Hi Nick, tell us about yourself and your background.
I run a company called Paradigm CX Ltd, whose purpose is to provide expert customer insights that drive performance improvement through better employee and customer outcomes.
I am a Customer Experience specialist who has over 16 years’ experience operationalising insights to drive change positive customer focused change within organisations.
Both as a head of Customer Research (VoC and Mystery Shopping) and actively client-side leading significant customer experience and customer service transformation projects.
Before this I was involved in retail distribution for e-commerce helping online companies engage with large music and film studios to distribute, stream and sell their products through this new retail channel. It was this new age of consumption which really hooked me on why customers buy, what triggers a great experience and why do customers become loyal and spend more as a result. Hence, I moved into research and customer strategy.
As a result of my combined client-side and research experience, I am able to offer solutions to start-ups, successful growing SME’s and large organisations who are looking to ideate, implement or improve their customer experience through measuring the right thing in the right way and then using it to benefit their employees, customers and the business.
What is the biggest misunderstanding about customer experience, in your opinion?
Customer experience is often confused with customer service. Customer service is a vital and often under invested element of a customer journey but is not a replacement term.
In the book Customer Experience 3, I defined customer experience as “a dynamic combination of conscious and subconscious emotions, resulting in the perception a person has about an organisation or brand. The influences that an organisation, it’s people, it’s products, and it’s digital technology has on every touch-point that a person experiences, triggering memories over time.”
Now of course, having a complaint resolved brilliantly will contribute to these positive memories. However, CX is not just about having a customer focus this week! CX is about being genuinely customer-oriented as a business culture. From C-suite to customer facing Store Assistant, where all decision making in the organisation considers the customer outcome when designing processes, recruitment, training and all touchpoints with customers.
What are some of the newer CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I am starting to see a convergence of thinking between advertising measurement from the shopper insight world and customer experience measurement. This is represented in my definition of Customer Experience, where by looking at the emotional impact of customer touch points through neuro science is starting to emerge as an important new measurement tool. Combine this with improving artificial intelligence and machine learning, the technology is now becoming more easily personalised and customers can truly choose an experience what is individual to them with less cost and effort. This is something that as Paradigm CX we are exploring as an integral part of the future measurement of customers and how we understand their fundamental needs.
What can companies do to improve customer loyalty and retention?
Fundamentally understanding and meeting the needs you fulfil for customers consistently will drive loyalty and retention. Getting the basics right and having a way to measure how well you do this will insure you can continually improve through small changes leading to marginal gains. Which, overtime, will amount to significant growth. Sometimes the focus can be too much on new sales and retention can become an issue.
Knowing why customers buy from you and then meeting this need with excellence every time more important than having loyalty schemes or incentives. However, these activities are a secondary growth mechanic that will drive frequency and average life time value for a customer.
What do you think is most relevant and why: CSAT (customer satisfaction score), NPS (net promoter score), or CES (customer effort score)?
Actually, the metric required needs to reflect the type of organisation and the industry they operate within. Also, how the metric is applied will have a direct impact on its success.
The way surveys are written naturally leads the respondent especially if pre-coded answers are used. The positioning of questions in a survey will impact the outcome. For example; NPS or Net Promoter System, should always be the first question in a survey as it will be the least impacted by the respondent considering the answers to other questions in the survey. Customer Satisfaction should be at the end as it is a round up of the total experience. Customer Effort score can be harder for respondents to relate to in a physical engagement, however, this works well as a digital measure.
There is another metric emerging which is Customer Needs Score, how well does an organisation meet the needs of a customer and therefore are they getting the basics right?
For example; traditionally, people would not proactively recommend their bank in the UK as it was not culturally not accepted to speak of money, even if they had a positive view of the company. Therefore, NPS becomes a less relevant metric, however, if your needs are met well and consistently this would be a more accurate measure of success within retail banking.
The danger with all of these measures if the way in which they are used to affect change in an organisation. Rather than use the insights to inform change, often the metrics are used as a target to improve performance. There are two issues for me in this:
- The measures often reflect intangible elements or corporate policy that a member of staff has no influence over and therefore cannot directly influence.
- There is no link between the outcome of the score and the action required to improve the experience of the customer. Therefore, in some cases rendering it impossible to know what to do differently even if the member of staff can influence the outcomes.
To this end, it is vital to collect verbatim and gift empowerment to employees to adopt certain changes to improve their customers’ experience. The trend for very short coded feedback without any verbatim removes the ability to understand and learn in detail the WHY?.
How can companies better use social media in the era of customer-centricity and personalization?
I often talk about individuated consumption and the fact that with a smart phone, anyone is instantly more intelligent and informed. As a result, people are able to choose their own way or channel to interact with organisations. Social networks are each a different channel. Whilst some are not commercial channels, they are all touch-points and can reinforce brand perception.
I think there is an element of fear for some brands whilst for others this is the life blood of their success. The use of “influencers” to promote a brand can be extremely powerful in reaching potential customers aspirational needs and therefore, to be like their idol, people buy into the same brands and lifestyle.
However, organisations who do not adopt social as a channel for feedback are risking significant brand damage. These same influencers can pull down a brand if they have a negative experience and tell their audience about it. The early interception of these incidents can turn this around and create positive outcomes for brands and customers through excellent recovery.
What is your opinion on AI-based chatbots to handle customer support?
Part of personalisation is that customers want choice how they meet their different needs, AI and Machine Learning can facilitate this for simple requests but currently cannot be a replacement for human interaction in a time of customer crisis.
For simple tasks people judge the experience based on the effort or time taken to achieve those tasks, such as booking an appointment or finding a location on a map. Enabling people to navigate online and discover this information is something AI and bots do very well.
However, in a time of crisis customers still find it more comforting to speak to a human being, not only can they express genuine empathy, but they can decipher the inaccuracies and multiple terms a customer may use in trying to explain their situation and required outcome. Such judgements are still not easy to translate into AI.
There will be a time, I am sure when AI and Chatbots improve to a point of managing a larger portion of contacts however, when you consider the human needs, there is currently only one rule of best practice.
What was the best movie you saw that has come out during this past year?
As a petrol head, I eagerly anticipated the release of Lemans ’66 with Matt Damon and Christian Bale. I have long been a Caroll Shelby fan however, the story of the injustices and unrecognised genius of Ken Miles was represented well in this film. Not just a great engineer, Ken Miles was by far the best racing driver in the team – however he was ostracised by management as he didn’t fit the typical commercial archetype.
I can relate this to CX in that some companies find this a scary proposition; others think they know best and can lead it themselves! However, rather than being threatened by CX experts (CX mechanics and drivers); organisations should embrace the innovation and new practices they introduce as the benefits to the overall company returns can be extraordinary!
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I deliberately do not have a favourite CX metric, I believe that the right metric should be applied to the right situation. However, there is one thing I am certain of when measuring customers. One metric is not enough, if you only take one view, look at something from one perspective or through one persons’ eyes – you will limit the insights required to make a rounded, balanced and correct business decision. Therefore, the use of more than one metric measuring across multiple channels will be required to understand the impact of all customer touchpoints on their experience. But! For this to work each measurement must be designed to compliment a cross functional purpose and should be build together so that they draw complimentary not contradictory insights. All too often, measures are built in isolation to meet different needs meaning they cannot be combined for the greater good without re-design and alignment. Something the CX Mechanics among us will solve for organisations needing to re-tune and customise their CX!