Customers to Brands: Wake Up and Smell the Customer Experience Opportunity

by Jessica Ramesh SDL

copy_1_poneill_corporatephoto_dec2013_230Paige O’Neill, CMO at SDL

Poor customer experience can have serious consequences for brands. Paige O’Neill, CMO at SDL, asks what constitutes CX success and explains how to do deal with failures

We’ve all had that moment – you’re frustrated with a brand and left thinking: “Enough is enough. I’m out!” You may have even shared your negative experience on social media. While organisations may perceive this type of customer experience (CX) break-down as a minor misstep in the customer relationship, the consumer sees this as a major failure. Once a customer experiences what they consider a major CX failure, the brand risks serious consequences. Specifically, 64 per cent will stop recommending the organisation, start looking for an alternative brand or actively disparage the company via word of mouth, social media or other online channels.

There is a raft of research in the market around what customer experience leaders – be they CEOs, CMOs, Chief Customer Officers or a host of other CX-related leadership roles – say is important. Not that any of these conclusions or findings are wrong, but they are largely inward-looking: using internal corporate wisdom to sense what the customer really wants out of a brand experience can lead to circular logic. If the customer experience is designed to delight the customer, it follows that brands may want to look into what those customers think defines CX success, and concomitantly, what defines CX failure.

The disconnect in customer experience perceptions

There can be significant differences in perception between brands and the prospects and customers those brands are looking to attract, engage, and retain. Every prospect or customer is on a unique journey with that brand – and that journey makes perfect sense to the customer, regardless of how haphazard it may seem from the outside.

Remember, the good is expected, but the bad goes viral.

• 76% experienced worst CX failure in the last 2 years
• 45% of them couldn’t remember a single success

Avoid engineering the customer journey and the customer experience around your internal organisational structure.

A unified customer experience process, please

Avoid looking for the one process, the one technology, the one “strategy du jour” that will instantly catapult your organisation from worst to first. The research shows that, from the customers’ perspective, there is no one thing that makes or breaks the customer experience. Most often, it is a combination of customer-engaging people, business policies and processes, and the supporting technologies that plays the most significant role, rather than just one.

The top failures are service and process related.

• 35% experienced poor response times
• 30% said the employee was poorly trained
• 31% said an employee was not empowered to help
• 29% received inaccurate or conflicting information

Putting failures in perspective: one in four “horrible” CX failures cost the customer just £15 and took less than an hour to fix.

Additionally, the research shows that customers blame some CX failures on one engagement capability, while in reality, a different factor is really the root cause. In one example, customers blame people and processes for brands contacting them after the customer has requested not to be contacted – this may appear to be a people problem, but is most likely a failure within the customer relationship management system, where the customer hasn’t been opted-out.

Scale of effort to remedy customer experience failure

Brands often see the scale of CX failures through the lens of how hard it would be to correct the problem. Some CX failures take tremendous time and resources (e.g., training, information technology, business process re-engineering, new human capital) to fix, and some are easy (e.g., fixing dead links on the brand web page, empowering customer service agents to deviate – within reason — from the corporate rulebook to address customer questions and concerns). From the customer’s perspective, the scale of effort required to remedy the problem may have little to no relation to the perceived severity or impact of the CX failure: little things (in terms of time consumed or money lost) may be huge issues to the customer.

Despite failures, customers do want to make it work.

• 82% of customers try to resolve the issue with the brand
• But if that fails, only 1 in 5 consider coming back
• If they do return, 62% will be less loyal

What brands, or third-party observers, may see as a minor customer inconvenience may in fact be perceived by the customer as a critical, relationship-ending, customer experience failure.

Bringing a customer back after a failure

There is often a discrepancy between what consumers say will bring them back as a customer versus what will actually work. For instance, while 30 per cent of consumers say showing them how the business has improved as a result of their failure will bring them back to the brand, this only works for 8 per cent. The research found that the top three steps brands can take to truly bring a customer back after a failure include: offer a genuine and personal apology, admit the failure and offer discounts/credits related to the failure.

Top Takeaways for Driving CX Success

1) Minimise the biggest areas for failure

a. Solve for 1) long wait / response times 2) poorly trained customer service reps 3) lack of empowered reps 4) inaccurate / conflicting information available to customers.

2) Partner with your customers on resolution

a. When a failure does happen, your customers are not ready to throw in the towel. Partner with them and push to a resolution.

3) Leverage technology to optimise for CX success

a. While humans get more of the blame for failures, technology gets more of the credit for successes.

b. Audit your systems to ensure your technology and people strategy are working well together to deliver the best experiences.

The bottom line: what brands believe about the customer experience may or may not have any relation to what the customer thinks about the customer experience. And given that the threshold for failure in the customer’s eyes may be far, far lower than you expected, it is worth the gamble?