Brand affinity: It takes a long time to build, but you can lose it in a second

Add bookmark

Chanice Henry

Customer relationship management
Image Credit: Post Office Media Centre - Creative Commons Attribution

Retail Experience

James Scutt is Head of Customer Experience Strategy for the UK’s largest retail network open on a Sunday – the Post Office. Speaking at Qualtrics X4 London, which saw 1,700 experts in customer experience, brand, research and employee experience in attendance, he discussed the importance of building customer relationships on trust, treating everyone with fairness and honesty and making social and economic contributions to communities.

The annual ‘experience management’ event from Qualtrics also saw sessions from several big brands including Three Ireland, Unilever and Google, with keynotes and breakout sessions to provide vital insights and examples from across these integral sectors.

The Post Office has its own Customer Experience University - focused on customer experience drivers and empowering its staff members. James’ session touched upon measuring emotion and using text analytics to map out trends in customer interactions to reveal any changes that need implementing.  He reminded the audience that when it comes to customer interactions: Positive emotions turn into memories that lead to better business relationships and better business outcomes. Chanice Henry, Editor-in-Chief of the CX Network, chatted with James to find out more.

Do you have a tip for practitioners when their board is withholding budget and applying pressure for them to link ROI to CX initiatives?

James: “It’s difficult because if you’re going to build a business case on customer experience, you need the payback, and if you’re doing a business case on something like a new product you can forecast the amount of sales and that’s the amount of profit you’re going to get back as a percentage.  With customer experience you’re beholden to the calculation you’re making against:  ‘an improvement in experience will bring back X’.

“We focus on the calculation between customer experience and revenue. It’s really difficult to get started, it’s a bit like the chicken and the egg situation, but if you’re taking general pieces of feedback or advice, like: ‘around 90% of customers pay more for an experience’, that won’t wash in a business case because it’s a bit all over the place.

“What we are doing now is trying to prove the link between customer experience improvement and increase in business at branch level. That will take time, but we know very well that when we see those very small increases that stay robustly in place, then we have the calculation that we can take forward on a larger scale and ramp up into a business case.

“For me, it’s about getting down to the very small level of proving it in one location or a few locations and then scaling it up so that it’s a believable calculation and that can’t be questioned.”

Read: Customer Experience Market Leaders in Retail

You’ve got to lay that groundwork to prove that correlation.

James: “Yes, and the questions will come when someone scrutinises the business case. They’ll say: ‘What makes up that calculation, where are you proving to me that its not pure assumption that a 10% increase in CX will give you 1% in sales?’. If you can’t prove that calculation or, frankly, if your calculation is based on something you have read on LinkedIn, that’s not credible enough.  You’ve got to prove it to yourself.”

Our respondents in recent research have said customer journey mapping is a key investment priority of theirs. We’ve been doing this research for about five years and customer journey mapping has always emerged at the top, but interestingly, last year, it took a bit of a dip. Any thoughts on this?

James “It’s interesting you say about it dipping last year, because it dipped for me last year in the experience space.  We’ve got a course for product managers across the board who are customer journey mapping like mad, but it tends to be a transactionally-led journey map, not an experience-led journey map, and that’s absolutely fine.

“In customer experience I think trying to map the individual journey of a customer, and the experience at those separate touchpoints is fine if you’re doing it for a single customer, it’s whether you are then happy to equate what you’ve seen from one single customer up into a believable map that going to base large experience changes upon.

“It’s a bit like doing a mystery shopping. Mystery shopping has its place if you’re going to measure operational things, however, it’s maybe one snapshot once every month. Then what’s going on for the next customer and mystery shopping criteria is set by the corporate folks. Who is there to decide what is right for a customer?  In my view it’s only the customer, and that for me is where in customer experience terms, journey mapping starts to fall down because you’re taking one customer’s view and it’s not actually the customer’s view, it’s your own view.

“I haven’t focussed on journey mapping like that within experience now since last year, which is what you found with your research. For me, it will be going right down to the softer skills that are displayed anywhere where you have a touchpoint; whether that’s digital or in-branch those same attributes need to be there but just displayed in different ways from different media.”

You mentioned in your session about the importance of emotions, can you tell us a little more about that?  

James: “Yes, they are tremendously important.  The emotion is the outcome.  Also, it’s about the behaviours we call ‘customer drivers’: being friendly; professional; knowledgeable; understanding your customer; being efficient and understanding their expectations.

“If you get all those things right at a human level [you are heading in the right direction], but you will still need a slick journey: [limiting customer effort by only asking for] the minimum amount of clicks on a website or the minimum amount of forms to be filled out.  That being said, you can have the [slickest journey in the world] but it will mean nothing and all go to waste if [frontline staff members] don’t smile or are rude, a bit standoffish, fail to get the customer’s needs and are working a bit too slowly for user requirements.”

Of course. When there is a good level of emotional rapport between a customer and a brand, studies that have shown that customers are more likely to be flexible if there are any issues.

James: “Brand affinity: you build it with customers over a long period of time, but you can lose it very, very quickly.  So if you can get in there with a good experience, to build up the emotional bank account with customers, they will forgive you for a few small hiccups.”

John Lewis Interview: In Customer Experience Collaboration Is Great, But Validation Is Vital 

Do you have any tips for retaining the human touch in CX within the digital age?

James: “A key thing that I’ve seen within lots of organisations is when people come to work, they cross the threshold and they become team members, employees. But they seem to forget that before they crossed that threshold, they were customers, and the impact of very small behavioural nuances they exhibit linked to those customer drivers [I mentioned before]: being friendly and professional. [For instance, as a staff member] they might say something in a certain way to a customer, but if they experienced that interaction themselves as a customer, they probably wouldn’t be happy about it. They haven’t got their own eyes on themselves.

“For me, it’s about getting staff to look at and evaluate the experiences they’re offering to customers, because then you become aware of your behaviours.

“If you’re aware of them, then you can improve them, and then customers get better experiences.  I think self-awareness is a huge thing in the experience industry.”

What key things should practitioners remember when it comes to improving their data analytics practices to better customer experience now and in the future?

James: “The 360 view of the customer has been a contentious point for me. To be honest, no one has got a 360 view of their customer. It will be a long, long time before anybody gets that, because how do they know when I’m talking to one of my friends completely off grid about that company?  Now there’s some information about that experience I’ve had I am telling someone about, but it’s not being recorded, so there’s no 360 view. 

“We’re building in the Post Office data lakes and we’re going to start flowing customer experience data into that really soon.  That will be a big thing for us because we can start matching operational data next to customer experience data, and we’ve heard in several sessions here today, if you look at one aspect of experience it’s not going to give you the full picture.

“When you’ve got siloed channels of information within a business, they often don’t talk very much, so it can be tremendously difficult.  I don’t think anyone’s got a 360 view of their customers.  Transactionally, some people will have, of course.

“It’s a tricky thing, data - you can have so much of it that it can also cause you a problem.  The vastness of our Post Office network means that so much happens at such a local level that it is basically off the grid for us as far as corporate is concerned.  But as the technology gets better and it surfaces in lots of different places, I think that’s probably the key to getting the best picture you can of customers, to surface the opportunity for them to feedback wherever they are, not where you want them to be, i.e., a corporate website.”

Read More: Why X-Data is Key to Breaking Through in the Experience Economy