Ahead of the annual Chief Customer Officer Melbourne, we caught up with Anouche Newman, CEO of CSIA to discuss how organisations create memorable customer service engagements, how to demonstrate a link between KPI's and customer experience as well as how to build a case for customer experience initiatives.
1.Can you describe the key mission of CSIA?
Our goal is to help organisations and individuals get better at delivering customer service – we’re trying to help people create great experiences for their customers. More specifically, we help people better understand their systems and processes in terms of customer focus. By applying the International Customer Service Standard, we can help organisations increase their customer focus in all decision-making – so that’s how we support at the organisational level. At the individual level, we help customer service professionals, at all levels, excel in their roles. Part of that is understanding that customer service is a profession and all our training programs reflect this. We also host and manage the Australian Service Excellence Awards with the aim of promoting the importance of customer service, as well as awarding and recognising those who are creating great customer experiences here in Australia.
2. Can you outline the ways that organisations can create more memorable customer service engagements?
The key thing I would say is that in today’s technology-driven, hyper connected reality that we live in, cutting through that with personalised engagements is how people are going to excel and differentiate themselves. That personalisation can manifest itself in a number of different ways, for example, instead of sending a usual paper statement, which might outline the loyalty points someone has received, some organisations are sending or creating a personalised video. That just shows how something very transactional becomes a little bit more personal, presented in a format that consumers like digesting.
The other thing that is quite interesting is the idea that the best customer service is no service. If a customer has to contact you that means there’s something they cannot do themselves, so I think, when it comes to creating memorable customer service engagements, we should be trying to make sure that the customer can do as much as they can on their own – making their lives easier as they can solve the problem just within an app or by being able to answer the question by having the information in front of them in an easy-to-access way. It’s about reducing customer effort – what that also means is that when we do connect again with that organisation, and we haven’t been able to solve our problem, personalisation becomes really important. There might only be one conversation with somebody a year. For example, American Express customers contact the company on average 1.5 times per year. That’s just once a year you have to engage: you want to be able to have a meaningful and personalised conversation with that customer.
3. How can CCOs demonstrate a link between customer experience and KPIs?
This is an interesting one for me, because I believe that organisational KPIs should be focused on customer outcomes. Organisations are looking to perform better. For government organisations, performance could be operational efficiency – it might not be profit or revenue, but rather that you are productive and efficient with tax payers’ money. With commercial organisations, those success measures might be profit or market share. I think one of the most important things when looking at the link between customer experience and KPIs is actually understanding that link in the first place – and that’s different for every organisation. If you wanting to measure something, you need to understand what it is that you’re trying to measure. For example, if you change something in your customer experience, let’s say you introduce live chat or something like that, do you understand how this will impact customer outcomes and the knock on effect that this might have for broader organisational goals.
The first thing to do to prove that link is to start measuring. At CSIA, we talk about the hidden cost of bad service. For example, if as a customer I have a problem and I contact you and I can’t have that problem solved straight away, if that’s a result of poor customer experience design, customers are constantly calling the organisation, which is costing them and the organisation time and money. That’s why a lot of companies these days use first contact resolution in contact centres as a key success measure.
Many organisations fail to measure the fall out of bad customers experiences in this way, so if you’re a customer service/experience manager trying to demonstrate the tangible impact that improving the customer experience can have, measure what’s going wrong first – measure things like hand offs, how many times a customer has contacted you and then quantify the resources that are being ‘wasted’ on resolving those issues. That will start to paint a picture that’s got dollar signs next to it and that’s when executives start taking notice.
4. What is your advice for developing and executing a customer experience strategy?
I would argue that the most important thing when you’re developing or executing is to see it as a whole of organisation activity. If you try to create a customer experience strategy with a silo mentality or give it as a responsibility to a specific department or manager, they’re not going to be able to get anything done. It has to start from the top, be supported by the executive team, and something for which everyone is the organisation must be accountable.
5. How can CCOs build a business case for customer experience initiatives?
It is imperative that you outline why it is important to the business, and why they need to be done, It links back to what I mentioned earlier about the hidden costs of bad service - show them what bad customer experiences are costing the organisation. And also, remind your leaders that the landscape is changing, the world is changing. Customers are savvy about what they want, why they want it, and how they want it. So customer experience is not a phrase that we should be using flippantly, it is the only way to compete. Not all organisations understand this and there are lots of executive teams out there who pay lip service to having customer focus. Again, you’re starting with the why, why are we doing this – usually it’s about helping the business understand what it’s trying to achieve. Like I mentioned, if it’s government, you might be trying to achieve productivity or efficiency, if it’s a commercial organisation, let’s be honest, it’s about profits and revenue, so how does the customer experience affect those things?