Finding the best way of assessing customer experience is a fundamental building block of a successful business, but can be easier said than done
Demanding customers have made customer experience (CX) key to business success. Eighty per cent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, according to the 2018 State of the Connected Customer report from customer relationship management company Salesforce.
“For many years companies have competed on product and price, but consumers are forcing the issue [of service],” says Tiffany Carpenter, head of customer intelligence at analytics company SAS UK and Ireland. “This is the new competitive battleground; you have to compete in CX if you are going to survive in the next decade.”
Businesses are swamped in metrics, but bringing those metrics into one place so you can see the success and failure points is hard
But determining how well you are competing and finding the weak spots in your customer journey is by no means an easy task. There are a bewildering number of products to assess and track customers, more than 7,040 according to a supergraphic, Marketing Technology Landscape, which aims to list all the marketing, advertising and search solutions in the world.
The customer journey is becoming increasingly complex
Mapping the customer journey is nothing new and nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of marketers use some form of journey mapping, according to Acquia, a software company. But customer journeys are far from linear; they have evolved into omnichannel and unstructured experiences, with multiple touchpoints on multiple platforms.
“A lot of practitioners are still in the old business of customer feedback,” says Mark Smith, president of Kitewheel, which helps companies with their customer journey. “But what’s really interesting isn’t the ‘voice of the consumer’, it’s the ‘voice of the process’, what the customer actually did.”
Many companies are not as self-aware as they should be when it comes to CX. SAS’s report, Darkness of Digital Shadows, found a quarter of organisations describe themselves as “transformational” when it comes to customer intelligence, but only 10 per cent are actually leaders. “Organisations are deluding themselves about their ability to deliver service,” says Ms Carpenter.
How to choose the right metrics for CX measurement
So what are the best ways to measure CX? There are many metrics you can choose, from Net Promoter Score, which is a measurement of customer loyalty, to Customer Effort Score, how easy it is to interact with your company.
But according to Qualtrics, an experience management company: “The choice of metric is not as important as you think. The most successful customer experience programmes identify the key drivers of the experience and prioritise the actions that will have the biggest impact.”
Simply mapping the customer journey is no longer good enough and nor is using data to report on past events. Of course, you can learn lessons from what went wrong last week, but in today’s super-competitive world, you have probably lost that customer for good.
The true value of analytics lies in predicting consumer needs, using machine-learning to anticipate when and where the customer will be, and what they might be interested in buying. This relies on data and, for many companies, the data touchpoints needed to match a customer identity across a range of available platforms are still siloed in different departments. Only 6 per cent of companies have complete omnichannel measures in place, incorporating online and offline data, according to SAS. And that, says Mr Smith, is largely a question of mindset.
“It’s less difficult to link the technology than to get the mindset changed,” he says. “So many businesses still have the call centre fighting with the staff answering emails, each with their own targets. Businesses are swamped in metrics, but bringing those metrics into one place so you can see the success and failure points is hard.”
Why measurement is so important
But it is worthwhile. Consultants McKinsey & Company estimated that maximising satisfaction would result in a 15 per cent increase in revenue plus a 20 per cent fall in the cost of serving customers as long ago as 2014.
Even if CX investments are not translating into revenue gains, they are likely to be helping to prevent further erosion of customer satisfaction and loyalty, according to consultants Accenture in its 2017 Global Consumer Pulse. Although the report went on to argue that investing in CX initiatives meant an endless game of catch-up as the more companies do to satisfy their customers, the more demanding those customers become.
Instead, Accenture believes the key is a more targeted approach. It recommended three areas for focus: minimising switching, capitalising on the customer’s increasing acceptance of artificial intelligence to add value and personalised experiences with hyper-relevant CX.
Shop Direct, owner of Littlewoods and very.co.uk, has been on its own CX journey. According to Neil Chandler, chief executive of financial services at Shop Direct: “When shoppers interact with us – by opening an email or text, or by visiting our website – they see content that is interesting and relevant to them.
“For example, if they inform us about a fashion preference, we have the capability to prioritise search results for that particular customer so the first items they see are the ones they are most likely to purchase.”
It’s a level of personalisation that pays dividends. Organisations now hold a huge amount of data, but the trick is to break apart the silos and match it up with individual customers. Customers are telling you what they want; it’s time to free the data trapped in your organisation to fuel your knowledge of the customer.