According to a study of 362 companies’ customers by Bain & Company, there is a huge gap between what organisations believe customers perceive to be superior experiences (80%), and what customers believe to be superior experiences when dealing with organisations (8%) (Harvard Business Review)
Most research point to the connection between customer experience and loyalty in business. Customer experience is today’s currency to differentiate in the mind of a consumer and build loyalty.
The impact of customer experience is evident from many resources. Some state that 70% of customers would be more loyal after receiving good customer service (one part of the overall customer experience). 42% even said they would spend more money as a result. (reference: NewVoiceMedia study). According to Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CXi), leaders in customer experience had a 43% gain in performance from 2007-2013 in comparison to a 33.9% loss for CXi laggards over the same period. (Data from Forrester’s Business Impact of Customer Experience. According to Help Scout, 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction because of poor customer experience.
It would be interesting to see determine the full impact on business in South Africa, because the average South African consumer typically tend to “talk with their feet”.
Deeply engrained lies a culture of avoiding conflict or unpleasantness. But the real reason probably also lies embedded in the unwillingness of business to listen to what customers have to say.
However, the interesting question is, with the flood of surveys doing the rounds, why do business still not get it right?
Here are some of the reasons:
- Companies ask customers about their experience but the objective is to manage performance, not to align business to improve experiences
Many companies conduct customer satisfaction surveys, but it’s often more about the scores and the performance measures than the content or intent to address service delivery issues. Often the intention is to convince the management that the customers are happy with high level trends. The objective of the satisfaction surveys is often not defined or articulated and in practice, it is often only used to performance manage staff. The negative spin off is that staff resent the punitive consequences of customer feedback.
Seldom does the focus include to create a culture of learning, best practice design or alignment to customers’ experiences, to not only remedy, but to improve the approach to customers and service delivery.
- Quality is sacrificed for quantity – Surveys include pre-determined responses on point scales, and don’t provide opportunities to qualify response
Surveys have many benefits. However, channeling surveys through a Call Centre with a structured questionnaire (survey), managed by relatively unskilled and (brand) detached agents, do not provide the opportunity to truly understand gaps in customer experience. Trends derived from surveys do not always reveal the root causes of the negative experience and lacks context to facilitate internal change and alignment.
- Even when dissatisfaction or poor experience is shared, staff are not empowered or trained to effectively deal with the situation
Customers used various channels to voice their sentiments about products or services, yet they seldom experience the process easy or satisfactory. Some organisations make it extremely difficult to reach the “right person” to talk to to deal with problems, by unwittingly creating obstacles. These obstacles include:
- Adopting channels such as outsourced customer contact centres. Contact centres are often manned by young, poorly skilled and trained transient staff who are not employed by the client (brand). They don’t understand the brand values and follow policies and procedures, without the ability or authority to address issues outside scope
- Staff are not trained or empowered to deal with customers’ queries. Often staff “hide” behind” the policies to avoid further effort and aggravate the experience for customers. Customer facing staff are not provided with a value structure, skills or standards to manage feedback.
- Companies don’t publish key management team, with contact details. Is this due to a fear of having to actually engage with their customers? Is dealing with customer feedback only the lower level (customer facing) staff’s responsibility?
This creates a sentiment that business is solely interested in accepting money for products and service at point of sale, but thereafter, they are completely disinterested to resolve challenges or to ensure loyalty.
No wonder consumers, and in particular South Africans, resort to telling their friends, who are often the only ones interested to hear about their experiences. Most consumers are inherently altruistic and ultimately want to ensure their experiences are not repeated. Hence the power of social media!
South Africans are used to not expecting good service or experiences and the lack of interest by business. No wonder we created another way of making business take note…. We talk with our feet.
Our experience at the Consumer Psychology Lab in managing customer experience (CEM) has highlighted the necessity of approaching the VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER in an authentic and open way and the dire need of customers to have an opportunity to speak their minds frankly. Through our bespoke CEM approach, using highly skilled and trained psychologists, we are able to unpack unsolicited responses from customers. This uniquely positions our clients with vast in-depth understanding of which touch points create the desired experience outcomes or not, and align internal process for differentiation. It also provides a very authentic channel for our clients desire to hear the Voice of The Customer!