The Expert View: How to Accelerate Your Customer Experience Innovation

Customer experience innovation requires a solid foundation. Businesses must understand the current customer experience, have good data on how their process is working and be sure to test the limits of their system using technology, according to attendees at a recent Breakfast Briefing.

The need to be customer-led has never been more important but companies face a constantly shifting landscape when it comes to customer experience. Chris Limm, of Cyara, introducing the Business Reporter Breakfast Briefing at London’s Langham Hotel, told attendees that technological changes, regulatory shifts and evolving customer needs were all making it harder for companies to innovate around customer experience.

He asked the delegates – a group of senior executives from a range of industries – how they measure and understand the quality of experience their customers are having today. Without being able to answer that question, it isn’t possible to improve things, with technology or otherwise.

The reality of customer experience

All attendees said they devote lots of time and energy to measuring customer experience but acknowledged that doing so effectively is a challenge. It’s no good asking customers about their experience, said an executive from the banking industry, if you don’t ask the right questions. For example, he said, many companies tend to ask ‘what did you think of what we gave you?’ when a more useful question would be ‘what would you like us to give you?’

There was low confidence in measures such as Net Promoter Score to track customer satisfaction, though all those present said that they use it or something similar, because it provides additional data. Others said they have begun measuring things like customer effort, rather than satisfaction, or that they are using speech analysis as a way of identifying problems quickly.

Attendees also warned of the need to be aware of different types of customer. Some customers, for example, expect a business to use their data in a ‘predictive’ fashion to connect services and anticipate their needs. Other customers, however, find this intrusive and off-putting. Once again, the only way to know what they prefer is to ask.

Connecting the data

Useful data can be assembled from these measurements, together with behavioural data, such as which channels people tend to use, at what times of day, or on what day of the week. Data can accelerate innovation, for example by highlighting areas of need, but attendees warned that it’s important to get good quality data.

One attendee, from the online retail industry, pointed out that data is only useful if companies learn from it. Very often businesses have no shortage of indications that their process can be improved or that customers are frustrated with a particular feature, but they fail to act on this information.

This could be because organisations tend to be siloed. Sharing data across the business is often slow or difficult, so innovation is slow. One way to address this, suggested some attendees, is to have the customer represented at a high level of the business. This could be by having a chief customer officer on the board or having a customer panel that is regularly consulted about service levels. This serves to remind every department that customer experience is a company-wide goal and that they should work towards increasing it.

Applying technology

In addition to knowing how happy your customers are and having good data on what they are doing, you need to understand the capabilities of your contact systems, said Mr Limm. You need to have an idea of when your system will break, he told attendees.

Too often, companies don’t find this out until the worst possible time: when customers are all trying to get in touch. This could be because of a major product launch, a big sale or because there is a widespread problem, such as a banking service being down. When everyone phones at once, or tries to log-on to the website, the system fails.

When testing a system, Mr Limm said, “the first thing we do is try to break it”. He recommended finding out how many concurrent users your system can handle and then comparing this to your busiest-ever day. Ensuring that you can cope with call volumes of around four-times your busiest day should be sufficient, though many companies will want to be sure that they have extra capacity in reserve, just in case.

Good customer service is about communication and attendees said that was a core component of any innovation programme. Continually talking to customers about their experience is the only way to make things better. Only then can you build on that using data and technology.

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© Business Reporter 2021

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