrey Gitomer once famously said “Customer Satisfaction is worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless.”

Enter then the next new player in the world of Customer Experience – “NPS (Net Promoter Score)”. Based on the ultimate question “How likely would you be to recommend the firm?” the score is calculated as the difference between promoters and detractors expressed in % terms.

Does NPS tell the full story? What can it say about the customer experience touch-points when we know who the detractors and the supporters of our brand are?

Maybe NPS did suffice in the old normal. Did it suffice in the emerging new normal?

According to Forrester, the customer experience journey can be mapped as follows:

Customer Experience Journey

Customer Experience Journey - Diagram

NPS gives an idea of the overall customer loyalty. But in the new normal where customers are making their presence and views felt across multiple channels and real-time forums, is waiting for that one, quarterly/annual master feedback too little and too late to identify ways to stop detractors from leaving? And how can companies benchmark themselves on their NPS scores and learn from those who are adopting best-in-class strategies to improve their customer experience?

So what’s the way ahead?

Forrester has designed a metric called the “Customer Experience Score”. Published since 2007, the metric provides a measure of the usefulness, accessibility and emotional engagement consumers find with companies. According to studies conducted, Customer Experience score correlates positively with customer loyalty and stock market performance. So that should suffice, right?

In Forrester’s 2013 ranking of Customer Experience scores, retail firms and hotels lead the way in terms of top ranked industries in terms of customer experience. Maybe a reason why Apple recently hired the CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts to run its retail and online stores in the hope of improving its online branding?

Apple CEO Tim Cook said on her appointment, “She shares our values and our focus on innovation, and she places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience.”

Not all companies are Apple though with their relentless focus on customer experience. While more than 90% of the companies surveyed in Forrester 2012 research stated that customer experience is a strategic priority, why do then more than 60% of the firms rank from “downright bad” to “just ok” in terms of their customer experience? Only 39% of the firms were ranked “good” or “excellent” in the latest survey.

Is the metric the problem or the method? Or is the issue with the frequency of measurement?

McKinsey speaks of creating “Customer Journey Maps” (an event that marks the defining experience of key lifecyles of the customer; multi-touch and multi-channel) and prioritizing customer journeys that need to be transformed for driving greatest value for business outcomes rather than focus on individual metrics.

Corporate Executive Board speaks of another metric – “Customer Effort score” published in Harvard Business Review that is defined as “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” Can that be a true measure of customer experience?

Or maybe the issue is focusing on just a particular metric.  According to Harvard Business Review blog, “There is no single best measure of your customers.”

Companies need to continue their untiring efforts on improving social experiences, integrating behavioural and voice of customer data across multiple channels and driving operational excellence through continuous monitoring and evaluation rather than depend on quarterly or annual satisfaction and loyalty scores.

But beyond all that, each company needs to define its own version of “Customer Innovation” that starts with really listening to customers and helping innovate and improve each step of their journey.

A lot of us would remember reading “Alice in Wonderland” as children. In that book, Alice and the cat had an interesting conversation that bears repeating:

“Cat: Where are you going?

Alice: Which way should I go?

Cat: That depends on where you are going.

Alice: I don’t know.

Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

To achieve best-in-class customer experience, firms need to guide the consumer “Alice” better than the “cat” did by focusing on customer innovation beyond the world of Customer Experience metrics. And hopefully, that will help them walk the extra mile for their customers.

Blog authored by Debleena Roy and Umang Oberoi. The authors are analytics practitioners in a reputed global financial services company and have been working in the Indian analytics industry for more than a decade. They can be reached at mdebleena@yahoo.com and oberoi.umang@gmail.com

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and may not reflect the opinion of BRIDGEi2i Analytics Solutions or the authors’ employer.

About BRIDGEi2i

BRIDGEi2i provides Business Analytics Solutions to enterprises globally, enabling them to achieve accelerated business impact harnessing the power of data. These analytics services and technology solutions enable business managers to consume more meaningful information from big data, generate actionable insights from complex business problems and make data driven decisions across pan-enterprise processes to create sustainable business impact. To know more, visit: http://www.bridgei2i.com

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