Tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role.
I had the opportunity to accept a secondment in GE Capital around 7 years ago. At the time the CX industry was fairly new in New Zealand, however GE was making steps to become a customer centered business. During my time in my first CX centered role as a Disputes Resolution Advisor my passion grew for customers – both internally and externally. I saw the value in building advocates by listening to customers and striving to do the right thing. We made huge gains at GE Captial listening to customers and delivering improvements – and to begin with this was done simply by capturing EVERY customer complaint, sharing key issues with teams and working on making things better. We turned complaints on its head, by celebrating them and capturing every issue, even if it was resolved on the first call. We then worked across the business to resolve key issues and make things better for our customers. This led to more structured customer feedback programmes in the future – but it showed how you can start making steps without the bells and whistles.
After this role, I have followed the customer experience industry, supporting Customer Experience programmes, improvements and engagement in a variety of roles. In 2019 I joined Farmers to support the Customer Experience journey, including building an insights programme, talking to our customers more regularly and acting on insight across support office and our retail network.
What is the biggest challenge you face within your role today and how are you looking to tackle it?
I think one of the biggest challenges we face in the Customer Experience field is quantifying the benefits of customer led changes – especially when they may have negative short term revenue impacts. One thing I have started to try more often is to encourage pilots to measure changes and success. This includes trying something different or new based on a business case, then monitoring and measuring over a pre-defined periods. Pilots have much less business risk, enable you to monitor and test your ideas – and then build a stronger case for change.
Describe a way that you help your organisation understand the value of good experiences?
At Farmers we have built a large, nationally represented customer panel called ‘Farmers Feedback’. We regularly engage with this panel to understand what they like, what they don’t and what we can do differently. Our panel has led to quick insights on a variety of customer journeys and helped us understand what truly makes a great experience. Our panel plan and strategy ensures we are talking to our customers regularly and helps us keep customers at the heart of our business.
What do you wish you knew about your customers that you don't know today?
One thing I’ve learned from customers over the years – is it’s really the basics that count. You can often get caught up in ‘the future’, that you forget about the now and what customers really care about. Whilst customer needs and expectations are changing, the basics will always be there – and it’s the basics many of us aren’t doing that well. At its heart, customers want processes that are simple, quick resolutions to problems – and want to feel appreciated and heard.
I think the other thing I’ve learned from customers is to not underestimate the value of a personal touch. This could be as simple as thanking someone for their loyalty, a personalised email acknowledging comments in a survey or an unexpected gift. This builds stronger connection and a face to your brand.
What were the two most important things you did to build better engagement of your employees?
One of my recommendations would be to CELEBRATE success. Businesses should be talking about customers every day and the more you can celebrate and share great customer stories, the more your teams will see that this is valued in organsiations. At Kiwibank we built WOW alerts – which automatically triggered to Store Managers when one of their staff members delivered a great customer experience which was above and beyond the customers expectation. Stores used this to celebrate within their teams and created ‘Walls of Fame’ WOW charts and other ways to acknowledge these great stories. Great customer stories were regularly shared on internal sites, with acknowledgement and celebration from the Senior Leadership teams. Customer success should be celebrated the same as sales performance and I think this is too often ignored or missed within organisations.
My other recommendation would be to hear from your staff about customer issues and problems and make them feel involved on potential improvements. Often in organsiations you identify a business problem, such as high levels of customer churn and then spend a significant amount of time / money investigating the issue. A better way is often simply talking to your teams and staff to get their thoughts and ideas. Sitting down with your frontline staff (in a call centre or retail store) will give you that much more insight into challenges and opportunities – and often the key is simply asking for their thoughts.
Customer Experience Manager, The Farmers Trading Company Limited