Hi Matthew, tell us about yourself and your background.
First of all, many thanks for asking me to participate. I am British but have lived overseas for the last 25 years — mostly in the US, but also in South America, Europe, and Asia — working in the energy sector, specifically on the marketing side, developing and executing the retail offer. This gave a real window on CX in other parts of the world — that has come in handy.
I now live in Portland, Oregon and started my customer feedback business, Oberon3, about 10 years ago. Opiniator, our product, is a virtual comment card, delivered via mobile phone at the point of experience. That improves customer retention because it allows the business to take on the spot, real time action.
How did you start working in the customer experience space?
I was the US brands manager for a large oil business that ran many gas stations and C Stores. The defection rate / decline in wallet share in the industry is well into double digits (gas and cstore). At that time – there the only method to gauge was mystery shopping. The latter is expensive and ineffective at stopping defection so we started to think through how we can measure CX, on location and in real-time. This was my first determined effort to focus on CX.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?
I founded my current business to provide a solution to businesses who want an on-location, real time method to understand CX and of course be able to take action, if that the customer is unhappy and the CX is poor. We have built some unique technology — and my role is to ensure it meets the needs of the market.
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
- Segment the customer base. Do not assume all your customers are equal, so don’t think you have to listen to all of them.
- Prune your current CX strategy budget. I see far too many companies starting these big initiatives that sound sexy and productive but are generally badly executed. Why journey map if you cannot deliver operationally? The yardstick should be to focus on improving defection rates among the group(s) above.
- Spend on operations. Make the day-to-day transaction the best it can be. Have clean facilities, friendly and empowered staff. Do 20 things marginally better than the competition and you will attract AND retain — without CX consultants running the show.
- Enable point of experience feedback on and offline – but ONLY if you are going to commit the resources to taking immediate action on that feedback. Why ask for feedback at any point – if the action taken is either non-existent or simply too late to prevent defection. Or worse defection, and online complaints. Enable feedback on their terms – not yours.
- Repeat Step 1 annually and deliver tracking every 6 months to confirm strategically you are delivering the offer they want.
- Do NOT over survey….EVER!
What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?
Amazon leads the pack online. IKEA leads offline. They commit to high standards and back these up operationally — combined with easy communications and they deliver on their promises.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
Never lose sight of what the customer has to do to transact with you, on- or offline. Keep it simple. Do not invest in technology just because others have implemented slowly and tested with your target market to confirm it solves a problem for them…. NOT simply get the CX tick in the box.
What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I am not sure that AI has featured in current tool stacks, but this is going to be the one to watch — particularly for the online experience. I think it will vastly improve: assist customers in resolving problems faster; improve recommendations. Offline — nothing seen yet.
Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?
Yes! The Effortless Experience by Nick Toman and Rick DeLesi. It’s a review and roadmap on Customer Loyalty. It is an easy read but stuffed with some practical ideas — that can be applied across industries and departments.
What is your favorite CX metric?
It is NOT NPS. It is defection rate. If you cannot keep customers, then nothing else matters.