In a competitive environment, ensuring that our organisations offer good customer service can help create a real competitive advantage. Understandably, organisations of all sizes—from midsized to multinational—have spent time re-designing their processes and considering the journey that their customers go through when interacting with the company. Providing a slick, informative and helpful service that meets the needs of our customers will make it more likely that they come back to us. Customer experience can be examined from many different angles; this article considers the consistency of experience.
Offering an experience that is both good and consistent is crucial. It is extremely frustrating, as a customer, when a company offers an excellent experience one day but a mediocre one the next. When we provide a great customer experience, it raises the bar; quite rightly, our customers will expect a similar experience the next time. If we fall short of this in the future, we cause disappointment and frustration. Imagine the following hypothetical example:
A supermarket offers a home delivery service. Week after week, the service works well, with items being delivered on time and as expected. The driver is always courteous, and helps the customer carry the bags into the kitchen.
One week, the driver is rushed and unable to help the customer carry their bags into the house (“We don’t actually have to do that…”). The customer realises, in the rush, that a bag has been missed. The customer rings the call centre, and after a protracted discussion, the call centre agent issues a refund… but this leaves the customer in a situation where they have to go and visit a supermarket to obtain the missing items, even though they had opted for home delivery.
This inconsistency in experience, if it persists (even occasionally), may convince the customer to change to a different supplier.
What this means for business and business analysis
It’s important that we inject the voice of the customer into our daily thinking, our initiatives and projects. In doing so, we should consider the type of experience we want to present to the customer and consider how we will ensure consistency. Understanding our competitive and strategic positioning is important. Clearly, a discount retailer will offer a different type of experience than, say, a five star hotel. Yet in both cases it’s important that the experience is consistent.
We can encourage consistency by having clearly defined processes and procedures, as well as a clear guiding set of customer service principles. Processes and procedures are useful for creating consistency, but there will always be exceptions that we hadn’t envisaged or planned for. In these cases, rigidity can cause disappointment and complaints. Providing the flexibility for the people closest to the customer to solve the problem is important – and by providing an overriding set of customer service principles, we create a climate of empathy and consistency.
It is also worth considering how we measure customer satisfaction and customer experience so that we can look for warning signs. We may be able to identify areas of dissatisfaction, some of which might be related to consistency of experience. Often, we have a wealth of data about the interactions we’ve had with our customers that is just waiting to be tapped. Some of this data might be structured, some might be unstructured. We might, for example, consider the number of times existing customers contact us. If long-term customers are starting to call us more, is there a reason for this? Are they placing more orders? Or is it because there’s a problem or we’ve done something to leave them dissatisfied? These situations provide an opportunity to sample or analyse the call-log notes to see if there are any recurring themes. We may also consider referral rate or net promoter score to understand whether our customers are recommending us to their contacts or friends. If the referral rate has changed, it would be worth considering why. These are just a few areas we might examine, but consideration of how we collect, store and analyse the relevant data can pay dividends.
Of course, analysis of data is not the end of the story. Examining the data will help us create a hypothesis that we can validate through speaking with some of our actual customers. Interviews, surveys and focus groups will help us understand any potential problems and opportunities for improvement from the perspective of our customers. Examining our data helps to inform the questions that we ask. These interactions are likely to help us uncover opportunities to improve further, and opportunities for us to kick off relevant projects or initiatives. They will help us spot problems and strive for consistency.
In summary: Creating a consistent customer experience is important. Business analysis can help us both create and measure that experience and check for warning signs, problems and opportunities for improvement.
How do you create a consistent customer experience? Do you have a related story or comment? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to add a comment below.
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This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.