Meet the Team… Giorgia Amici

We’re delighted to kick off our new Meet the Team feature here on the TruRating blog, and what better way to start than with Front-end Lead Engineer extraordinaire (and all round lovely person to boot) Giorgia Amici.

Giorgia brings a little bit of Italian flair to our London HQ, and we were keen to learn a little more about how and why she got into doing what she does today…

Take it away Giorgia!

Hey Giorgia – could you tell us a little bit about what you do an what a typical day at TruRating look like for you?

Sure! I work with the Product and Data teams to make sure that the frontend team delivers on the overall TruRating product suite.  We meet at 10:30AM for our daily standup, where we update the team on what we did the day before and what we are planning on doing that day. After that, well we work!  I’ll start off by looking at the current list of features we’re delivering or perhaps will spend some time with the data team to discuss any upcoming initiatives.

What I like about being a frontend engineer is that you are always working alongside product, design and UX but also data and backend. This keeps things interesting and makes it fun!

Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into tech and product?

I’ve always been interested in maths and statistics. Then at Uni, I discovered programming and computer science and it just clicked – I knew straight away that this what I wanted to do!

What advice would you give to somebody considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?

I advise you to get a mentor, whatever your gender. A mentor is someone that should inspire you in all different levels and provide you with training, tips, and support.

My mentor is Claire Davenport. She is the CEO of HelloFresh. She has always been such an inspirational woman: passionate, smart, driven and a natural leader. While I was still new in the industry I was taken under her wing and given my confidence thanks to Claire’s guidance.

By giving me independence and guiding me to find my own answers when I doubted myself, she helped me define what I wanted from the future of my career. Claire is a true inspiration, always investing time in people, even with a packed schedule. A mentor will never give you an answer to your questions, they will give you the tools and support so that you can find the answers yourself.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

There is definitely an imbalance in terms of numbers. The main reason is probably that historically computer science is not something girls were interested in. But now, with the ubiquity of companies like Facebook, Uber, Google, women do understand the importance of technology in everyday life and are more interested in being involved in it. Technology is such a broad sector that everyone can really find their own voice.

Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of their career?

Never be afraid to say “I don’t know” – it’s the best way to start learning

Any reading or websites you would recommend to stay updated?

If you like frontend – I’d check out https://www.jstips.co/

Tell us a fun fact about you.

I broke the same leg twice, same spot, same way just 3 years apart… trust me I am a good skier!

 

CX Icon: Jeanne Bliss Pt 2.

Welcome back to part two of our conversation with the godmother of customer experience herself, Jeanne Bliss.

In a fascinating follow-up to part one, this week we discuss the impact of hiring on the customer experience, what it means to practice ‘fearless listening’ and dig deeper into the ultimate purpose of the Chief Customer Officer.

A huge thank you to Jeanne again for taking the time to speak to us, we thoroughly enjoyed it, over to you…

While there’s no ‘secret recipe’ to getting CX right, you’ve talked about how important hiring can be as a part of the process… could you elaborate on that for us? 

Let me give you a perfect retail example.  We’ve all been to stores that sell swimming suits. For a woman, this can be a horrible experience. It’s just not always a fun thing to do. As a business, you have to ask yourself: are you hiring people who have the empathy and skill to make a potentially awkward experience joyful? Do you have the right people onside and have you trained them to diagnose your customers’ needs with empathy?

For me, it all starts with deliberateness.  You need to ask yourself, what memory do I want people to walk out of my store with?  Do you want your customer to walk out feeling demoralized that the teenage sales assistant in the store can’t possibly understand what it means to be a 50-year-old woman buying a swimming suit? Or to come out thinking, “Wow they really took the time to listen”, or, “Well, I didn’t buy a suit today, but I’m going to go back because I know they can really help me with this and make me feel comfortable.”

Asking the customer how it’s going, always helps to point us in the right direction. But in order to start taking actions from that feedback, you need to have conversations with your customers, where you can see their faces.  Rather than just asking them about their experience, you need to ask about their lives.  Who are they? What are their goals?  What do they need?  What’s working and what’s not?  That will lead you to the truer picture of how to stand out, how to connect, and ultimately, how to be specific in the things that will set you apart.  I call this “fearless listening”.

We’ve got – and I’m grateful for this – way past focus groups where we put customers in a room, with company leaders behind a mirror watching.  What we’re doing now is closer to a form of anthropology, because we start with the customer, with their life and their goals.  Feedback points us in the right direction but we then need to consider:  what more do we need to know to start taking action?  Human context is key.

What would your advice be for a retailer looking to embed the ‘human context’ into their daily practices?

The fortunate thing for retail is that it is less complex than health care or buying an insurance policy, it is less complex than working with a financial advisor…

There are 3 key things that retailers need to get deliberate about:

  1. What is your purpose? Is it understood and known throughout the organization? Is management flexible enough to let employees own it and translate it? Does the organization provide people examples to follow?
  2. Do you really know your customers?  Have you dug in and done the hard work of talking to them in earnest, listening to them fearlessly and understanding their lives?
  3. What is the memory you want to imprint?  What are your marquee moments? Are you hiring the right people and behaving in the right way to make sure you hit those moments?

Retail doesn’t have the complexity of being a regulated industry, so the world is your oyster in terms of really crafting experience, but you have to have clarity and deliberation about what you’re trying to achieve.  People need to own that sense of purpose throughout the organization.  Shameless plug, but that’s what I was thinking about when I wrote my book, “Would You Do That To Your Mother?”  Are you crafting each part of your customer journey with that kind of ‘personal barometer’ in mind?

It’s interesting that you mention ownership here.  There’s a tendency for organizations to say that ‘everyone owns the customer experience’.  Does that seem like an oversimplification to you?

There are a couple of points I’d make here.  First, when it comes to customer experience, every organization needs to ‘build an engine’ to manage it.  By that I mean every company needs to have a very deliberate process for how they go about acquiring and processing customer information. To be able to organize customer information into clear storytelling, to be able to render a single version of the truth, to help leadership understand what’s working and what’s not.  That is the work of a Chief Customer Officer.  You need to build this engine so that as an organization, you’re not just constantly reacting all the time.

A lot of businesses struggle to do this. But get it right and it will cascade throughout your team so that delivering a ‘marquee moment’ is inherently a part of the job, wherever you happen to sit in the organization.  If we just say, ‘it’s everybody’s job to love the customer’, that can end up meaning everything and nothing at the same time.

Just another corporate mantra?

Well, that’s the second part of it.  We all like to say we love the customer, but perhaps we have policies in place that cause 10 customers a month to walk out of our stores unhappy.  As a front-line person, I can’t be happy doing something I know doesn’t make sense.  If we really love the customer, and you love me as an employee, and you want me to deliver value to the customer, then hire me because I’m smart and empathetic.  Trust me to make the right decisions for the customer and the business.

Policies are there to provide frameworks.  But we need to be secure in the knowledge that we’ve hired good people, who know how to engage a certain amount of flexibility when it’s warranted.

So are you saying that employees need to be even more empowered in terms of being creative when it comes to CX?

Customer Experience exists to reveal incongruencies and to unite leaders in enabling their people to make the right decisions. I have a podcast.  I call it the “Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show” for this reason.  Our work is to unite the disparate parts of the organization to see what the customer sees.  To shed light on the things we can’t see inside of our silo.  To understand what we’re putting our employees and our customers through, deliberate or not.

Thanks so much for talking Jeanne, it’s been fascinating – do you have a final message for our audience?

Recognize that our responsibility is to improve lives.  We’re all dealt life and we can choose to be givers or takers.  Bravery in business develops givers, whose behaviors earn prosperity – not only financial but in the human spirit.  Decide which one you want to be. Ultimately, it comes down to choosing whether you will or won’t grow.

________

Jeanne’s latest book Would You Do That To Your Mother? Is a fantastic introduction to her work.  For readers who would like a taster, you can download the first chapter here.

If you’d like to hear even more from Jeanne, the Customer Bliss website is a veritable treasure trove of fantastic information and insight.

For more in the CX Icon Series, you can check out our previous entries below:

Jeanne Bliss Part 1

Jeremy Watkin

Shep Hyken

Annette Franz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CX Icon: Jeanne Bliss Pt 1.

Jeanne Bliss is widely known as the “godmother of customer experience”.  Since 2002 she has guided customer experience transformations for major global organizations with her firm, CustomerBliss, and has inspired audiences through her keynote speeches.  She is the co-founder of the Customer Experience Professional’s Association.

Jeanne’s latest book Would You Do That to Your Mother? is available now and offers a personal take on business fundamentals thanks to her uniquely human approach. We were honored to speak to her, and covered so much interesting ground that we had to split our conversation into two!

Another fantastic entry to the CX Icon series – enjoy…

For those who may not know you by name, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was the first Chief Customer Officer at Land’s End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. In 2006 I wrote my first book Chief Customer Officer. Since then I’ve been coaching senior leaders and organizations who have either hit the wall or are just starting their transformations. Very often, I’m helping companies with the role of Chief Customer Officer or working with a team of people doing the work of a CCO. I’m also the co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association.

Since you started writing and about and advocating for the role of CCO, do you think the business community has caught up when it comes to thinking about CX?

I think three big forcing functions have occurred to make the customer experience more deliberate and wanted.

1. We went through an economic downturn where enlightened companies (and even the less enlightened) finally reconciled and understood that the organic growth of their current customer base, was more profitable and sustainable than relying on pure acquisition. For a long time, acquisition or the sales strategy was considered the only growth strategy.

2. The explosion of social media has put storytelling in the customers’ hands. Businesses can’t just make unchallenged claims about who they are, they have to prove it through their behavior and their actions.  It’s about how customers are treated, the humanity and empathy of the organization, how deliberate they are in helping customers achieve their goals.

3. Leaders around the world began recognizing the challenges of running a silo-based operation. Independent KPI’s can add complexity to the customer’s experience. When KPI’s are misaligned, business silos don’t unite organically, and it’s being recognized that either a Chief Customer Officer or a group of people performing that role, needs to help unite the organization.

What are the most common challenges for the C-Suite in terms of actually implementing an effective strategy?

Two things tend to stand in the way of any well-intentioned organization. One is a united leadership team. If leadership isn’t united in understanding and recognizing where they are in terms of both customer and employee experience, any effort to move forward will hit a wall of misaligned people.

The second is about deliberation. Leadership needs to understand and recognize that customer experience is a deliberate set of actions and work they need to be personally involved in. Simply jobbing out a voice of the customer program and passively consuming it isn’t enough. Personal and deliberate involvement is critical. Strategically and symbolically – it helps the wider company recognize the work as real.

Often work to do with CX, in a well-intended way, occurs because scores are bad or a leader goes out in the field and has a ride along to visit a store and they see something happening, and suddenly that’s the new priority – but we don’t know in the context of everything occurring, if that’s the right priority, let alone the number one.

Interesting…

The other challenge is that lists of actions or problems start to get generated in silos.  What we appear to be working on becomes so large that it becomes easy to give ourselves a false positive. We trick ourselves into thinking the sheer volume of actions will have an equitable impact on the customer experience.

If we can just focus on one or two things, and really solve them end-to-end, that process becomes an iterative and repeatable skill, that positively impacts the lives of employees and customers. But if we’re exhausting the organization while simultaneously giving ourselves a false positive, and we’re shocked that customers are still unhappy, then customer sentiment and feedback aren’t in alignment with needs.  Quite honestly that’s the crossroads we’ve been at in this field for a long time.

Would you say there is a common set of behaviors among retailers who are currently ‘getting it right’ when it comes to customer experience? 

Clarity of purpose. The organizations, CEOs and leaders that immediately spring to mind as ‘getting it right’ might do a wide variety of things, but they’re all very clear about why they’re in business.  I just interviewed the CCO of R.E.I (Ben Steele). R.E.I. is a retailer that is very clear about their purpose, which is to help people be outside and have a life that includes the outdoors and activity. That’s great!  But to truly fulfill that purpose the organization needs to hire people who embrace it and live it and can help customers in whatever their version of that is, even if they happen to be in New York living in a little apartment.  Their people need to operationalize the company values through their actions and behavior.

That deliberateness of saying “Who are we?” takes hard work and heavy lifting. It’s quite honestly rare, but those that do it are the companies that you truly, truly love. It’s not an everyday plan or set of actions; it’s about leadership first, and deliberateness, and being what I call a “salmon leader” and choosing not to do a certain number of things.

Here’s another example.  Virgin Hotels decided they were not going to charge for room service or WIFI.  Raul Leal the C.E.O. considers WIFI a right, not a revenue stream. They have deliberately walked away from the add-on charges that traditional hoteliers look at as a revenue stream.  Instead, they said, “We’re going to compete on service and experience and make up our revenue and growth in that way,” and they have.

They’ve been named the number one hotel by Travel and Leisure, they are expanding exponentially, their profitability and growth are very high.  That takes leadership and specificity.

Would you say that brand authenticity has become just as important a part of customer experience as, say, how much something costs, or how quickly it can be delivered to you?

I would say it’s surpassed it in importance. Our tolerance for inauthenticity is much, much lower than it was in the past. Trust is the most powerful KPI that an organization can have, but you have to operationalize trust with your behaviors. You have to earn trust with your behaviors.

This is really where I really focus on my work with leaders and organizations, to get them to answer the question: “Who are you? Are your customers clear about that?” The great story of R.E.I. is that they put their money where their mouth is, by saying “Look, we believe being outside with the family is so important, that we’re going to shutter our doors on Black Friday.” An extreme example but a great demonstration of really living your values.

I don’t think that our processes for hiring retail salespeople are as creative or interesting as they could or should be. If engagement, guidance, and memory are three things that you want your retail customer to experience, are you hiring for that? Are you coaching for that? Are you giving people permission to make exceptions on hard and fast rules when their common sense tells them the customer and situation merits an exception? Not only for the sake of the customer but ultimately for the long term growth and benefit of the organization?

It all has to start with hiring. Are you hiring people who you trust to make these kinds of decisions? In the absence of hiring the right people, we put rules and policies in place that diminish their energy and often drive our customers kind of nuts…

_______

Jeanne’s latest book Would You Do That to Your Mother? is available now and offers a personal take on business fundamentals with a uniquely human-first approach. If you’d like to read more, you can download the first chapter of the book by clicking here.

Look out soon for the concluding part of this interview, if you can’t wait till then, why not check out our previous entries to the Icon series below:

Annette Franz

Shep Hyken

Jeremy Watkin

ARA Magazine: Why an investment in staff is an investment in your bottom line

“In 2019 customer experience is a top priority and it’s success begins and ends with one transaction” – Dylan Berrington, Head of TruRating ANZ 

As the retail year begins to warm up, there’s no better time than to make sure you’re getting the fundamentals right.  Dylan Berrington, Head of TruRating Australia and New Zealand spoke to the Australian Retailer Association for the latest issue of “The Retailer” magazine, discussing the relationship between investing in staff and your bottom line.

Download your free copy today and head to p36-7 for the full story.

 

 

CX Icons: Jeremy Watkin

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR. He has more than 18 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional. He’s also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.

Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

Would you mind telling us a little about how you got started in customer experience? Was it something you’d always been interested in or was it a happy twist of fate?

I grew up in contact centers for SAAS startups speaking with customers and navigating the variety of issues that arise in that sort of environment. Inevitably we’d work through outages, bugs, and challenges with the overall user experience. I found that I truly enjoyed working with the other groups within the organization, whether it be engineering, marketing, or others, to ensure we were effectively listening to our customers and continuously improving our product. In all honesty, I still live in the contact center world and still consider myself a “customer service guy” at heart, but I always find that this work is a natural segue into the overall customer experience.

Did I know I wanted to follow this career trajectory? Not a chance! But I always knew I could work well with people and help solve problems, and customer experience work certainly allows me do that.

Your role involves working frequently with ‘frontline agents’… could you give us a little more insight into what that means on a daily basis, and where it fits into the wider CX puzzle?

I have the privilege of working at an outsourcer which means I get to work with frontline agents for dozens of clients that span a variety of industries. Any time I engage with our frontline agents it’s a learning experience. Given that I also do a lot with quality assurance, I always approach this from a couple different angles. First of all, whether I’m speaking with agents in a round table setting, sitting side by side as they serve customers, or reviewing interactions for quality, I’m first listening for ways we can improve the service we provide. The second angle is that I’m constantly listening for those insights from customers and agents that will help our clients improve their customer experience.

Any time I engage with our frontline agents it’s a learning experience. 

Employee Engagement is a phrase that crops up in conversations these days – how big a part does employee experience play in creating a strong CX culture?

Admittedly, this one took me a little while to figure out but every employee must understand how their work touches customers — whether it’s directly or indirectly. When leaders begin to understand this, they start to see the impact of employee engagement on customer engagement. There are tons of things that impact employee engagement and it’s our job as leaders to eliminate as many of the obstacles as we possibly can.

Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to promote a CX or VOC program in their organization?  Any advice for pitching it to the ‘C-suite’?

In my opinion there’s too much talk about CX and not enough doing. Before we start beating the drum let’s roll up our sleeves and be a part of the solution. This means that whatever your level in your organization, you can start improving the CX right now. If you’re a frontline agent, show up every day ready to make a difference. If you’re a programmer, seek out voice of customer feedback about your product to design the best experience possible. If you’re a manager, start listening to your customers and agents because they are already telling you how to improve. I’m a huge fan of a ground swell in organizations where folks realize that it’s both more fun and it’s better business to collaborate on a better customer experience.

In my opinion there’s too much talk about CX and not enough doing. Before we start beating the drum let’s roll up our sleeves and be a part of the solution.

Many businesses struggle when it comes to ‘actioning’ insights from customers – do you think the smaller details can be just as significant as big ‘initiatives’?

In my world, we’re fairly familiar with customer surveys whether it’s CSAT, NPS, or CES. If you already have that data and are just tracking a score, you’re missing the boat. Take time to review the negative feedback from customers and correlate it back to the specific issue type(s). Once you’ve done that work you can then show the impact to key metrics by fixing certain issues, or adding certain features, or correcting certain frontline agent behaviors. This helps us be a bit more strategic about where we devote resources.

Do you have any advice for someone struggling to prove the ROI of a CX program?  

I’ve been guilty of creating a CX/VOC program that consisted of a catchy title, colorful posters, and not much else. For any initiative to be successful it’s going to require buy in in your organization and it’s always going to require consistency and discipline to ensure that we don’t lose interest and move on to a new flavor next month.

What are the latest trends in ‘Voice of the Customer’ technology that you currently find interesting?

It’s a lot of work to sift through thousands of customer interactions to truly hear the voice of the customer. The combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand what customers are saying with appropriate comprehension and context, and Machine Learning to consistently bucket that feedback to understand key customer insights is incredibly exciting. Whether it’s speech and text analytics or tools that analyze customer survey responses, if they incorporate NLP and Machine Learning they become all the more useful.

At TruRating we strive to provide businesses with feedback that truly represents  the majority of a businesses customers – do you think that VOC programs can be skewed by extremes of opinion, be they overtly negative or positive? 

When reviewing voice of customer feedback it’s so natural to fixate too much on the negative and forget that there’s a lot we’re doing right as a business.  On the other hand, it’s just as easy to lean more toward the positive and dismiss valuable feedback as being unfounded and off base.  Neither approach is helpful and we must instead strive to find a balance.  For example, if your customer satisfaction rating is 95%, be sure to celebrate the fact that you’re doing a great job the vast majority of the time.  But be sure to dig into that other 5% and constantly look for ways to reduce that number through customer experience improvement.

When reviewing voice of customer feedback it’s so natural to fixate too much on the negative and forget that there’s a lot we’re doing right as a business. 

Finally, and we’re being cruel here, what is the one most important reason that businesses should be focusing on CX today?

I’ve more than once reminded some of my close friends in the industry that most businesses don’t focus on CX because it’s the right thing to do in an altruistic sense. Certainly there are organizations that serve a higher purpose, but by and large most organizations are chasing the almighty buck. Thankfully, it’s been proven over and over again that a great CX is great business and will yield great returns. It’s been fascinating to see traditional industries get completely disrupted by this fact. Hopefully you’re a part of a disruptor and not the disrupted.

A HUGE thank you for taking the time to speak to us today! We mentioned it at the top but no harm in doing it once more here, for a regular sprinkling of CX wisdom, do follow Jeremy on Twitter and LinkedIn and make sure to follow the Customer Service Life blog.

Hungry for more CX magic? Check out our previous entries in the series:

Shep Hyken

Annette Franz

 

 

CX Icons: Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service expert and keynote speaker, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. In 2008 Shep was inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the professional speaking industry.

We caught-up with Shep shortly after the publication of his latest book The Convenience Revolutionto find out why making life easy for the customer, is where businesses really need to be paying attention in 2019…

Could you tell us a little bit about your new book The Convenience Revolution?

Sure, the subtitle is, how to deliver a customer service experience that disrupts the competition and creates a fierce loyalty.  Somebody asked me, Why do you choose the companies you choose to do business with?  I mean, you love doing business with companies that treat you right and add value beyond just the product that they sell you in the form of the experience… but then I thought about it some more and it struck me, there is another reason I choose to do business with one company over another and that’s how easy they make it for me.

This seemed kind of interesting, so I looked to see if anyone else had written a book on just this subject – ease and convenience – and well, that’s how it all got started.  If I was to ask you, who would you say are the most convenient company on the planet right now?

Off the top of the head, you’d probably have to say Amazon…

Right! Amazon made it just so easy.  There is a reason this company has done well. It is not just innovation, it is innovation that made life more convenient for their customers, and I said, okay, let’s take a look at what companies are disrupting others in their industry, not because they are a better product, but all things being equal, that they deliver a better experience, especially in the form of being convenient.

When I started, gosh, I had several hundred companies that I could have written about, so we narrowed it down to six basic principles of convenience.  Amazon does all six – some just do one and they do it so well that it steals business from others… anyway it struck me that this was something interesting enough to write a book about.

Just as the book was getting into its final form, a major organization came out with a study that says, Convenience: The Currency of the Future.” And I thought – ha – maybe I am on to something after all…

When did CX become the catch-all phrase for things like service, satisfaction and, well, convenience?

Well, over the years ‘experience’ has become the big differentiation point.  When companies used to go for bigger market share they would spend money on advertising and marketing, but then along came social media and the Internet, and review sites, and all of a sudden, people are reviewing companies, not just on the products that they sold but the experience that they had.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had an iPhone or iPad, but when you open it, just the box itself is an experience, and that is part of the packaging and design – experience design –  it makes you think, “wow, I think they made the right decision because this makes me feel real good”.  The rise of digital and the ability to communicate widely allowed for people to start talking about those experiences, not just about the product, and that became a big deal…

Now, when you talk about customer experience, it’s everything related to any interaction you had with a company or with a product and companies are recognizing the importance of not letting a customer down at any of these interaction points.

They are designing the experience for, hopefully, maximum appreciation from their customer.  Whether it be the product, the people over the phone, the intuitiveness and the easiness of using the website, the ability to chat with somebody through instant chat or chat bot… as time progresses, companies are realizing that every time customers interact with them they have an opportunity to enhance that experience.

At TruRating, we’re interested in helping businesses understand their customer experience – which is not always easy.  Apparently 72% of businesses claim that CX is there No. 1 priority – what proportion do you think are getting it right?

Well I mean, if 72% are trying to do it, you have to imagine that at least is 28% are screwing up… that’s number one. Number two, I think that just because you are thinking about it is not good enough at all – you’ve got to take action too.  At the end of the day, the customer is judge and the jury – it’s the customer’s perception of what you are doing that counts. There’s plenty of services out there that will say to a company, “Oh, yeah, we’re working really hard to deliver a better experience. We have done this, that, and the other. We spent this much money,” and then you go to the customer and the customer’s surveyed and guess what, the numbers don’t match up. The customer says, “You know what, I don’t think they’re doing a good job,” yet, the company is investing in this service.

I urge companies to not only look at their closest competitor as far as benchmarking a standard that might be acceptable, but look at some of the other companies that are the rock stars in the business. What is it that Amazon is doing that you are not, that you could do? And who cares if the competitor is not doing it?  If it’s something that makes sense financially and it makes sense to the customer, and it’s going to increase value, perhaps you should be considering it.

Back to the question, how many are doing it right? When you look at different industries, you can tell who the laggards are. I mean, I could take you to five different restaurants five days in a row, and at the end, you will say, “Well, this one was great and this one wasn’t, and then we will go look at all the statistics and the feedback, and guess what, you are probably right, yet all five of them probably think they are doing a good job.

Which is interesting… we recently spoke to Annette Franz, a friend of yours, and she described customer experience as ‘hard work – a journey’ one you have to consistently pay attention to.  What is it about customer experience that makes it so hard to get right?

If somebody who starts a company is passionate about something, they’ve got to hire people that are just as passionate, and it’s easy to do if you only have to hire a few people, but imagine a company that has 35,000 or 50,000 employees, or even more, how do you hire that many people that are passionate?

Annette’s specialty is the journey map – she’s taking customer experience from a design perspective. I look at things a little differently, and by the way, I believe in the design perspective and every company has to do what Annette is doing, but just because you have designed it the right way, doesn’t mean your customers are going to experience it when they interact with people from the company…

Everyone has to pull together, even the person who says, “I don’t ever see the customer. I’ve never seen a customer in my life. I don’t ever talk to them. How can you say I need to be trained customer service or customer experience?”

If the guy in the warehouse that never sees the customer, doesn’t take the right product and put it in the box the right way, if it shows up to the customers doorstep and it’s the wrong product, or something is missing, or something is broken, whose fault was that even though the order was given to that warehouse person properly?

People will make mistakes, but I want people to be intentional about the desire to make things right, not just go on and let it happen because that is the way we are supposed to do it – no, be intentional, be aware, be hyper focused, look for things that might go wrong so you can fix them proactively before the customer experience hits them.

Finally then… if you could point one thing for people just starting off in customer experience to focus on, what would it be? 

Which one thing do you want me to talk about today? I mean, the journey map is really important. Hiring the right people, really important. Training those people properly, really, really important. Creating that vision before you get started with all of it, really, really important – but just doing one of those things – isn’t going to get me the results you want!

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Shep is the “New York Times” and “Wall Street Journal” bestseller of “The Amazement Revolution“, “The Cult of the Customer“, “The Loyal Customer“, “Moments of Magic“, “Amaze Every Customer Every Time” and “Be Amazing or Go Home“.

To get more of his insights head to Hyken.com where you can purchase The Convenience Revolution directly.

Thank you so much Shep for taking the time to speak to us.  For more in our CX Icon series, why not check out our previous interview with Annette Franz.

 

 

NRF 2019: The best of the rest

As the attendees made their way for one last final after show drink on Tuesday night, it was hard to shake the feeling that this year, NRF was all about the customer.

Keynote after keynote saw retailers of all sizes, emphasizing a consistent message: in times of rapid change the key to future success is bound to your ability to know and understand the needs of your customer base.

While customer-centricity may have sounded the biggest note of the event, over the course of a jam-packed three days we heard about subjects as varied as the ‘millennial challenge’, the need for innovation in the physical environment, and a strong call for diversity among the business community, making the show – as ever – a fascinating one to attend.

As we say goodbye the Big Show for another year, we present to you our best of the rest of NRF 2019:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek 

The ever-popular Simon Sinek offered an interesting take on what it means to be a customer-centric business in 2019.  By positioning brand integrity as the ultimate motivation for consumer buy-in, Sinek provides a neat sound-bite to capture the mind-set of the increasingly conscientious consumer.  After all what we choose not to buy, says just as much about us as what we do.

If you’re going to exist in a physical space, you want to have something else no one will have.” – Kara Swisher 

In a bold opening to Monday morning, Recode’s Kara Swisher made a passionate demand for innovation in the physical space – literally predicting the downfall of physical retail as we know it without it.  While this claim may have raised eyebrows, her position on the necessity of having a total view of the customer, rang strong and true, “You need to completely understand the consumer and have a data relationship with the consumer – if you don’t you will have trouble surviving.”

It’s a fact that companies with more diversity have stronger, better results” Mindy Grossman, President and CEO WW International

A new feature at NRF this year that really hit home was The Female Quotient sponsored Girls’ Lounge. Host to a series of fascinating conversations celebrating the need for diversity in modern business culture, Mindy Grossman put forward as strong a case as any arguing why, if your business sidelines diversity as mere tick-box measure, you’re ‘essentially de-prioritizing long-term success’.

Start with the consumer in every decision.  Invest in yourselves. Reinvest in stores, tech, fulfillment and your teams. Disrupt yourselves.” – Brian Cornell, Target.

While we touched on Cornell’s superlative keynote in our mid-way round up, we’d be remiss not to come back to his 4-point recipe for success, one of the most shared highlights of NRF.  Cornell demonstrates how every step of Target’s successful turn around was grounded in these four fundamentals, reflecting a key understanding: every improvement you invest in has to be for the good of the customer experience.

“We don’t just need to do less harm, we need to seek to do more good” – Rose Marcario, CEO Patagonia

In another inspiring example of a retailer ready to stand up for the conviction of their beliefs, Patagonia’s Rose Marcario demonstrated how actively aligning your brand values with those of your consumers can be more than a mere ‘strategy’ for customer success in 2019. With 3% of all funding dedicated to environmental NGO’s, Patagonia has built its reputation as a challenger brand whose consumers aren’t simply fans of the product, but loyal advocates philosophically aligned to Patagonia’s core beliefs.  Proving once again that real CX extends far beyond the mere transactional level.

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If you were at NRF yourself, we hope you enjoyed a fantastic few days in the Big Apple. It was a tremendous show for Team Tru, and we’d like to thank each and every one of our incredible partners for making it such a huge success.

Till next year, goodbye NRF!

 

NRF 2019 – 5 key takeaways

The National Retail Federation’s ‘Big Show’ is always a show-stopper of an event and this year is no exception.  With over 30,000 delegates descending on New York’s Javits Centre over the course of its 3 days, the event is a major showcase for the retail tech trends of the year ahead – if it’s not being discussed at NRF, it’s probably not worth knowing about.

With so many incredible speakers packed into the lineup, it’s hard to know where to jump in.  To help you along the way, we’ve picked out the highlights from our favorite sessions so far.

  1. “Millennials don’t have a low attention span, they just have a higher sensitivity to things which are boring” – Doug Stephens, The Retail Prophet

When it comes to getting to the quick of the modern retail landscape, you can bet on Doug Stephens to deliver the goods.  On the first day of NRF, Doug gave a valuable lesson to any retailer thinking about blaming the millennial attention span for their own failings.  Millennials have been big news at NRF, but it’s clear that many retailers feel uncertain how to engage them.  With a combined buying power of ‘over $200 Billion for Millenials and Gen Z’ (thanks @AliciaTillman) – it’s clear that getting this market right is going to be a critical concern for retailers for some time.

  1. Start with the consumer in every decision” – Brian Cornell, CEO, Target

Speaking to a packed room, Brian Cornell CEO and Board Chairman of Target delivered a brilliant opening to Day 2.  With a strong customer-centric philosophy, Cornell made a passionate case for the importance of Target’s physical estate, explaining how much of the success of its digital business has been down to the fulfillment capabilities provided by their traditional bricks and mortar locations.  An impressive case study for how digital and off-line can be mutually beneficial when done right.

  1. “Amazon aren’t killing retail, they’re killing mediocre retail.”  Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst and NRK Founder

As co-author (with Miya Knights) of the recently published book Amazon, Natalie Berg certainly knows a thing or two about the company still considered by many to be tradition retail’s biggest threat.  In a fantastic discussion, Berg presented a clear-headed picture of the challenges faced by retailers today, and delivered some sober truths.  For Berg, it is clear that the retailers are who are willing to evolve and adapt will come out on top, while for those who choose to ignore the lessons of the convenience economy “the harsh reality is more doom and gloom, but not a retail apocalypse.”

  1. Focusing on the customer and their experience is absolutely table stakes… that’s where we’re putting our energy.” John Douglas, CTO, Tory Burch

As the CTO of luxury fashion brand Tory Burch, John Douglas (previously CTO at Burberry) is used to customers with high expectations.  In a world of ever-increasing competition, Douglas put forward a strong argument for the necessity of an exceptional Customer Experience.  Philanthropy lies at the heart of the Tory Burch model, and Douglas reminded us that Customer Experience (or CX) can be more than about just product: “the world is a better place if we have big ambitions for ourselves and others.”  The combination of excellent service with strong brand values has given Tory Burch a unique position in a difficult marketplace.

5. “We’re on a journey not to be a good company, but a great company.” Marvin Ellison, CEO Lowes. 

Closing out Day 2, Mavin Ellison of Lowes delivered a fantastic key note on ‘Fortunes in the Fundamentals’.  Ellison delivered a strong statement of intent for Lowes, and echoing a familiar sentiment, made an impassioned case for setting greatness as your goal, and not just settling for good enough.  An inspiring end to a packed day.

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We’ll be back with our final round up once Day 3 is all wrapped up, but in the meantime, enjoy the last few hours of Retail’s Big Show!

CX Icons: Annette Franz

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be speaking to a variety of experts in the field and there is no better way to start than with Annette Franz, Founder and CEO, CX Journey Inc. and the undisputed queen of customer journey mapping – a CX Icon if there ever was one!

With over 25 years of experience in the field, Annette is regularly recognized by companies around the world as a top influencer in Customer Experience, one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter”, as well as being an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council.

Annette was kind enough to give up some of her valuable time to the TruRating team recently, to give us her insights on the state of customer experience today.

Hi Annette – thanks so much for speaking to us today!

Thanks for interviewing me for your blog! I’m always happy to talk about customer experience and its importance to the business.

Why is it important to focus on customer experience and what are the benefits of doing so?

Let me first take a step back and define customer experience and explain why it’s so important for companies to focus on the customer.

In its simplest definition, customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship and, importantly, the customer’s feelings, emotions, and perceptions of the brand during the course of those interactions.

The purpose of a business is to create and to nurture a customer. When companies focus on the customer and her experience rather than on maximizing shareholder value, magical things happen. The return on investment (ROI) is great, for all constituents.

Customer experience consultancy Watermark Consulting has been tracking the ROI of customer experience vis a vis the S&P 500 for the years, and their findings every year had been strong and compelling. They take a look at the top 10 publicly-traded Customer Experience Leaders and the bottom 10 publicly-traded Customer Experience Laggards from Forrester Research’s Customer Experience Index research and compare their performance on the S&P 500.

  • Leaders outperform the market with a return that’s 35 points higher than the S&P 500.
  • Laggards trailed, with a return that’s 45 points lower than that of the broader market.

Why customer experience? Well, as Sam Walton said, there’s only one boss, and it’s the customer. She pays your bills! In this world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized every day, customer experience is really the one true differentiator. We know that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, so price can no longer be that differentiator.

There are benefits and desirable outcomes for the business and for the customer. When businesses focus on the customer experience, they see…

  • A reduction in churn and increase in customer retention
  • Stronger customer relationships
  • A reduction in sales cycles
  • Process improvements, efficiencies
  • Innovation: innovative products and experience
  • Culture changes that support a customer-centric culture and beyond
  • Greater shareholder returns

Customers benefit by…

  • Receiving the value they expect (or more)
  • Being the beneficiaries of innovation
  • Having a better experience
  • Achieving the jobs they’re trying to do
  • And doing so with less effort
  • Experiencing less frustration
  • Feeling like the business cares about them

Who should own customer experience in an organization?

I know people like to say that everyone owns customer experience, but that’s not really true. Yes, everyone must be engaged and rowing in the same direction and working toward delivering a consistent experience across the board. Employees must be bought in, committed, and doing the work to deliver the experience customers desire. I don’t dispute that. But if I’m going to be pedantic and talk about ownership, ultimately, it’s the CEO.

I think what most people mean when they ask this question is really: Who champions the customer experience in an organization? Who herds the cats and evangelizes for the cause? Who is the head change agent, guiding and coercing executives and employees through their resistance to change? (I made that sound pretty attractive, didn’t I?!) That person typically holds the title of Chief Customer Officer or VP of Customer Experience or some variation of that. The individual may also be (or have been) the CMO, CIO, COO, or even CRO and, potentially, has no previous knowledge of how to develop a customer experience strategy.

Ultimately, this “ownership” or “championship” should reside with an individual who reports directly to the CEO. Oh, and one more thing. This individual will need to partner with the head of HR. Employee experience and customer experience go hand in hand. These two individuals must become solid partners in this journey.

What does the future of #CX look like?

It’s really difficult to answer this question when so many companies are still struggling with what customer experience is and what it looks like today. But here are my thoughts on what the future looks like, given the well-informed and connected customer, advances in technology, and the massive amounts of data that companies collect about their customers: the experience needs to be personalized, simplified, relevant, and consistent.

How can a tool like TruRating help companies to improve their CX?

I’ve been talking a lot lately about putting the “customer” into customer experience. There are three ways to do that: (1) through listening (e.g., via surveys or other listening posts), (2) characterizing (e.g., creating customer design personas), and (3) empathizing (e.g., walking in customers’ shoes via journey mapping).  Of course, once you’ve learned make sure to do something with the insights.

Any improvements must be grounded in data, insights, and customer understanding.

Feedback platforms like TruRating offer companies a tool to listen, glean actionable insights, and identify what needs to be improved (or what they need to keep doing) to deliver a great experience.

What’s your message to companies that are falling behind? 

It’s all about the customer. It’s why you’re in business. Because of customers. Without them, you have no business. If you want to differentiate your business, focus on the experience you deliver for your customers.

Get started. Today. It’s not too late to understand your customers and the experience they’re having – and then design a better experience.

And finally, you need to focus on employees and their experience. They’re the ones who deliver the experience. If they’re not having a great experience, neither will your customers. Start here.

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To hear more from Annette and to learn about her work head to the CX Journey website or check out her recent contributions for Forbes here.  And make sure to follow Annette on Twitter for a daily dose of CX expertise.

Fore more from TruRating, check our previous posts in the customer experience series:

 

 

CX: The ‘Challenge’ of In-Store Analytics

Getting CX right is hard work.  It’s a continuous effort, and in some cases can require a bold re-think of existing strategy.  As we saw previously, for many commentators, customer experience is the key differentiator in todays’ retail landscape.  It may be hard work, but it’s important.

For brick and mortar, one of the big challenges to customer experience in recent years has been the rise of eComm (and lets name names, Amazon).  While the fear may be real, the fact is that the majority of today’s transactions still take place in store.  In 2018 10% of sales in the US were made online, while even in the more mature e-commerce market of the UK online made up just 18% of total sales.  It’s no myth – consumers really do crave the tangible joys of the in-store shopping experience.

In fact, consumers today expect their in-store experiences to be better than ever before – 51% say they will never do business with a company again after one negative experience.  For many retailers, the ability to effectively monitor in-store experience remains a neglected part of the retail journey.  If thought leaders are shouting that customer experience is the major challenge right now – why aren’t retailers responding?

The Cost of Innovation

A common stumbling block for retailers is cost.  Traditional CX solutions like mystery shoppers and surveys are expensive to implement and slow to return.  By the time a 3-month estate wide store report has been filed, it’s already out of date.

Deloitte’s assertion that ‘in times of rapid change, the only way to innovate is to experiment’ holds true, but in the absence of an accessible source of real-time CX data, many retailers are not setup to A/B test or deliver the fast-moving innovation they need to survive.

While online merchants have long enjoyed the luxury of being able to analyze each point of their customer journey to microscopic levels of detail, the in-store experience continues to languish neglected from a measurement perspective.

In these turbulent times, the cost of not investing in innovation, is greater than ever before, as Mary Drumond succinctly warns, the ‘customer experience economy is the most violent in the history of capitalism’.

Fail Fast or Learn Faster?

The concept of ‘failing fast’ has become popularized by innovation teams. In 2015, when Starbucks rolled out its ‘Evenings’ program, selling beer and wine in select stores after a certain time, they took a chance on a concept that shifted their core offering and value prospect.

While commentators were quick to label the move doomed from the start, the business won praise for at least demonstrating a will for experimentation. Cathy Hotka, principal at Cathy Hotka & Associates, noted at the time, “They should be congratulated both for trying new things and pulling back when those things don’t work”. When it became apparent that customers weren’t about to start flocking to their local Starbucks for after works drinks, the business pivoted and moved on, no lasting harm done.  In fact, the misstep became an opportunity to demonstrate that it was willing to listen to what its customers wanted.

In the case of a giant like Starbucks, the business case for experimentation is easier, as long-term revenue growth tends to mitigate the risk of a short-term drop. But how would the landscape look if every retailer was armed with the tools to implement changes and instantly measure the impact on the customer and their buying behaviour. What if rather than fail fast, we could help businesses to learn faster?

A Different Approach to In-Store Analytics: New Balance

At TruRating, we’ve discovered when you provide retailers with the ability to collect validated customer data, en masse, at speed, they become quite literally empowered.  The key tenets of ‘customer-centricity’ are not the lessons that need to be taught – providing retailers with the tools to quickly learn and understand the impact of their innovation is the key.

A simple but powerful illustration can be found in our work with New Balance in Australia.  After working with the in-store team on a proposed new layout for their outlet stores, we helped them collect over 25,000 validated pieces of customer feedback in just a 4-week trial.

Measuring how the changes impacted not only customer spend overall, but at the level of individual experience metrics such as Value, Product and Service we were able to help them to quickly decide on an estate wide roll-out of their new store layout, validated and confirmed by customer experience and spend data, fresh to the very day of decision.

The New Balance team didn’t need to ‘fail fast’. Rather than second guess, the ability to ask their customers about its actions, as they were being implemented, meant they could drive to the right decision for their business, quickly and with confidence.

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For more on our explorations in CX, why not take a check at our previous articles in the series:

If you’d like to find out how TruRating can help your business today, get in touch on our Contact page and a member of the team will be in touch soon!

Black Friday: three takes on a hot issue!

Black Friday

Black Friday is ON.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the busiest day (should that be week?) in the retail calendar is in full swing, with more shiny discounts on offer than you can shake the proverbial stick at.

In the face of the ever present Amazon threat (despite growing internal challenges of its own), some retailers like Walmart have used the occasion as a catalyst for innovation – switching the focus to re-inventing the in-store experience in an attempt to win the day.  For others, Black Friday poses more of a challenge, as the search for the perfect discount remains a power struggle between the balance of higher sales and lower profits.

Whether you love it or you hate it, with a record breaking $8 billion worth of sales last year in the US alone, for retailers it’s become an event that’s hard to ignore.

For those of you who haven’t quite decided which side of the fence you sit on, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to find some compelling view points on either side of the argument.

So before hitting ‘confirm’ on one of the multiple shopping baskets open on your desk top right now, sit back, take a breathe, and enjoy.

There is Nothing Customer Centric about Black Friday – Mary Drumond

For Mary Drumond, editor in chief of the Science Behind Decision Blog and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast, Black Friday means,  ‘Crowds. Mess. Destruction. Late work hours. Over-time. Smaller profit Margins.’  Clearly she’s a fan!  Check out her take on why customer-centricity is the last thing that you’re likely to find this Black Friday.

Black Friday: The deeper reason why some of us love it and others positively loathe it – Mike Breazeale

Mike Breazeale, Associate Professor of Marketing for Mississippi State University, takes a deep dive into the differing psychologies of those who can’t get enough of Black Friday and those who loathe it… it’s more complicated than you might think!

Why Black Friday is My Favorite Holiday – Annick Lenoir-Peek

And finally, we have an unapologetic love letter to Black Friday, from Durham, NC based blogger and travel writer Annick Lenoir-Peek.  For Annick, Black Friday represents the ultimate culmination of a year’s worth of planning, strategy and of course deal hunting. What’s not to love!

To learn how TruRating can help you understand the effect your customer experience has on your own Black Friday efforts, leave us your details and a team member will be in touch shortly.

And while you’re here why not follow Mary, Michael and Annick on Twitter for more words of wisdom!

The 3 types of customers who will shop with you this Christmas

It’s the time of year retailers spend many months preparing for the Christmas shopping frenzy! The National Retail Federation recently reported that retailers will make as much as 30% of their annual sales over this period, so it’s an absolute must to be prepared.

Whether it be customer service, experience, marketing, new product ranges, staff rostering or your store format – a huge number of variables go into the shaping of the perception of your customer experience.  To make things even more fun, different customers, will have different concerns at any given time.

While this can seem a little daunting, fear not, TruRating is here to help.  We analyzed thousands of ratings (collected across four continents no less) to help identify the three distinct types of customer, who will walk through your doors this holiday season.

We’ve also provided some tips on how to help meet each of these shoppers’ unique expectations.  Who says Christmas doesn’t come early once in a while?

Enjoy and have a fantastic holiday season!

1. The ‘Loyal’ Customer

“The most effective way to increase brand loyalty is to increase customer service.” (Forbes Agency Council)

Our holiday retail data uncovered that customers who are ‘fans’ of your store spend more per average transaction when they reported having an ‘excellent customer experience’ or received great service.

We found that having a good mix of temporary and experienced staff on shift, helped retailers maintain and improve service levels during busy periods.  Implementing technology that allows you to monitor service patterns by time of day, can be hugely beneficial in terms of reacting to staffing blind spots in a timely fashion, before your revenues take a hit.

Tip: Monitor shift patterns closely to ensure that you have the right mixture of long-term and temporary staff employed evenly during the busy holiday periods.

2. The ‘Indifferent’ Customer

When it comes to customers who are ‘fence-sitters’ rather than brand loyalists, we found that Product is the key driver behind ATV, closely followed by the perception of value for money.  What does this tell us?

This type of customer is in-store for purely transactional reasons: if your store stocks the product they need at a good price, they purchase – simple as that. If, however, they can find the same product at a better price somewhere else, they’ll likely follow the deal over the brand.

Ensuring stock levels are well maintained throughout busy times is an obvious must for this group, but our data revealed that benefit-led selling is another key for winning over this typically neutral group of customers.

We worked with one retailer to help retrain their staff to sell by emphasizing the benefits of their products, versus just the product features, and the result was a huge 11% increase in ATV. The same retailer discovered that when staff had explained more than two options to customers, ATV went up by an even larger 30%.

Tip: Ensure your seasonal and full-time staff are well trained on your products to optimize the ATV of every customer visit and encourage them to spend the time to educate customers on why products will benefit them vs. pure feature led-selling.

People browsing Christmas markets in Manchester at night

 

3. The ‘Cash-Conscious’ Customer

The holiday season is a unique retail period; we found that even customers who were disappointed by an in store experience, still had ATV’s comparable to the most satisfied customers.  While providing a high quality of experience remains necessary to drive long term customer loyalty and advocacy, for a select group of shoppers, finding a bargain is the most important driver during the holiday season.

The key driver for this group was value for money. They are price driven and focused on hunting down the best deal in town. When this group were impressed with the value of their shopping in December, their ATV spiked in comparison with other times of the year – unsurprisingly in line with when most retailers launch their holiday sales.

To appeal to the ‘smash and grab’ holiday bargain hunter, your best bet is to make sure you’re clearly promoting your sales, whether through local advertising, social media or even handing out flyers. Remember that as many as 75% of holiday shoppers are willing to try a new retailer given the right incentives – a well-timed flyer might just be the thing to clinch this fleeting group!

Tip: To appeal to bargain hunters, make sure you are publicizing your latest offers through a variety of channels – particularly to local audiences – during the busy holiday period.

To learn more about how you can optimize your customer experience over the Christmas period, leave us your details via the TruRating website and one of our busy elves will be in contact as soon as possible.

 

Customer Experience – the rise of CX.

The more time you spend immersed in the world of CX, the more it becomes clear that a whole host of competing theories exist around what the day-to-day managing of customer experience really consists of.  One thing that most people do seem to agree on however, is that in today’s world, CX is pretty darned important.

A quick online search and you’ll bring up any number of reports and stats suggesting if you’re not focusing on CX, you’re probably not focusing in the right place:

  • “By 2020 CX will overtake product and price as the key differentiator” – Jacada Group
  • “72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is No.1 priority” – Forrester Group

Whether or not it’s actually embodied in practice, the trend for businesses to place a high premium on ‘customer experience’ is very much the contemporary vogue.  But just how exactly did CX come to occupy its existing place in today’s retail landscape?

How did we get here? 

A common retail narrative has it that digitalization has changed consumer buying behaviour.  Over the last twenty years, a technological revolution produced a fundamental change in the expectations of today’s consumers.  In an ‘always-on’ world, customers have lower attention spans, tend to a mobile first approach and increasingly rely on peer recommendations.

For today’s customer, to paraphrase retail futurist Doug Stephens, it’s not so much ‘what retailers sell, but how they sell it”.  Whereas the store was once the ultimate showroom and transactional touch point for commerce, today’s shoppers are fully immersed in omni-channel, and marrying the convenience of online with the tangible pleasures of in-store has become the ambition for forward thinking retailers.

For those tasked with responsibility of owning the ‘customer journey’ – the job has becoming an increasingly tough one.  Digital and physical touch points not only have to operate according to their own strengths, but they must also complement each other flawlessly.  Customer Experience is no longer just about ‘marketing’ a certain brand story, it’s about embodying excellence across every touch point of the business.

Yesterday’s News?

For Annette Franz, widely respected CEO and founder of the blog CX Journey, the idea that CX is something that businesses are only waking up to today is patently ridiculous. CX is not just tomorrow’s next big thing, it’s what we should have been focusing on all along,

“Headlines like ‘CX will be the only competitive advantage in 2020’ kicks the can down the road for those companies…ignoring (or not getting it) that the customer experience is critical today.”

For Franz, the key difficulty with customer experience and culture transformation is quite simply that it’s hard work – “A lot of hard work.  It’s a journey. You’ve got to move mountains.  And silos.” Customers expect personalized and simplified experiences today. A report published by management consultants Bain & Company, suggests that in many ways Franz’s thinking is correct.

Closing the Delivery Gap contains the rather shocking statistic that while 80% of companies believe they provide ‘a superior proposition’, only 8% of their customers agree.  In spite of what the 362 organizations surveyed thought they were doing to mark themselves apart from the competition, the report back from customers suggested they were not succeeding.

If the biggest businesses in world are struggling, to implement such programs, where does that leave those individuals tasked with the difficult job of looking after CX today?

For more reading, check out our previous post our CX series:

 

 

 

 

What is CX? Defining Customer Experience in Retail.

Defining Customer Experience in Retail

The term Customer Experience gets thrown around a lot, but put on the spot, if you were asked to provide a quick catch all definition, would you know what to say?

If the answer to that question felt more difficult than you’d expected, feel no shame – defining customer experience in its contemporary usage is more complicated than at first meets the eye.

In an effort to understand what Customer Experience really means in today’s retail landscape, we’re going to take a dive through some of the constituent parts that make up CX, with an aim to give you some practical tips along the way on how to apply some these learnings in your own organization.

Over the next few weeks, some of the topics we’ll be covering will include:

As they become available, we will provide links to each of these posts, but in the meantime, do make sure to follow the TruRating social channels – LinkedIn; Twitter; Facebook; Instagram –  as we’ll be pushing out all sorts of interesting CX tips and articles as we go (as well as links to each new post as soon as they’re published).

If there’s anything you’d like to see us cover as we go, please leave comments and we’ll do our best to keep you happy! Without further ado then, let’s kick things off with that most fundamental of questions – just what exactly is customer experience?

An Introduction to Customer Experience

For many retail professionals, Customer Experience (CX) is now regarded as the biggest driver of organizational growth, competitiveness and revenue for businesses today.

72% of businesses say that customer experience is their main priority.Where once brands may have fought each other to the bottom of the pricing barrel in a bid to win market share, the tides have shifted and today “72% of businesses say that customer experience is their main priority.

While many are keen to talk about the ‘strategic benefits’ of customer experience and debate which companies do it best, it’s not always immediately clear, just what people are referring to when they talk about the ‘customer experience’.

To try and help clear things up, here are two definitions from respected CX veterans.

A simple Customer Experience definition from Forrester

You won’t get much more pared down than definition of customer experience from Forrester: ‘CX is how customers perceive their interactions with your company’.

Forrester CX QuoteWhen a customer interacts with your business, they have an experience, and in turn they form a perception of this experience.  When we talk about customer experience we’re usually talking just this – the feeling a customer has when they interact with your business.

As we all know however, feelings can be complicated things.  The important thing to note here is that CX is a subjective thing.  Two customers may have very similar interactions with your business but come away reporting completely different reactions.  The art of owning customer experience is managing this discrepancy.

For many businesses, a key part of CX strategy is about providing as consistent an experience as possible across every customer touch point.  While theoretically you might think this would level the CX playing field, it can result in an unimaginative and uniform approach to customer service.CX-customer-perception-interaction-experience

Depending on your customer’s wants, this can be a good or bad thing.  There is no one size fits all approach to Customer Experience – what works for one business, may not necessarily work for another.

The truth of the matter is that finding the right CX strategy for your business is not always an easy job.  Consultants Bain & Company deliver a tough truth for retailers, in their paper ‘Closing the Delivery Gap’,

It’s extremely difficult to understand what customers really want, to keep the promises you make to them and to maintain the right dialogue to ensure that you adjust your propositions according to customers’ changing or increasing needs. And it’s only going to get harder...”

The Gartner Approach to Customer Experience

“Customer Experience (CX) is the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations, and thus increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” – Gartner Definition of CX.

For Augie Ray, Sr. Director of Analytics at Gartner, the real answer to the question ‘What is Customer Experience‘  is not so much about finding shortcuts to common business objectives such as sales, ‘acquisition and revenue’, as it is about creating experiences your customer will love, that will make come back, and create lifelong fans of your business.

For Ray the objective measurement of delivering good Customer Experience, appears to be less about how you achieve your outcome, rather than ensuring the strategic intent driving your actions is based on a customer-first mindset.

Businesses’ tend to have objectives that differ from what their customers want.  While you may want to drive revenue, build brand awareness and encourage customer loyalty, these in and of themselves are not really the things your customers care about.

CX-Objective-Target-GoalsBy creating ‘great experiences’ you can certainly achieve some of these goals, but if the only motivation behind what you do is to increase your bottom line, by Ray’s definition, ‘you are not doing CX at all’.

Align your strategic objectives with the concerns of your customers (e.g staying true to authentic brand values, providing ethically sourced goods, drive emotionally positive experiences etc.) and rest will fall into place.

Check out this quick video to get a taste of Augie Ray’s CX approach in his own words.

How did we get here…

Hopefully you now have a little more of a sense of just what customer experience is, for our next post in the series we’re going to take a little dive into how CX came to be a prevailing topic of interest in retail and business circles.

To learn how TruRating can help you build better customer experiences for your business head to our Let’s Talk page.

Look out for the next instalment in our CX series soon.

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How to do better online business through ratings and reviews

Because we’re so delighted by the news (the release of our recent Magento extension in case you didn’t know) we thought it only right to take another look at the benefits regular and reliable customer feedback can have for your eComm site.

How can customer ratings and reviews drive a better online experience for your business?

While the volume of consumers who rely on feedback to inform their shopping decisions remains remarkably high, there are indications that we could be reaching a turning point. With increasing signs of a growing distrust around how reliable user-generated content really is, do online ratings and reviews still hold the value they once did?

Outlandish pranks like the notorious Shed at Dulwich have shown the inherent weaknesses in the system – perhaps it’s time to reconsider whether the way we collect online reviews is up to scratch?

To trust or not to trust: a modern-day challenge

“Authentic social proof is still one of the most valuable influencers for anyone looking to build trust with their audience. Customers have to be able to trust what they see, which until now, has been a real challenge for businesses.”

Mary Hubbard, Head of Online, TruRating

One of the key issues for many of the reviews and ratings we find online is that there’s simply no way for the everyday consumer to validate where these reviews come from. While a dozen one-word, 5-star reviews left minutes apart from each other are likely to raise an eyebrow, how do you know that the passionate one-star drubbing you just snorted through wasn’t simply from a disgruntled competitor?

The other end of the spectrum: the customer review drought

On the flip side, we have another problem – how do you encourage genuine customers to leave feedback? Every single transaction should be viewed as an opportunity to learn more about your business, but the world is a busy place – how often have you received an email asking for feedback and simply trashed it or moved on? Or worst, what if the feedback you’re working so hard to collect is actually misinformation. Just another bored customer doing the bare minimum to earn a reward you can’t really afford to give away.

Building your brand name without annoying customers

As you build out a brand that people are aware of and trust, it’s easier to get a read of whether reviews look suspicious or not. But for the independent seller who’s just starting out, consumer buy-in and trust is important for basic survival. Beyond that, to improve and optimize your experience as you go, you need to know if you can trust the feedback that comes back immediately.

The TruRating difference

We ask customers to provide a single quick rating at payment confirmation. Additional feedback is an option, but neither rating nor review is obligatory.

Have a quick peak how it works here:

The benefit of our solution comes from its simplicity

  • When you don’t make it an issue, customers are happy to feedback – 50% plus – not too shabby Sherlock
  • TruRating drives Findability and boosts your SEO – if you have an ‘offline store’ (as we millennials like to call it) – even better – every rating drives traffic to your site.
  • Validated customer reviews (no Amazon issues here) every day – what’s not to like?

To learn more about how TruRating can help your business, visit http://www.trurating.com/business.

And that’s a wrap folks.

Dan Frank