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Why do so many businesses find delivering excellent customer service a challenge, and what are the rewards for getting it right?

What do First Direct, Amazon, Premier Inn and Specsavers have in common?

They are all members of a prestigious collection of the top 50 UK companies with the highest customer experience ratings. It's a club many leading businesses are eager to join, as they place customer experience at the heart of their long-term growth strategies.

Recent studies demonstrate that companies who excel at customer experience could typically grow their revenues by 4%–8% above their market. Time and time again this potent link between great customer experience and tangible, bottom line results is demonstrated by those who put their customers at the centre of their operations.

However while delivering the promise of seamless customer-focused journeys sounds straightforward, it can be surprisingly tricky in practice.

Why is it so difficult to get right?

The answer is usually related to some form of complexity, often not by explicit design. 

More often than not, when structures, reporting lines, processes, procedures and communications are built up layer by layer over time, it will invariably impact your customers.

What if we told you that it's possible to improve your customer experience while, at the same time, reducing cost and improving quality. Does that sound too good to be true?

The opportunity is there.

Businesses are taking the opportunity to make good on pledges to put the customer at the heart of their business, understanding that needless complexity simply serves to get in the way of standout customer journeys. They are employing a philosophy of continuous examination and exploration of operating procedures through a customer-focused lens. This could range from call centre handling and complaints procedures through to quality control and after-sales service.

Those that try and fail typically fall into two traps:

1. Focusing solely on the front end
For example by developing an app or launching a new website without looking at the deeper points that cause customers pain, like lengthy (and often unnecessary) internal processes.

2. Not getting the full support of all employees
Every member of the team should be pulling in the same direction, owning the change and improvement activity.

Good strategies focused on customer experience will cut through complexity to deliver a smooth customer journey. Alongside existing digital transformation initiatives, many businesses are building leaner, more efficient operations with the customer at the heart.

You can either skirt around the edges, making minor operational improvements, or you can follow customer experience leaders and dive deep into your organisation to look at meaningful changes that will reshape your business and drive long-term growth.

The results speak for themselves.

Here are two real projects that illustrate the power of making meaningful changes to improve customer experience.

Two powerful examples of real impact

1. Happier customers, and an annual saving of $7.5m

The credit card division of a global bank was targeting a 16% increase in their Net Promoter Score (NPS) to bring them into line with their competitors. 

Understanding that multichannel servicing was a key pillar to achieving this ambition, the opportunity was taken to explore how effective current operations and structures were in supporting the customer journey, in particular for managing credit card payments.

The review focused on functional structures, roles and responsibilities, mapping of customer journeys and channel usage, customer research and feedback, key performance indicators and how to develop new functionality, with any changes placing the customer at the centre.

The increased focus on the customer closed the 16% NPS gap required, as well as providing an annual saving of $7.5m through reduced failure demand into customer contact centres. 

2. Productivity up 30% and million pound savings from stronger capacity planning

A leading UK bank was making a large number of unnecessary payments because they didn't have the capacity to review individual cases thoroughly. Costs were spiralling following tougher regulation from both the FCA and the Financial Ombudsman, while over 1,200 staff were dealing with multiple product queries over five operational sites.

A deep review and more effective capacity planning resulted in the formation of a cross-functional team who could review customer cases more efficiently and drive further process improvements, while increasing the capacity of team leaders to resolve issues as they arose.

These operational changes drove improvements of 30% over their previous levels. All customer cases were now fully reviewed, resulting in swifter customer service and saving millions of pounds of unnecessary payments each month.

In both cases, putting the customer at the heart of improvement paved the way for tangible, bottom line benefits and made the customers' journey smoother. 

Final thoughts

To be truly effective, customer experience must run deep within your organisation and be a focus for every individual in every department. Areas that have the greatest impact are often not primarily customer facing but often end up impacting your customer. 

While it might be tempting to look at the glossy, customer-facing channels as your first port of call, take a moment to look deeper at how your operations affect the customer journey.

What's really getting in the way of great customer experience in your business? 


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