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Why is Customer Experience so hard to implement?

31st May 2016
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Whether its B2B or B2C the process of delivering a consistent, successful and relevant customer experience seems to be as far away as ever. There are thousands of consultants, many companies have departments lead by Customer Experience executives, there must be hectares of document pages, strategies, vision & mission statements, yet why are there so few examples of any real or sustained change at the point of customer interaction? You may ask why I think there is no real change? Well like everyone else I am a customer, interacting with companies large and small either face to face, online, on the phone or whatever. But don’t just take my word for it, a recent survey from Bain and Company revealed that ‘80% of Chief Execs believe their companies deliver superior CX whereas only 8% of their customers believe they do’.

My wife and I were in a department store recently to purchase a couple of items, one item wasn’t in stock and had to be ordered online. To complete this transaction we were sent to another desk, and queue, again, to complete this transaction. Then back to the first counter to discover that a further item had been displayed as discounted but as the till hadn’t been updated we weren’t allowed the discount so we refused to purchase. Wasted time and no apology. Is this a typical experience? unfortunately yes and I’m sure everyone reading this will have a similar story. Are there examples of good service / experience (bright spots)? Of course and they’re always welcome and stand out as a beacon of hope. Could my recent experience have had a bright spot somewhere, well we live in hope and of course if a couple of things were in place to support the staff and if the staff had been or felt they had been empowered there could have been a better outcome.

Also some of you reading this may think, well I don’t know what he’s complaining about, that sounded alright to me, and you would be correct. The point here is that this is all about personal preference, we are all customers and each experience is in many ways tailor made, whether it be with a sales rep face to face, online personal interaction either real time through chat or remotely via email, online with no personal interaction, shop assistant, garage attendant, holiday rep., etc. and it’s at these points and any follow up interaction where the experience is realised. The bright spot in the earlier example was that when we got to the “online” transaction point we were first given an apology for the wait with the assistant going out of her way to advise and ensure we had what we needed. So why the different experience in the same store? I’m sure all the staff have been trained, whether they are permanent or temp so what happened?

The management team will say that they are committed to delivering an exceptional customer experience, at least they won’t say that they’re not committed to it. It’s hard to argue that customer experience is not a good thing, the challenge is convincing management teams that it is worth the commitment, investment and sustained engagement. Once convinced, or even partially convinced they may well deploy training programs, hire consultants, then maybe create a CX department, and then a few months later when reviewing progress the board will be presented with the number of employees trained, an impressive set of slides illustrating the strategy and mission and the impact this is having though a set of indicators show customer, sales, etc. With the front line employees and customers wondering why nothing has changed.

The reason for this is that CX isn’t about quick fixes or report spinning, it’s about culture change which is about employee education, it’s about identifying bright spots, recognising and encouraging the right behaviours, rewarding risk taking and providing real empowerment.

I completely agree that measurement and reporting is essential, if you don't measure it you can’t manage it but equally, you get what you measure and if you also spin the output to look good then it really is worthless.

The problem with the deployment of customer experience is that it will never be easy as it requires culture change and it will never be short term because changes involving people doesn’t happen overnight. Management teams and boardrooms demand quick fixes, but it needs those very people to lead the delivery and mind set change to ensure a sustained successful CX deployment. This change really does have to come from the top.

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