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Most of us at some point in our career want to come up with the big idea, the big solution that will revolutionise our industry, the category we work in, the business we work for or maybe just our own roles.  The mantra ‘how can we do this better?’ is a constant driver of innovation.

On rare occasions the opportunity to truly disrupt comes along:

The spread of internet capability and use allowed YouTube to re-engineer how we consume entertainment content.  This disruption paved the way for on-demand consumption and companies such as Netflix to thrive.

Dyson changed the fundamental design of an everyday product and revolutionised the category.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then seeing other brands rush to adopt the bag-less approach to vacuum cleaners must make James Dyson feel extremely flattered!

However, most successful companies don’t necessarily develop one flagship ground-breaking solution, but build on their experience and knowledge in incremental steps to continually provide customers with upgraded products or services on a regular basis.

Small scale, simple answers

Back in 2010, charismatic ad man and thought leader Rory Sutherland told us we should ‘Sweat the small stuff’; It may seem that big problems require big solutions, but Sutherland says many flashy, expensive fixes are just obscuring better, simpler answers.  These are derived from making incremental and small scale but effective changes.

In 2010, Dave Brailsford recognised this and embraced it to help deliver performance excellence.

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), Brailsford was asked to change that.  Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to big improvements.

Elements of the obvious were first; the bikes themselves, nutrition, weight reductions etc.

But Brailsford and his team searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.

Google dominate the search engine landscape by continually making small improvements to the service they offer; PageRank obviously was a key strategy but then, intelligent search, using GPS to bring up more local businesses, map linking were just some of the many improvements employed.

The fundamental search process is the same but the results are radically different and more effective based on these incremental changes.

Applying this thinking to customer experience design and measurement

Here at KPMG Nunwood, we believe that the fundamentals are in understanding what experience your customers are having to start with.  Through our methodology of measuring the overall, multi-faceted and influenced relationship customer have with an organisation, and in parallel, the specific interaction success they have; we can quantitatively, qualitatively and statistically know what the customer experience looks like.  We know which areas of the experience most impact promotion or detraction and which areas are in need of fixing to have the largest impact on the customer.

We have recognised, for some time, the need to concentrate on incremental change.  We are often asked by clients; “What one thing do we need to change to improve our customer’s experience?” and our answer is often; “There isn’t one thing, there are lots of small things that add up.”

Our measurement framework allows us to identify these and, through Shapley regression analysis, understand the connected nature of experience factors, allowing us to advise where best to target improvement based on direct change and interrelated improvements of other factors.

Our analytical capability allows us to see the possibilities of incremental change on overall experience improvement.

Once we have this understanding, we can help organisations re-engineer the journeys customer take through their business, based on small changes at different points in the journey to improve the overall experience.

Customer experience design through root cause understanding

As an example, we collect thousands of pieces of verbatim responses as well as the quantitative metric measurement.  In those verbatim we see multiple root causes of detriment, and can see the ‘rolling’ impact of a negative experience:

“I went into the branch and had to queue for ten minutes while the counter staff chatted to each other.  This was my lunchtime, why don’t they have somewhere I can just ask a quick question and get a quick answer instead of standing there watching these two laugh and joke with each other.  It’s like when I applied for my mortgage with them, what a painful process that was!”

Our text analysis will break this down into the thematic components of the experience detriment.  Initially the ‘big’ problem might look like a failure of queue management.  Breaking down the verbatim reveals key themes:

  • Management of queuing in branch
  • Channel preferences for task completion
  • Opening time issues
  • Staff attentiveness

The fact that the staff were talking to each other is only noticed because other elements of the experience had failed.  The poor experience also gave rise to other mentions of the relationship failing which again, is unlikely to have been mentioned if the recent experience had been different.

The interdependencies of experience, channel, perception and people are clear in this example.  Improve any of those, and there will be both a direct and indirect immediate uplift in experience.

By building up a picture of metric movements, key drivers affecting overall performance and the themes coming through the verbatim responses we can build a view of ‘big wins’ and ‘quick wins’; or perhaps ‘small wins that lead to big change’.

The hierarchy of strategic insight need should of course be based on the best improvements for our customers.  But the focus should be on what small customer experience design improvements we can make to achieve our goals, not look for just one panacea to solve all ills.

Our 2016 US Customer Experience Analysis: Harnessing the Power of the Many looks closer at the brands who have mastered the art of making a thousand moving parts think as one. Download the full report.

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