'Industry leading customer experience’ is the kind of glib phrase thrown around a boardroom when looking for a change of focus for the next investor report.
When it lands on your desk, it needs to become more than an executive soundbite. Someone has to translate that soundbite into something meaningful.
This isn’t the easiest task. Channels are proliferating and there is more competition than ever to deliver on the promise of a multichannel customer experience. The gap between the highest and lowest performing sectors is narrowing - driven by improvements in many of the lower ranked sectors (UKCSI).
So, where do you start?
Deciding what good looks like.
Companies are fixated with comparing themselves to their industry peers. Why? There are no prizes in the customers’ mind for being the best of a bad bunch.
In some industries, particularly where apathy is high or switching is deemed a hassle, customers will often only deal with one provider. So, before you start to obsess over being top of a rather unimpressive pile, consider two things:
- Which other companies do your customers hold in high esteem?
Your customers deal with a variety of service organisations from multiple sectors, providing a range of service. Some of these will deliver a great multichannel customer experience, and a few will be world class.
It is these businesses that you should be benchmarking against, because this is who your customers will be comparing you with – day in, day out. Whilst service may occasionally become a customer acquisition factor, it is always a retention factor.
2. Does multichannel customer experience need to be a differentiator for you (and what does it look like)?
Before you start employing hundreds of relationship managers, or replacing your entire contact centre with chatbots, you need to understand what your customers’ expectations are.
Bulb – a renewable energy challenger brand, is a good example of this. The business provides a seamless (and probably low cost) digital service and multichannel customer experience, where there are no human interventions for ‘standard’ applications or switches. From order to cash, their proposition is focused on speed and efficiency, whilst still effectively communicating their brand promise. That’s because they understand who their customers are, and who they are not.
Co-founder Hayden Wood said: "From day one we wanted to make customer service first, last and everything. Everything we do is geared towards making energy simpler, cheaper and greener for our members.
Firstly, our single tariff for gas and electricity keeps our offering super simple and it means you know you’re always on our best deal. It means we’re not leaving customers baffled over different tariffs and rates, or creating complaints when promotional rates come to an end – something that causes the biggest number of complaints to Big Six competitors.
We also make it as easy as possible for people to switch to us online by harnessing and creating the best technology available. This includes building a lot of our technology from scratch. We’ve developed an advanced in-house IT system that automates a lot of the issue-resolution normally done by teams of employees at larger energy companies. That’s one of the reasons we’re able to offer our members such low prices.
But, we know that for those handful of occasions when members have problems, they can phone us up and have their call answered in 10 seconds, by a human, sitting in the UK, without getting stuck in automated systems.”
Conversely, some organisations will have customers who expect to receive a more dedicated, personal service. As the Institute of Customer Service points out, “organisations that serve large number of customers will need to develop their ability to offer both fast, efficient and empathetic, expert service and to move seamlessly between each type of experience.”
Are you really set up to deliver your aspirations?
Once you’ve decided who you should be comparing yourself to, and what your customers’ service needs really are, it’s time to be self-critical: does the current design of your business really enable the delivery of your strategy?
Many businesses start with the admirable goal of a seamless multichannel customer experience. When you look closely, however, their internal structure is diametrically opposed to achieving this aim – so they should not underestimate how radical change needs to be. It is common for large organisations to evolve over time into silos.
Your online team may be separate to your in-store team, separate to your sales team, and separate to your customer contact centre. These teams may even be split again by product, service, or division.
There is no point making your FAQ button a different colour, or having daily huddles in your call centre if there is no central, customer focused strategy. All you will do is push customers from one channel to the next – delivering the same terrible experience that you always had, but with greater customer effort.
Understanding what it really takes.
Sustained multichannel customer experience improvement is not easy. You might move the dial a few points by chance and hard work, but if your organisation is not set up to deliver what is needed, you will be pushing water uphill.
What is required is a true transformation with the customer at its heart. This means leadership, cultural change, and collaboration across and throughout your organisation.
Otherwise ‘industry leading customer experience’ will continue to be a glib phrase thrown around your boardroom.