While some South African companies have opened themselves to the opportunities offered by Customer Experience (CX), many either do not fully understand it or simply see it as a bolt-on to existing systems.
Qaalfa Dibeehi, Forrester’s VP and principle consultant serving Customer Experience Professionals looks at five common misconceptions which could be holding local companies back from implementing CX solutions.
Most organisations find themselves in challenging times. The local and global downturn has forced many companies to critically assess how they are competing. Price alone may no longer be the answer to driving sales and repeat business. More particularly, it will not be the only factor which can separate them from their competitors in the minds of their customers.
If this is the case, and they are looking for something to set themselves apart, then customer experience is the answer.
Unfortunately, there are still some common misconceptions about CX which are holding many companies back.
1. CX is expensive
There is still a perception that CX is expensive and can take years to implement. However, companies that are serious about customer centricity can take steps which can make a significant impact in the short- to mid-term. These early steps are not necessarily expensive, and should rather be seen as strategic mindset changes which can make a significant difference.
We have also noticed that many companies may think they are saying all the right things, but it’s not enough for a company to simply have the rhetoric and do nothing. These are the companies that perpetuate the notion that CX is either too expensive, or that it is not working for their organisation.
2. CX is not customer service
There is also an ongoing confusion between customer service and customer experience. Customer service is all about the front-end and how companies train their frontline staff to engage with the customers. So, for example if a hotel was trying to address customer service, they may engage only with their frontline staff. With CX, we would examine issues such as the policies being made at head office, or the purchasing decisions. In many instances, it may be the frontline staff who bear the brunt of a customer’s ire, but it is the systems supporting an organisation which need to be refined or overhauled.
We encourage organisations to view the entire company ecosystem, not just what customers see. There is an 80 / 20 rule, where the lion’s share of the problems don’t originate at the client-facing side of an organisation, but rather behind the scenes. Unfortunately, many executives are coming up with policies which serve the business, not the customer.
3. CX is only for B2C companies
Another misconception is that customer experience is only relevant to B2C companies. The biggest gains we have seen have been amongst B2B companies. This may seem like a paradox, but if you look at B2B buying decisions, there is definitely a one-to-one experience. Relationships are formed with trust at the heart. Making use of CX can have a significant impact on improving this, and thereby increase relationship longevity and revenue.
4. No, it’s not marketing either
Customer experience is also not marketing. It’s not about telling current and potential clients how great you are. Customer experience is about getting a client to engage with you and, through this, build a better relationship which yields better results. It’s about doing things, rather than saying things, which is why CX involves the entire ecosystem of an organisation, front-end (or client facing) as well as the back-end processes.
5. CX is not management by spreadsheet
When deciding on how effective a solution could be, companies immediately want hard and fast metrics. Many companies are making use of scores or metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) – especially those who hold firm with the adage that ‘you can only change something you can measure’. However, when you are obsessed with these metrics in isolation of all else, you can destroy the customer experience. The idea behind any ROI exercise is understanding the story behind the metrics, it’s not about a score going up and down.
How to make a start and make a change
Now that we have ironed out the confusion, let’s take closer look at CX. We believe the customer experience is built on three dimensions: effectiveness, ease and emotion. Effectiveness addresses the value a customer receives, and ease relates to how simple it was to receive that value. These first two are largely based on process and efficiencies.
The third, however, is where CX can make a significant difference. Emotion relates to how engaged a customer is during their experience with a company. Unfortunately many organisations dismiss this as being an illogical or unmeasurable metric and so are missing out on where CX can make the most difference.
Companies which are looking to implement CX need to first understand what it is they are hoping to achieve. This could be anything from looking for better revenues or to drive lower costs. The latter could be focused on encouraging customers to make use of alternate channels such as call centres or online support, thereby saving on helpdesk support costs.
It could also be focused on changing customer behaviour, such as them making use of an app, encouraging them to visit your store, or alternatively rather buying online. Once we understand what it is that you want, we can design a solution to drive this.
Finally, customer experience is a good business practice, which companies have forgotten. It always used to be about the personal touch and then we reached an age of efficiencies and scale and the personal touch and knowledge of the customer was lost. Put simply, customer experience requires companies to get to know the customer again, and making use of smart CX can help them do that.