Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bridging the Customer Experience Perception Gap

Long lumped in with Customer Service, the entire Customer Experience concept is finally being acknowledged as a weighty differential in the quest to build customer loyalty and increase sales. Business Leaders everywhere must first understand there is likely a huge gap between the Customer Experience they believe their company delivers and the perception of that same experience their customers have as they work with them.

A recent paper by SuperOffice stated research showing 80% of businesses believe they are providing excellent customer service. That sounds good, right? BUT - the customers of those same companies feel that only 8% of them deliver excellent customer service. Now THAT should keep you up at night. While this research states customer service only, I firmly believe the responding customers lumped it in with the entire experience, as that is what motivates customers to return or leave.

Leaders typically look at their business goals, put some programs and training in place to enhance both the experience and skills, closely monitor what they think is important to the customers and in doing so they believe their customers are benefitting from a better experience. Let me be clear, the fact that they’ve even thought about how their customers perceive them is a great first step. Being aware that customers even have their own separate perception and wanting to improve on it is key.

But the real issue is they often lack the insight as to what their customers are really thinking… as well as what their employees are thinking.

The ultimate goal is to have little gap as possible between all three components - Leadership, Staff, and Customer Perception. Currently, as research indicates, the best of intentions among companies have fallen short. So, what to do? Pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and start again… with a PLAN.

I often find that leaders think they are on track because they WANT to be on track. No one deliberately decides to go off the rails. But to be sure, a focused analysis needs to be done.

This analysis can be as informal or formal as you’d like… Meet as a leadership team and discuss the CEX your company delivers at a high level. Ask yourselves these questions...
  1. What do you feel you do well within the CEX? 
  2. What do you feel could be improved with the CEX? 
  3. What does your competition do differently with their CEX? Are those differences perceived as good or bad?
  4. What do you feel needs to continue to be done or started to improve the CEX
Be as honest and candid as possible during these discussions. There is no blame to be placed, only a plan designed to improve for the future. Now, these same questions need to be asked of your staff and your customers. The logistics may take some figuring, but this can be done in a variety of ways conducive to your setting.

My suggestion - Gather your staff and break into groups of 6-8 and document their answers to the four questions on one sheet. Analyze the answers from those groups and note the answers for trends and ideas.

Then do the same with customers. Focus groups, a cross section, industry-specific, etc - simply starting is key. Each specific situation may dictate a completely different model than another, but the key is to get the feedback from as many customers as possible to get a true feeling of how they feel your company works with them. Think TripAdvisor.Next, examine the responses between the three groups - Leadership, Staff, and Customers - and note the disparity and similarities between answers.

All four areas are important…
  1. What you do well indicates what draws your customers back and where staff feels training, empowerment, and capabilities are strong.
  2. What needs to be improved are key indicators of what could cause your customers to leave and staff to become disengaged.
  3. Just because your competition does something differently does not mean your company should adopt their practice, but be aware enough to know if your customers feel those differences add value.
  4. Pay particular attention to what they feel needs to continue to be done. The here is easily granted because it is already being done and not viewed as “extra work.” Things to start can be prioritized based on a variety of considerations, but be sure to consider each one.
Going through this exercise takes some planning and time, but the insight gained will be well worth every bit of effort. Getting into the minds of your staff and customers is the single best way to identifying and bridging the gap between leadership’s and customer’s perceptions of the Customer Experience being delivered.

Article reposted with permission of author

Kristina Evey | Ever feel that you're just one win away from a major tipping point that will help you and your business stand out as the top tier in your industry? I create that "win" for motivated C-Suite and Leadership teams. I'm a Customer Experience Strategist who loves to help Leadership Teams demystify the process of shifting operational and business priorities to the customer perspective and seeing revenue increase. I like seeing the "A-Ha!" moments at the C-Suite level when they realize how simple changes make huge impacts both internally and externally. I help B2B companies build strong connections with their customers by engaging at all levels to consistently deliver unexpected and amazing experiences customers are so delighted with that price becomes irrelevant.

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