How to conduct a customer experience audit
Before improving your CX, you must first understand your present strengths and weaknesses. So how do you audit your organisation's customer experience?
Numerous 2018 studies have suggested that customer experience initiatives in a large proportion of businesses are stalling.
“British brands have focused intensely on customer experience,” says KPMG Nunwood director, David Conway. “But it would appear that the majority of their efforts have yet to be recognised.”
Only one research study’s findings, perhaps; yet everywhere you look there are similar trends unfolding.
In the US, for example, of the 287 brands ranked in Forrester's CX Index, progress of CX improvement is stagnant for the third year in a row. Back in the UK, the Institute of Customer Service reports a plateaux in its annual UKCSI ranking.
What’s behind this trend? It isn’t a lack of perceived buy-in from executive boards. In a recent survey of cross-industry customer experience decision-makers, 65% of c-level executives rank improving customer experience as the most important overall business objective, even above net profit and revenue growth.
Yet customer experience author Sampson Lee believes this only tells half the story. “When CX initiatives don’t deliver, CEOs cease to support them, plain and simple,” he explains. “Since CX practitioners fully recognise that ‘connecting CX with business results’ is the key to gaining buy-in from CEOs, why has this disconnect prevailed?"
In the whitepaper, How to transform your CX program, Eric Dietz, senior vice president at InMoment says the issue is that many CX programmes have been “forced into the ever-narrowing box of a survey and a score” – choosing to run surveys of their customers’ satisfaction levels but doing little else to embed a customer-orientated culture within their business.
“The danger in this approach is that brands risk missing out on the art of the possible. Instead of building a CX programme that can affect organisational change, they settle for another metric on a spreadsheet.”
A growing divide
The growing consensus is that a clear dividing line is being drawn between those that recognise this fact, and those that don’t, and that this must be articulated from the top-down.
“CX leaders grow revenue three times faster than CX laggards,” says Forrester analyst Harley Manning.
“[Forrester] recently analysed the correlation between customer experience and revenue growth for seven industries in the US between 2010 and 2014. We found that companies with superior customer experience grew revenues faster than their competitors with inferior customer experience: On average the eight CX leaders had revenue CAGR of 15% while their eight CX laggard competitors grew at an average rate of 2.5%.”
To establish your brand as a CX leader requires a holistic understanding of customer-centricity, Manning states. To shift a company’s culture to become genuinely CX-focused means conducting an end-to-end audit of the key elements that make up a robust customer experience programme, or roadmap:
Vision and culture
“A compelling vision gives people a sense of purpose that is based on shared brand and cultural values,” says Kim MacGillavry, who as VP of customer experience at DHL Freight, documented the logistics company’s own approach to auditing customer experience for MyCustomer, in 2017.
“It tells everyone where the company is heading and helps people to put their daily job into a wider context that goes beyond simply completing their tasks.”
In his customer experience management maturity assessment, MacGillavry recommends that brands ask themselves the following questions to ascertain how customer-centric their company vision is:
- Do we share a clear vision of what the company aspires to be in the future?
- Is our vision realistic and achievable?
- Does this vision guide my daily decision-making?
- Are the benefits we offer our customers relevant to our customers and do they distinguish us from our competitors?
- Does everyone that works in the company have a clear understanding of the overall benefits we offer our customers?
- Are my colleagues led by our vision when doing their work?
“This is where customer-centricity begins,” says CX and service guru, Shep Hyken. “Start with the end in mind. What does the perfect customer service experience look like for your customer? From there, determine what will deliver that experience.”
As Eric Dietz explains, customer experience has to be seen as more than just the programme: “It’s a way of doing business. Without top-down buy-in around this lifestyle, your CX efforts will undoubtedly fail. This means you need to put the right people in place—throughout the entire organisation—to champion and remind every employee in your organization about your new roadmap.”
Auditing employees and culture means establishing whether your CX programme feeds into every corner of the business, and that every employee understands their role and the value of your efforts. MacGillavry recommends that organisations ask themselves the following questions as part of a CX audit, to surface how all employees view their role in customer experience:
- Does everything we do demonstrate that we always have the best interest of the customer in mind?
- Are we good at listening to customers and understanding their needs?
- Are we good at sharing customer opinions and feedback with others in the organisation?
- Do my colleagues always look for ways to make things better for our customers?
- Do my colleagues across the organisation effectively collaborate together to fix customer issues?
- If I notice that a customer is not happy with the company I work for, do I feel upset?
Conversely, ascertaining how engaged employees are is a fundamental part of establishing how customer-centric a workforce is, and again, MacGillavry suggests asking the following questions of employees:
- Am I proud to work for the company?
- Would I recommend the company I work for as an employer to my family and friends?
- Does the vision and purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
- In my day to day work is it easy to meet customer expectations?
- Do I have the freedom I need to fix customer issues and make them happy?
- Does my direct manager give me praise and recognition when I do something good for a customer?
How siloed is your business? Does communication about customer initiatives flow freely from department to department?
“It’s about establishing whether there’s an internal service dynamic,” says customer experience author and consultant, Adrian Swinscoe.
“You need to find a way of establishing why everyone’s role is related to the customer. You also need to encourage interaction to flow across the business. If you’re in a call centre role and you’re suddenly getting a flurry of calls about a certain problem, what mechanisms do you have for flagging that to different areas of the business? If you’re a department head, are you empowered to work with other departments? If you’re the CEO, are you fostering a collaborative environment?”
Technology and processes
There’s no panacea when it comes to CX and technology, and in many cases an audit of your organisational structure is as much about the silos in your technology use as it is in how your people collaborate on customer experience.
“If you have signs that, for instance, your ecommerce programs aren’t syncing with your storefront programs through viable integrations, you know you have a problem,” says Timothy Burke, in CMSWire.
“Customers, naturally, expect seamless integrations between digital and physical worlds, and it doesn’t always happen. Customer calls aren’t tracked or synced with brick-and-mortar visits. Stores and the internal functions must be tied together effectively and encompass all channels of communication and historical data.”
MacGillavry notes: “The two critical success factors to delivering a great customer experience are the ability to continuously capture and analyse customer behaviour and opinions along the entire customer journey as well as the ability of the organisation to act upon that information pro-actively making continuous improvements.”
As tools and processes are key for this, he recommends that organisations ask themselves the following questions as part of a CX audit:
- Do we continuously capture customer opinions and feedback over multiple channels?
- Do we track customer satisfaction at every interaction along the customer journey?
- Do we undertake detailed analysis of customer feedback in order to find ways to improve the service we provide?
- Do I have the tools necessary to meet customer expectations and respond effectively to their requests?
- Are customer feedback metrics used to measure my team's performance?
- Does customer satisfaction plays an important part in how we are incentivised?
- Does our IT environment give us a complete view of the customer so that we can consistently deliver a relevant and positive customer experience?
What you’re measuring and what your objectives are for doing so are a key part of auditing CX. “No matter what you want to measure, it’s critical to identify the objective up front and then stay the course,” says Eric Dietz. “A brand committed to CX excellence will understand the baseline motivation and stay true to that North Star.”
Beyond Philosophy’s Colin Shaw also adds, “Measuring is a critical part of any effort to quantify progress (or failures) when you have a goal of improving your CX. The problem, for most organisations, is that they measure their performance in things like sales growth or margin or stock price. However, the challenge for CX leaders is assessing how their company measures the intangible. How does one measure a concept? What does customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, customer experience or even “Happiness” look like on a chart or in an Excel sheet? This is what you have to start assessing straight away.”
Actioning your findings
What the outcome of an audit means for CX leaders when building or reinvigorating their CX programme is something that we’ll be exploring in detail over the coming months on MyCustomer, in our content hub, A roadmap to CX success.
“Brands that want to succeed in today’s competitive world have embedded CX into their cultures from the C-level executive to the frontline employee,” Dietz explains. “They use insights gathered from a variety of channels and touchpoints, integrated with customer data from multiple sources, mined by sophisticated analytics technologies, and then channelled to steer every corner of their businesses.”
If your business hasn’t reached this point, an audit of current customer experience practices will put the wheels in motion in order to be able to get there.
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.