Want to Capitalize on Customer Service Excellence? These 14 Key CX Marketing Activities Can Help.

Of the three primary disciplines in business—marketing, sales, and service—customer service has the power to make your company stand out amongst the competition. After all, a recent American Express survey stresses that seven out of 10 U.S. consumers say they have spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service. Yet, while countless companies offer excellent service, few take the time to tout their CX strategy, thereby leaving them to blend with their competitors.

“Customer service is of critical importance to your business because it’s key to retaining the customers you close and extracting more value from them,” Swetha Amaresan writes for HubSpot. “By providing top-notch customer service, businesses can recoup customer acquisition costs and cultivate a loyal customer base that will refer friends and colleagues, serve as case studies and testimonials, and write customer reviews.”

Amaresan adds that, not only are happy customers more understanding and less sensitive, but they’re also your brand’s best advocates, as they can convince prospective new customers of your company’s merits more effectively that your own marketing materials and salespeople ever possibly could.

Customer service, therefore, plays an increasingly pivotal role in your company’s continued success, as today’s saturated, fast-paced market leaves little room for error (or modesty).

“With consumers facing so many choices with who to do business with, you need to set yourself apart from the rest,” R.L. Adams explains for Entrepreneur. “What makes you different? What added value do you bring to the table? Why should a customer work with you rather than your competitor? We’ve all heard the horror stories of people dealing with poor customer service. Yet, we seldom hear the raving-fan stories.”

But your brand has the power to highlight these stories and share its successes. By embracing these 14 key CX marketing activities, your team can use its own history of superior service to support its legacy of satisfaction and loyalty

 

 1.  Customer Satisfaction Annual Report

Much like your company’s annual fiscal report, this summary allows you to convey the results of your customer experience strategy with your stakeholders and customers.

 

2.  Voice of the Customer Video

Interview your top executives to provide the public with high-level insight into your CX strategy and what you are doing to sustain customer loyalty.

 

3.  Case Studies & Customer Testimonials

Allow your stakeholders and customers to shine the light on your success by sharing their own stories and experiences with your brand and expertise.

 

4.  CX Certified Report Card

By partnering with an outside analytics organization, your brand can provide customers and prospects with a third-party audit of your company’s exceptional customer satisfaction data.

 

5.  Intelligent Visual Communications

Project your CX content in real time via dynamic, multimedia LED dashboard displays and handheld devices to promote and improve transparency.

 

6.  CX Infographic

Share the story behind your CX strategy and how you serve your customers through engaging graphics that clearly highlight your brand’s continued efforts to satisfy and delight.

 

7.  Public Relations

Make sure customers and prospects are sufficiently informed by sharing your successes through news releases, newsletters, white papers, and other such collateral.

 

8.  Social Media

Connect with your customers and prospects where they live by tapping into social networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share your wins and announcements.

 

9.  Live Video Streaming

Create an online event that captures your CX story as it happens and reach your customers and prospects by embracing today’s most engaging, fastest growing medium.

 

10.  CX Podcasts

Participate in or develop a branded podcast that highlights your CX story so customers and prospects can listen to at their convenience.

 

11.  CX Webcasts

Join an established webcast or develop your own series so your company can tout its successes and your top executives can demonstrate their expertise in their industry.

 

12.  Competitive Satisfaction/Loyalty Analytics

Demonstrate your CX strategy’s effectiveness by illustrating its measurable business impact through competitive satisfaction and loyalty analytics that reinforce your success.

 

13.  Customer Events

Invite customers and prospects to come together so you can simultaneously show your appreciation and highlight your company’s countless CX success stories.

 

14.  CX Awards

Leverage industry awards, such as CRMI’s NorthFace Scoreboard and CEMPRO, to demonstrate and reinforce your brand’s customer service excellence within its industry.

Not sure where to begin? Reach out to CRMI directly for quickstart tips and successful hints that will help your brand stand out amongst the fiercest competitors in your industry.

Geo-specific game-plans: North America

When crafting a customer experience game-plan CX practitioners should consider the geographic location of their target audience if they want to fully meet expectations and delight customers.

As mentioned by Martin Ortlieb, User Experience Researcher at Google, humans are more similar than they are different. However, an awareness of what those differences are and how culture contributes to them could be the key to having a competitive edge with customers in a certain location.

Murray Goodwin, Director, CX Advisory, IPSOS MORI Customer Experience notes: “Understanding how your customers interact with your products and services within different cultures can make or break your commercial successes.”

He adds: “We recently helped a global CPG manufacturer interpret the role that laundry fragrance plays around the globe. Our research revealed a whole host of interesting quirks, but in the US in particular, we learned that having clean-smelling clothes plays a far more important role than it does across Europe, as people were more likely to greet one another with a hug in the west and therefore the way you smell has more significant implications for peoples’ perceptions of your social status.”

He urges brands to remember that people give different NPS scores in different countries. “Selling new cars in the US? We’ve shown that your customers will be far more likely to recommend you to others than if you were selling the same cars in Italy.”

Market consensus agrees that the United States is the most advanced region for brand experience and customer segmentation in most industries, with trends emerging first in the US and then spreading to other countries a few weeks later. As these customers have a higher chance of exposure to world-leading experiences, people based in the US are likely to have higher expectations than their global counterparts.

Support for this argument was witnessed in Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service report which polled 5,000 individuals across Brazil, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Of the US customers surveyed:

 

  • 62% have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience *
  • 43% have done this in the last 12 months *
  • 42% feel the quality of customer service is getting worse *
  • 56% have higher expectations for customer service now than they had a year ago 

 

*This rate exceeded the global average.

Here, CX Network looks at how CX practitioners in North America are reacting to industry trends in their mission to impress US customers and prospects.  This piece will delve into exclusive insights from a research group of US CX professionals from the 2019 Global State of Customer Experience Report to map out key localised customer engagement trends and pain-points.

Top trends for US CX practitioners

Omni-channel: The omni-channel model and the notion of meeting customers in their channel of choice appears to be a much higher priority for US practitioners than their international peers.

If they want to field the omni-channel set-up, brands need to have the correct resourcing in place. In regards to the offline vs digital prioritisation, in one of the recent CX Network Advisory Board calls, Board member Claire Hill, Customer Experience Director of Studio Retail Limited noted: “In previous years there was a laser focus on being digital first – but now we are no longer talking about the online vs offline piece. We are shifting away from just going digital for the sake of it. Internal operational changes are in place so we aren’t pushing the digital agenda forward – we very clearly display phone numbers for customer contact or live chat. We are allowing the customer to interact with us via the channel they choose.”

To inform the operational strategy that would ensure their resourcing was flexible enough to respond to different channels, Claire recalls: “….we turned to historical data to spot trends to inform decisions about having resourcing in the right areas. When a new channel is introduced there may be a spike where take-up is higher than expected – this will even out and help to inform future decisions.”

Human-centred design: Human-centered design centres on providing an experience that solves the needs of a target audience. US practitioners seem to have more interest in this area than the global average, which is encouraging as customer-first cultures need to be nurtured and these exercises contribute to the foundations needed to roll-out more predictive customer service efforts. According to Microsoft’s report, US customers appreciate proactive customer service notifications. Therefore, brands which can pre-empt the needs of their US customers place themselves in a strong position to win loyalty.

At the Omnichannel Exec Forum, Steve Kato-Spyrou – UX Manager, John Lewis highlighted the importance of validating concepts using design thinking approaches. The process of 6 Up-sketching in workshops was discussed – coming up with as many ideas as humanly possible, as hearing ideas from peers can spark creativity. He noted that John Lewis puts ideas generated from workshops in front of its customers to see which ones are popular. In fact, customers visit the John Lewis Customer Hub in person four times a week to inform the validation cycle followed by researchers.

Investment priorities 

Customer acquisition and contact centre solutions seem to have attracted more budget from this section of customer experience practitioners in comparison to their global counterparts.

Customer acquisition:  Healthy lines of new business are critical in the US as customers may be at a high risk of churn. According to Microsoft’s research, the number of US customers that have left a brand because of poor customer service in the last 12 months exceeds the global average.  Businesses should capitalise on this switching economy by making their brand desirable to their competitor’s neglected high-lifetime value customers. Advocates should be empowered to entice new customers and brands should turn themselves into digital listeners offering multiple options for conversion.

Contact centre solutions & Customer insight: It is logical that this batch of CX professionals are investing in bolstering contact centres with more training and equipment with the strong emphasis from the region on knowledgeable customer service representatives.  

A holistic and, if possible, 360° view of the customer will helpful to brands as the majority of US customers surveyed agreed that customer service representatives should know their contact, product and service information/history. This dashboard view provides agents and frontline staff with a more intimate understanding of customers, the services they are subscribed to, their past behaviours and real-time preferences. This rich, relevant insight and real time visualisation of data can be leveraged to proactively engage with customers’ needs in real-time when it really matters.

Key Challenges 

Building a customer-first culture: Similar to practitioners based in countries outside of the US, it appears difficult for businesses to fully tear away from a business-first, product focused end-to-end business mind-set in order to live and breathe a customer-first culture. Customer-centric validation techniques are crucial for educating researchers on improving products and processes. This is especially important in the US as customers in this region seem to be more willing to switch brands after a bad experience.

Linking CX initiatives to ROI:  ROI and board buy-in are significant challenges for all CX practitioners. Both areas are crucial for unlocking future CX investments. CX has a strong influence on business success hence the strong level of investment going into CX, but this of course triggers a desire from senior management for results. The inability to communicate the financial business case can jeopardize the future of a finely crafted CX program.

Final Remark 

In order to win market-share in a certain location, brands should arm themselves with any insights that will give them the edge over their competitors.  A few of these game-changing strategies may be hidden in the regionally influenced preferences of your customers. To capture these preferences, companies should mine their Voice of the Customer data and use it to inform their personalisation methodologies going forward.

For this region in particular, businesses would be well placed to remember that US customers appear to be ready and willing to leave a company because of bad customer experiences. Therefore, when servicing these customers in this area a conscious effort should be made to provide a solid service and recover experiences as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If you want more detail on these findings click here

Top 5 Customer experience trends in Retail

Customer experience has gained respect from various verticals as findings signal that experience will soon be the key decision-maker for consumers, above product and price.

Here we look at five customer experience trends in retail highlighted in our recent research.

 
1. Customer experience is a good revival strategy

Retailers are finding themselves in the position of having to do more with less. Many are reacting by making cuts.  Closing stores, reducing staffing levels or hours according to store size projected sales and ignoring location surrounding facilities and competitors and turning to tech to deliver services at scale.

However, a recent Wharton University study looking at the relationship between staff levels and store performance has shown that it’s a big mistake to react this way to the retail apocalypse. Their study states that well-trained staff are the long-term solution for stable profits. “Understaffing stores and undertraining workers was never a good idea, but it’s especially bad now, because it takes away the biggest advantage traditional stores have over e-tailers: a live person a customer can talk with face-to-face”, said the study’s authors.

In the study after boosting staffing levels at certain outlets over six months, the stores in question made over $8.9m in extra profit even after accounting for additional labour costs. Around 6% more revenue was provided by staff who had received an hour per month in training that empowered them to solve problems for the customer.

Customers are utilising stores now as experiences, Steve Kato-Spyrou – UX Manager, John Lewis notes: “They visit to do fun things and spend the whole day out, not just to simply purchase something. So that’s where we’ve got to head in the next 12 months with in-store: the experience.”

 
2. Utility is key 

Serious investment into CRM, customer insight and analytics represents investment into a robust CX framework for a brand to provide value to clients.

In regards to adding value for customers, Steve Szymczyk, Director Digital Marketing, Adidas (Retail) says: “[A CX trailblazer is] anyone that can capture a consumer’s imagination and use data to combine the two to provide a great consumer experience.”

“What Nordstrom Men’s is doing in the US with the virtual store, that’s a really interesting model. Obviously it’s one store, so we don’t know if it’s working yet.

“There are so many things happening in this space and we’re going to see a lot of ‘trailblazers’ that will have some phenomenal successes and some will have pretty spectacular failures. What is important is to test things, listen to the consumer and they will vote with their wallet, they will tell us what they want.

“As brands, it is our job to provide new levels of comfort, convenience and be thinking about things that the consumer doesn’t know they want yet. In reality, the things that will work are the ones that will be edgy enough for the consumer to have fun with and add value to them in a real way.

“If you’re not adding value and not looking at it from a consumer-centric point of view, then it’s probably not going to work, no matter how much you want to make it happen.

“The one piece of advice is to really put yourself in the shoes (pun intended…) of a consumer to see how they experience your brand, spot where their touchpoints are and work out whether you control them or not. Because let’s face it, a viral video from a 16-year-old on YouTube giving an opinion on your brand counts as a brand interaction, whether you like it or not.”

 
3. Customer-first culture 

Highlighted as the main challenge for CX practitioners in retail, a customer centric or CX centric culture is fundamental to creating an organisation that embeds customer experience into all of its decisions and activities. CX must be a framework for business activity, just as profitability, efficiency and marketability have been embedded previously.

Steve Kato-Spyrou, UX Manager of John Lewis notes that the key retailer battles with breaking down business silos. “We have the knowledge in the building; it’s getting every human into the right place at the right time to disseminate that knowledge and talk to each other to come up with the product or service or experience that works.”

There is no such thing as stand-alone product development, marketing, or digital strategy. Those disciplines are all, essentially, feed into the same purpose; they are the customer’s interaction with the brand or organisation.

 
4. More consistency needed with actioning customer data

Data and analytics dominate as the most important, impactful trend for retailers. Although they recognise actionable insights as a challenge, research from CX Network indicates that many in retail are indeed actioning customer feedback in someway. This has had strategic benefits for the research group involved regarding customising products or packaging and new tactics to improve delivery speed.

However, the research did signal that there is a need for more consistency as many insights fall through the cracks and aren’t fed back to relevant business units.

Retailers should continue to aim to consistently close the loop with the voice of the customer. In a sector increasingly reliant upon social proof it is logical that consumers need to recognise the power of their feedback and contributions. This closure will also encourage the customer to keep the channels of communication open with retail firms, thereby helping the brand to improve their products and processes.

 
5. Omnichannel 

Businesses are struggling to make the omnichannel ecosystem a reality. Minor progression has been made year-on-year according to these stats.

However, businesses must press on in this journey, as omnichannel customers are thought to have more lifetime value than single channel customers. Also, the more your competition progresses with omnichannel the higher expectations will rise from your prospects.

Steve Kato-Spyrou – UX Manager, John Lewis said: “We heard today there are infinite touchpoints. So as far as omnichannel: you should be everywhere your customer is. If you’re saying: ‘we need to look into mobile or we need to look into in-store’, that’s correct, you need to go where the customer is.

“As far as the baseline, I would say look at your strongest competitor – that’s the expectation. It’s a case of: ‘Amazon do X, Y and Z – so, why don’t you do it?’.”

 

Tying Employee Performance to Customer Satisfaction

Tying Employee Engagement to Customer Satisfaction

When looking at how companies measure employee performance, one thing is clear: There’s wide variation across industries in terms of how well businesses are incorporating customer satisfaction into the mix. Generally, companies do a poor job of linking performance to satisfaction. Although we have seen improvements recently, many companies still struggle to enhance the processes linking performance to satisfaction.

One of the key factors required to link satisfaction to employee performance is having sound methods to collect the satisfaction data. Companies that have poor satisfaction measurement methods have trouble linking the results to performance because there’s either not enough data or the data is suspect. Without a reliable foundation of results, employees will resist efforts to link their performance to satisfaction.

Those companies that are successfully tying satisfaction to performance are able to do so because they have clear goals and processes, as well as quality data. Consider the following approaches for improving your satisfaction and performance management processes:

Collect enough data to support evaluating individuals or teams. If there is not enough data to measure individuals, then setting goals and measuring performance at the team level is a viable and sometimes preferable alternative.

Set measurable goals for satisfaction, rather than “soft” targets based on perception. Having weak references to customer satisfaction in a performance review does not focus employees on delivering higher levels of service.

Ensure that customer satisfaction is a heavily weighted component of performance evaluations. The weighting should have a direct impact on compensation for the employees. If possible, put a bonus program in place to reward the staff achieving the desired satisfaction results.

Tie performance objectives to employee-controllable elements, as well as overall satisfaction. These include knowledge and expertise, professionalism, quality of solution, timeliness of status updates, and other factors in an employee’s control.

Regularly review satisfaction results with the staff and include them on performance scorecards or other productivity reports. This will ensure that employees are aware of customers’ satisfaction with their current performance and enable them to focus on areas that need improving.

Following these simple suggestions will have a positive impact on your overall customer satisfaction program and drive the staff towards delivering improved results on a consistent basis. Programs such as the Service Capability & Performance (SCP) Standards can help drive improvements in this area and will help set specific measurable targets for customer satisfaction.

About the Author
Greg Coleman is a principal partner and vice president of Strategic Programs for Service Strategies Corp. He has more than 25 years of experience in the high-technology service and support field. Greg has worked with leading technology services organizations to develop and deploy global standards for service excellence and has assessed the performance of hundreds of service organizations worldwide. You can reach Greg at gcoleman@servicestrategies.com