In a world of constant communication, reaching out to customers seems easier than ever – but the question on everyone’s lips remains: how can we get it right?
Question: what’s a business without customers? Answer: bust.
It’s obvious, and yet organisations still struggle to get to know their customers and make them a business priority. However, rising consumer expectations and tougher business conditions are forcing boards of directors to think again about the role customer experience has in shaping business strategy.
This increasing urgency around customer experience – and getting it right – encouraged Business Reporter to launch its Inner Circle events programme with a customer experience summit. Held in central London in May, the summit brought together about 150 senior business leaders, customer experience professionals and industry suppliers to discuss the issues holding them back.
This supplement will enable readers of The Sunday Telegraph to share in the summit and some of its learning.
Foremost among the themes is measurement, as Gemma Stroud illustrates on p8-9 – being clear about what metrics you are using and why, and being aware of their limits. Several summit participants made much of the Net Promoter Score (NPS): Lego was struggling to get customer service right, but its NPS remained high; for British Gas it was the other way round.
Having acquired all this customer data and feedback, it’s vital that firms do something with it. Dell (p5) feeds customer comments back to the production teams who are designing new hardware. Customer experience needs to be at the heart of the organisations improvement processes.
There was agreement that it is hard to have happy customers without engaged, if not happy, employees. Thankfully, our understanding of both customer needs and employee engagement has improved: music streaming business Spotify has encouraged its 100 customer service staff to take control of their working practices and personal development, recognising that this group of people have the ability to turn customer services from a business cost to a profit centre (p11).
Customer experience has the power to galvanise staff in a way few organisations have understood. Brighton & Hove City Council’s head of city services Valerie Pearce is revolutionising customer services using a network of staff volunteers who want to do more for local people.
The Brighton & Hove example also suggests that you don’t always have to throw money at a problem: Pearce has no budget and only one member of staff working on the customer experience improvement programme.
But perhaps the most important message is that serving, satisfying and delighting the customer is not just about fulfilling orders – important as that is. Rather it is core to any business proposition: sound leadership is important, the right products are crucial and a route to market is vital. But without the ability to serve, satisfy and delight the customer, they are pointless.