Customer Experience: what matters most to customers?

Customers are demanding greater product quality in tough times

In my last post I set out the key organisational attributes and barriers that organisations face in excelling at crafting and delivering a positive multichannel customer experience.  But what do customers want?  What matters most to customers?  In Jodie Monger’s latest post she looks at the analysis performed on calls into call-centres (automotive, appliance, electronics indudstries) and points out that customers are demanding greater product quality in tough times.  Specifically, she writes:

  • Economic hardship is causing customers to seek to repair instead of replace products.
  • There is a growing perception on the part of customers that things are no longer “made to last.”

What about efficient customer service and low prices?

I have been reading the Customer Experience Consumer Survey Report published by Econsultancy this month.  Across five industries (Banking, Mobile Phones, Retail, Travel, Gaming) the attributest that matters most to consumers are:

  • Efficient customer service
  • Low priced products;
  • High quality products.

Looking at these responses through the lens of my customer value formula this makes perfect sense. Efficient customer service increases value (for the customer) by reducing the effort involved in dealing with the company (buying, using, troubleshooting).  Low priced products help the customer to make their budget stretch further. And high quality products increase the benefits received by the customer.

Let’s dig a little deeper to see what the variations were for some of the industries.

Banking – what matters to customers?

Mobile Phones – what matters to customers?

Retail – what matters to customers?

Travel – what matters to customers?

Gaming – what matters to customers?

What do I think about the findings?

First of all I find it interesting that customers do not hold out the expectation that companies put their needs first.  I interpret this as customers are living in the real world and they have a pretty good grasp of reality – most companies put their needs first and customers are used to that.  However, that does not mean that you cannot differentiate yourself by putting your customers first.  Remember that consumers were not asking for or expecting coloured computers – when Dell provided them their sales took off.

Second, customers are simply asking and expecting companies to get the basics right.  Provide me with good value (product quality, price) and make it easy for me to do business with you – take the hassle out, save me time.

Third, the ‘fancy’ stuff that so many commentators focus on and which matters most to companies (joined up experience, consistent branding, relevant and timely communications) does not matter that much to customers.

Finally, never take consumer research at face value.  Why?  Because consumers are not that great at figuring out what really drives their purchasing decision and what really influences them.  .  If you were to ask consumers if advertising mattered and influenced them most would probably say no.  Yet, advertising does influence hearts, minds and behaviour. If you spend time counselling people and you will be amazed at how little insight many of us have into our lives – what matters to us, what drives our behaviour.

What are your thoughts?

Posted on November 18, 2011, in Case Studies, Customer Experience, Customer Insight (inc VoC), Customer Service and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hello Maz,

    I think the lists are fascinating but probably flawed not because:

    “consumers are not that great at figuring out what really drives their purchasing decision and what really influences them”

    but because organisations ask dumb questions.

    If you have a “user friendly web site” for many customers (though not all) that equates to “quick resolution of problems”

    “relevant and timely communications” can mean “efficient customer service”

    It all depends on the context.

    Maybe a good question would be “Did we give you what you wanted when you wanted it?” and if the answer is no a clever follow up question like “why not?”

    Better still (and now I am on my hobby horse) if managers had a walk around their operation and talked to their customers it might well be more insightful and undoubtedly cheaper than nebulous customer surveys.

    James

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    • Hello James

      Totally agree with your point that organistions ask dumb questions. That is the problem with categorisation – we end up putting stuff in one category when it could equally well be put into several categories. I have noticed this issue (time and again)when it comes to call coding in call-centres. Was it really a billing issue or misleading marketing and selling?

      I would go further and say that organisations ask dumb questions in dumb ways in dumb settings and possibly using biassed samples. How many ordinary people want to sit in focus groups? How many people do you know that are not swayed by the strong opinions of the dominant personalities? Do you look forward to answering online questionnaires? I don’t.

      Also agree with your suggestions. What did you come for? Did you get what you came for? Did our staff treat you the way that you wanted to be treated? What was your experience like in dealing with us? Any suggestions on what we can do differently? What is the one question that you’d like us to ask you that we have not asked you?

      Personally, I’d strive to walk in the customers shoes and experience what they experience. Where possible I’d recruit people who represented my customer base and ask them to interact with the company and keep video/photos/recordings/notes of their experience.

      Thanks for dropping by again and adding your wisdom!

      Maz

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  2. Hi Maz,
    I agree with James that many organisations do ask dumb questions. There was a piece of research done by RightNow Technologies that looked at the perception gap between why companies thought their customers left and why customers actually left. Many companies fall into the trap that it is about price, quality and changing needs when, in actual fact, customers say that it was their service that let them down and drove them away.

    Maybe the outcome of this, as James, points out is that business should get out more and be amongst their customers to get a better perspective.

    Adrian

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  3. I applaud you seeking to understand what matters most to customers, but I fear there is a common error here in describing things in business jargon that are identified as discreet things for organisations, but not something a customer would describe as a quality on their list of requirements. To rephrase – including things that are important and all consuming for organisations (not described in normal speak) is obviously going to result in scoring low with customers.

    For instance, consistent branding across all channels is proven to be of paramount importance in making sure a customer is not confused by conflicting information from an organisation, or not being able to select a product consistently for purchase. From a customer’s point of view – this is better phrased as ‘being able to quickly identify and recognise the product/ offer’.

    Or ‘joined up experience’ – the reason this became a buzz phrase and a task for organisations is that customers were fed up with dealing with a salesperson that was completely removed from customer service, after sales, complaint, manager etc. Nobody knew what the other was doing, and trying to track down your information, answer a question or resolve a dispute was very stressful – some organisations still operate like this – if you described that to a customer, they would be more likely to understand the value.

    Listing ‘sense that company puts your needs first’ as a matter least when all the important things are listed as motivated friendly staff, quick resolution of problems, low prices etc, is nonsense – what are those things besides that? Having it on the list in the first place means that a respondent had no choice but to grade it relative to other points on the list that made most sense.

    You’ll only gain some value from examining what was most important – the least important are clearly all things that are not clearly understood unless you are working in that particular organisation, and really, the list of what matters should have been worded by customers in the first place. Who knows what other attributes are important as no-one has asked the customer!

    There are many ways to interact with customers to understand what is important to them – asking them directly what is influencing their behaviour needs to be referenced along with what their actual behaviour is, and a neutral bit of research that allows for objective responses will still provide value. In this case, the outcome is flawed as it limited by the customer’s interpretation of what those business-jargon specific phrases mean – and this often differs from company to company!

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    • Hello Bronwyn
      You make excellent points. You and I are in agreement on the issues inherent in the use of language and in the poor use of language and design of customer surveys. Churing poorly crafted survey is much easier than designing well crafted surveys. Furthemore, there is whole body of research that suggests that there is huge gulf between what people say and what people do. Most of us really have little insight into what drives our behaviour. Being a physics graduate I prefer experiments – set up different scenarios and then observe what happens.

      I thank you for taking the time to write and add your voice to the conversation. I wish you well and hope to hear your voice again, soon.

      Maz

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  4. Temkin Group analyzed the correlation between customer experience and loyalty across 12 industries: airlines, banks, credit card issuers, health plans, hotel chains, insurance carriers, Internet service providers, investment firms, computer makers, retailers, TV service providers, and wireless carriers. Customer experience leaders enjoy a double-digit advantage in customers willing to buy more from them, reluctant to switch business away from them, and likely to recommend them. A modest improvement in customer experience can drive between $179 million (for health plans) and $308 million (for hotel chains) of incremental revenue over three years for every $1 billion in annual sales.

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