Category Archives: Leadership / Change / Transformation
Some folks at Nunwood (CX research and consulting company) have been kind enough to email over their latest report: Have A Nicer Day, Learning From the USA’s Customer Experience Leaders. I found it to make interesting reading. In this conversation, I wish to focus on where the UK stands in relation to the USA – as set out in this report. Let’s begin with a quote that kind of sums the report up:
On average, US enjoy significantly better experiences than their UK counterparts. This is more consistent across the sectors….
Let’s look into why this is the case.
CX: What Are The Big Difference Between The USA And The UK?
At the last UK survey conducted and published in Q4, 2014 the average CX score was 7.25 (out of 10). The USA score as at Q1 2015 stands at 7.6. This looks like such a small difference: only 5%. What do the authors of the Nunwood report say?
- Every US sector with the exception of telecoms, outperforms its UK counterpart.…Sectors that are weak in the UK, notably utilities and logistics, are significantly stronger in the USA, despite challenging geographic and environmental circumstances.
– The top 6 US brands (USAA, Publix, Amazon.com, Chick-fil-A, Disney Parks, Edward Jones) are stronger performers than the UK’s number one brand (First Direct).
– With the UK’s CX currently improving by less than 1% per annum, the current trend puts the USA five years ahead of the UK.
CX: What Accounts For This Difference?
What factors, taken together, account for the difference between the quality of CX in the USA and that provided by the UK? Here is my take on the matter based on the Nunwood report.
1. CEOs and Culture That Places The Customer At The Heart Of All Decisions
This is how the authors of the report put it (bolding mine):
Few UK companies have a culture where the customer is at the heart of all decisions, few make strenuous efforts to ‘bring the customer into the organisation’ to improve collective understanding of the customers needs and wants. Fewer still have behavioural standards engrained across the organisation that drive behaviours to continuously improve the value created for customers.
At the heart of the difference lies a fundamental belief that what is good for the customer is good for the business. As some £166n fines and provisions across UK banking shows, that is not always the case in Britain.
2. Customer Driven Innovation Is A Way Of Life In CX Leaders
Let’s listen to the authors (bolding mine):
The top 10 get so close to their customers that customer driven innovation is a way of life, not an aspiration. These brands follow the Steve Jobs edict that firms should “get closer than ever to their customers. So close that you tell them what they need before they realise it themselves.” For the US leaders, technology does not define the customer experience, rather the customer’s needs define the technology.
3. Effective Use Of Technology To Deliver Omnichannel Experiences
How do the authors see/express this?
SMACIT. It stands for social, mobile, analytics, cloud, and internet of things…. For leading US companies, success is not merely mastering these fast moving technologies in isolation, but rather integrating them – often with offline components – around gaps in the customer experience.
In the UK, ‘digital’ is more often a way of reducing costs to serve, making life easier for the company. Increasing it’s a department or a directorate, By contrast, in the USA, digital is one of range of tools for solving customer problems. The message from the USA is use these technologies as mechanisms to deliver against customer needs.
4. USA Is Back To Doing What It Does Best: Service
Let’s listen to the authors once again:
In the 70s and 80s, .. British holidaymakers were bowled over by the high quality of service delivered by US employees…. in the 90’s and 00’s … US service seemed no better, and often worse, than service at home. The ‘have a nice day’ culture was no longer associated with caring employees but with faked smiles…..
… tough economic times have a way of returning companies to fundamental business principles – and one of the most basis is customer service.…. All indicators now show that that not only has the US rediscovered its service ethic….
CX: Summing Up The Difference Between The USA And The UK
If we look behind all of this can we discern a ‘structure’ – a way of being and doing – that gives rise to the USA being some five years ahead of the UK in terms of customer experience? I think we can. It occurs to me that the authors have identified and expressed it in these words:
Customer experience management in the US is a more mature discipline, with every successful organisation focusing its marketing, operations, leadership, HR and systems investments on these goals. There is greater innate understanding and coherency than in the UK, with customer experience defining the change agenda for many firms, rather than simply being a part of it.
Put differently. It would appear that folks working within the US CX leaders show up and operate from the context of ‘unity of purpose’ – the unity of purpose being creating superior value for customers. And all change that occurs in these organisations arises from and supports this unity of purpose. Whereas CX in the UK, for the most part, is another item on the management/change agenda.
Enough for today. Next time, lets dive a little deeper into the Nunwood report and see what we can learn from the US CX leaders. Until then I wish you the very best and thank your for listening. Oh, and my thanks for the folks at Nunwood for emailing me their latest report.
The Technology Exists to Transform the Customer Experience
In his latest post Don Peppers shares his experience of attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Given my recent experiences as a customer, the following words particularly resonate with me (bolding mine):
“At virtually every booth, at every significant exhibit, the message was about how to use each of these new technologies or product offerings to deliver a better customer experience. To interact faster or more efficiently with customers. To provide what customers need in a more effective manner. To deliver better, more reliable service, less expensively and more flexibly.
And this didn’t seem out of place to me at all, because the customer-experience revolution is being powered by technological change. It’s always been a good thing for businesses to be customer-oriented, but it’s only within the last twenty years or so that technology has made it economically possible to be customer-centric, at scale.”
I want to pick up this theme and illustrate it through two of my recent experiences. One with a public sector organisation (The Passport Office, UK) and Churchill (car, home, travel, life insurer). Which one is making effective use of technology to transform the customer experience?
What Kind of A Customer Experience Does The Passport Office Enable-Deliver?
1. My Experience Fifteen Years Ago
The last time I put in an application to renew my passport was fifteen years ago: 1990. I remember it being a painful process. First, I made my way to the local Post Office branch. Then queue up for some 10 minutes, finally only to be told that the branch had run out of passport renewal forms. This meant getting into my car and travelling to the main Post Office branch in the town centre. This required a ten minute journey, the hassle of finding a car park, paying car park charges. Waiting even longer – something like 20 minutes – to get hold of the requisite form. Whilst I was in town, I took the opportunity to get passport photos made.
Once I had the paperwork and photos, I returned home. After I had completed the paperwork, I had to write a long declaration in tiny writing on the back of several photos (of me). Then I phoned my doctor’s surgery requesting my doctor to sign two of these photos to declare that they represented my likeness. I was told that the doctor would charge a fee of £40. So the next day I took the fee and the photos and left them with the receptionist at the doctor’s surgery. I was told that the photos would be available for collection in two days.
A week or so, I remembered the photos so I made my way back to the doctor’s surgery to pick up the photos. As the surgery was busy I had to wait something like five minutes to ask for the photos only to find that they had not been signed! After another couple of days I got hold of the signed photos. Then I put all the material together, took it to the Post Office and sent it away ‘special delivery’. About four weeks later, I received my new passport.
2. My Experience This Time Around
I had been aware for months that my passport would run out in Feb2015. I also knew I needed a passport to travel – for work, with the family on holidays . Yet, I could not get myself to start the renewal process – except for getting the passport photos made. Why? The memory of the previous experience was fresh in my mind. I was totally convinced that it was going to be a long drawn out effort (hassle) to get my new passport.
One day I decided to take on the challenge. This time I did not go to the local Post Office branch. I opened up my laptop and typed “UK passport renewal online” into Google. To my delight, I shortly found myself on the http://www.gov.uk website presented with easy to understand wizard/directions. By following the online process, within four minutes I had filled in the requisite screens, selected various options, paid the fee through credit card, and printed out the requisite paperwork.
I checked over the paperwork. Then I attached two passport photos – this time I was not required to get the photos attested by my doctor. I added in my expired passport, sealed everything up in an envelope, and walked to the local Post Office branch. At the branch, I paid the requisite fee for ‘special delivery’. I experience ease and marvelled at how easy it had been this time around.
Just a week into the process, I got an automated message from The Passport Office telling me something like “Your passport is being printed right now. And will be with you in a couple of days.” I found myself surprised and delighted. Why? The Passport Office had used technology to make the application process easy and quick. Now The Passport Office was using technology to keep me up to date with progress – just at the right moment, the moment my passport was being printed. Wow! How clued in, how customer-centric, is The Passport Office.
The Passport Office went on to keep its promise. I received my new passport within the promised two days. It had taken a total of 8 working days to get a new passport office issued. And the most effort had involved going into the town centre and getting the photos taken. A total contrast with fifteen years ago.
Now that is how to make good use of technology to get the customer from where he finds himself (current situation) to where he wishes to be (desired outcome) easily, quickly, intelligently. And cut out unnecessary costs – for both the customer and The Passport Office. So I acknowledge and thank the folks that have thought things through and transformed the process of renewing a British passport through the smart use of digital technologies. Great work! It is the kind of work that I’d be proud to do myself as a digital strategist and CX designer.
What Kind of a Customer Experience Does Churchill Deliver?
Recently, I had to contact Churchill to ask how many years of no claims my wife has. So I phoned Churchill and after a couple of minutes I found myself talking to a helpful call-centre agent. She gave me the answer. Then I told her that I needed that in writing. She told me to wait whilst she triggered the necessary paperwork, and assured me that the no claims certificate would be with me in five days.
The no claims certificate did not arrive as promised. And my wife started pestering me as her car insurer was pestering her to provide it – else her insurance policy would be cancelled.
So I rang Churchill again. Another helpful call-centre agent took my call. I explained the situation and the importance of getting the no claims certificate asap. I requested that she email it to me. She told me that she was not in a position to do that. She did not have access to email. All she could do was request (in her system) for the certificate to be printed and mailed to me. That is not the answer I was looking for. The end result was that I had to be patient and wait to receive the certificate in the post.
Has anything substantial changed in regards to customer’s post sales interaction with insurance companies? I am tempted to say, little – at best. Fifteen years ago, I called up insurers to get my post sales needs met. I did the same this year. Fifteen years ago I had to wait for five to ten days to get paperwork in the mail. This time, 2015, it is the same.
Why has Churchill not made effective use of digital technologies – to make things easier, to minimise the cycle time, to cut out unnecessary costs, to deliver a customer experience that leaves their customers grateful that they are doing business with Churchill?
The technology exists to create a online self-service portal. The technology exists to allow customers to make requests through this portal. The technology exists to take these requests and convert them to cases for call-centre agents to review-execute. The technology exists to cut-out call-centre agents out of simple processes and get simple requests actioned by the system itself. The technology exists, to create documents and send them out through email. The technology exists to keep customers informed – to track the progress of their requests…. Is Churchill using any of this technology? No! Why not?
Summing Up: Why The Customer Experience Sucks Most Of The Time For Most Organisations
I will allow Don Peppers (who, along with Martha Rogers, deserve the label thought leader) to sum up the situation at hand:
“The technology part gets faster-better-cheaper every year, but this just throws into stark relief how difficult it really is, as a business, to take the customer’s point of view, and to organize yourself to deliver a superior customer experience, across the firm. The vast majority of companies have a great deal of difficulty with this task, even with all the digital technology now available.”
Why do the vast majority of companies have such great difficulty? Don sums this up, beautifully:
“At its core, for a firm to improve its customer experience it must minimize the friction in the experience. It has to remove obstacles, eliminate problems, and streamline processes. But the overwhelming majority of companies just aren’t organized to do this. Instead, as a first priority, companies organize themselves to minimize the friction in their production process.”
Of course this begs the question: Why aren’t the Tops who run these companies reorganising the way their companies work? It occurs to me that if the caterpillar had the kind of intelligence that we have it is highly likely that s/he would think the idea of ‘butterfly’ was a great one. And when it came to taking action – to going through the transformation process – the caterpillar would choose to stay as a caterpillar. And take the easier route of adding one or more colours to its caterpillar body. Our gift of foresight-imagination is both a blessing and a curse.
I thank you for your listening. For my part, I am delighted to be in a position where I can share my speaking with you. I look forward to listening to that which you share.
A little while back Bob Thompson asked this question on the CustomerThink.com site. Thereafter, this question called forth 60 or so comments from a range of folks including Customer Experience gurus, thought leaders, experts, practitioners etc. I found this conversational thread interesting. Why? The lack of shared understanding and agreement as to what constitutes Customer Experience / Customer Experience Management. In this conversation I wish to consider how one can think productively (usefully) about Customer Experience.
What Is Customer Experience?
It occurs to me that many think of Customer Experience as a bucket/container. And so get busy thinking about (arguing about) what does and does not go in to this container. So some folks put a lot of stuff into this bucket including product and pricing. Other folks, like Bob Thomspon, would like this bucket to be more restrictive: to contain only customer interaction with the organisation through the established channels. Let’s take a step back and ask this question: Is Customer Experience a bucket (container)?
Many years ago one of my children came up home upset. Why? Someone had called him stupid! After giving him a hug, I played an instructive game with my son. I asked him to think of what he could buy with £100. I listened to his excitement. Then I told him that I would give him £1 if he could show me a chair. Without hesitation he walked over to a chair and pointed at it. I gave him a £1. Then I told him that I’d happily give him £1,000 if he could show me stupid. It took about ten minutes (of ‘to and fro’) but he got it. What did he get? He got that stupid is an idea, a concept, a label that folks apply.
I say to you that Customer Experience is not a thing. Customer Experience is not a function like Marketing, Sales, Service…. Customer Experiences is not a process like say ‘Enquiry to Proposal’ or ‘Order to Cash’. Customer Experience is not a technology nor a set of technologies.
I invite you to consider that Customer Experience is a concept (idea). Please remember that idea comes from idein (to see) and such is simply a way of seeing. What does it allow you to see? That everything that your organisation does or does not do has an impact on the customer’s experience of you.
What Is The Value of The Concept: Customer Experience ?
I say that the value of the Customer Experience concept lies in the following:
First, it helps us remember that a customer experiences your organisation/brand: your stores, your products, your pricing, your branding, your website, your sales people, your delivery people, your service people, your communications. I invite you to consider that a customer (or potential customer) can and does experience your brand without interacting directly with your brand. How so? By reading about your organisation. By listening to others talk about your organisation….
Second, it opens up the possibility of competing at the level of the Customer Experience (how the Customer experiences your organisation/brand as a whole) rather than at the level of product, or solution, or service; one can create-deliver a ‘product-service-solution’ in a manner that leaves the Customer cold, indifferent, or deeply moved-touched-inspired-uplifted. One can provide exactly the same product-service-solution yet show up and travel as a good citizen – one who genuinely cares about the wellbeing of other citizens.
What Is The Challenge That Goes With Customer Experience?
The challenge of Customer Experience is not that of carving out Customer Experience as container and then determining what does and does not go into this bucket. The challenge of Customer Experience is not setting up a Voice of the Customer Experience program. The challenge of Customer Experience is not creating a Chief Customer Officer position / CX team and charging this person/team with putting in new touchpoints / channels or redesigning business processes ….
If you choose to compete on the basis of the Customer Experience then it is not enough to get a team of folks together and decide how wide-long-deep the Customer Experience container is, what goes in it, and who owns it. Then set aside a budget and get busy with creating new interactions channels, improving existing channels….. Why? This is not a productive way of looking at Customer Experience. Disagree? How many organisations have taken or are taking their route – first with CRM and now with CXM? Of these how many have become the beloved of their customers?
I say that the challenge of Customer Experience, to use a computer analogy, is like the challenge of erasing the existing operating system and replacing it with a new operating system. What do I mean by ‘operating system’? I mean a new way of ‘showing up and travelling’ for everyone in the organisation. So that when someone in procurement is faced with the task of choosing one product supplier or another s/he considers the impact on the Customer Experience. Or when someone in IT is choosing between system A or system B, he considers not only the cost and fit with IT standards but also the usability and usefulness to the users who are either dealing with customers or supporting those who are dealing with customers. Finally, it means moving power from those who sit in HQ to those who are on the front lines in direct touch with customers. It means that the folks in HQ are there to support those interacting with and serving customers.
Summing Up: Customer Experience As A Way Of Showing Up And Travelling
I invite you to consider that there is not much power in choosing to see Customer Experience as a bucket with certain functions, people, processes, channels, technologies inside it and others outside it. I invite you to consider that a productive (transformative) way of thinking about and orienting oneself towards Customer Experience is to see it as a way of life: It is way of ‘showing up and travelling’ that is mindful of how one’s decisions, actions, inactions, impact the Customer Experience: how the customer experiences you. This way of life has to be embraced by everyone. And the biggest barriers to this change are not the folks on the front line interacting with-serving customers. No, it is the folks sitting in HQ.