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Customer experience: Defining relevant engagement

By Dom O’Connor – Managing Partner Retail, Sports and Leisure Practice

Throughout the year, O2 hosts a series of Blue Door events, where we bring together thought leaders from business, not for profits and government for a round table discussion on the topics that matter most to them. Our first Blue Door event in 2019 focused on the customer experience.

In this first of a two-part series, we discuss what we mean by ‘customer experience’, why it matters and what a successful customer experience strategy needs to consider.

What is it?

Customer experience is the customer’s perception of all the individual interactions they have with your company or brand. It’s more than just customer service, which relates specifically to the moments when a customer requests and receives support or assistance.

It’s the impression you leave them with, at every touchpoint, across every stage of the customer life cycle, from face to face engagement, to correspondence and in person. It’s not a single instance in time, but the emotional connection built over a period of weeks, months and years.

Why is it important?

The Consumer Action Monitor report (CAM) is the most comprehensive multi-sector survey of its kind in the UK, giving an insight into consumer attitudes on the goods and services they buy and use. The , of which only 27% were raised as complaints. The report also showed:

  • 30% of consumers switched providers or spent less because of disappointing experiences
  • 86% lose trust in companies if family or friends have a bad experience
  • 75% made return purchases when a complaint was handled well

An individual’s loyalty to brands is no longer limited solely to a product or price. The experience they have when interacting with that brand is increasingly critical, especially as social media allows people to voice their issues. According to research by Wunderman, a division of Young & Rubicam you must keep pace with your customer’s expectations otherwise they will leave.

“54% of consumers feel more loyal to brands that show a deep understanding of their priorities and preferences”


Customer experience strategy

A customer experience strategy defines the actionable plans an organisation puts in place to deliver a positive, meaningful experience to its customers. In practice that means defining the way you will delight your customer through a simple, convenient, and accessible service – across all channels – where and when they require.

Most importantly it needs to be personalised, and relevant throughout the life cycle of engagement between brand and customer.

Where to start

Here are four things to consider:

1. Talking to customers

It’s surprising how many organisations map out their customer experience aspirations in the boardroom without reference to their customers at any stage. Clearly you need to know who your customers are, and understand their expectations and pain points, before you can expect to develop a clear vision of the customer experience you will present.

For example, in 2018 O2 completed an extensive research project with 5,000 business and consumer customers, seeking a definition of what it really means to be ‘customer-led’. We took the key customer needs identified in the research and translated them into a series of ‘customer experience principles’, which we use to keep customers front of mind in everything we do.

2. Involving your own people

Delivering a first-class customer experience requires you to focus not only on what you deliver, but how you deliver it. To do that effectively you need your people to embrace the customer experience strategy and understand their part in delivering it.

At O2 we tested our customer experience principles with our own staff to make sure we could live up to them. We discovered that each principle came to life if it was supported by one or more real life examples or applications. For example, one of O2’s customer experience principles is that we always want to provide ‘the personal touch’. But what does this actually mean? When we added that ‘the personal touch’ means treating the customer as a friend would, our staff were able to relate to it more readily.

Including and involving your staff is essential if your customer experience strategy is to succeed. In fact, one of the challenges debated at the Blue Door event was how to get the message out that the customer experience was everybody’s responsibility.

“If it’s going to be relevant to our customers then it has to be relevant to our people.”

Sandra Fazackerley, Head of Customer Experience at O2

3. Ensuring accountability

Responsibility for customer experience was something that became a much debated issue during the event. While there was acceptance that delivering the customer experience merited a role in its own right, there was less consensus on who the role should report to. Should the Head of Customer Experience be part of a marketing, branding or PR team or should it be a role that reports directly to the board? This is important, as research by Bain & Company illustrates. They discovered that while 80% of CEO’s believe they deliver superior customer experience, only 8% of their customers agreed.

Those representing organisations where the role reports to the board believe that it helps to bridge the gap between what customers feel and what the organisation believes that they feel. The consensus was that to be customer led the board required engagement and focus, leading with the right attitude, and ensuring that staff were allowed to be ‘super stars’ for their customers.

4. Preparing for transformation

By focusing on customer experience you can transform the way you do business forever. That’s certainly what McDonald’s discovered after working with O2 to offer secure O2 Wifi to their customers while ensuring family filters were applied to the accessible content. This is customer experience in action, where the company appreciated what their client base wanted, in the context of a family friendly restaurant environment.

The same focus on customer experience applies regardless of sector. It means constantly updating timetables for buses and trains, providing secure methods for authentication to banking and financial services, and a host of other services that can be enhanced by digital services.

Why not see what discussions we can have that could help refine the way we can help deliver the customer experience to the customers you serve?

Want more detail: download the Blue Door Point of View discussing Customer Experience HERE.

In the second part of the series we’ll consider the relationship between the customer experience and brand, as well as the role that data plays in learning more about what your customers want from you.

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