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State of the Nation: UKCSI results are out and it’s not pretty!

The most recent results of the UKCSI are out this month and they don’t make for good reading as to the state of the nation for UK Customer Experience.

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The executive summary can be found here if you want to read it but I’ll cover the key highlights and trends for you here.

  • Customer satisfaction in the UK has now dropped for the fourth consecutive period to the lowest point since July 2010.
  • Only 33 out of 196 organisation have recorded an increase in the last 6 month period
  • Only 2 from 13 industry sectors have improved; Utilities and Banks and Building Societies
  • 3 water companies have shown the largest increases in customer satisfaction by any organisation in the measure; Southern Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities
  • John Lewis tops the league table overall, as does the Retail (non food) sector, followed by the Retail Food sector with Ocado scoring highest. John Lewis logo
  • Amazon and First Direct come in joint second
  • Bringing up the rear is the Utilities Sector with Public Services second from bottom
  • The 18-24 age group is least satisfied overall, as are people based in the South East. The over 65s are most satisfied as are people living in Wales
  • Aldi and Lidl continue to dominate the Retail Food sector both on customer satisfaction and annual sales according to the Kantar World panel. All the other majors, apart from Asda and Waitrose saw negative sales growth.
  • At a more granular level, only 2 out of 28 metrics that make up the UKCSI have improved in customer’s eyes; ‘outcome of complaint’ and ‘on time delivery’

Not great news to start the New Year, but not really a surprise as I outlined in my last blog post. So what’s going on?

Well this obviously has significant ramifications for UK businesses on many levels and reflects a number of changing factors which include the economic environment, continued and rapid increases in customer expectation and the inability of organisations to keep pace, in part marked by a lack of investment in infrastructure, digital technology and employee engagement.

Customers want increasingly personalised services and businesses are failing to deliver. Those that are more agile, responsive and innovative are now stealing the lead both in customers’ perception, market share and also on the balance sheet.

Consistency, always has and will continue to play a significant role in delivering a great customer experience. When looking across the 5 service components (professionalism, quality & efficiency, ease of doing business, problem solving and timeliness) John Lewis and First Direct feature in the top 5 organisations in all categories. That’s consistent and systemic customer experience delivery.

So where now? Well I don’t think, this decline in results is at the bottom just yet unfortunately. Businesses always have a choice as to what to do next. Some focus on Hard workshort terms results and quick fixes. Others take the more strategic, longer view in which the customer is front and centre as a priority. Benchmarking, measurement, insight and leadership should command more attention this year combined with a fierce determination to deliver more consistently for customers. It’s now time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and stop talking.

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Customer experience from the crystal ball – the year ahead

January is typically a time for reflection on the past year and an opportunity to refine business plans, set new goals and focus effort and attention on the year ahead. In addition to this, there’s always predictions as to the likely trends for the year so I’d thought I’d join the soothsayers and ‘futurologists’ and share some thoughts on some areas of customer experience for this coming year.

Crystal ballDigital, big data and mobile

…are all here to stay which is probably no surprise. Businesses effectively getting to grips with these elements though is the challenge which is a theme which will continue. There’s always the temptation to be attracted in a magpie-esque way to shiny new things but that won’t necessarily deliver value to either the business or customers. I recently talked to a construction company who had 16 mobile apps for their site managers, but the apps just replicated the paper work system they had replaced without making the task of collecting site information either quicker or easier. As a result, most of the apps weren’t used at all!

Most businesses already have enough data without it getting any bigger (ahem!) and without using it effectively, but co-ordinated, intelligent use of both customer and business data does feature in making the customer experience much more tailored and personal to the individual and is definitely the way forward.

Big data

More intelligent use of mobile apps in store is a great opportunity. If I’m stood in a store with my smart phone or tablet, but searching online for a product, it would be great if an app could direct me to where that product is, in store.. a much more interactive experience between online and in store experience is definitely in the very near future.

Black Friday in December ’14 certainly showed that consumers have grabbed on line shopping by the horns. However, the resulting drop in football on the high street was painful for many retailers, although a delight if you were actually out shopping like we were. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our local town centre as quiet as it was at Christmas, an observation which was even echoed by the shop assistants.

Measurement & insight

Still an integral part of understanding and improving the customer experience, I think the trends to be seen here are more effective measurement and insight that really drive change and make a difference. Sounds an obvious one, but you can get alot more insight out of the same data by looking at it with fresh eyes. However, measurement systems do mature but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. If they’ve stopped serving the business though then they need to change or at least be refreshed.

There’s still alot of uncertainty as to the ‘best’ measure to use from the people I’ve talked to over the last 12 months so let’s kill this one off right now. There is NO best ecosystemmeasure. Instead businesses should develop a measurement ‘eco system’ where measures sit along side each other and compliment each other to give the business a deeper and richer insight in to the customer experience. Don’t get married to your measures and don’t be afraid to change and adapt them this coming year.

SMEs and B2B

I’d like to think that 2015 is the year that these two groups really ‘get it’. In fairness some are there already and as with many aspects, there’s a huge variation between those that do get it and those that don’t.

However, I’d like to see, especially small and medium enterprises start to embrace designing deliberately and consistently great customer experiences more, rather than leaving them to chance or think that it’s something for large businesses with equally large marketing budgets. It isn’t. SMEs, can and should be reaping all the financial rewards from having an outstanding customer experience.

In the same way, business to business organisations need to stop thinking that customer experience is just for the high street and consumer businesses. People buy from people and then rationalize their decisions afterwards and the B2B industry is no different so there’s still alot to be gained from investing in B2B customer experience. As an aside, there’s still no B2B equivalent of the UKCSI and it’s high time there was!

UK Customer satisfaction

Speaking of which, the UKCSI has seen satisfaction on the high street decline since it’s peak in 2011. As a trend I’d like to seen this reverse this year, but I don’t think it will. It might bottom out of the current death spiral but there’s unlikely to be a sudden positive increase with consumer confidence and product price deflation in a negative space.

As a final note, I’d like to see UK businesses invest in more empathetic customer service training for employees along with granting greater levels of empowerment to do ‘the right thing’ for customers when the need arises. Impromptu and personal makes for a great customer experience. Let’s deliver!

 

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Utilities take another customer service bullet

It’s been another dire week for utility companies again after the recent publication of a Which? report outlining call waiting times for customer service versus sales lines.

Which best buy

The report itself if you want to read it, can be found here but I’ll give you the highlights.

384 calls in total were made to 16 energy companies, both to their sales and customer service numbers. Call were made at set times during the day and the average call length calculated across all calls to each provider.

The times varied, both across all 16 providers and between the sales and customer service numbers.

The best performance came from Ebico, the UK’s only not for profit energy provider (I’m switching after I finish this blog..) Average call waiting time to their customer service line was 30 seconds versus 47 seconds to get through to sales.

EBICOHowever Scottish Power got their own special recognition for a particularly spectacular performance. Calls to their customer service line averaged a whopping 30 minutes versus 49 seconds for sales. Bearing in mind too that if 30 minutes was the average what must the longest have been?

Now there a couple of points here to pick out here which I’m sure you’re already onto.

Firstly, that’s horrific service. Not just a bit poor, or slightly painful. Horrific. Assuming they’re measuring average waiting times as part of their fundamental customer experience metrics then they’re clearly doing little or nothing to address anything of the root cause or manage customer expectations to appease them. To add insult to injury, Scottish Power is also under pending threat from Ofgem to reduce average waiting times to 2 minutes by January (better hurry up..). If they fail, they’ll be unable to sell new tariffs (ouch) which you would think would focus them on their ‘to do ‘ list with an increased sense of urgency.

Scottish Power reportedly blamed – yes you guessed it, IT and a new system. Oh and a shortage of staff, neither of which are impossible to manage. So did the IT system not also impact sales then??

Which-energy-company-infographic-oct14

This is the fourth time Which? have conducted this test and overall the results haven’t got much better. Interestingly, npower have improved, albeit from such a low point it would have been hard to get much worse.

Secondly and the other real rub here is the difference between customer services and sales which is the real story and outlines the real priority and drivers of the company.

Clearly Scottish Power can answer the phone quickly when they want new customers, but not for existing customers.

Such an overbearing focus on new customer is short-termism at it’s best and a sure fire way to haemorrhage customers out of the back door, which actually for all I know might currently be the case.

Whatever the real reason, practices like these have a significantly negative effect on the bottom line, not to mention the customer experience and levels of customer retention.

As a final point, with this level of service, you’d think that customers would be switching in their droves to find both a better service and a better deal. Apparently not, according to Consumer Focus. In January 2013, they posted that;

“tracking surveys for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and energy regulator, Ofgem, showed that switching rates are down by a quarter from four years ago. In 2008, 20 per cent of consumers reported switching energy firm, compared to 15 per cent in 2011/12 according to DECC’s figures. According to Ofgem’s figures 13 per cent of gas customers and 14 per cent of electricity customers switched. Our research also shows the current switching rate is just under 15 per cent.”

There’s definitely room for improvement in customer experience from the industry as a whole, but companies like Ebico prove it can be done. Time for a much needed change I think.

 

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boohoo.com really do make you cry..

I’m not a fan of just blogging about companies that get things wrong about customer experience.

To be honest, it’s too easy a target (given how many examples there are) and I know how difficult it is to create seamless and consistent experiences. Having said that, this story is a good example, for lots of reasons, but especially because it highlights the need to be consistent with both customer experience, business processes and social media presence.

Responding to a tweet in 20 seconds can create a good impression which can be quickly destroyed if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do.

Let me begin..

Recently, my partner bought some items from the online clothing retailer boohoo.com. The website user experience was good, the items we’re chosen and bought and then delivered fairly quickly.

Boo hoo logoAs with buying clothes online, especially for fickle teenage girls, a number of the items needed to be returned which we duly did and the free returns process was relatively straight forward. The credit terms from memory was something like 2 weeks from boo hoo confirming receipt of the goods back which they did several days later by email. All good so far which is where the fun and games started.

Four weeks later we were still waiting for the credit so we decided to chase them to see where the credit was up to.

Trying to find a telephone number on the website was the first frustration. One didn’t exist that we could find which, arguably is the point of being an online retailer.

The customer service tab however did have lots of advice on return, order tracking, general queries section etc but still no phone number. We did however, find an email address so we fired off a quick note asking for an update.

Multi channel

The almost instant reply that came back said that ‘the Customer Service team are currently experiencing high volumes of enquiries and so are unable to respond at this time.’

No expectation management as to when they might be able to help, just that they were busy.

Channel hoping is a customer tactic that is increasingly utilised to get a response but one that companies find hard to manage well, so we deliberately switched from email to twitter to see if we could progress our issue. We quickly found their twitter customer service account and after a quick (sarcastic) tweet to provoke a response, we got a tweet back with an invite to send a direct message with our query within about 20 seconds. Wow – what a fantastically quick response and a result so we thought, and so we sent the message with our order details.

Quite quickly we were assured that the credit would be processed and the money would be refunded within a week. Perfect.

Two weeks later, the credit was still outstanding, so once again we took to twitter. We passed all the order details yet again, and again we were assured that the credit would be refunded. I tried to articulate that we’d been here before and had had all the same assurances previously and so I questioned given that this had been promised before, what would be different this time. No real additional assurance was given to me only that the credit would be actioned.  Promises

However, true to their word, albeit second time round the credit arrived about a week later.

So what can we observe from this?

Well firstly, as a customer I still want to talk to someone when I have a problem – online retailer or not. The only get out here to not having phone agents to talk to customers is for businesses to have bomb proof process behind the scenes that enable right first time delivery on customer needs.

Secondly, if you say you’re going to do something, then you have to do it. You could say I’m stating the obvious with this one, but this is one of the holy ten commandments of customer experience in my book.

Third, it’s no good being super fast and responsive on social media, raising customer expectations if you can’t deliver behind the scenes. It’s incongruent and does nothing for the customer experience, in fact it just erodes it.

Consistency across multiple channels is an area where many businesses are struggling. However this multi channel approach to contact is being driven harder and faster by customers from both the home and mobile with the need for immediate and responsive service and with little tolerance for those that can’t deliver quickly and seamlessly to meet customers needs.

This is definitely a theme that will remain the focus into 2015 for both businesses and customers so I’m sure we won’t hear that last of challenges like this.

 

 

 

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Sack all the cleaners

Before we start let me just clarify that I’m not about to call for the wholesales removal of cleaners from their current employment. Nothing of the sort. But I do want to talk about empowerment and ownership in relation to the customer experience. However, let me explain the cleaners reference though.

Solidarity with cleaners

At Disney, they obviously have cleaners which probably comes as no surprise, and they’re as integral as playing a part in the customer experience as all the other ‘cast members’ are. However it doesn’t end there. The customer experience, as taught thoroughly to cast members through the Disney Institute is everyone’s responsibility and everyone plays a role in the systems and processes that support consistently exceptional customer experiences.

To this end, everyone is expected to pick rubbish up the moment they see it, rather than wait for the cleaners to do it. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Litter doesn’t feature in fairy stories and nor does it feature at Disney Land. It’s immediately taken out of the equation restoring the immediate environment back to the fairy tale landscape it was to start with.

Disney castle

To me this, says as much about culture as it does about systems and processes and who’s ultimately responsible for picking the litter up. The answer of course is that everyone is. But the culture also says, “we’re all responsible for the customer experience, and we’re all empowered to act in a way that ensures the customer’s experience stays great each and every time”

There’s no aspect of the culture that supports the ” it’s not my job to pick up the litter, that’s the cleaners job” type mentality. Rather it’s the culture that says “we can all have a positive impact on the customer through the way we act and behave”. That’s a seriously strong set of value to operate by.

Compare that to many businesses, both large and small, where it’s self evident that they have’t got anything near the Disney approach to culture. Where instead, the culture supports and reinforces (deliberately or otherwise) the opposite to Disney. I’ve heard this first hand “I’m not calling the customer because that’s not my job. The customer cervices team should do it” or “I’m not in customer services.”

Let me say this. Firstly we’re all in customer services, (like we’re all in sales as Dan Pink writes) whether we like it or not.

Disney institute

Secondly, it doesn’t matter who makes the call (or picks the litter up) as long as it’s done as quickly and efficiently as possible to benefit the customer.

But often, business culture doesn’t support this for many reasons; a silo culture, lack of suitably strong values that people don’t take ownership of, a lack of responsibility and leadership to name but a few.

But it can be done and Disney continue to prove it and the template is there to be copied and adapted to fit; leadership, culture and values delivered through systems and process that enable and empower people, rather than restrict or constrict them.

You don’t need to be the scale or have the budgets of Disney to delivery a Disney- esque experience though. With the right framework in place, with the right people (your own team of ‘incredibles’, passion and energy to deliver a superior operation, and a few ‘believers’ to drive the customer experience vision you could create your own version of the Disney experience. incredibles

How about putting that at the top of your ‘to do’ list for Monday? (and please don’t sack any cleaners!)

 

 

 

 

Ownership, empowerment, responsibility of the customer experience by everyone not just customer facing teams.

Litter at Disney

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Is ‘easy’ the new driver of customer loyalty?

Customers that get ‘easy to do business with’ types of experiences are significantly more likely to return than those that don’t. Sounds common sense doesn’t it and yet some businesses seems to go out of their way to do the opposite.

EinsteinLooking back at the July results of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, the 3 most popular adjectives used by customers to describe their experiences overall were “easy”, “friendly” and “helpful”. Businesses that deliver on this have, overall, higher levels of customer satisfaction, loyalty and recommendation which lead to higher sales and profitability.

This approach to ‘easy’ is being further developed by BT of all organsiations and championed by Dr Nicola Millard who has the very funky job title of ‘futurologist’. She was interviewed in August by Adrian Swinscoe for his RARE business podcast which I’d recommend a listen if you get a chance.

The irony isn’t lost on BT though who, by their own admission are the first to admit that they’re not the easiest company to do business with!

Shouting down phone

In the interview, Nicola talks about having developed a concept called ‘customer easy’ which uses a ‘net easy score’ as a means of understanding how easy it is for customers to deal with BT in their consumer business.

This isn’t a new concept though, as the understanding that ease and (lack of) effort are important components of great customer experiences and both the thinking and research on this has been around for at least the last 4-5 years or so.

Whilst concepts are great, organisations need a pragmatic way to understand how well they’re applying the customer easy concept on a day to day basis. Hence the customer easy metric was born.

By her own claims, Nicola says they ‘highjacked’ the net promoter score to come up with the net easy metric but that’s not all they’ve done.

metrics

Rather than using the traditional ten point scale of 1-10, or 0-10 with net promoter, Nicola uses a simple 3 point scale of +1, 0 or -1.

This simplified scale could be viewed as heresy by some research or net promoter purists but it’s an interesting approach and creates very bi-polar results. Arguably though, it’s definitely simple to complete from the customer’s perspective.

Customers score +1 for easy, -1 for difficult and 0 for neither, or for having no real opinion.

BT’s initial findings from their own data, correlate with the data from the UKCSI. Easy drives net promoter and customer loyalty scores and therefore recommendation, and customers who find it difficult to do business are more likely to defect.

BT look at ease by channel, so post versus phone versus web chat, with web chat coming out top.

They can also look at the impact of service design changes and see the result on customers by simplifying IVR routing for example. Something that BT have always seemed to have over complicated in the past so that’s welcome news to BT customers I would imagine.

Whether you like the net easy metric or not, or agree with the scale it uses, anything that businesses use to better understand and improve the customer experience is a positive things and if that results in shorter IVRs then I’m all for that.

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Cut cognitive load to improve customer experience

One of the more recent books I’ve read this year is the excellent ‘Scaling up Excellence’ with the very apt subtitle of ‘Getting to more without settling for less.’

As a very brief overview, the book details the work and research of Professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao of Stanford University in trying to understand the basic principles that allow organisations to scale successfully. Or, as in some of the real world case studies they document, how not to scale successfully with some painful and expensive lessons learnt along the way.

There’s a lot in the book that’s relevant to the world of customer experience and some useful lessons and principles that can and should be applied by many businesses and organisations, not only to scale but to improve customer experience.

Brain slide

One such scaling principle is ‘cut cognitive load’. The phrase sounds complex, but the principle as demonstrated repeatedly through research, is simply based on the ability of conscious memory to deal with mental load or work under increasingly complex environments.

Take memorising a series of random numbers. The ‘magic’ number for most people’s memory is 7 based on previous memory research. Try and memorise 10 or 12 digits and you’ll feel cognitive load at work!

It’s the same with multi tasking, as much as we think we’re good at it, research has again proven that the more tasks we take on, the worse we perform. In essence, multi tasking undermines everyone’s competence.

The underlying mantra then is to recognise when cognitive overload occurs in both employees and customers when business or organisational complexity increases. Alternatively overload occurs when product choices or options increase or when the customer decision making process becomes overly complicated or cumbersome.

 

It’s at this point of increased load for employees, that efficiency start to decline, mistakes are made and attention and focus shifts elsewhere. In the customer’s world, increased cognitive load makes purchasing and buying decisions harder, more frustrating and can and will lead customers to abandon purchases altogether and defect to competitors.

Websites are a great example of this with abandonment stats on purchases online as high as three quarters (75%) in 2013, alarmingly up from the 2012 figures.

Biting computer

However by both understanding and applying the principles of scaling overall, but especially cutting cognitive load customer experience can be significantly improved to the benefit of both customers, the organisation and the bottom line.

Other key lessons to reduce cognitive load within a business include using smaller work teams (less than double digits in size), applying the ‘less is best’ approach, and understanding that process and hierarchy are good (and essential) but only to a point, before the bureaucracy becomes self sustaining.

The appeal of understanding cognitive load on customers within the customer experience is a valuable one and adds another approach for businesses looking to take their customer experience to the next level. However, there’s no point using it the most obvious and painful sources of customer irritation are removed or reduced first. Unless of course, it’s cognitive load that the issue!

Pulling hair

Next time you’re at work or you’re being a customer, in a complex environment or processing a complex task, see if you experience cognitive load and reflect on what if any impact it has on your behaviour and how it makes you feel. Now you can’t beat a good experiment can you?

If you want to read more on the topic, try Scaling up Excellence itself, or this article on cognitive load theory and how it relates to learning.

 

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Indifference or inertia isn’t customer loyalty

After sending an unrecognised 0808 telephone number to voicemail recently I foolishly answered the phone after the third or fourth call.

As I suspected, it was my mobile phone network provider who initially claimed they were calling to ‘thank me for my loyalty!’

mobile globe

They then went on to review my account with them, tariff and data usage etc which I monitor myself anyway. After concluding that there wasn’t an opportunity to sell me additional services (well that’s what the cynic in me thought), they then thanked me again for my loyalty which got me thinking. Am I really loyal in the true context of the word?

First stop was google then the dictionary.

Loyalty: Allegiance, fealty, fidelity, faithfulness, constancy.

Well I’ve certainly been constant. I’ve been with the same provider for the last 3 years which in the mobile telecoms industry might seem like a life time!

Do I have an allegiance to them? Not really. Faithfull? Not really a word I’d use to describe my relationship with a mobile phone carrier to be honest.

iphone

The last 3 years have, in fairness, been trouble free. My handset works but that’s down to Apple, not the carrier. I’ve never had a problem on my account or with my billing. They bill on time and accurately but that’s what I would expect them to be able to do.

But in customer experience loyalty terms, would I recommend them? I’m not sure I would to be honest. Not because any aspect of their service has been poor because it hasn’t, but they’ve just done what I expected them to do from the outset. Nothing more, nothing less and that’s not enough to generate loyalty between customers and businesses. In this respect, you could say I’m transactionally attached, but there’s no emotional attachment.

The reasons I haven’t swapped provider are two fold. Firstly there’s the fact that it all works as it should do, which again is what I expected it to do so they’ve met my expectation but not exceeded it. So I’m satisfied yes, but not highly satisfied. Out of 10, I’d say I’d score them a 7 or 8 in customer satisfaction terms.

Secondly they’ve never given me a reason to change. I’ve never been dissatisfied with them.

However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m loyal. If another carrier approached me with a better deal I’d definitely consider it so I’m not loyal in that respect. I’m not actively looking though because I don’t currently need to. For me to be loyal, I’d need to score them at least a 9, or even 10 out of 10.

But I don’t think it’s fair to claim that I’m a loyal customer and this is where both businesses and brands can become complacent because I’m really a customer waiting to defect and it’s probably only a matter of time. Whilst, some businesses would kill to get customer satisfaction scores of 8 out of 10, it’s not enough to build loyalty.

Apple tattoo

What businesses should be looking to do is to build customer loyalty by providing over and above their core offering, building engagement through interaction with customers and looking for opportunities to go above and beyond by anticipating customer needs and aiming for those 9 and 10 out of 10 scores.

Only then can businesses build on highly satisfied customers rather than those that are ‘just satisfied’ which is the category I’d put myself in with my provider.

This in part is why building customer loyalty is so difficult if your customer service, your product or offering doesn’t standout. If it’s just ok, or even good it’s probably not enough.

 

 

 

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Honesty, expectations and reality

Amongst Richard Branson’s many quotes that have been published over the years, my most favourite has always been this one; “Customer service is about attention to detail and communication. Neither of which are difficult so naturally they’re the first things we forget!”

It’s my favourite because he’s right.    usain-bolt-richard-branson-944438633

I worked with a bank a while ago who measured customer satisfaction every year with their business customers who were mainly small and medium size enterprises. The previous year’s survey had highlighted a very painful customer issue which the bank was already aware of. It was their online customer banking portal that business customers used to transact on their accounts.

And when I mean painful, it was excruciatingly painful for customers. If they were able to log on, which at peak times during the day, they mostly couldn’t, the portal often crashed, was very slow to use and overall wasn’t a great customer experience. You could sense the frustration in the customer feedback that came with the survey.

I specifically remember one comment from a customer who used the portal to pay employee wages. The lady indicated how she had to wait until midnight each month to pay the wages, to ensure she could get onto the portal when very few others were trying to use it and to minimise the risk of it crashing and her having to start all over again!

Online banking

When we measured customer satisfaction the following year, the same issue came up again and not surprisingly. The IT project that was running behind the scenes to build a new online customer portal had yet to be delivered and had faced delays to the original deadline due to a change in provider. It was running about 12 months behind and was already over budget.

Apart from these obvious issues, it was clear from the customer feedback in the second year that the bank hadn’t kept them informed of the project progress (or lack of) or even attempted to manage customer expectation as to when the solution would be delivered.

Again a memorable comment from a customer went along the lines of “we told you about this last year and you’ve done nothing about it. So you are either just ignoring us or you just don’t care!” Either way a scathing observation.

However in reality, the bank was doing something about it based on customer feedback. What it wasn’t doing though, was managing customer expectation by communicating with them at all. Not even irregularly.

SONY DSC

Now arguably, it could be said that the bank didn’t want this embarrassing situation made public knowledge, but by not doing so, it wasn’t exactly putting customers first and setting the right expectation. The bank were dammed either way in reality and it was more about damage limitation. Say nothing – customers become frustrated and leave, which was already a real possibility. Say something, and be potentially ridiculed by competitors and customers may still also leave.

However, I personally think they missed a massive opportunity to engage with customers, in addition to failing to effectively manage customer expectation. Even the Bank staff were fed up with hearing the same complaints from customers, but instead the Bank simply said nothing.  A frustrating situation for all concerned, but an entirely preventable one if they’d just talked to their customers and explained.

Sound simple? It should be.

I bet they’d have got more ‘brownie points’ and goodwill back, if they had communicated with customers despite the project being delayed. Don’t you?

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Sledgehammer to crack a nut?

“Co-op looks to trolley mounted tablets to boost customer experience”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using technology to improve customer experience or even anything else in life come to that, but to me this seems like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut!

co op food

Despite this seeming to be an overly elaborate and unnecessary use of technology there are some obvious drawbacks to this plan in my view.

By their own description, the Co-operative is, amongst many other things about ‘local convenience’. Convenience which is about top up shopping rather than a weekly big shop which research has actually demonstrated. Top up shopping means baskets rather trolleys. Average spend per customer is probably less than £30, all of which can fit in a basket.

From personal experience, I’ve never used a trolley in a Co-op. Ever. Predominantly because they’re at least 10-20% more expensive that other food stores and so the thought of buying enough shopping to necessitate using a trolley just never happens.

So I would suggest that the people that do use a trolley in the larger stores, most of which are probably in more affluent areas as far as I’ve seen, are more affluent and so will provide only one perspective on customer experience.

Also, some of the smaller stores (which make up the majority of the Co-op’s estate) aren’t even big enough to accommodate trolleys so does that mean the experience of customers that shop there doesn’t count?

More to the point I would suggest that anyone who’s been in a Co-op can tell the business what they need to do to improve without the aid of a tablet.

  • Eliminate the queues. Convenience needs to be easy otherwise it’s not convenient.
  • Supermarket QueueFresh produce needs to be fresh
  • Popular product ranges need to be stocked where physical store space permits
  • Provide better value for money. I’m happy to pay a small premium for convenience if a) it’s actually convenient b) the premium is small. 20% isn’t small in my view.

So there you have it. No tablets required either to rent or buy. No lengthy data collection trial in store with customers. No resource required to process the data. No glorified report with graphs, charts, customer segmentation profiles and customer comments to tell those in charge how to improve customer experience.

Call me a cynic but sometimes, improving customer experience is just about delivering on the basics consistently. Nothing more, nothing less. Or as Stanford University Professors Sutton and Rao claim in their book ‘Scaling up excellence’ it’s about ‘fixing the plumbing first’.

Here is the link to the original article published in Business reporter.