Ben Motteram is a customer experience consultant based in Melbourne, Australia, that has worked with some of Australia’s best-known brands in areas, such as, CX strategy, customer insights, employee engagement, and culture. Through his company, CXpert, he helps build organizations that employees and customers love. Ben’s company can be found at http://cxpert.com.au; he’s on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/benmotteram; and he’s on Twitter at @CXpert.
QUESTION: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted customer experiences in Australia?
BEN MOTTERAM: The impact of the pandemic on CX in Australia has been profound but disproportionate. Almost every state and territory managed to control the virus soon after it arrived on our shores through measures like reducing capacity at public venues, social distancing, effective contact tracing, closing their borders, and quarantining returning travelers. In those states, customer experience remained largely the same.
In Victoria where I live, however, the virus escaped into the community leading to the government imposing one of the world’s harshest lockdowns which included amongst many other restrictions:
* All non-essential stores were closed including almost all retail and hospitality.
* People were allowed out of their homes once a day for exercise.
* Travel more than 5km (3 miles) from your home was not permitted.
* An 8pm to 6am curfew was imposed.
That lockdown lasted 112 days until late October. Businesses pivoted where they could, and it hastened the move to digital for many, but a lot of them simply closed their doors. Some permanently. At the end of last year, it was heartbreaking to walk along once-vibrant shopping strips and see all the “For Lease” signs in vacant store windows.
If you define customer experience as how a person feels about you based on every interaction they have with you, the impact of COVID-19 on CX was enormous for those businesses, because none of those interactions were happening either online or off.
QUESTION: Have you had any exceptional customer experiences during the COVID-19 era?
BEN MOTTERAM: In May last year, I transferred my home internet service to a new provider, Aussie Broadband. After signing up online, my first real interaction with them was terrible – the company cut over my service from my old provider to them without sending me the modem I needed to make it work. But it was the way they recovered from that situation that impressed me. For no extra cost, they couriered a better modem, and after it arrived the next day, their service department spent hours on the phone with me to fix a technical issue I was having.
The lesson here is that sometimes a breakdown in your customer experience gives you an opportunity to shine in ways you otherwise couldn’t which results in deeper loyalty from the customer. Aussie Broadband’s recovery from that awful initial experience left me feeling even more positive about the company and my decision to transfer my business to them.
As a postscript to that story, a few weeks later, I received an email from the Managing Director laying out what the company stood for. Titled “Why Aussie Broadband Exists”, it read in part: “Aussie Broadband was founded in 2003 to deliver great internet to regional areas, but now we cover all of Australia. Obviously our "why" has changed. We concluded that we're in business to change the game. We want to change not just the telco game, but things like easy-as-possible customer service, what a regional business can look like, how a rapidly growing company can still feel like family, and more. That's what drives us, and we hope that resonates with you as well. Without you, our customers, none of this could be possible. For that, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
What a wonderful way to engage customers in the corporate mission and thank them!
TWEET THIS: Sometimes a breakdown in your #CX gives you an opportunity to shine in ways you otherwise couldn’t which results in deeper loyalty from the customer. –@CXpert #brandexperience
QUESTION: Which social platform is the best tool for creating a quality customer experience, and why? If different, which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, and why?
BEN MOTTERAM: First, full disclosure: I’m a man in my 40’s, my knowledge of social media platforms is very much limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
A customer’s experience with a brand encompasses every interaction they have with it from when they are forming their initial impressions of the brand prior to their first purchase through to after they’ve made their last. For this reason, there’s no one best platform for every business across every interaction.
Instagram is perfect for showing your customers your products and making it easy for customers to order them but won’t be as effective for a service business. Facebook offers brands a great way to build like-minded communities amongst their customers. And Twitter is often used as an alternative service channel. Each platform has its strengths when used in a certain way.
Regarding which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, I think Facebook and Twitter are both great at it. Both now offer bot integrations which allow brands to quickly answer higher volumes of basic customer enquiries leaving their customer service representatives free to handle more complex matters.
The risk of usual social media as a customer service channel though is, of course, the damage to brand image if something goes viral. It’s great to give customers the convenience but a viral screen shot or tweet can kill in minutes the brand equity that’s taken 20 years to build. For this reason, it’s imperative to provide the necessary training to your social media customer service representatives.
QUESTION: How can businesses teach employees that they are the front line to customer happiness?
BEN MOTTERAM: To me, this is about creating a customer service culture and then reinforcing it with front line employees by sharing customer feedback with them. Creating a customer service culture demonstrates to employees that the organization is committed to exactly that: serving its customers. This starts with the organization’s mission statement and is reinforced in the company’s values. Then the head of the company should be constantly communicating it both internally and externally.
Then it’s about ensuring the right people are working in front line roles and giving them the training and tools they need to provide a great experience. Front line managers should adopt a servant leadership mindset by checking in at regular intervals with their employees and asking, “How can I help you to deliver excellent customer service?” and then acting on what they’re told.
Finally, coach employees on what they can do to improve their customer service skills by allowing them to hear verbatim customer feedback. Some companies worry about sharing verbatim feedback with employees. The fear is that poor feedback may negatively impact the employees’ performance. But when used as part of a coaching program, customer feedback can be used to ENGAGE staff and can even be used to EMPOWER them. Nothing will teach an employee that they are the front line to customer happiness more than when they hear it from a customer themselves.
TWEET THIS: Creating a customer service culture demonstrates to employees that the organization is committed to exactly that: serving its customers. –@CXpert #CX #brandexperience
QUESTION: In a recent post on your blog, you explained how to develop a CX strategy. You wrote, “In the words of consulting house, McKinsey, a great CX Vision will “inspire, align, and guide an organization but also bring innovation, energy, and a human face to what would otherwise just be strategy.” Amazon’s CX Vision is “to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Therefore, what do you consider to be the three key components of an effective CX strategy?
(Blog post referenced: http://cxpert.com.au/developing-a-cx-strategy/)
BEN MOTTERAM: I’ve successfully developed CX strategies in the past using a framework found here: http://cxpert.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CXpert-CX-Strategy-Framework.pdf.
Using this model, the three key components of an effective CX strategy are:
1. The CX Vision
2. The Principles
3. The Enablers
The CX Vision: Drawn from the organization’s overall purpose, vision, and mission, the CX vision should also align with the organization’s goals. It brings your strategy to life and should engage and inspire employees to work towards making it a reality.
The Principles: The principles are the pillars upon which the CX vision sits. They are the criteria against which any new initiative is reviewed to ensure the organization is delivering its brand promise and the lens through which all business decisions are evaluated to ensure a consistent customer experience. They are rooted in addressing customer needs/delivering customer value and are what delivers the CX vision.
The Enablers: Every successful CX strategy relies on people, processes, and systems supporting the program as a whole. These are the crucial elements that support the implementation of the strategy and can include things like an Employee Experience manager, a Voice of the Customer program, a CX dashboard, a governance structure, or analytics software.
My gratitude and appreciation to Ben for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his customer experience insights that will most definitely help any brand to create a positive customer experience!
Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.