The Economics of Customer Experience

The good guys and gals at Temkin have put together an interesting infographic around the state of the nation for Customer Experience in 2015 that certainly gave me some food for thought.

Of the many stats and insights to ponder, I noted that once again here is a benchmarking piece which underlines the difference in how customer experience is perceived in retail against how it scores in the telco space.

This got me thinking about the difference in customer experience adoption between retail and telcos. Is it down to the fact that retail currently happens to be the customer experience trailblazer that others follow, or is there something more fundamental that, ultimately, means telco will always miss the top spots, as evidenced in the Temkin summary?

Both the retail and telco sectors are explicit and consistent in seeing customer experience as a primary arena for differentiation and both regularly run customer experience-focused campaigns, surveys, programmes and so forth. According to Forrester ‘differentiated brand experiences’ will define the winners in 2016. In 2015 both sectors have been definitely moving that way. They’ve been very interested in KPIs such as NPS and survey scores, repeatability, avoiding churn, creating loyalty, and a host of other factors.

Over the course of this year I’ve spent a lot of time with telco movers and shakers. Through sharing views and discussing ideas I’ve put together some suggestions around some best practices from the world of retail that telcos could adopt; in fact, many already are.

Identify and rectify your problems areas, don’t ignore them

Retailers are very good at looking in detail at areas that cause problems and delay things for customers, for example queues and waiting times. Retailers are adept at using technology to identify where touchpoints can potentially alienate rather than engage the customer. The “moment of truth” for customers comes with how well they think companies are dealing with and resolving problems.

In recent years, retailers have had to nail tricky areas such as how to handle omnichannel returns. For companies that get this right, there’s a welcome impact on consumer benchmarks. Anecdotally, it could be that the billing touchpoint is a key area for telcos to consider streamlining.

Simplify the complex

Complexity can be a barrier to customer loyalty. While customers welcome the exciting momentum of more-or-less continual innovation in the telco industry, there has also (arguably) been a rise in the fear/uncertainty factor. The consequences of making the wrong purchase decision or contracting into the wrong plan can often create a barrier to commitment, or to proceeding with a purchase.

The exceptionally wide range of offers, permutations, tariffs, and bundles (around 1.5 million at any one time) needs some pretty smart navigating. Guiding customers through complexity can be a strong start point for building loyalty. Through imaginative use of technology, intelligent use of people, and smart development of processes, many retailers seem to be doing a good job of transforming the in-store experience. They’re shifting the focus from selling and more to offering advice. A customer’s fear of complex choices can not only be allayed by offering personal advice but can also be turned into a positive outcome through the delivery of perceived added value.

Take control – and keep control – of your brand story

Retailers do a good job of not leaving the brand story to chance. Telcos are now adopting similar strategies. For customers, trust and emotional connection – how they “feel” about the experience journey – is key to winning them over.

While many telcos have outsourced large parts of their contact centres, some are certainly recreating a ‘real store experience’ online. As a result they would appear to achieve higher conversion rates with their customers. Controlling the brand experience when you’ve franchised out a chunk of your retail arm is tricky but it’s by no means an unattainable goal. For contact centres the customer experience journey becomes easier to put into practice if it’s a scripted journey. The brand story can be aligned at a human level; with multiple paths that agents can follow depending on customer responses. Furthermore, the brand story can then be consistent across agents and with other channels.

Lead from the top

Telcos have undertaken a cultural transition from the “gold rush” years, where the focus was on customer acquisition, to a mature market landscape where success is more a function of customer retention. There’s evidence everywhere of the winners in the industry realigning their strategies to reflect new customer behaviours and the new competitive imperative.

I think the telco Temkin scores will rapidly be addressed as telcos learn lessons from retail.

What do you think?