Customer Experience gaining importance in UK boardrooms

Ipsos’ Associate Director Juliette Albone examines what the UK’s leading business minds think about customer experience and its effect on brand.

Customer Experience gaining importance in UK boardrooms

The author(s)

  • Juliette Albone Ipsos Loyalty, UK
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My instant reaction last week, after yet another train delay, was to reach for Twitter to vent my irritation at the situation. This has now become a familiar process for many when they want to voice their frustrations to an organisation, but how seriously are UK businesses taking the role of delivering exceptional customer service, and what lies ahead for CX?

According to the latest Ipsos MORI Captains of Industry survey, currently just 21% of business leaders rate their own organisation highly (giving a score of 9 or 10 out of 10) in terms of consistently delivering high-quality customer service, while just 1 in 5 would rate themselves as a 9 or 10 in terms of delivering a customer experience that is consistent with their brand promise.  

So, what is holding organisations back?

Everyone recognises these are challenging times for organisations. Not only are they having to get to grips with the uncertainty of Brexit, GDPR data privacy issues and technological disruption, they are under growing pressure from customers themselves who are increasingly more demanding in terms of the levels of service they expect to receive. (No, I haven’t received a personal response to my ranting tweet = dissatisfied customer.) 

Business leaders recognise several core challenges in achieving improved customer service in their organisations. The biggest challenges they anticipate over the next couple of years are:  

  1. Understanding changing customer expectations/demand (27%)
  2. Technology/IT/digitalisation (26%)
  3. Quality of staff / availability of skilled workforce (15%)

Businesses can respond to the challenging times we find ourselves in by not just trying to truly understand their customers’ needs and adapting to providing the desired customer experience, but also by recognising the internal need to bring changes into the mindset and culture of organisations.

Adapting customer experience to match customers’ needs
In the recent survey, one business leader commented: “Customers judge your customer experience by cross sector, the best of what they experience across any sector, so actually you are not competing with your competitors any more, you are competing with the best of the best in everything and that just makes it really hard because the bar is so high.”

Captains currently rate themselves highest in terms of meeting customer’s functional needs (with 40% rating this attribute a 9 or 10). However, just a quarter (25%) rate themselves highly in terms of truly understand their customers’ needs and similarly, just 25% would give a high score for building an emotional connection with their customers.

Organisations should be continually developing relationships with their customers to truly understand what is important to them and be building this into their culture, strategy and processes. I recently heard a great example of an organisation that recognised all these challenges – and they placed an empty seat at all their internal meetings to represent the customer voice!

But are organisations really listening to their customers? Just over a quarter of business leaders (29%) rated themselves highly in terms of acting on feedback.

Changing the mindset and culture in organisations
While there is shared customer experience responsibility across organisations, it is the CEO who is regarded as having the ultimate responsibility (81%). Organisations understand the importance and recognise the need to align processes that match the customer journey, but recognise they must overcome structural constraints to respond and to deliver to customers’ needs and expectations. 

But valuing and empowering staff is key to getting this right. As summarised by one business leader: “My industry is trained on outputs and numbers and so the most difficult thing in the journey is empowering my people to feel that they are free to go outside their comfort zone and give people a great experience.”

Captains recognise the importance of CX and rate this as a top priority for their organisations with many Captains of Industry remaining optimistic that, by 2020, they expect to be rating their organisations higher than they are now on all aspects of CX. They predict particular improvement in ‘delivering a customer experience that is consistent with your brand promise, acting on feedback from customers’ and ‘Understanding customer needs’.

My colleagues Jean-Francois Damais and Fiona Moss recently summarised the challenges organisations face in Three Steps in Measuring the Customer Experience published in April 2018’s Admap magazine.  They summarised the best ways to turn insight into action:

  1. Acknowledge the importance of CX – the voice of the customer is louder than ever.   Establish the ideal customer experience and then manage the experience.
  2. Knowing what you need to know – collecting the right information at the right time, to deliver the right insight. 
  3. Putting it all together – clear evidence based actions. 
  4. Customer experience matters, and when organisations overcome the challenges and get it right, customer experience becomes a convincing return on investment. 

There has never been a more exciting time for organisations to really get to know and understand their customers by making use of all the data sources available to them. If boardrooms across the UK started putting the steps above into practice, there would be a lot fewer unhappy customers out there.

And perhaps some happier tweets.

The author(s)

  • Juliette Albone Ipsos Loyalty, UK