The Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence
What makes a good customer experience? Every organisation will have a different stance when it comes to 'getting it right' for the customer. However, there are six universal characteristics that can be found in every good experience. We call these The Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence and our research has shown that focusing on these areas can increase acquisition via advocacy, create long term shareholder value and help to define a market leading customer experience.
David Conway (contact)
5 minute read
The first pillar is that of Personalisation. This focuses on understanding the specific needs of an individual customer, and to tailor interactions accordingly. It helps to build an emotional connection between the person and the brand, as it makes the customer feel valued and important. Brands hoping to excel in this area could consider taking an 'outside in' approach, viewing matters from the point of view of the customer, as opposed to what works best for them and the company itself. This is certainly the case with the telephone and web-based bank first direct, which empowers its employees with the training and knowledge to handle a range of issues, helping the customer to feel as if they are being listened to as an individual. This can also be seen with the retailer Lush, whose team members often engage with customers as they enter its shops, ask about their specific needs, and then make product recommendations accordingly. This approach helps shoppers to feel as if the brand is genuinely on their side, and is not simply interested in making a fast sale.
Time and Effort
Time is a precious commodity to us all. Your customers expect to be able to achieve their goals within a small timeframe, and in a manner that is effortless and easy; there should be no unnecessary obstacles, impediments or bureaucracy getting in their way. The companies that truly master this pillar keep the number of steps to a maximum of three. Our research has shown that NPS scores tend to fall at the fourth step, as customers start to feel an increased sense of irritation and confusion as they progress. A well-known supermarket chain was once called out on this, with its rival publicly criticising the 44 step process behind its loyalty card scheme. Simplicity, therefore, is the key to success, although there is a fine line between too much information and too little. Processes should be made as simple as they can be, but not simpler than they should be.
A first step in exceeding a customer's expectations is to know what their expectations are, and this underpins the third pillar. Brands need to be clear on what people can expect from them, and then go out of their way to exceed this anticipated standard. A company may, for example, promise to deliver a package within 48 hours, and then surprise the individual by delivering it within 24. Companies hoping to succeed in this area need to be clear and consistent in the message they convey to their consumers, but also sufficiently motivated and organised throughout their front, middle and back offices in order to continually delight and surprise.
It’s important for brands to present themselves in a trustworthy manner. They also need to demonstrate that they stand for something other than profit, whilst showing genuine concern for their consumers. The need to do what they say they will, acting competently, and keeping customers informed along the way. For example, financial brand PayPal is strong in this pillar, displaying a keen interest in its customers' online safety. It offers a 100 per cent protection guarantee against any unauthorised payments from people's accounts, affording shoppers with access to a team of analysts who are able to resolve any issues that may arise. This service is available 24 hours a day, and helps to reassure individuals that the brand 'has their backs' in the event of a crisis.
The art of turning a poor customer experience into a great one is at the heart of this pillar. Resolution is about putting customers in a better position than they were in to begin with before the issue occurred, whilst also offering a warm and sincere apology. Brands can also employ a sense of urgency, proving to their customer that the problem genuinely matters and that they will do whatever it takes to fix it, going the extra mile if necessary. For instance, an employee working for the US clothing retailer Nordstrom once went to a different clothing outlet in order to purchase an item for a needy shopper, as it was currently out of stock. They then resold this item to the customer, who left the shop happy.
Empathy requires brands to see things from the customer's point of view, and act accordingly but companies should not only choose an emotional response, but the right emotional response. For example, an individual who has had experienced the loss of a credit card does not want sympathy - they want reassurance that the problem will be dealt with quickly, and that access to their account will be blocked until a new card has been issued. Empathy often has to be treated on a customer-by-customer basis so it is also important for brands to invest time to listen, and share similar experiences in order to build an emotional rapport.
How solid are your customer experience foundations?
The Six Pillars provide a solid foundation on which a number of other customer focused initiatives can be built. The trick is to look holistically across the organisation with an ‘outside in’ perspective and to play equal attention to each pillar. This is an excellent way to start putting the customer at the heart of your business.