Bruce Stevenson has been awarded Investor in Customer Gold and recording the highest ever IIC rating in Scotland. We asked Investor in Customer Managing Director, Tony Barrit, to give his thoughts on the long-term value of putting the customer first.
For most organisations, the debate over customer experience has come to an end, as business leaders now see it as one of their key focus areas. Recognising that embedding a customer-centric culture can significantly improve profitability can be evidenced in a number of different ways.
• Maximising customer retention and lifetime value
• Attracting new customers through word of mouth recommendations.
• Reducing costs through fewer complaints and returns
• Enhancing brand value and reputation.
There is also a clear correlation between providing excellence in the customer experience with employee well-being, motivation and morale, as content customers make the working environment much less stressful, leading to considerably less staff churn and lower recruitment costs.
Investor in Customers (IIC) has been an expert voice in customer experience for more than 12 years, surveying over 3 million customers about what they feel about the service they receive and comparing that with the attitudes of the employees and senior managers of the 300+ companies that provide those services. Whilst the vast majority of those organisations experience double-digit growth in profits from delivering a better customer experience, there are some common pitfalls:
1. Senior management delusion
IIC research shows that more than 70% of employees and managers rate the quality of the customer experience they provide as being higher than the equivalent scores recorded by their customers. With the figure rising to more than 80% for managers alone. A lack of clear customer feedback (coupled with an inability, or unwillingness, to disseminate that feedback to all employees) is a prime cause. As is the belief that meeting the needs of the broad market is sufficient, rather than digging deeper to understand specific customer needs and personalising services to meet individual requirements.
2. A lack of understanding about customer (and employee) segmentation
“Treat me as a person, not a number” is a common refrain from customers. Most customer satisfaction scores look at customers en masse, failing to dig deeper to identify individual personas and specific customer groups. Not only is there is a big difference between the needs and motivations of millennials and baby boomers but taking segmentation down to purchasers of different services and contacts with different offices also helps to give a much clearer picture of customer delight and future intentions.
3. Complaints increasing even though customer satisfaction scores are rising
Today customers aren’t content with being satisfied they want to be “wowed” at every opportunity and made to feel special during each and every interaction. Furthermore, a common misconception is that increased satisfaction automatically leads to fewer complaints. The truth is that the customer experience bar rises every day. Customers are becoming more demanding and social media makes it easier than ever to complain. Meaning that a satisfied customer today could become a complaining one tomorrow if their needs and expectations aren’t continually reassessed. Whilst not every organisation competes with customer experience leaders like Amazon or Apple they set the expectations of customers in every industry, whether it is response times; flexibility, or tailoring services to meet individual needs.
4. A headlong rush to digital transformation
Perhaps the biggest customer experience challenge facing most business leaders is fulfilling customer needs in an online world. Customers want 24/7 access to information with an option to click and buy. Yet the basics of exceptional customer service are building personal relationships with customers and displaying empathy and interest, time after time. Replicating this digitally needs careful planning and involves mapping the digital customer journey, making all key touchpoints clear and transparent, and providing easy options to actually speak to someone who can help.
Without a doubt, customer experience should be the focus of every Board. In fact, most professional services firms now have to provide clear regulatory evidence that the customer is at the heart of their business.
The buck may stop with the Board, who are accountable for any actions that impact on the customer, but the responsibility runs throughout the organisation and involves each and every single employee. Because improving the customer experience and, in so doing, increasing customer value, reducing costs, and enhancing employee motivation isn’t just an obligation, it makes sound business sense.
We'd like to thank Tony for taking the time to share his thoughts with us. If you enjoyed reading this, have a look at some more of what makes us the 'broker of choice' for our clients.