Whatever sector your business operates in, customer experience is a vital gauge of success. Marketers should make it central to their plans
What do online retailer Amazon, high-street favourite M&S Food, Emirates airline and Nationwide building society all have in common? Firstly, they’re consumer brands; and secondly, they feature at the top of KPMG Nunwood’s most recent survey of brands delivering excellence in customer experience (CX).
“Customer experience success is always a work in progress and there is scarcely a company in the world that is not concerned about the quality of customer experience they deliver,” said David Conway, director at KPMG Nunwood, at the report launch. “Memorable customer experience is vital in order to achieve brand advocacy and loyalty. While most businesses seek to improve customer experience, a company must go beyond simply meeting expectations and exceed them in order to leave a lasting impression.”
So where are companies, such as those listed above, winning?
For Amazon, according to KPMG Nunwood, it is about continual standard-setting in the way it delivers an engaging, personalised customer experience without human interaction. It’s also about innovation in its business model: customers ‘experience’ Amazon as more than a retail partner – it’s also a library, cinema and concert hall.
M&S Food drives loyalty through the quality of its products, competitive pricing and responsible sourcing, but also through its ‘Dine In for Two’ deals, which are aimed at providing easy food and drink solutions to create memorable home dining experiences for couples.
Emirates has also done much to add value to the customer experience by understanding that the flight itself is only one aspect of the overall journey. Chauffeur services to and from the airport, and personal touches from beginning to end are aimed at showing empathy with customers.
In the post-banking crisis era, Nationwide has also put the customer first. Through its Voice of the Customer programme, the company gains feedback from more than 200,000 customers every year, and has directly led to the introduction of new service and product offerings, such as Nationwide Now, which allows customers to have virtual face-to-face video meetings with building society staff if they can’t get to a branch.
CX means going above and beyond
For companies that rank highly for customer experience, meeting customer needs often means going beyond the everyday and commonplace to make the exceptional happen. For example, one Nationwide customer contributed the following to KPMG Nunwood’s survey:
“When we moved into our new home we received a hamper from Nationwide with some useful goodies like toilet paper and washing up liquid. It came with the message ‘welcome to your new home’. I thought it was a really nice touch – both very thoughtful and useful!”
Creating ‘more human’ customer touchpoints
What such actions achieve is to create emotional connections between the brand and the customer. While automation and technology can make a service quicker and more efficient, examples of a ‘human touch’ are often at the heart of good customer experience. A customer touchpoint is a human touchpoint, after all.
What is also significant, is that these human touchpoints can occur at any place and at any time in the customer lifetime. All employees must be primed and ready to deliver against a CX-driven brand culture that is embedded across everything you do. Customers are quick to spot inconsistency and inauthenticity in behaviour, and so expectations for CX must clearly be set out to ensure employees are able to act –whenever and wherever they can – to ‘make good’ a situation. A culture of accountability will also help address any customer complaints or negative feedback, whether it’s made to a helpdesk or on social media.
CX, of course, doesn’t begin and end at these touchpoints, and the challenge for marketers to gain a 360 view of experience. Here, measurement is key. Customer data analysis and real-time digital dashboards, for example, can help to track customer behaviour in order to create action plans and allocate resources effectively, and help marketers understand how to build efficient and engaging customer journeys.
All businesses can create great customer experiences
CX isn’t only for retail giants, it transcends sectors; so whether you’re a marketer in a B2B, or working with small budgets, customer experience should still be a priority. Why? Because customers don’t only gauge what a good experience is by making comparisons with other companies from the same sector – they understand what’s possible for CX by making comparisons across the board. For example, they might ask, ‘Why can’t my utility company offer me the same clarity on current offers as the shop that sold me my running shoes?’ Brands, therefore, often compete with the best customer experiences across all sectors.
What this means is simple: whether you are an international beverages brand or a small accountancy firm, the goal is the same – to ensure, whatever sector you are in, that your customer has success with your product or service. This, ultimately, is the cornerstone for all customer experience management.
Six pillars of customer experience
Using individualised attention to drive an emotional connection.
Being trustworthy and engendering trust.
Managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
Turning a poor experience into a great one.
Time and Effort
Minimising customer effort and creating frictionless processes.
Achieving an understanding of the customer’s circumstances to drive deep rapport.