Can Service Providers Create the Endless Customer Journey?
Throughout our lives we have many experiences, some good, some bad, some unexpected. Sometimes the unexpected experience is the one that can be the most interesting. Search ‘Amazing Customer Experience’ on the web and you will be greeted with some amazing stories. Sainsbury’s, the UK supermarket, changed the name of a type of bread because of a letter from a 3 year old, Morton’s Steakhouse delivered a steak to a guy at the airport and the United Airlines pilot who delayed his flight to wait for a passenger so he could fly home to his dying mother to say his final farewell. There are many amazing stories of how a business goes above and beyond the customer expectation and these businesses experience significant positive word of mouth as a result. They become famous for the experience. Some businesses have learnt how to create that wow factor again and again. Nordstrom, the US retailer, prides itself on providing an exceptional customer experience and Lexus, the Japanese car manufacturer, is famous for the way their dealerships greet their customers by name and the way they perform the new car handover.
In the world of Telecoms finding these amazing stories is much harder. Ask your friends and colleagues about a good experience they’ve had with their Service Provider and you may get a few, ask for a bad example and everyone has a story to tell. Now this is not because there are no examples of good experiences and innovative engagement methods they are just uncommon. These types of interactions can build loyalty and improve the customer’s perception. When you get a positive experience you can’t help but share it because it’s rare and unexpected.
If amazing stories of great customer experience and how customers have been wowed are difficult to find then surely the concept of a perfect customer journey is still a long way off in the telecoms industry. For many of us the relationship with our service provider is a long one. With contracts ranging from prepaid and on-demand to up to 2 years per contract there are many touchpoints along the journey and often multiple journeys with multi-play offerings. To achieve a perfect journey for such a long time might be an impossible ask and this may be where concepts like Peak-End Theory come in. This theory is the result of research by two psychologists Barbara Fredrickson and Daniel Kahneman who set out to understand how humans judge and remember their experiences. Peak-End Theory suggests that people largely focus on the experience at its most intense point, either negative or positive and the end. This theory suggests it may be less about the entire journey but about those ‘magic’ and ‘miserable’ moments throughout the journey and what happens when it comes to an end.
If you consider any purchase we make it begins with an air of excitement, we associate experiences with its use and then it breaks, wears out or simply needs replacing we go through the cycle again. So with that in mind retaining customers for Service Providers should be simple. You generally get a shiny new piece of equipment, you use it to generate experiences and at the end of the term you get another shiny new piece of equipment. So why do customers leave? They leave because at those important touchpoints along the journey a customer expectation was not met and as the journey was coming to an end nobody seemed to care. The end of the journey is always an interesting one where you wait for your Service Provider to show their appreciation for your business but this always feel like a last resort triggered by the fact that you say you are leaving. Then lots of offers come asking you to stay. The longer the customer journey the more profitable they become so customer loyalty is a profit driver. Surely it makes more sense to understand the customer journey, understand the key touchpoints and identify whether the journey was filled with ‘magic’ or ‘miserable’ moments and act accordingly before the journey ends. Just because a customer is having a ‘miserable’ moment doesn’t mean you can’t make it into a ‘magical’ peak. Remember the great stories I mentioned at the start, they all stem from moments where things are not exactly going to plan.
Great experiences make great journeys and these drive businesses to outperform the competition. New market entrants and disruptors frequently exploit the lack of magic moments in various industries and often target industries and markets where margins are high and experiences are below average. This enables them to leverage price sensitivity and customer experience rather than trying to compete on price alone.
Forrester state that:
… a modest improvement in customer experience for a $10bn business can result in $64m in increased sales, reduction in churn worth $116m and word of mouth worth $103m.
So how do you measure the customer experience? Use a survey to sample the subscriber base such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) or CSAT and react to the negatives to see if you can make improvements? But you can’t use a sample to really drive the business. These are good guidance metrics but what you really want to be able to do is understand the customer experience at any point in time for any customer. So all you have to do is be able to measure the experience at different touchpoints for each subscriber and benchmark that experience against all the others. It sounds complicated but Service Providers have some of the largest numbers of KPIs compared to other industries. These KPIs reside in almost every department but may not all be customer-centric metrics today but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be. Imagine being able to give a rating for the customer experience across multiple touchpoints for any customer. The analytics alone would give more insight than any survey ever could. Is it possible to create a perfect journey that never ends? Maybe, but you have to be actually measuring it first.