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From surveys to journeys: why it’s time for Australian SMEs to get serious about customer experience

Heard customer experience is the new black but not sure what the fuss is about? Or perhaps you think you’re doing a reasonable job of it already, with feedback surveys for new customers and a complaints and compliments section on your web site?

There’s been plenty of chatter about customer experience in Australian business circles in recent years. Scores of large organisations, including the likes of Westpac and Woolworths, have announced their commitment to it, as they unveil ambitious programs and initiatives to improve the way they service and communicate with customers.

While their access to expertise and funds is more limited than that of these ASX100 giants, small and medium enterprises which hope to prosper in Australia’s rapidly digitising economy need to follow their lead, or risk losing market share to competitors which are making it a priority.

Identifying an excellent experience

Most of us know when we’ve had an excellent customer experience, whether or not we take the time to analyse exactly why it stood out from the pack. Management consultancy KPMG has made a study of it – its 2018 Customer Experience Excellence Report: Australia asked 2500 local consumers to rate the performance of 120 brands across nine sectors, with which they’d had interactions in the previous six months.

Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Bendigo Bank, Paypal, Bunnings, The Body Shop, Dan Murphys, Grill’d, ING and Millers made the top 10 list.

They did so courtesy of stand-out performances against six key metrics:

  • personalisation – the use of individualised attention to create a connection
  • time and effort – minimising the amount of effort customers were required to expend *resolution – the ability to turn a disappointing experience into a good one
  • integrity – being trustworthy and engendering trust
  • expectations – managing and exceeding them
  • empathy – driving rapport through an understanding of customers’ circumstances.

Understanding your customer journeys

A superior customer experience starts with knowing your customers inside out – ideally better than they know themselves. If your understanding of customer motivation, buying patterns and sentiments towards your business derives from the occasional questionnaire or the number of complaints you receive each month, then it’s time to delve deeper.

That means mapping and understanding all the journeys your customers undertake when they engage with your organisation, from initial contact through to repeat purchase. The object is to gain a granular view of your end-to-end interactions with customers, rather than the snapshots of sentiment which are all traditional feedback mechanisms such as surveys afford.

Completing this process will enable you to identify the journeys which are most challenging, those which are most profitable and those which matter most to customers. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to prioritise a program of work to optimise your processes and practices, to improve customer experience in the areas where its impact will be greatest.

Data central – establishing a single source of truth

Understanding and improving customer journeys is significantly easier if employees have all the relevant facts about customers at their fingertips. Establishing a ‘single source of truth’ is one way to achieve this end. Typically, this entails integrating your customer contact platform with other core systems, including CRM and accounts.

Exploiting this powerful information repository using data analytics tools can allow you to obtain insights about specific customer journeys – that buyers who call about a particular issue are highly likely to need support with another related matter, for example. Being armed with that information allows you to improve their journey by proactively offering that support.

Optimising your workflow and automating your back office functions are other ways to ensure customer dealings with your organisation are fast and friction free.

Why it matters

Not sure it’s important your customers rate you as high as those on the top 10 list? Your competitors would beg to differ and, in a crowded global market, it’s likely you face no shortage of them, regardless of the industry or sector in which you operate.

According to KPMG, customer experience is set to overtake price and product as the chief brand differentiator by 2021. That’s why we’re seeing businesses of all stripes investing record amounts in an effort to obtain an edge over other organisations offering broadly similar value propositions. They understand that ‘the feels’ matter and they’re prepared to invest time and money ensuring theirs are positive.

Keeping the customer satisfied

As the digital economy continues to throw up a plethora of choices in almost every sector and market, Australian consumers are less willing to endure slapdash service and so-so communication than once they were. In this fluid and ultra-competitive new landscape.

SMEs that don’t get serious about understanding their customer journeys and optimising the experience buyers receive may find maintaining market share a seriously challenging proposition.

About the author

Ramon Szeitszam, Sales Operations Director at QPC

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Ramon Szeitszam

Ramon Szeitszam

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