Clare Kavanagh on whether or not Irish business is really serious about customer experience
A talk by Aisling Hassel, Airbnb’s head of global CX, at a recent event organised by CXPA Ireland was inspiring. Airbnb are game changers and not just in how they democratised travel. In a CX context, they have motivated and enabled employee to deliver a powerful customer-centric strategy based on that most precarious of marketing variables: trust.
The result – 200 million guests and counting. At W5, we wanted to assess the extent to which employees in Ireland are encouraged to engage with the current CX agenda. We conducted an online poll in September, surveying a nationally representative, quota-controlled sample of 1,000 workers. By mirroring a study we did last year, it allowed us to benchmark the data.
Little has changed
The first striking and somewhat disappointing finding was that there has been little change over the course of a year in many measures. Though almost all employees claimed that a positive customer experience is the primary goal of the organisation for which they work, a culture of customer centricity was found still to be failing to extend to all levels.
Awareness and belief in the customer experience agenda is much less developed among workers, as opposed to management. Public service workers and staff in larger companies continue to be less likely to be aware or convinced of the importance of customer experience.
More work to do
The survey also revealed that Irish employers must try harder to engage staff in the customer experience process. Almost half of employees are not convinced that they know how they fit into and impact on the customer experience ‘big picture’. Just two out of five believe their ideas to improve customer experience are encouraged.
Only just over one in three feel that customer feedback is communicated to them effectively and one in four believe that employees’ customer experience efforts are celebrated. From our own consultancy work, we know that these practices are really critical to engage employees and deliver positive customer experience.
However, our research did suggest that there is one factor that makes all the difference when it comes to creating and sustaining a CX culture that delivers. The distinguishing factor is the CEO. We asked employees the extent to which they felt that the CEO in an organisation for which they work leads by example in creating a customer-centric culture.
Although less than one in three claimed that their CEO does so, these respondents were much more likely to believe that customer experience is the primary goal of the organisation; feel that what they do impacts on the service received; be more confident that their ideas to improve the customer experience are welcomed and claim customer feedback is shared effectively with employees and that successes are celebrated.
Of particular importance is that they were also much more likely to advocate their organisation’s products and services, as well as advocate working there. Beyond the indisputable facts of this research, from our own experience working closely in SME and larger organisations, we know that a convinced and leading CEO is so important to customer experience. A person drives coherence in an organisation and strategic focus, ensuring that the brand promises are understood and delivered by employees across the organisation.
So how do we convince CEOs of the customer experience agenda and get them fully on board? Bluntly, money talks. We need to be able to show the revenue benefits of a strong customer experience strategy in terms of reducing churn, upselling and new customer acquisition through enhanced word of mouth.
There are many US studies proving that positive customer experience is the leading driver of financial success. We need to build the same evidence base here in Ireland. We need rigorous financial measures of our customer experience success.
Once the CEO is convinced, then we need to start building the aligned commitment of the senior management team to the customer experience agenda. There are a number of ways to do this, depending on the organisation and team. A starting point that often works well is simply but provocatively to ask: To what extent do we share a common understanding and commitment to a desired customer experience? What is the experience? We can then start to drill into and build on what customer experience really means to the organisation.
Fad or future?
We’re all a little obsessed with customer experience at the minute. But how do we ensure that this is not just a fad, or the fashion of today? Rather a practice, a style that establishes itself and endures? We need to listen to and empower the employees who have told us that they have a greater role to play in creating winning customer experiences. We need the leadership which understands and enables this. We need the data to make the financial case. We need the Irish customer experience success stories that convince and inspire.
Clare Kavanagh, CCXP, is managing director of specialist customer experience (CX) measurement and insight consultancy, W5