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State of the Nation: UKCSI Jan 2016 results. New Year New Start?

The latest results are out and make in the main for encouraging reading.

This month, the UKCSI, the national measure of customer satisfaction on the high street has seen an index 2 year high, reversing, for the second consecutive period the previous two year decline we saw between January ‘13 and ‘15.

39,000 customer responses were collated covering 296 organisations, which gave an overall index of 77.0 (out of 100) this month, up 0.8 points compared to July 2015 (76.2) and up one point compared to January 2015 (76.0).

However this is still below the all-time high of 78.2 seen in January 2013 so whilst it’s a positive sign, we’re not there yet in terms of customer recovery.

However of those 296 organisation, 96 saw an increase, whilst only 44 saw a decrease in results.

Other key highlights include;

  • Amazon topping the charts with a score of 86.6, albeit down marginally (0.1) in the Jan16 UKCSI top 19 last 12 months. They displace First Direct who have held the top spot for a while now to 3rd place behind Utility Warehouse
  • Retail (food) and Retail (non-food) still top the sectors
  • Utilities as a sector shows the biggest increase with 1.9 points, albeit 12th from 13 sectors overall. Encouraging gains but not out of the woods just yet as 1 of 5 sectors below the average.
  • Utility Warehouse (top of their Utility sector and straight in at 2nd place), Trailfinders (top of their Tourism sector)and RIAS (over 50’s insurance) all appear in the Top 50 for the first time
  • T-Mobile sees the biggest increase at 9 points over the last twelve month which is a significant shift, a similar performance last seen by Lovefilm in July 2015 with an 8.2 point increase.
  • Banks and Building Societies is the only sector down by over 1 point in the last twelve month
  • Telecomms and Media still languish at the bottom with a sector average of 72.6
  • The 25 and over 65 age groups remain the most satisfied
  • As do the Welsh amongst areas in the UK, compared to the Southwest who saw a decline in satisfaction
  • As are Women who are more satisfied in general than men (apart from in the Automotive sector)
  • For the naysayers who still don’t believe that great experiences and high levels of satisfaction drive (financial) results, Food retailers with a UKCSI at least one point higher than the sector average achieved average sales growth of 7.6% compared to a drop in sales of 0.4% for those with a UKCSI at least a point below the sector average.

Customer preference by channel and method of interaction;

  • In person (46.9%)
  • Website (22.6%)
  • Over the phone (20.2%)

However, when you look at the new channels of contact including apps and social media the results are not as I expected them to be;

Jan16 UKCSI channel preference

  • Out of all 13 sectors, apps only provide the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the Bank and Building Societies sectors although it’s unclear how widespread apps are deployed across the other sectors.
  • Public sector local and national websites provide the least satisfying experiences (think HMRC – ok so maybe that’s not a surprise)
  • Webchat only features in the Telecomms and Media sector and not for the right reasons being below average satisfaction

Channel Hopping

Nothing new here on this but goes to reinforce previous research and patterns of customer behaviour;

  • Most customers (58%) use one channel of communication when they interact with organisations.
  • A sizeable minority say that they use two (34.1%), but then there’s a marked drop off in usage (both overall and across sectors) to three (5.6%) or more than three (2.3%) channels.
  • Customers who used three or more channels were much more likely to say that they had experienced a problem (27.7%) with the organisation in the previous three months and give them a lower customer satisfaction rating. This is 3x higher than those that use 1 channel.

I can personally testify to doing this with a company when I didn’t get the results I wanted by email and phone, before taking to twitter to complain. This is all about customer effort. More effort = less satisfaction.

Customer Priorities

Also at the end of 2015, the UKCSI reviewed the importance of customer priorities which was last reviewed in 2010 and there’s some noticeable changes across the – wait for it, 47 customer priorities.

The top 4 most important all relate to staff attitude with the 5th being complaint handling. In order they are;

  1. Staff competence (in person)
  2. Staff doing what they say they will do
  3. Staff competence (over the phone)
  4. Helpfulness of staff (in person)
  5. Handling of the complaint

Interestingly, value for money only features at 13th with price/cost at 20th.

And finally a word about the most important features of delivering a great customer experience; employees.

Employees’ friendliness, helpfulness and competence have become relatively more important in the eyes of customers over the last 5 years, as well as speed of service, especially when dealing with employees in person. Ease of doing business has also increased in importance along the theme of reduced customer effort we’ve discussed over the last 12 months.

All in all interesting times and a continuingly changing customer and business landscape where the agile, fleet of foot excel and the legacy industrial monoliths creak and groan. Here’s to a continued improvement and let’s see what the next 6 months brings.

You can download the report in full here

Source: UKCSI Executive Summary Results January 2016.

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Lush tops Which? customer service survey

The annual customer service survey from Which? is out and the usual suspects feature at both the top and bottom of the list of the 100 big brands rated. You can read the full results here but we’ve summarised the highlights below.

Lush_Logo_640x350The top rated brands were;

1. Lush – 89%

2. First Direct – 86%

3. Lakeland – 84%

=4. Body Shop – 83%

=4. John Lewis – 83%

=4. Waitrose – 83%

Floundering around at the bottom of the list, providing little in the way of surprises came these brands;

=95. Ryanair – 66%

=95. Vodafone – 66%        Which best buy

97. Talk Talk – 64%

98. BT – 63%

99. npower – 61%

100. Scottish Power – 59%

Each brand was rated across 5 areas of service with a possible 5 star maximum in each. The areas scored were;

  • making their customers feel valued
  • knowledge of products and services
  • helpfulness of staff
  • resolving complaints or problems
  • access to customer support.

The 3,501 general public respondents were also asked to give brands an overall rating for customer service, which is where the customer service score comes from. Amazon, M&S, Pets at Home, Waterstones, Dunelm, Clarks and the RAC all made the top 10.

Despite being voted Which? supermarket of the year in 2014, Aldi only managed joint 73rd with 14 other brands including Virgin, British Gas and JD Sports all scoring 71%.

Utilities and telecoms continue to struggle to get to grips with customer service with Scottish Power who were 99th last year swapping places with npower who have been bottom for at least the last two years. Scottish Power, attributed their woes to the often blamed scapegoat of IT. “Last year all our customer accounts were migrated on to a new IT system, which resulted in a very busy period as disappointingly we experienced more problems with the new system than we would have liked.”

IT aside, these two sectors have done little to visibly improve, with big players losing significant ground and customers to the disruptive likes of Ovo Energy and Ecotricity.

If this continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if the respective regulators for these two industries ‘impose’ a change on behalf of customers. Interesting times!

 

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Are Digital Marketers Missing A Trick?

The top three obstacles that marketers face in 2015 are apparently;

  1. New business development
  2. Quality of leads
  3. Keeping up to date with current marketing technology and trends

This is according to research conducted globally across 5000 marketing professionals and published in the 2015 State of Marketing by salesforce.com Marketing Cloud.

The report is interesting and you can find a copy here via the fierce website. Below is the full list of 20 challenges that were articulated;

Most pressing business challenges_2015

The report goes on to further confirm the focus on digital platforms for marketing and that this year is the ‘definitive’ year for mobile.

The report also talks about ‘using technology to craft the customer journey’ and goes on to state;

“For the past 10 years, digital channels and data points have been accumulating at breakneck speed. Every industry has been disrupted. The customer now rules, and speed is the new currency of business. Marketers have scarcely had a moment to make sense of it all with a single big idea that ties everything together. Enter the customer journey. A growing number of marketers today are envisioning their entire marketing strategy under the umbrella of a cohesive customer journey, which we define as all of the interactions a customer has with brands, products, or services across all touchpoints and channels.
According to recent research, 86% of senior-level marketers say that it’s absolutely critical or very important to create a cohesive customer journey. Another 11% view the customer journey as moderately important.

Technology is the essential glue that connects various moments along the customer journey to create one-to-one experiences. From analytics that help marketers create personalized interactions, to mobile applications that create personal brand experiences for every interaction, to CRM tools that let marketers track the span of a customer relationship, the customer journey relies completely on its technological elements.”

The article goes on to chart exactly which technologies are priority to creating a cohesive customer journey, which is as equally important to start ups as it is to established businesses;

Technologies for cohesive customer journey_Sept15

The top 3 being;

  1. Mobile applications
  2. Marketing analytics
  3. CRM tools

So it was at this point that the penny dropped. What about customer retention? Why isn’t this a business challenge?

Are 5000 global marketers saying that customer retention is really not a challenge? Arguably, it could sit outside of the top 20 or it could sit within the ‘other’ category at 1% but to me this doesn’t feel right.

Now I’m not a marketer I must confess, but this feels like marketing are trying to do what they’ve always done. That is to focus pretty much exclusively on front end customer acquisition, with a sprinkling of a focus on ‘in life’ customer interaction but with little or no focus on customer retention, advocacy and loyalty throughout the customer journey. They’re currently trying to do this by moving away from more traditional marketing tools and instead using lots of sparkly new digital toys without truly understanding new digital, personalised customer habits and trends. As a result, there’s no paradigm shift to a new marketing mind set that sees the total customer lifetime as their responsibility beyond mere acquisition.

Now it might be that these 5000 marketers have in their business, someone else responsible for customer retention but surely if this is the case, these should be symbiotically related and so as to share the responsibility of customer retention beyond mere acquisition? It’s more costly just to shovel new customers in at the front end without the opportunity to retain and grow those same customers for life.

To further substantiate this point, looking at the top 10 technologies to create a cohesive customer journey, there’s no mention of any Voice of Customer (VoC) technology to provide customer insight into the journey at critical touch points as a way to further inform and improve the customer experience and subsequently the marketing process.

VoC Hub Dashboard

VoC systems such as SandSIV’s VoC Hub are as much an asset to marketing as they are to any other part of the business and marketing are missing a trick if they’re not ‘plugged in’ to, or even considering tools like this to complete the holistic picture of the end to end customer experience.

Whilst it shows an increased willingness for marketers to communicate with customers across multiple channels and touch points, the rationale for this is still based on what’s most important to the business first (new customer acquisition), rather than what’s most important to customers.

‘Listen hard and act fast’ as SandSIV would say and include VoC within the marketing mind set and on the technology wish if you want to stay ahead.

 

 

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Customer loyalty, trust and the limbic brain

I recently re watched the inspiring Ted Talk from Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire.

Simon talks about the notion of a golden circle or 3 concentric circles. At the centre, is ‘why’ – the emotion or purpose of why you do what you do (or why a business does what it does). Next out is ‘how’ and the outer circle is ‘what’. Customers buy from the inside out based on the why first, then how and what. Businesses however, sell and communicate from the outside in which is why they often fail in their approach.

limbic brains

They’re very good at telling you what they do and how they do it, but not very articulate (if at all) about why they do what they do. The really important bit that customers really buy and that makes a significant difference between businesses in terms of their success.

Therein lies an often over looked paradox in relation to customers and customer experience.

Businesses want customers to be loyal. Loyalty, as is commonly known drives recommendation, referral and repeat business (Harvard’s 3Rs model). Businesses also want the beholden golden goose of customer trust. The unquestioning kind where customers stay loyal despite challenges and issues because they believe in a brand or business.

These appear to be at first glance rational needs (the what and the how) and requirements from a business perspective but they are not.

Decisions around loyalty and trust come from emotion (the why). Emotion comes from the very oldest and fastest part our brains (as opposed to the more recent neocortex). It’s a part called the limbic system where arguably our intuition and gut feel also stems from. It’s the part of the brain that drives us towards pleasure and away from pain and pretty much kept us alive in prehistoric times.

3 Brain system

Customers act loyal (or trust) based on how they feel first then how they think second by rationalising their decisions. Few people realise this as it contradicts the classic economic theory as first mentioned by Adam Smith in his publication The Wealth of Nations. His idea (now largely debunked yet not widely believed) was that we are all rational decision makers most of the time and that we act only in our own self interest, balancing up costs and benefits before making a decision. In fact, the very reverse is true.

Most, if not all of the time we are emotional decision makers who then rationalise our decisions to avoid believing we made a bad or poor decision in the first place. We also look for supporting evidence to back up our decisions, so we further believe we made the right choice (see the brilliant book ‘Predictably Irrational by the equally brilliant Dan Ariely).

Business (in the main) acts and communicates in the opposing direction to how customers act, by delivering and expecting rational acts (customers buying on features and benefits as an example) to evoke emotion in customers (hopefully positive but often negative!) in order that they’ll buy a product or service.

Emotion is always evoked so that’s definitely a successful outcome delivered. However, in the majority of cases it’s apathy from the customer’s perspective (think financial services and products like pensions), or unless you’re Apple, Disney or Zappos who excel at creating positive emotion. Alternatively it’s frustration or anger that’s generated especially if you’re Ryan Air or npower.

So there’s a lot to be gained by starting at the ‘why’ in business before moving to the ‘how’ and ‘what’ given that’s how customers function but it’s either not done often enough or it’s not done very well. Starting at the ‘why’ in relation to anything customer related is going to be a more positive experience for everyone involved.

‘Why’ moves people to act. ‘Why’ can be a powerful, purposeful story that evokes unstoppable emotion and that lasts. It also builds trust and loyalty and that’s what customers really want; not features and benefits.

So what’s your why?

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UKCSI – State Of The Nation Update

Customer satisfaction on the high street seems to be pulling out of the destructive nose dive we’ve seen in the last 4 waves.

The July 2015 results from the UKCSI are out now and as in earlier posts, I’ve trawled the results and here is a summary for you. Uk map UKCSI

The previous two years of decline seems to have now plateaued with the index rising by a meagre 0.2 from this survey wave to 76.2 overall (out of 100). Way down from the heady heights of 78.2 in January 2013.

194 companies received a score with 56 companies improving by 1 point or higher, with 86 companies registering a fall of 1 point or more.

Interestingly, the historically lowest performing sectors like public sector and utilities are up by at least 1 point in the last 12 months, whereas the higher performing sectors like retail food (-1.2), automotive (-1.4), leisure (-1.4) and services (-1) are down by at least 1 point in the last 6 months.

In terms of sectors, retail food is still top overall with Amazon the highest ranked company at 86.3. Retail food is second with Waitrose ( 84.5) and Tourism is third with Centre Parcs (82.1) taking pole.

UKCSI sector table

Variation within sector though is still vast, with public sector and travel showing a 21 point difference between highest and lowest performers.

Whilst the sectors included are still the same overall there’s some noticeable new entrants signalling a change to established players who need to be wary and double their efforts if they want to keep their ground and not loose further gains.

Ovo energy tops the utilities sector, with Giff Gaff leading Telecomms and Media whilst LOVEfilm top the leisure sector. No surprise on the really latter given its acquisition by Amazon in 2011.

ovo-energy

The usual suspects are still top of the table; first direct, Amazon and John Lewis, despite the latter two showing a decline in performance over the last 12 months down 1.3 and 1.5 respectively.

Again LOVEfilm have had a storming 12 months with the single biggest increase out of the top 50 companies, up a whopping 8.2 points year on year to take them up to fourth place overall.

Skoda is the only automotive company in the top 20 at 11th place (83.0 up 0.3), and Premier Inn is the only hotel chain in the top 50 (80.8 down 1.2).

Most improved, in addition to LOVEfilm are Ryanair (up 8.6 to 68.8) and Southeastern Trains (up 8.4 to 66.9).

Ease of doing business is a key driver to high levels of customer satisfaction and a differentiator between high and low performers. Most of the top 20 performers also rated highly on ease of doing business and low customer effort should be included by organisations looking to improve their overall customer experience.

So why does all this matter?

Well, the UKCSI has tracked the relationship for the last 3 years between customer satisfaction, sales growth and market share for food retailers, a very pressurised market for consumer spend and behaviour, where customer preferences quickly affect business performance.

The research show a strong correlation between customer satisfaction, growth and market share with organisations seeing a 5.5% increases in growth with a score of 1 point higher than the average, compared to a 1% reduction in growth with a mere 1 point performance below the UKCSI average.

Retail Sales Growth

According to the Kantar World panel, Aldi (7th in the UKCSI) lead the way with 15% annual growth follow by Lidl at 10% (outside the top 50) and below the sector average despite performing lower on satisfaction than Waitrose, Iceland and Asda.

The July results further demonstrate and reinforce the view that we have firmly entered the relationship economy.

Customers giving an organisation a 9 or 10 out of 10 are much more likely to trust, recommend and stay with an organisation over those that score 8 showing that companies need to be both aiming and performing at the highest levels in order to keep customers in an era of rapid technology advances and disruptive new entrants to markets.

Organisations achieving scores of 9 or 10 achieve 96% loyalty compared to only 65% of companies getting scores of 8. In addition they achieve 55% of customer recommendation compared to only 39% of those that get an 8.

TrustWordCloud

The biggest gap is around trust with 83% of customers trusting an organisation which they score 9 or 10 out of 10, compared to only 39% of customers who score an 8.

That’s a massive difference that pushes the performance (and expectation) bar only higher.

Companies also need to address how they serve the millennial generation (born 1981-2004) who are the least satisfied generation and the only age group to have fallen year on year, even behind 18-24 year olds. Interestingly however, younger people appear to be more tolerant (and satisfied) when it comes to complaint handling.

The Welsh are most satisfied at 78, compared to the South East who are the least satisfied at 75.2. From a gender perspective, women are on average more satisfied than men, although this varies at sector level where for example in automotive, men are more satisfied, compared to utilities where it’s women.

The volume of complaints expressed by customers are broadly the same year on year at 13.2% with some sector like utilities with lower satisfaction levels, experiencing a higher percentage of complaints at 14.9% compared to retail non food at 9.8% with telecoms at 22.2%.  However nearly a third of customers (26.9%) are ‘silent suffers’  with the view that making a complaint won’t make a difference.

Shouting down phone

The top 3 problems experienced by customers are;

  1. Quality or reliability of good or services (30%)
  2. Staff competence (25.9%)
  3. Late delivery or slow service (25.1%)

A more alarming trend seems to be around escalation and compensation.  41.3% of customers who made a complaint needed to escalate it, up 3% year on year with 31.7% of customers asking for compensation up from 28.1% 12 months ago.

Complaint handling is both a hygiene factor and a differentiator and staff should be empowered and empathetic to meet the needs of customers to avoid damaging relationships and trust, which is difficult to recover.

It’s clear from this latest set of results that customer expectation continues to rise at pace with competition with the pace of change intensifying. The relationship economy continues to be built on quality relationship with customers, and those organisations that see beyond the product and commodity view of the world and both meet and deliver on customer’s psychological needs will continue to outperform and lead the way. However, this is a long term game and businesses should set their sights accordingly, whilst be flexible and adaptive to change. The ‘agile’ approach is the way forward for business and customers.

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Mandatory (mine) fields

Tech target emailI was talking to a client this week about using workforce automation to build better customer experiences so it seemed timely when an email popped into my inbox with the title “How automated workforce management improves customer satisfaction”.

After clicking on the link I met with this and there’s a couple of observations to be had;

Firstly, in order to download the 8 page document, you’re expected to fill in 13 mandatory fields! Not just 1 or 2 but 13. It would take me longer to fill this out than read the 8 page document I wanted to download. I don’t even have to go to this much effort to log onto my online banking with all it’s security checks.

Frustration index downloadMy second observation, was the title;

“Service Industry Consumer Frustration Index.”

What beautiful irony. What’s actually more frustrating than having to complete 13 mandatory boxes? -Not much to be honest. So much so that I never started which makes me question the value of the article and the motives behind this approach.

In an ever growing content and value world, building trust with both brands and individuals through sharing is now common place without companies and contributors asking much if anything in return.

However, those 13 boxes are clearly in the companies own self interests for future marketing purposes. The way they’ve gone about it though is clumsy and reminiscent of marketing from 20 years ago where companies wanted (and held) most of the control and the consumer had very little. It’s not like that anymore but it appears that not everyone has realised..

How much effort would you got to access content?

 

 

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Enterprise Rent-A-Car: simple service, great customer experience

You wouldn’t think that the simple act of hiring a car would be such a great customer experience would you? But it is, and it was. Not just once but consistently 3 times in a row. Now not many companies can boast of that.

It’s been a long time since I last needed to hire a car and on this occasion I certainly hadn’t planned to.

In short, my car broke down on the A1 just outside of Sunderland on the way to see a client. After being recovered from the roadside I was taken to a local garage in a small village called Sedgefield, who initially were optimistic about being able to repair my car the very same day. However, that turned out not to be the case and what was originally suspected to be a water leak was actually a head gasket failure! No quick (or cheap) fix here then.

Library Digital Photo by Paul Blount 2005 GAS

By the time this was diagnosed it was about 5pm, having been recovered about 11am and I need to get back home in order to get to work the next day and the fastest way I guessed was to hire a car which I could then use the day after.

The garage gave me several numbers and I settled on calling Enterprise and got through to the local depot.

“Can you deliver a hire car to me please?”

“No sorry we don’t deliver”

My heart sunk and I started to conjure up visions of being stuck in a small village for the night with little prospect of getting home at all.

“But we can come and pick you up?

Result! And true to their word they did. The Enterprise staff that arrived were friendly and chatty despite it being past 6pm. By 7pm I was in a hire car and on my way back home much to my relief.

elogo1Over the course of the next 4 weeks, I hired from Enterprise a further two times, based on how easy it was the first time and how good it had felt for them to help me out when I most needed it. Ok so that’s what they do as a business, but they really delivered and didn’t add to my stress and frustration on that long day when my car had failed.

On each occasion, the hire experience was as good as it was the first time. Friendly staff, an easy and efficient process and a first class pick up service that was consistent.

On each occasion, they asked me if they could have done anything better but they really couldn’t and it’s not often that I say that.

Simple service and a great customer experience. Would I recommend them? Absolutely. Now that’s how you build loyalty.

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The $30 trillion challenge

“My lesson for financial services brands, actually for all brands, is that delivering the best customer experience is something that technology can enable and make better. But it will always require people who are well trained, compassionate, and empowered to solve the toughest problems, money being key among them. Different customers want different levels of high tech versus high touch engagement. Technology will enhance the experience. The brands that win will be the brands that know how to use it to get closer to the customer.  With $30 trillion at stake, I’d figure out how to get really close.”

triljoenOneThis is the closing paragraph from a recent Forbes article by Allen Adamson and the full article is here for you to read.

He makes the case that brands, most noticeably in the financial services sector need to use technology as an enabler to deliver great customer experiences, as well as being able to make more tailored offerings to individual customer (and channel) preferences which I’d all agree with.

However, what’s more interesting is the $30 trillion he makes reference to. (Here’s a nice little graphic to show what $1 trillion dollars looks like in $1 bills..! as does the image above)

The $30 trillion as Adamson explains is what’s expected to be left in wills and handed down from the Baby Boomer generation to the Millennials to invest and spend. The biggest wealth transfer ever!

That’s a significant amount of motivation for the financial services industry to up their game, should they choose to accept the challenge. Time will tell.

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Leading on Service

In a previous incarnation, I worked in the fleet and leasing industry. For the benefit of those people who are unfamiliar with it, as a company we provided fixed term finance to businesses who wanted to provide company cars to their employees (so lease rather than buy).

We then provided support services as required during the life of the contract, which could include maintenance, breakdown recovery, windscreen replacement, accident management and fuel cards as required. All the support services were provided by third party providers under agreement which was a common setup in the industry.

Cars

The industry itself is an interesting one in which, at the risk of generalisation, products and services are pretty much of a muchness. This in the main is due to the regulation around financial products and accounting principles for tax and how companies treat assets; on versus off balance sheet treatment, depreciation etc.

So contract hire (which is one of the most common products) is well, contract hire. Terms and conditions like up front deposits vary slightly between competitors but at its core, contract hire as supplied by most companies is exactly the same given the accounting and legislative rules.

The same goes for services. Breakdown cover is the same. It might be RAC or AA or Green Flag who actually turn up, but again at its core it’s the same service. It might be packaged slightly different, but nonetheless, it’s essentially the same

Differentiation was (and still is) difficult. Price was always a significant factor, followed by customer service, account management and in life support in addition to flexibility within customer contracts.

Reflecting back now with my customer experience perspective, there was no real equivalent in the fleet industry as, say, First Direct is to the financial services industry these days. No real standout leader that everyone aspired to be like, and who really delivered fantastic customer service.

We tried but were never really in the running. We were good at the basics, but we had inflexible IT and a company structure that promoted silo working practices which stood in the way of delivering a real stand out customer experience (sound familiar at all?).

We had competent people in customer services, of course, and across the business, but the business did first and foremost what was most important to itself, not the customer.

So it was refreshing to come across The Miles Consultancy, or TMC as they’re also known.

TMC logo on wall

They’re not a leasing company but they do stand toe to toe with others in the fleet industry as a service provider. As a relative ‘newbie’ into the industry, having only been launched in 2004 by its founder Paul Jackson, they are already punching above their weight both in terms of innovative products and an impressive customer line up but more interestingly (to me anyway) with their customer service delivery.

TMC by their own description are ‘Europe’s leading Fuel Card and Mileage Expense Management specialist’. Their products are already award winning having scooped Fleet World Magazine’s ‘Best Fleet Management Service 2014’ and I’m sure there will be more accolades to follow.

Their mileage capture solution for company car drivers is fully HMRC compliant in addition to providing customers with typical cost savings in the region of 25% which is big money for any fleet and especially if you’ve got hundreds or thousands of business drivers.

Petrol pump

They also have an app which drivers can use to capture mileage real time saving the need every week to fill in cumbersome and unwieldy (in my experience) mileage reimbursement forms.

The first thing you notice about TMC is that they’ve got a customer contact centre. ‘What’s different about that?’ I hear you say. Well nothing really until you look at most of TMC’s competitors. The norm is a web-based solution with no access to real people for help and support when it’s needed.

TMC’s customer service manager, Alison Hewis, says: “People want to call up and talk to a customer service advisor who knows their account and knows about their business. What we sell is not just a piece of software, it’s a whole service.”

And they do just that. However they’re not content with their service which they’re being as innovative towards developing that as they are towards their product offering.

Last year saw the launch of a new joint venture product, which is already leading to significant business growth, with both an expanding client list and employee roll call.

Barclaycard fuel card

However, TMC recognised themselves that this growth would bring challenges, including increased inbound and outbound contact. A challenge that if not handled well could seriously impact existing clients and the great levels of customer service they currently deliver. Many companies either fail to spot this impending challenge or act too slowly to avoid the inevitable drop in service levels which often arise when businesses grow or change.

This in turn gives rise to increased queries and complaints and in the worst case scenarios, customers defecting to competitors with the corresponding brand and reputational damage that accompanies it.

“Obviously, we are very protective of our high standard of service and we do not want anything to threaten it,” says Alison. “This led us to devise a Customer Experience Programme to ensure we are ready for the influx of new customers and drivers brought in by the new fuel and mileage service.”

The customer experience development programme has already seen a number of initiatives deployed around the business, with more planned for this year.

Activities focused on engaging employees through defining vision and values from the ground up, building knowledge and skills with customer agents through advanced training and engaging more proactively with customers and importantly ‘future proofing’ service levels and their customer experience through the ongoing growth period.

Vision and values

The fact that TMC acted before customers are adversely impacted, which would inevitably lead to customer dissatisfaction, speaks volumes about the high regard they have for their customers.

“The programme has been really valuable for us and for the experience of our customers. It builds on what we were already doing right and gives us a codified framework on which we can scale up our service in line with TMC’s growth,” explains Alison. “We’ve enhanced the effectiveness of our regular call-quality reviews, which look at the personal side of interactions as well as measuring how quickly we achieve the desired outcomes. We hold regular brainstorms and share knowledge so every colleague is able to handle any call efficiently.”

As if all this change and activity isn’t enough, they’ve just submitted their entry for the Fleet News 2015 Customer Service awards.

“We’ve got a good story to tell the judges, with excellent retention figures and testimonials to back it up. The great thing is that we are empowered and trusted by TMC, which makes a difference that customers obviously notice when they deal with us,” concludes Alison. Love customers

Sights are also set to compete out of industry in the UK Customer Experience Awards in the near future. A move which is both bold as it is brave as they’d be up against the best of the best. However, that’s where the ‘world class’ bar is set and TMC certainly aren’t ones for aiming low.

Article originally written for CXM – Customer Experience Magazine

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npower’s toxic customer satisfaction has got worse – no really it has.

It’s that time of year again – the Which? customer satisfaction reviews on utilities are out and it makes for predictable reading.

The full results and reviews can be found here, although I’ll give you the highlights here.

The reviews are based on scoring from 9,400 consumers at the back end of 2014 across UK utility providers and their customer satisfaction performance across a number of categories;   Which best buy

  • Customer Service
  • Value for Money
  • Accuracy and clarity of bills
  • Complaints
  • Helping you to save money

 

Performance in these areas gets combined to give a percentage score overall.

Top 3 performers are;

  1. ecotricity – 84%
  2. goodenergy – 82%
  3. Ebico – 81%

Bottom 3 are (ex Northern Ireland);

  • EDF – 49%
  • Scottish Power – 41%
  • npower – 35%

It probably comes as no surprise that the ‘big 6′ all feature in the bottom half of the table with two of the bottom 3 companies – npower and Scottish Power all current under investigation and sanction from Ofgem.

npower are currently under investigation for potential breaches to their licence on meter installs for larger non domestic clients and potential breeches in standards on final bills and complaint handling standards for consumers. Details are here.

Scottish Power for a regulator imposed financial penalty and investigation into standards around final bills. Again, details are here.

So not great all in all for these companies.

The Utility sector also scores lowest in the UKCSI out this month with an index of 70.9 versus the top performing Retail (non food) sector scoring 81.4. A gap that barely seems to be closing.

Toxic

More interesting is where npower are now compared to exactly two years ago when their new incoming MD, Paul Massara ‘committed to make his company the industry’s number one for customer experience by 2015′ – as reported in Utility week here. More interestingly, their score then was 39%, 4% better than it is now so rather than get better, they’ve actually got worse.

 

I blogged about it last year and whether in practical terms getting to number one in two years could actually be done. If you want to read the original blog post it’s here, but the Which survey says it all really.

As an aside, while I was researching this blog, I came across an online petition, branded by Which? which calls for a ‘Fix the big 6′ campaign in a ‘broken energy market’. It’s currently got just short of 60,000 signatures…