Brands must start looking at the customer experience from the point of view of the customer, not their own – a change that is easier to implement than many may think, says Tash Whitmey, group chief executive of Havas EHS
We’ve all had the much-talked-about experience. You visit a website, type in your details, do a search and input your preferences. Then you ring the call centre… and go through the whole business all over again because the person on the other end of the line has no access to what you’ve inputted.
Or you have a lengthy conversation with the call centre representative, then find yourself having to repeat it yet again when you visit the store.
Ironically, we clearly know what a customer wants – because we are customers. Yet we have organisations who define themselves in silos, focusing on product or operational deliverables, and still many brands lag way behind their customers’ wants, while they struggle to put a customer-first philosophy into practice.
To put the customer experience first is now essential. There is no captive audience. Customers are more demanding, more selective and more savvy. They want brands that are committed to them and take time to understand exactly what they want. If a brand fails to recognise customer priorities, then social media at every level provides a powerful platform for customers to be heard and deliver their choices. And in turn a new wave of startups, such as giffgaff or ASOS, fleet of foot and with no legacy systems, challenge well-established brands to deliver a smoother, more integrated customer journey.
We believe brands need to have the ability to look at the customer experience through the lens of the customer themselves, while being clear about which parts of the organisation are contributing to it – a two-way mirror.
But why do so many well-managed, sales-led, hitherto successful brands baulk at starting with the customer? In a way you can hardly blame them. They perceive the answer as being a potential re-engineering of whole sections of the organisation or replacement of entire IT systems. And if that were the case – yes, it would be pretty scary.
“Do we really have to change everything?” clients often ask us. The good news is that the answer to this question is a resounding “No, you don’t.” Changing everything is like boiling the ocean when you really just want to make a cup of tea.
The Havas EHS approach is we make the difference that will make a difference. We create a single way of connecting all the different views of the customer, from unknown to identifiable, and work out how to manage all the interactions in-between. Then we map a customers’ journey to deliver new and better experiences that, if tested and work, are scaled up.
DATA IS GLUE
Data is the glue which creates our insights and enables us to know where, when, why and how to focus on creating better customer experiences.
There are so many moments that a customer “touches” a business, and we need to be able to define which we should influence and where we can have the most impact; not just what happens “at the moment”, but what we do before and after each interaction.
The imperative for brands to adapt has never been greater – empower the customer by adopting their perspective, so the customer gets what they want and the business achieves its objectives
This is customer experience context. Many businesses don’t have a view about the data they have; they don’t know what is available, what it means, how it can be supplemented or where it should be combined – digital data, as well as transactional and social data, web analytics, channel metrics, contextual data, data from inside and outside the business. I could go on – the broader meta data which enables us to look at the customer in entirety and use our creative and data intelligence to drive more compelling and inspiring customer journeys and moments of interaction.
We start with pilot strategies to deliver proof of concept and build a common approach which links back to business objectives. And we blend our insights to create experiences indistinguishable from excellent service. This approach means that we don’t throw out existing customer relationship management (CRM) systems or reinvent tools or techniques. It means we can work with what is there, creating fast, flexible and quick ways to deliver real business value.
In the beginning CRM was designed to replicate the old-fashioned grocer experience, where you were known, recognised and delighted. The difference was the grocer was able to use face-to-face interactions to gather a deeper context from the customer – what was important, why it was important, what the customer was or was not happy with.
What we now need to do is replicate the ability to gather that context utilising the plethora of data available to us. This will enable us to hear and enable our client to give customers what they want.
By introducing the context of the customer experience, we can really understand a customer’s needs. So we look at the customer’s situation. Where are they? In a store or in the street with a mobile device? We also think about how they’re feeling? As they interact with the brand, are they excited, anxious or unhappy? What happened before the transaction? Did they try another route to getting an answer, but couldn’t find it?
The imperative for brands to adapt has never been greater – empower the customer by adopting their perspective, so the customer gets what they want and the business achieves its objectives.
For example, we are providing a clear “next best action” for customers booking a flight with easyJet, whether through the contact centre because of direct communications, or through the website. Our communications and customer experience has to deliver the right information to the customer based on signals they are sending, as well as provide compelling reasons to take those actions.
In summary, regardless of where your brand is, what its barriers are and at which point on the journey you are, the necessity is to find the commitment to this approach across the business. Start small, understand your data landscape to find something meaningful to customers. Test it, learn what works and then scale it into day-to-day business. Your customers will reward you for the effort.