Corporate reputation is a key component of the customer experience. That’s one of the key findings of the latest Nunwood research into the experience and service offered by UK businesses. The study, which is based on ratings by 7,500 customers on over 250 brands, aims to record customer satisfaction and its influence on future behaviour, such as loyalty and advocacy.
Businesses that have suffered reputational issues over the course of the year, such as Amazon and Starbucks (who faced questions over their tax arrangements) and Co-operative Bank, which had to be refinanced after finding a £1.5bn hole in its balance sheet, all dropped in the rankings compared to 2012. Indeed Amazon fell to fourth place, following three years as number one, and neither Starbucks and Co-operative Bank made the top 100.
The study rated John Lewis as Britain’s top brand, with QVC, First Direct, Amazon and Virgin Atlantic completing the top five. The overall mean score across all brands stayed constant, showing that while many organisations have improved, others have slipped back.
So how can brands look at improving their customer experience? Nunwood believe it revolves around six, interconnected pillars:
Top brands use individualised attention to drive an emotional connection with customers. This doesn’t have to involve face to face or telephone service. Amazon receives the highest ranking for personalisation as it uses knowledge of its customers to create an automated, but individual, relationship that is based on making the consumer feel valued and special.
Most consumers understand that things can go wrong – it is how a brand deals with a problem that defines their relationship. Turning a poor experience into a great one actually creates loyalty and a willingness to recommend. John Lewis has put in place a policy called ‘Heroic Recovery’, which rewards staff that come up with new and innovative ways to help solve customer problems.
Being trustworthy is something that has a direct impact on willingness to buy. It has to be present throughout the organisation and part of culture if customers are to see a brand as one with integrity. And it covers small and large matters – if you are told you’ll be put on hold for a minute and in fact it is ten, this erodes trust in a brand.
4. Valuing customers time and effort
Consumers are increasingly time poor and therefore demand a seamless, fast process when dealing with a brand. Removing unnecessary obstacles that take up customer time or force them to change channels are all part of this. For example, First Direct customers ringing the bank overwhelmingly get through to an agent straight away, without needing to wait or queue.
5. Managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations
It is vital that brands set clear expectations – and then achieve (or over achieve) on them. A brand can give good service and still not meet customer expectations if they were expecting more. So make sure you are not claiming more than you can provide if you want to delight and retain customers.
People buy from like-minded people, rather than organisations. So brands need to demonstrate that they understand the customer’s circumstances if they are to drive deep rapport. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and treat them as you’d expect to be treated in the circumstances. Creating this genuine empathy is at the heart of turning customers into advocates.
You can download the full Nunwood report here – there’s plenty of useful advice for all brands as they look to continually improve the customer experience.
In the move to a digital world it is easy to overlook that a huge percentage of customer communication is still through traditional mail and fax – so called white mail. This is particularly true in industries such as banking and insurance where legal requirements mean documents need to be signed and returned. And in many cases customers feel more secure having signed and posted a document rather than sending an email.
This means that once these documents reach the contact centre they have to be automatically scanned, stored and made available to agents answering phone and email queries. This integration can be a major headache for organisations, who need to put in place an overall strategy that incorporates these channels into customer service, ensuring it doesn’t become an expensive, standalone silo for information.
What is needed is a multi-channel strategy that has advanced workflow at its core. This means that whatever channel the customer uses to communicate with you the query is automatically added to the system, forwarded to the right agent or department and answered using the best channel for that enquiry.
A great example of where this works well is Eptica client Ageas Insurance Solutions, who currently insure more than 1 million UK customers. AIS’s award-winning eStream project has transformed customer service for the company, reducing calls by 23 per cent and achieving Return on Investment (ROI) within 6 months.
A key part of eStream focuses on white mail. Letters and faxes are now digitally integrated with all web-based enquiries and managed through Eptica’s multichannel workflow with automatic distribution of correspondence and tasks to the appropriate administration area.
As Ray Westwick, Head of Call Centre, Ageas Insurance Solutions UK points out, “By digitally managing correspondence we’ve been able to minimise processing time and costs, and ensured that every communication is automatically recorded and tracked. Eptica’s technology has helped us to improve efficiency, enhance the experience for our customers and differentiate on price and service in today’s hyper competitive climate.”
Digitising white mail is just a part of what Ageas has achieved with eStream – you can download the full Ageas case study here to read the full story.