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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…

 

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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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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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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.