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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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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.