Technology Alone Won’t Solve your CX Problem!

 

Technology Alone Won’t Solve your CX Problem!

 

As a Customer Experience Research and Consultancy firm, CX
Solutions (formerly TARP), has seen a lot in our 40+ years of operation. We
were the first to equate a good CX experience to positive ROI…believe it or
not, this was before the internet and online surveys even existed! My how
things have changed!

And yet the basic principles haven’t changed. Still today,
research shows that the Customer Experience matters – it matters for word of
mouth, it matters for loyalty, and it matters in order to drive profit. What
has changed is the technology and methods available for collecting customer
feedback that is used to improve the customer experience. With the introduction
of companies like Qualtrics and Medallia into the CX space, organizations have
customer insights at their fingertips! These new technologies allow you to
survey and interact with your customer at any and all touchpoints and in the
channel they prefer. You can now collect any and all the data that you need
easily and view results in almost real time.  You now know how your customers
viewed their recent experiences, and can course correct sooner (although not
all companies do).

So what’s the problem? It’s not a problem for many
companies. In fact, I’m sure many of you either work for a company or have seen
the success stories of companies who have instituted full scale and effective
CX programs using the new technology. These companies utilize the results
effectively to manage their business.

On the flip side, however, there are companies that “buy
in” to the technology (literally and figuratively), but watch their performance
remain steady (or even decline). These companies fall in to the trap of
thinking the technology alone will solve their problems – more data, faster
data, data data data!!! Now that we know what all of our customers think
immediately and at every touchpoint our scores will increase. WRONG!

Problems with this thinking:

1.      More
data does not equate to better data or more actionable data. Your survey might
be short and you have a high response rate but does it provide you with the
insights you need to manage your business? In many cases the answer is NO.
Companies come to us with this dilemma all the time.

2.      Companies are so overwhelmed by the plethora of data and
the frequency of data, that they often can’t use the insights effectively. In
essence, they are swimming in data and chasing a moving target. Companies need
a system in place to continuously level set to understand where they are (at a
given point), to analyze what the data means, set priorities, and identify
actions that will have the greatest impact on customer loyalty and revenue.
This critical step – ACTIONING on the plethora of data – is often missed.

Don’t collect data just to collect data – do something with
it!

3.      Companies
are not set up structurally to action the data. To utilize the results for
change you need a process in place to insure the data is continuously monitored
and actions. Do you have weekly meetings to review results? Do you utilize
results in corporate scorecards and/or incentive programs? Does your company
have a

Customer Experience Council (CEC)? (Teaser – keep an eye
out for future blog on CEC’s)

4.
Too much attention is placed on the mechanics of the new
technology and process – that people lose sight of their day to day operations
and focus on the technology implementation over servicing their customers.

As CX practitioners, we are lucky to have all of these
tools and insights at our fingertips. But you must make sure the technology is
viewed as a tool – a GREAT tool – and not the solution in and of itself.

If you have recently implemented new CX technology and find
yourself experiencing some of these issues you are not alone! Stay tuned for
future blog posts and whitepapers about how to overcome these (and many more)
common pitfalls.

Christine Mazur

VP, Customer Experience & Research Services

Note: CX
Solutions is a CX Research and Consultancy firm and is also an official
professional services partner of both Qualtrics and Medallia, where we assist
companies with program design, Customer Journey Mapping, engagement and
communication strategies as part of the launch of new programs, implementation
of the new technology, and ongoing management and consultative assistance in
terms of auctioning the results.  For more information and to find out how we
can help, please view our website
www.cxsolutions.com or contact us at (703) 524-1456. 

 

 

 

A Formalized CX Structure is a Critical Component of
VoC Program Success

As my colleague pointed out in a
recent post (see Technology Alone Won’t Solve
Your CX Problem
!), organizations are collecting more and more data,
but many reap limited value from that data.  In fact, in a recently conducted
benchmarking study on Voice of Customer
practices
, CX Solutions found that organizations are most successful
at “collecting data” and least successful at “using VoC to drive systemic
improvement.”

There are two general types of actions
that can be driven off of VoC data.  Bain & Company refers to these as the
“inner loop” and the “outer loop.”  The “inner loop” is following up on
specific issues with

specific customers, resulting in immediate feedback and coaching of
employees.  Today’s robust VoC technologies are facilitating the ability to
easily implement this inner loop through permission-based dashboards and
immediate alerts pushed to the front line. Thus, our research shows that
organizations are increasingly doing a better job of implementing this inner
loop.  However, we have seen little movement in organizational success with

the
“outer loop”; that is, “using VoC to drive systemic improvement.”

There are multiple reasons for
this lack of success in driving systemic change based on customer feedback, but
one main reason is that the organization often doesn’t have an intentional
structure and process to drive that action. The bulk of the attention is on the
“inner loop” which, by its very nature, is segmented by division or channel,
with nothing in place that provides for an enterprise-wide review of data to
identify and prioritize actions that will drive systemic change.

A best practice structure that drives action consists of multiple
organizational levels, each with a specific role, but all aligned on customer
experience improvement.

Although the structures can vary
across organizations, two important elements at the management level are
designated local “CX Champions” and a “Customer Experience Council”.

“CX Champions” or individuals in each
function/department/area that are tasked with regularly reviewing customer data
for their area, pulling in associated operational data, and identifying high
priority opportunities for improvement.

A “Customer Experience Council” is a group of managers
(normally includes the CX Champions), from each of the disparate
customer-facing departments or groups, that meets on a regular basis
(weekly/monthly/ quarterly) to:


Work together to improve the end-to-end customer experience by
jointly identifying gaps and overlaps and ensure everyone understands
inter-dependencies between departments and the effect on the customer experience


Review customer data and agree to measures when making decisions
to improve the experience


Prioritize customer experience improvement activities and
budgets


Initiate and support action planning on identified priorities

A Customer Experience Council
should be set up carefully, with a clear charter and governance structure,
executive sponsorship and attendance, and defined actions and budget.

To summarize, for a successful
Voice of the Customer (VoC) program, you must have an organizational structure
in place to support data review across the customer journey and across
organizational silos and that can drive systemic changes. Designating CX
Champions and the formation of a Customer Experience Council is critical for
this process.

Cynthia Grimm

Chief CX Officer

 

Note: CX Solutions is a CX Research and Consultancy firm
and is also an official professional services partner of both Qualtrics and
Medallia
, where we assist companies with program design, Customer Journey
Mapping, engagement and communication strategies as part of the launch of new
programs, implementation of the new technology, and ongoing management and
consultative assistance in terms of actioning the results.  For more
information and to find out how we can help, please view our website
www.cxsolutions.com or contact us at (703) 524-1456. 

 

Throughout a series of blog posts, my colleagues at CX Solutions and I have been sharing findings from our recent Voice of the Customer (VoC) Practices and Effectiveness Study.

Early in the series, we discussed ten keys to VoC program effectiveness. We went on to describe how, in our online survey of 289 organizations, managers were asked to assess the degree to which specific processes/practices in each of the ten areas have been fully implemented. Based on their responses, an implementation effectiveness score was calculated for each of the ten areas. This score ranges from 0 to 100%, depending on the degree to which all of the processes/practices in a given area have been fully implemented.

In this post, we share more results – this time focusing on how perceptions of VoC program effectiveness vary depending on whose opinion you ask.
Recall that our survey respondents were screened and selected to meet one of the following qualifications:

  1. The individual was an executive sponsor of his/her organization’s VoC program;
  2. The individual was the VoC program director or team leader;
  3. The individual was a VoC program team member; or
  4. The individual was a recipient and user of VoC-based information and insights.

Results, shown in Exhibit 1, reveal that in all ten key areas of VoC Program Effectiveness, executive sponsors give the most favorable evaluations of any of the four groups. Program directors or team leaders consistently give the next most favorable evaluations, followed by VoC team members and VoC recipients and users. The differences between the scores of executive sponsors and all other groups are statistically significant (95% confidence level). In addition, and for the most part, differences between the scores given by program directors and team leaders also are significantly higher than VoC team members or VoC recipients and users. The latter two groups do not differ significantly from one another, and both consistently give the least favorable ratings of VoC program effectiveness.

What are we to make of this? Why the discrepancies between more senior and less senior-level managers and employees?
Any explanations we can offer at this point are purely speculative. However, our collective experience suggests that the following possibilities should be considered:

  1. VoC program team members – the individuals who manage the program on a day-to-day basis – have the greatest working knowledge of what is good (and not so good) about that program. They are likely to factor their knowledge and understanding of “what’s missing” into program assessments.
  2. Ditto for VoC recipients – managers and employees who are expected to take action based on insights drawn from the Voice of the Customer. The data and insights they receive often lack detail and granularity needed to be actionable, even when these managers and employees have accountability for such action. We would expect knowledge and understanding of such deficiencies to work their way into VoC program assessments as well.
  3. In many organizations, upward communication of program problems and deficiencies doesn’t always make its way to the top of the organization. If these don’t have to be shared with senior executives, they often aren’t. If problems can be solved – or at least patches applied by program team members – they often are. Lacking knowledge and understanding of VoC program deficiencies and problems, senior executives might be apt to give more favorable program assessments than are warranted.
  4. On the flip side, senior executives and program directors may have access to other top-level executives and their perceptions of program effectiveness that team members and/or VoC recipients do not. From the perspectives of those in the “top of the house,” the program might be doing quite well at meeting its goals and objectives. If so, this would likely show up in program assessments of senior executives and sponsors.

Regardless of which of the above potential explanations may be in play, all point to the need for effective vertical (i.e., upward and downward) communication regarding VoC program effectiveness. Front-line employees and managers, along with VoC users, probably have the greatest awareness and understanding of where there are gaps or opportunities to improve an organization’s VoC program. Senior sponsors and program directors probably have the greatest chance of making resources available to fill those gaps and pursue improvement opportunities.
If your organization conducts periodic internal assessments of your VoC program, be sure to get perspectives of managers and employees having different program roles and responsibilities. Compare those perspectives and use results to make your VoC program better.

I recently had the honor of attending the Qualtrics X4 Summit in Salt Lake City, UT, at the beautiful Salt Palace Convention Center.  It was my first time attending, but hopefully not my last.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Summit, there were many famous speakers, and more than enough fascinating sessions to attend.  What I didn’t expect, is how I would feel about the experience after attending, or better yet, how I’d feel about the experience while attending.  It’s hard to describe, but something about the music, which by the way, seemed to be coming from a ‘strategically‘-placed DJ in every single session room, kept the pace, flow and attitude of the entire Summit upbeat and rocking.  This, combined with the quality and skill of the keynote speakers, the sheer layout and setup of sessions throughout the Convention Center, easily made the X4 experience the coolest I’ve ever taken part of in my professional career, hands down.  It was as if someone put a wedding reception, a networking event, the cool class you took in college, and a rock concert in a blender.

Now, those of you who know my X4 story may say I am biased, so let me get it out of the way. Yes, I did exchange emails with Arianna Huffington after hearing her speak; and yes, I was handed a new, Tony Hawk-signed skateboard by a member of the Qualtrics Dream Team.  But I’d add, these types of experiences seemed to be happening everywhere I looked during the Summit.  I saw people meeting a keynote speaker and getting their picture taken. I saw people making connections under the basketball hoop or near the Porsches on display. I even saw a pregnant woman gifted with a recliner so she could listen to the Keynote speakers in comfort. Personally, I got to sit down with my clients and talk business, while also discussing whether or not to hit on a hard 14 in Blackjack. All fabulous experiences.

The point is, the experience is what mattered.  It’s what we are left feeling after or while experiencing something.  So, yes, I was given a skateboard, but what I didn’t mention is that the guy who handed it to me ran back to his office from where he was already going, just for me.  It took 4 or 5 minutes, but he came running back and handed me, with a smile of pride in a job well done, a new signed Tony Hawk skateboard.  The effort and behavior went a long way with me. I had only asked him where people had gotten the skateboards I had seen under a few other people’s arms, of which he had under his own arm for others.  But, it was the effort, not the gift.  He could have ran and gotten me a ham sandwich and I would still have been left with the same delighted feeling.  Yes, receiving a ham sandwich probably wouldn’t have left me quite the same feeling I got from all the attention one gets from toting around such an item, with all the people asking ‘where did you get THAT?’ But again, the experience is what I am left remembering, not the item, or sandwich.  And it’s this kind of mindset, focusing on a person’s experience that we are trying to help our clients understand in terms of experience management.  Yes, it comes in terms of managing detractor ticket alerts, wait times, good customer service, and how you speak and interact with your customers, employees, fans, or clients, but it’s all about the experience you give them and how you make them feel.

Now, I realize not every company has millions of dollars to spend on getting a rope-less psychotic rock-climber to come speak about his mental balance of focus and fear at 1500 ft. to a bunch of business heads, survey gurus, and stats nerds; but the idea, theory, and strategy behind creating and offering the great experience of hearing him speak and sharing his stories to the Summit attendees served as a reminder of what we are all trying to achieve in our individual businesses or scenarios.  Whether it be internally with our own employees, or with our customers, members, guests, clients, or fans; we all want to provide a great experience.  It’s about making the effort, it’s about the intent, and yes, it’s definitely about the execution.  But the tools are out there, it’s just a matter of going out and picking them up and utilizing them.  Through our partnership, Qualtrics and CX Solutions can help with that.

Within the past two days, I have had two memorable customer experiences, one good and one bad, and they both related to the same thing – follow-up.

First the bad — I left a message yesterday for a kennel where I wanted to board my dog for an upcoming trip.  This is a kennel I have used before for both boarding and grooming, so there is already an ongoing relationship.  After more than 24 hours and I still hadn’t received a call back, I called again and left a message.  This time I did get a call back but after another multi-hour wait.  During that time, I started thinking about how expensive the kennel is, wondering if they were really worth it and started thinking about what other kennels I could call.  This kennel almost lost me as a customer just because someone didn’t call back in a timely manner.

Now the good –I went to a new grocery store because they had been recommended by a friend for their good selection.  They are a little further away than the store I normally go to, but I thought I would give it a try.  The experience in the store was OK, not bad or good, but I had a nice interaction with an associate that helped me with an issue with the self-service machine.  When I went out to the car, it was raining in buckets and I ran to the car getting totally soaked along the way.  Just as I was backing out, at my window was the friendly associate standing in the pouring rain and motioning to me to put down the window.  It seems I had dropped my lime juice when I picked up my bags and she recognized it must be mine and had chased me to the car in the middle of a monsoon to give it back to me.  All I could think was “Wow – what an amazing store with wonderful associates!  I am definitely going back, even if it is further away!”

Two experiences – one almost lost me and one definitely gained my business, all because an employee did or didn’t follow-up.  This reinforces what we find through our research.  “Follow-up” is often a key moment of truth and when not done consistently and in a timely manner often becomes a customer “point of pain.”

So, how do you get employees to make sure they follow-up?  Using examples such as these help with understanding the emotions and the bottom line impact as you provide ongoing training and coaching. Another factor is to make sure you hire employees with a bent towards being conscientious.  How do you do that?  Stay tuned for another blog soon on “screening for conscientiousness.”

By Cindy Grimm, Chief CX Officer

While many organizations want to hear more of the “voice of the customer” and quickly launch surveys to gather that feedback, few actually reap the benefit of that data in a way that increases customer satisfaction and more importantly increases customer engagement and loyalty.  With today’s easy-to-use survey tools, anyone can create and distribute a survey and run tables, but few see value.

Our research, in partnership with Voice Crafter, through the 2017 Voice of the Customer Practices and Effectiveness Study, identifies key factors that lead to an effective Voice of the Customer Practice.

The research, with 289 companies nationwide across a variety of industries, targeted individuals who are primarily responsible for managing their organizations VoC program or are members of a team that provide support to VoC users/stakeholders.

We asked managers to describe the methods they use to capture VoC and to assess the overall success of their programs in:

Most characterized their program as “somewhat successful”, with less than 10% saying the program is “very successful”.  What can organizations do to move closer to a “very successful” program?  Our research suggests that practices fall into ten basic categories:

  1. Senior sponsorship and support of the VoC program
  2. Organizational engagement and buy-in with regard to the VoC program
  3. Methods of customer listening and learning
  4. Customer experience metrics and targets
  5. Analysis and integration of all VoC data
  6. Access to and dissemination of VoC data and insights
  7. Use of VoC to respond to and manage individual customer relationships
  8. Use of VoC to develop managers, employees and partners
  9. Use of the VoC to drive systemic improvement
  10. VoC program sustainability

So, obviously more than just sending surveys.  Over the next few weeks we will be posting more information about the results of our research and how organizations can build truly effective VoC programs that drive business results.

Over the past several weeks, CX Solutions and Voice Crafter have been sharing results of our 2016 Benchmark Study of Customer Engagement. We’ve provided a definition of Customer Engagement, tried to demonstrate why it matters, revealed some of the brands that are CE leaders, demonstrated the impact of effective contact handling, and last week, stressed the importance of coaching to the behaviors that drive engagement.

Clearly some companies stress the importance of and coach to behaviors that lead to high levels of engagement. Chick-fil-A, for one, surpasses KFC with respect to customer engagement, primarily attributable to superior customer services and to the way employees treat and engage with customers (Lessons from a Customer Engagement Leader). Similar findings were seen when we compared Verizon and Comcast results, with 81% of Verizon customers mentioning something positive about customer service and/or customer care, compared to only 19% of Comcast customers.
In this installment of our blog series, we continue to compare CE leaders against other companies, turning our attention to the airline industry. We surveyed customers of four airlines, and results are shown below.

First, note that the percent of customers “highly engaged” with Southwest Airlines is almost double that of the laggard in this category, United Airlines.

1

Although most people (78%) still choose “Price” as the primary reason for using Southwest airlines over competitors, when asked their satisfaction with various elements of service, the primary differentiators were “ease of doing business with” and satisfaction with “staff/employees.” This might indicate that although price is important for the initial selection of Southwest Airlines, staff and service levels are what keep Southwest customers engaged and coming back.
This is illuminated even more when looking at brand attributes, with 46% of Southwest Airlines customers “strongly agreeing” that Southwest Airlines “Cares about its customers”, whereas only 16% of United Airlines customers feel the same way.

2

This sentiment is clear from Southwest Airlines customer comments:

“They value customers and treat them well.”
“Allowing flights to be rescheduled. When my brother died, Southwest staff changed a flight I had already booked, then made sure the rest of the family could get on the new flight with me.”
“I had an anxiety attack on the flight and an attendant stayed with me the whole flight.”
“Southwest really cares about its customers.”
“The employees are always friendly and appear to like their jobs.”

Although a handful of United Airlines customers noted “customer service” or “quality of customer service” as a differentiator, none mentioned specific incidences of employee treatment, just overall service levels. The emotional engagement does not appear to be present, even for “satisfied” United Airlines customers.  This is clear in both the results of our benchmarking as well as the customer comments.

So what do Southwest Airlines and other CE leaders have in common?

First, it appears that one of the key elements is the high value placed on customer service among all else. As Southwest Airlines founder Herb Keller once said, “We tell our people, ‘Don’t worry about profit. Think about customer service.’ Profit is a by-product of customer service. It’s an end in and of itself.”

Second, CE leaders focus on their employees (in hiring practices too) and empower them to do what’s in the best interest of the customer. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of Southwest pilots ordering and paying for Pizzas for their passengers to keep passengers happy when a plane has to be diverted. Since their people are hired and trained according to the company’s customer service standards, they can be confident that the employee will make the right decisions and create a satisfied and engaged customer.

We’ll be sharing more findings from our 2016 Benchmark Study of Customer Engagement next week.  So, please stay tuned!

Notes:

  1. Gallo, C. (2013). “How Southwest and Virgin America Win by Putting People Before Profit”. Retrieved from com.

Over the past couple of weeks, the airlines have found themselves in the middle of a media firestorm, and unfortunately for United Airlines, they’ve attracted the greatest amount of attention. Seeing airlines battle through media adversity isn’t something new – flights cancelled due to weather, mechanical or computer issues, increases in baggage fees, smaller seats, less legroom, even the loss of peanuts and soft drinks have put the airlines front and center when it comes to media coverage and negative customer satisfaction. What makes all these scenarios different than what recently took place with United Airlines is these are more operational decisions. Yes, having to fit my 5’10” frame into a seat that accommodates someone who is half my height creates a negative customer experience, but it’s almost something we as flyers have come to accept. What happened on April 9 is not something any flyer will accept and the repercussions from decisions made on that day continue to haunt United Airlines and have set up warning triggers to the rest of the airline industry.

So how did this last round of airline rage start? On April 9 after United Flight 3411 was fully boarded it came to the attention of the United gate agents that United crew needed to board the fully booked flight to get to another location to man another flight . Volunteers were requested to deplane with a $1,000 compensation voucher. Volunteering fell short which left United Flight 3411 employees with what they felt, at the time, was the only option – remove an already seated passenger using force to make way for United employees. We’ve all seen the coverage that was captured from this unfortunate decision. Shock, rage, amazement — the list of words surrounding this event can go on for days.

Many of us probably said to ourselves, “Wow, those gate agents and flight crew made some poor decisions.” Having a communication’s background, I was one who actually eagerly anticipated United’s response. I’ve always taken it as a learning experience to see how companies communicate during times of crisis. Appalled is probably the best word to describe what I was feeling after reading United Airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz’s public statement issued on April 10. In the statement he provided an apology, unfortunately the apology was in reference to the overbooking situation, not to the passenger who was forcefully removed from the plane bruised, concussed and bleeding.

Instead of calming the situation, Mr. Munoz’s statement can be likened to pouring gasoline over an already out of control forest fire. Apparently I wasn’t alone in how the message was received. The media backlash was fierce and immediate. Then and only then, did it become clear to Mr. Munoz and the United “entity” that they needed to take ownership of not only the operational process but also the human aspect.

A second statement was then issued, this time with a more somber and heartfelt tone. “The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened.” It took a media backlash to get United to realize that they were responsible for the situation that took place and responsible for the pain, suffering and poor decision making that took place throughout the entire scenario

It’s surprising to me that most airlines equate customer satisfaction to operational tactics like the lowering of fares, achieving better on-time arrivals, reducing the frequency of lost luggage and improvements of in-flight services such as Wi-Fi access or snack options. Now I completely agree that all of these elements definitely help to provide a much better customer experience, but missing from the list of customer satisfaction offerings were the necessary behaviors – kindness, patience and empathy, that should be exhibited by each and every airline employee, starting at the top. Successful operations and processes won’t help companies achieve acceptable levels of customer satisfaction without a positive, caring, compassionate and empathetic human touch at the core of a company’s mission and strategy.

In fact, this is exactly what our recent research on Customer Engagement [More Lessons from CE Leaders – Why Southwest Airlines Succeeds at Customer Engagement]. There are two key elements the Customer Engagement (CE) leaders, including Southwest Airlines, have in common. The first is the high value placed on customer service among all else.  Second, CE leaders focus on their employees (in hiring practices too) and empower them to do what’s in the best interest of the customer, which makes me wonder, what would Southwest Airlines have done differently in this same situation?

A recent Harvard Business Review article (Customer Loyalty is Overrated, by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin, Jan-Feb 2017) makes the point that loyalty is driven primarily by habit, or “cumulative advantage” vs. “competitive advantage”. The authors make the point that the brain is wired to take the easy route and repetitive buying of a familiar brand is much easier than consciously making a new decision with every purchase. And “as long, of course, as the chosen product consistently fulfills expectations”, the customer is most likely to continue to purchase the tried and true.

The thesis makes sense. It is the reason that it is so hard to introduce a new product in the marketplace and why companies go to such length to protect the brand image. Keep customers happy and there is no reason for them to switch. It is the logic behind much of the work we do on the economic impact of customer experience leading to higher customer retention and bottom-line benefit.

But our research (2016 Customer Engagement Study, conducted by CX Solutions and Voice Crafter) shows that “Customer Engagement” is a level beyond loyalty or habitual purchasing. Customer Engagement includes both customer “affinity”, i.e., feelings of liking or attraction to a brand, and “activation”, i.e., engaging behavior towards a brand. We measured levels of customer engagement through feelings of emotional attachment (e.g., feelings of pride in the brand and willingness to go out of their way to purchase or continue to purchase even if not the lowest price) and examined associated customer behavior of brand engagement.

So why do we say that Customer Engagement goes beyond Loyalty or Willingness to Recommend? As a starting point, customers who are highly engaged with a brand continue to do business with a brand and they recommend the brand to others. However, highly engaged customers also exhibit a variety of other behaviors that go beyond the traditional measures of loyalty. For example, highly engaged customers are more likely to:

Therefore, Customer Engagement is good for a brand not only because highly engaged customers keep doing business and promote the brand, but because Customer Engagement increases and sustains a customer’s physical and psychological “presence” in his/her relationship with a brand, which has a number of benefits that go beyond repeat purchases, including a defense against potential issues or price increases.

Our research found that companies that have a high level of Customer Engagement (e.g., Chick-fil-A, Southwest Airlines and USAA) have achieved that through emphasis on (1) highly engaging employees, (2) customer-friendly technology, and (3) superior response to critical incidents (e.g., complaint and claims handling).

Simply put, companies with high levels of Customer Engagement make it easy for customers to both continue to purchase (don’t stop the habit) AND to amplify the brand through their actions. We find that measuring and driving “Customer Engagement” is a next level measure beyond loyalty or NPS that impacts the bottom line and increases customer stickiness for long term success.

Over the past several months I’ve had the pleasure to work with a client with a dedicated focus on improving their Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships; some people might even call this a “loyalty metric”. Keep in mind, this client’s NPS scores are already heads and tails ahead of their competition; but to them, they still see areas of opportunity. The team at CX Solutions completed a deep dive analysis, reviewing the client’s training methods, reporting and communication elements and coaching practices in addition to reviewing customer contacts to gain a better understanding of their current scores. While the majority of what we reviewed demonstrated a company with a solid focus on catering to their customer’s needs, we did uncover an area of opportunity as it pertains to engaging and connecting. A greater focus on creating an emotional connection with the customer was a key element to improved NPS scores.
 
As I listened to hours upon hours of recorded calls something became very clear; the engaging and connecting aspect of the calls was often missing, but the positive voice tone coming from virtually every agent helped to compensate for the lack of emotional connection. Now I’m not saying that engaging is unnecessary to achieve great NPS scores. In fact, the building of relationships is what drives NPS further up the continuum. What’s important to note, based off this particular client, is having positive voice tone helped to set the stage for a more satisfied and thus, loyal, customer. The door to engaging and connecting with their customers was being flung wide open with the dedicated focus on great tone of voice.
 
Each call seemed to start at the same high level, right off the bat, due to the positive and professional tone of voice; there was a consistent lift. Not only was it consistently welcoming and professional, you could almost see the smiles on the agents’ faces. In training we often talk about putting a smile on your face. As silly as it might sound, people can hear a smile from across a telephone line and that was completely apparent in my time monitoring their calls.
 
In the past we’ve worked with clients who struggle with creating that solid connection with their customers. Often times we spend a great deal of time working with the leadership teams on coaching techniques to improve the tone of voice, a necessary first step to help the agent connect with the customer. Understanding what constitutes great, professional sounding voice tone takes practice and, for some, it’s a skill that is hard to crack. In this particular scenario, a solid framework was already in place. It was evident that leadership time, attention and coaching was dedicated to this very important customer service behavior.
 
As you look at your organization’s NPS scores, take some time to review and listen to the communication between your front-line agents and customers. Often times we get so caught up in the process of the call, the flow or the amount of items that must be addressed on each call, that we sometimes overlook the standard behaviors that are most important to our customers. What’s the tone of the conversation? Can you “hear a smile” on your agents’ faces? These are the behaviors that ring true to our customers; these are the behaviors that create long-term loyalty.