Why customer experience is a competition

Gareth Hopkins
Client Services Director (Central Government, Defence and Police)
BT Business & Public Sector
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Get competitive!

The JD Power motor industry survey in 1969 discovered that a third of people who bought new cars found them to be unsatisfactory when they were delivered. Think of that in the context of today’s market – it’s inconceivable!

In 1998, Power asked about quality three years after the point of purchase. They found an industry average of 278 quality issues per 100 vehicles. By 2012, that number had fallen to 132.

Customers were also asked about reliability; the most reliable car had 92 quality issues per 100 vehicles in 1998, whilst the least reliable had 517 - a gap of 425. By 2012, the gap had reduced to 284.

Manufacturing quality has risen exponentially, and those who failed to improve their standards have disappeared from the scene. Today’s products, although more complex, are infinitely more reliable – they simply have to be.

Your people matter

This challenge to continually improve applies to people, too. Until 1977 only one man, Jim Hines, had run the men’s 100m in sub-10 seconds. Six sprinters broke the barrier in the 1980s, and in 2013 eighty-six different athletes had recorded times of nine-point-something seconds, with the most famous, Usain Bolt, routinely posting nine-point-x seconds at four successive Olympics.

Expectations increase, and competitors respond. So what does this mean to those of us whose passion and charge is delivering excellent customer experience?

In today’s world it is taken for granted that products and services will be excellent. We therefore need to create distinction from competition in order to win new business. If our customers cannot determine tangible differences between us and the competition, then why will they choose us? The old mantra rings true … if you don’t create distinction, you head for extinction.

So how do we create the best customer experience?

Here are my four tips:

1. Don’t leave it to chance

It’s about the “how” just as much as the “what”.

Creating the end-to-end “feel” for your customers goes hand in hand with what you deliver for them. Some expectations may be rational, others not so; but ensuring your customer feels valued, has a voice and at all points of contact is emotionally cared for is so critical. Process can consume you - how do we deliver? Are we on track? When’s the next call? If we focus on this we can leave the experience of the customer to chance; a big mistake.

2. Be there

You do not create great customer experience remotely. My customers tell me they want to see our people, to have them around their workplaces, helping them in real-time with problems, strategies and ideas. Colocation of thinkers, technical capability and driven minds has worked really well for me and my team, and our customers desire it. So get off your office chair, get away from your screen and spend time with them.

3. Perception is king

Sometimes customers are very clear about why they feel a particular way; other times less so. Getting to the real cause of the issue can sometimes be difficult. So look at the signals you are sending, and the responses these generate from the customer. Hold the mirror up. We use Net Promoter Score (NPS) from the Deep Insights programme to do this regularly; we survey our customers in detail, and what they tell us is invaluable.

 4. Your people are critical

You inevitably don’t always personally deliver the Customer Experience you design; your team does. So find people who believe in your brand, know how to deliver it, and are invested enough to do anything it takes to deliver satisfaction for their customers. It is a competition … get competitive.

I’ve seen some great examples of us getting it right over the last nine months. Our challenge is to keep searching for, harnessing and nurturing the drive to execute the ‘what' and the ‘how’ for our customers. One recently told us: “BT really gets this – give me more of your passion!!” That’s what we love to hear. Over to you!

About Gareth Hopkins

Gareth Hopkins BT

Gareth has more than twelve years of experience leading large-scale network operations, business transformation, building and servicing critical infrastructure, delivering major programmes and developing relations with senior governmental customers. He has worked across the private and public sector on both customer and supplier side in the UK and India, and delivered key infrastructure to support the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Having joined BT as an apprentice, Gareth is now Client Services Director, leading an organisation responsible for the delivery and in-life service of UK Central Government, Ministry of Defence and Police customers. 

He is interested in the development of technology to support business efficiency, contributing to future government business policy and helping to promote improved public health through sport. 

Gareth lives in Cardiff and sits on the BT Wales board. Having recently retired from playing rugby, he is a keen cricketer and volunteers with the Western Beacons Mountain Search and Rescue Team.

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