A recent Forrester study reported that customer experience (CX) in 2019 is a mixed bag. Some companies are seeing modest gains while others are suffering from what Forrester calls “utter stagnation.”
The study found that the overall quality of customer experience in the U.S. grew by an anemic 0.4 points from 2018 to 2019 while 81 percent stayed the same, a mere 14 percent improved, and five percent declined.
With all the emphasis by brands on improving customer experience, why aren’t customers expressing greater satisfaction and companies doing a better job?
Noted author, speaker, and customer experience consultant Shep Hyken addressed that question in an interview.
According to Hyken, the problem is that even though companies are improving, they aren’t improving enough to suit increasingly demanding customers.
“Look at the American Customer Satisfaction Index and you start to see an increase in customer satisfaction in almost every industry and category,” he said. “But companies are still getting more and more complaints and customers are switching faster than in the past.”
Reasons for Customer Dissatisfaction
The reasons for customer dissatisfaction are twofold, according to Hyken:
First, companies think they are only contending with a direct competitor for their customers’ loyalty, but that is no longer the case.
“We aren’t compared by our customers service-wise just to that direct competitor, but to the best service they have ever had from anyone,” he said.
The second reason — and it’s a big one — is that many companies are missing an essential element critical for success: convenience.
For Hyken, convenience is the differentiating (and disrupting) factor. He goes so far as to suggest that the customers’ demand for convenience will disrupt and even wipe out unresponsive industries, create new ones, and transform those that adapt quickly. He calls it “the convenience revolution.”
“Look at what Uber and Lyft did to the taxi industry, what Amazon did to retail, or what Walmart does when they move into a town,” he said. “These are examples of convenience that have disrupted not only direct competitors but also entire industries.”
5 Steps Companies Can Take to Improve CX
If today’s customers are harder to please, what can brands do to up their game? Hyken listed five action steps:
1. Engrain CX in the Company Culture
“Customer experience has to be in the DNA of the company,” Hyken said. “It’s not just a department but a philosophy to be embraced by everyone from the CEO to the most recently-hired or lowest-level position in the company.”
2. Map the Customer Journey
Hyken stressed the importance of mapping every interaction a customer has with the company, from the start of doing business to the point of purchase and beyond. He used a mnemonic device to describe the journey: touchpoints, impact points, friction points, and breakpoints.
- Touchpoints represent the various interactions a customer has across the spectrum, regardless of channel — digital, email, phone, or in-person.
- Impact points are factors that affect the touchpoint in one way or another and where companies should find ways to improve the interaction.
- Friction points are the “anti-convenience” interactions, such as keeping a customer on hold for an extended period.
- Breakpoints are those critical junctures where a customer is about to leave and the company has to take steps to retain him or her.
3. Look at Companies You Admire Most
“Ask what is it that you like most about them,” he said. “What are they doing that makes you say wow? Are you doing those same things in your business? Can those things be duplicated? Minor tweaks are just as important as big changes and, sometimes, they are the best.”
He also challenged companies to emulate Amazon, where possible.
“Amazon raised the bar on customer satisfaction by making it easy to do business in a way that creates confidence,” he said. “While achieving that goal isn’t realistic for everyone, companies should focus on finding ways to emulate Amazon’s approach to convenience and confidence-building where they can.”
4. Ask Everyone to Step Up
Hyken said every employee, regardless of position, should become aware of the role they play in the customer experience. He encouraged companies to use the following exercise with every employee:
“Take an index card and write down in a couple of sentences an example of when you’ve created a positive experience for a customer, then turn it in to the manager, and share it with the group in a team meeting. Make it a weekly practice. Also, make sure everyone spends a few minutes each week thinking about the importance of customer service and customer experience.”
5. Provide Ongoing Training
Hyken said that most companies aren’t purposefully providing bad service, they just aren’t investing in the necessary resources to do it right, which is where training comes in.
“Training is so important,” he said. “But it must be ongoing. It’s not something you did; it’s something you do continually.”
Benefits of Improving Customer Experience
The benefits of improving the customer experience include building your reputation, increasing customer confidence, and engendering loyalty, Hyken said. He did warn that repeat business does not always equate to loyalty, however.
“If another company comes along that’s easier to do business with, your customer could switch,” he said. “Loyal customers not only come back but also spend more when they do.”
Also, regarding benefits, Hyken added that providing excellent customer experience is the best form of marketing. He cited a quote by Tom Baldwin, CEO of the Japanese steakhouse Benihana: “The best marketing is the experience the customer has and customer service is handled well.”
Hyken concluded by reiterating the importance of understanding that customer service and experience isn’t just the job of one department but is a philosophy the entire company must embrace. He also emphasized the need to make customer interactions as convenient as possible.
“Creating an easy level of convenience will take you to the next level with the service experiences your customers have,” he said.
Originally published at Transparent BPO
Read more: The Value of Customer Experience