Customer experience in 2017: Learning from the positive

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The start of a New Year offers a chance for companies to reflect on market developments, and to stake their claim on what they see as the most important trends that will shape the landscape in the months and years to come. When it comes to customer experience (CX), unfortunately the temptation to dwell on disasters that took place during the preceding 12 months – of which there were many in 2016 – can prove too strong.

Learning from the past

While it can be useful to learn from these CX slip-ups and use lessons learned as a way to move forward as an industry, I think we can agree that we’ve had quite enough of the bad news from 2016. Instead, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the positive steps being taken in light of well-publicised CX mistakes, and use them as a basis to look forward in 2017.

As an example, there is BT. BT, the market leading converged service provider in the UK, announced it is to invest £6 billion in fibre, 4G, and customer experience. BT’s investment in customer experience will be made largely in the infrastructure required to meet new commitments such as call handling technology and case management, but also in service quality and reliability. So in 2016, BT showed that it understands that technology is not a silver bullet. It is of course a vital component to any successful CX improvements, but without designing and implementing accurate processes and services around the tools, new platforms are destined to fail – or even make situations worse.

CX as a differentiator

At the beginning of 2016 Gartner forecast that 89% of companies will aim to differentiate themselves from their competition mostly on the basis of customer experience. In line with that prediction, we have indeed seen a greater organisational commitment to CX by the companies that we have spoken to over the past 12 months.

However, organisational commitment means more than simply implementing a customer feedback process and putting friendly front-line staff or big data technology in place. If your CX efforts are not connected and you do not have the support and engagement of your business, then these initiatives risk failure. Therefore, it is no surprise that in 2016 we found that almost three out of every four CX programmes do not deliver the outcomes companies expect or desire. In many instances feedback systems are implemented in isolation as a stand-alone activity without considering any other aspects of the business. They are also implemented without the involvement of internal or external stakeholders to translate the CX strategy into all the corners of the customer journey.

Leadership buy-in

Speaking to a number of CX leaders as part of MaritzCX’s CXEvolution assessment we discovered that in order for a CX strategy to be successful it requires three things: a strategic approach to CX improvement and setting clear objectives; a success roadmap that is more clear and more actionable; and leadership and organisational engagement/buy in.

The factor that will have the biggest impact on an organisation’s CX success in 2017 will be the behaviour of the leadership team; whether the leadership team sets the right tone, expectations and leads by example when it comes to CX. Hence, when embarking on your CX journey it is critical to involve the leadership team as early in the planning stage as possible. Commitment to CX from the top instils the right culture and hence behaviours across your organisation.  

This is something we have seen bear significant fruit in the past year. Low-cost airline Ryanair has introduced a number of initiatives in order to improve the customer experience of its passengers, including a ‘My Ryanair Club’ reward scheme, and a ‘Rate my Flight’ mobile feature, which prompts passengers to rate their Ryanair flight as soon as they land, giving the airline instant feedback on weak customer service areas. The initiative was spearheaded by CEO Michael O’Leary, who was quoted as saying “If I’d only known being nice to customers was so good for our business, I’d have done it years ago.” The new focus on customer experience has resulted in an increase in profits, revenue and customer numbers for Ryanair since it launched its ‘Always Getting Better’ (AGB) programme three years ago, aimed at fixing things Ryanair’s customers dislike to improve its offering.

Predicting the future – and the past

Customers already expect organisations to instinctively know what they need – without having to ask. Looking forward, they will increasingly expect organisations to anticipate their needs and to solve problems before they arise or escalate. Therefore something which is going to gain momentum in the next year will be predictive analytics.

Many companies already have a closed-loop case management system in place that allow them to reactively respond to customer issues. Whilst you can’t solve your business issues responding to customers one at time, you can mine your collective customer insight to identify and describe repeatable patterns and issues. This is where modern predictive analytics comes into play. Based on the feedback given by the small percentage of your customer population who complete your CX surveys, analytical models can be linked to your internal customer data to predict the likelihood of other customers behaving in similar ways.

The ability to predict the behaviour of customers who have never provided feedback will be transformational. It will enable firms to supercharge their closed loop programmes through marketing automation. It will help you to pin point endemic barriers in your systems and processes that can therefore be addressed, changed and resolved. It will enable you to identify areas for education and training to upskill your frontline teams.

Predictive analytics will enable you to be proactive in your management of CX. That is not to say closed loop programmes have had their day. On the contrary closed loop remains a key ingredient to engage your frontline teams in CX. What this means is that you will begin to make your close loop data work harder for you.

Culture of CX

Developing a culture of CX in 2017 requires your organisation to be in sync. It requires an alignment between your complete understanding of your customer, your structure, your processes, your sources of information and your people. If just one of these key CX dimensions lag behind the others, you risk creating an imbalanced culture that potentially hinders your roadmap to CX success.

As a result your strategy in 2017 should seek to appraise your organisational alignment to the successful delivery of a balanced CX strategy. When all this is aligned then the company is best placed to proactively manage CX through prediction. Then a future challenge will be to remain consistent with all the CX efforts - every day with every customer.

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