A colleague of mine recently wrote a blog on why every customer experience matters, looking particularly at the importance of employee attitudes in service delivery. These attitudes, and the commitment of the employee to providing consistent positive service interactions, is ultimately determined by how engaged the employee is with the organisation.
The link between levels of employee engagement and the quality of service provided is well documented, with recent research by Bright Horizons highlighting that 89% of employees with high levels of well-being reported high job satisfaction and nearly two thirds of those employees reported consistently putting in extra effort at work. Further to this, it has been suggested that companies who effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity and assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t.
One organisation that seems to recognise this point, and use it to its advantage is John Lewis. John Lewis is a unique organisation in that it is owned by its employees – or partners – who have a say in how it is run and receive a share of the profits. Every year John Lewis releases a partner survey for all their employees. The most recent results highlighted that 82% of partners said they feel respected, with 81% reporting they feel well informed about what’s going on in the business. Given that John Lewis employees stay with the company twice as long as they industry average, these figures are hardly surprising. This level of employee engagement has led to John Lewis being recognised in a number of customer satisfaction surveys and awards, for example, in 2012 it was voted Multichannel Retailer of the Year.
John Lewis has undoubtedly got their employee engagement right, and customers are benefitting from this. Other organisations must want the same positive experience for their own customers, so who will be the ‘John Lewis’ of 2013? What strategies will be adopted to replicate these successes and improve the customer experience?
Towards the end of last year, we spoke about high street brands like Comet going into administration, and how this can affect customers. This week, Twitter was up in arms at HMV’s refusal to accept gift vouchers, after the firm revealed earlier in the week that they too had gone into administration. Customers appeared to be turning on the high street music store, demanding they be compensated for their now defunct gift cards and vouchers. So have the store inadvertently turned their last few remaining customers away? The refusal to accept valid gift cards is, after all, out of HMV’s hands, with the administrators now effectively running the company’s 45 UK stores.
So I ask the question – if you find yourself in HMV’s position, can you still operate as a customer centric business? Many would argue that no, your priorities change, and saving your brand is fundamental. And of course I agree with this. But shouldn’t saving your brand also mean holding onto your remaining customers in any way possible?
Earlier this month, I wrote about customer loyalty in the face of brand scandal, but perhaps this is the tipping point. Should HMV have done more to reward their loyal customers, even as they were bringing in the administrators? And will this decision backfire should they survive?
While there may be light at the end of the tunnel for HMV this week, only time will tell if their customers will rejoin them on the high street.
Starbucks have been in the news a lot recently, and not all for the right reasons. It was revealed at the start of this month that the company had paid less than £10m in corporation tax, despite sales in the billions. And the criticism that followed may have led their customers to find their coffee fix elsewhere. But is this the case for all brands that get their fingers burned?
Following their attempt to manipulate Libor rates earlier in the year, Barclays Bank were left with fewer customers than before the scandal, but not as few as many would have expected. Regardless of whether customers leave in their hundreds or their millions, this must be taken seriously. Perhaps “likelihood to stick by a brand” should be considered as important as “likelihood to recommend”.
So what is it exactly that makes a customer loyal to a brand when they encounter such problems? Is it the feeling that misbehaving brands will learn their lesson? Or does the difficulty in switching providers outweigh the dislike for a company’s conduct? Either way, both Starbucks and Barclays must use 2013 as a platform to rebuild the trust of their customers. After all, if they find themselves in hot water again, their customers might be less forgiving!
The Percepta team in Europe have spent this past year understanding, analysing and making the best out of customer service, experience and insight trends and news to deliver the best for our clients and partners. This process has led to some great blog posts and we’ve put together ten of our most popular ones in this roundup of 2012. We hope 2013 brings our clients and partners across the globe, as well as our teams working with them, heaps of success, knowledge and joy. Wishing all our readers a prosperous 2013!
In business, company values are everything. They can make or break the way you operate; they can guide your strategy, and can often determine how loyal your customers are. But do you carry your company values with you at all times? And more importantly, should you?
As someone who has worked in a customer facing retail environment, I can understand the need to live and breathe company values. The front line employee, after all, is often the first thing a customer sees as they walk into a store, and possibly the last thing they see before they leave. So you dress the part, and smile, and serve the customer to the best of your ability. You are, in essence, the brand.
But when it’s harder to define who could be a potential customer, is it too much to ask employees to have this dedication to their brand values? For me, the values should be there at all times. A “customer-centric” company should mean “customer-centric” employees, regardless the nature of customer interactions.
But I’m not sure this sentiment is shared by everyone. After all, bad customer service experiences are often be attributed to employees rather than the brand itself (my colleague wrote about her own bad experiences in a previous blog). So does the blame lie with the employees themselves? Should they be trying harder to carry their employer’s values? Or should the company be trying harder to instil their values on those they employ?
Thinking about your own experiences as a customer, I am sure you can come up with a range of different experiences. Yet, don’t you agree, that the better the experience the more likely you are to return or repurchase? What do you think are the factors that define the quality of customer service you receive? Is it employee satisfaction? Or does it depend on the training employees receive?
The other day, for instance, I ordered a pizza from a renowned pizza delivery service as I didn’t have the time to cook after working all morning, and had to leave for an important appointment shortly. Even though the company promises a maximum of 20 minutes delivery time in my neighbourhood, the delivery guy arrived after over 30 minutes. As this alone was not stressful enough, he did not have any change on him. After a few awkward phone calls he had with his boss, I myself had to go to the corner shop to get the right amount of cash. In spite of gulping down my pizza, I was still 15 minutes late for my meeting. Even though I’d only made contact with a single employee, I decided to never use this delivery service ever again because the promised customer experience was not delivered.
While every employee represents the company they work for, it is even more so for employees in customer facing roles. Such employees are paramount in the quest of creating customer loyalty through good customer service. While there are people who are naturally good with customers, it is not always possible for companies to employ such individuals. Also, even the most caring employee might, once in a while, have a bad day. Intensive training and employee engagement could therefore help companies ensure their staff, even when they are off-site, represent and uphold company values appropriately, thus reinforcing customer loyalty.
What do you think is the best solution to ensure employees create a positive customer service experience? Do you think that better training and/or engagement within the pizza delivery service would have improved the delivery guy’s performance? And is there a way in which the company could have reacted in order to obtain my loyalty despite this faux pas? Let me know your thoughts via the comments section!
Innovation is the word on everyone’s lips. We all, it seems, want to be innovative, to reinvent the wheel when and wherever possible. It worked well for Apple, after all (Steve Jobs admitted that their strategy was to innovate their way out of trouble). And a few months ago a colleague of mine wrote about the importance of a culture of innovation in the workplace. But can innovation ever be considered a bad thing? Can companies do more harm than good when they innovate?
Last week’s Glasgow for Business “28 days to be a more innovative company” event opened with a brainstorming session on barriers to innovation. Responses ranged from “risk averse” to “lack of finances” and “lack of collaborative culture”. But no-one mentioned the dreaded D word – damage. Innovation has the potential to be damaging. From a customer loyalty perspective, this is understandable. After all, if my customers enjoy my product and continue to buy it, will changing the product make them change their minds about buying?
Perhaps subtle innovation is the answer here. Take Heinz Baked Beans as an example. They started in 1886, and have maintained the same recipe to the present day. No changes, no innovating. And their customers continue to buy in their millions. But the company have been innovating. The subtle innovations lie in the branding and marketing of the product, not the product itself. Big changes for the company, but small changes for the customer.
So what can we learn from this? Subtle innovation might be the way forward. Apple, after all, made very few changes to the iPhone 5 when it was released earlier this month. Once again; a small change for the customer, a large step for the company.
The question now is, how far can subtle innovation go? Can companies get by on making small, subtle changes, or will they always feel the need to reinvent the wheel?
The amount of data in the business world has been rapidly growing over the past few years particularly with the development of technology. This data is often collectively and commonly termed ‘Big Data’. When used effectively, it has the potential to become the next frontier for innovation, operational excellence, competition and profit.
Undoubtedly the explosion in the volume of data organisations are capturing about their customers, suppliers, employees, operations and competitors, both directly and indirectly, can generate tremendous insight. In their 2011 study the McKinsey Global Institute identified potential benefits of this insight across many sectors; from billions of dollars per annum benefits for health care and public sector administrations and increases of up to 60% in operating margins for retailers. Furthermore, in today’s consumer driven environment, business decisions can no longer be based on what has previously been successful. With the shift in power towards the consumer, there is now a requirement for highly personalised services, recommendations and communication. Consumers want to receive the right message at the right time through the right channel. If organisations fail utilise their data effectively to surpass these customer expectations, their competitors will leave them behind.
Despite this, a recent study conducted on behalf of Total System Services Inc. (TSYS) has shown that over 30% of organisations are not utilising their data to drive business decisions. With evidence suggesting that utilising customer data effectively can lead to improved customer relations, customer loyalty and advocacy – why would organisations choose to ignore this important resource?
The issue may stem from the organisational culture – perhaps there is not a customer centric culture, or the decision makers do not understand the value of customer data? Some organisations may argue that they are not equipped to deal with customer data or changes that may stem from customer insight. Or do organisations believe that in simply gathering ‘big data’ they are doing enough?