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Customer experience awards, Customer experience strategy, Customer journey, Customer journey mapping, customer-centric, customer-first, Qualitative research

We recently had the pleasure of judging at the UK CX Awards at Wembley – a great experience, which reaffirmed how far Customer Experience (CX) has come over the last few years. With CX now widely-recognised as a key competitive differentiator, most organisations have established CX programmes, strategies, and/or teams in place – and the CX Awards are a great way to gain external recognition for your CX investments.  But how do you prove and articulate the impact of your CX initiatives, with a view to gain such recognition? 

Below we share our thoughts around what we can learn from this year’s finalists and winners, plus some key considerations for businesses looking to take their CX to the next level…

#1      Inside-out versus outside-in thinking

Examples of both inside-out and outside-in thinking were evident across this year’s entries:

  • Inside-out thinking – a focus on commercial and operational objectives and internal processes/ systems/ products
    • E.g. Several entries focused on the outsourcing of contact centre operations and associated impacts, with the initial decision driven by factors such as rapid business growth
  • Outside-in thinking – looking at your business from a customer perspective and designing products and services around customer goals and needs
    • E.g. The winner of the Utilities category described how they designed a Tracker and associated comms. to provide transparency and address issues around consumer trust in Utilities providers

Both approaches can have positive impacts on the CX, even if these impacts were not the initial aspiration or driver of the business decision.  However, it is those businesses who apply outside-in thinking, and have a genuinely customer-centric approach, who really stand out for CX.

Key considerations:  Do you have a clear CX strategy that considers your business from the ‘outside in’ – i.e. in terms of what customers are trying to achieve with your brand?  Does your business consider the customer throughout planning and implementing change? A strategy that is underpinned by a clear set of CX principles, and is supported by tools such as customer personas, will help to ensure that customer impact is at the core of decision-making processes.

#2      Connecting insight around the customer journey

Insight that can help to shape and optimise the CX comes in many forms in terms of types of data/ data sources and what’s actually being measured.  Many of the finalists are now using the end-to-end customer journey as a framework to connect insight, enabling businesses to cut across verticals, draw comparisons at different levels of the organisation, and unite around a more connected view of the customer. 

Key considerations:  Customer journey management is the future of CX optimisation and is key to driving customer-led change.  Have you clearly defined your customer journeys? Are these journeys defined by the customer perspective, not just your operational processes? Are your customer journeys being used as a framework to consistently manage your CX?

#3      The importance of customer input

Although many organisations hold a wealth of knowledge and insight on the customer journey, the most important rule of journey mapping is to use primary research to understand and define the journey from a customer perspective – in terms of customers’ goals and pathways/ routes taken.  However, it seems that some customer journeys are still being defined on an assumptive basis – i.e. how the business sees them.  Without customer input and leading with the customer perspective, businesses risk making decisions that are made on sizeable assumptions about what customers think, feel, want, and need.

Key considerations:  Are you getting customer input/ feedback on your proposition, brand, and experience when it matters most? Are you using the customer perspective to drive decision making across the business?

#4      Stories as well as statistics

Over the last few years there has been much debate about which is the ‘right’ CX metric – NPS/ CSAT/ CES, etc., with organisations coming to realise that there is no ‘perfect’ metric; rather a range of measures are needed to gain a holistic understanding of on-going CX performance.  This includes the growing emphasis placed on independent customer review sites, specifically Trust Pilot, with many of the finalists using their rating as a key customer metric across their organisation.

However, to really sell the positive impact of CX initiatives, statistics need to be accompanied with the art of storytelling – we often only get our message across when we can understand how various touch-points are experienced by, and emotionally impact upon, a real individual customer (ideally one who we can relate to). 

Key considerations: The role of customer immersion in facilitating on-going customer closeness/ understanding, and in providing impactful stories, cannot be understated.  To what extent does your business draw on qualitative research (including techniques such as co-creation and ethnography) to engage the business with the true impact of CX performance?

#5      A focus on the extremities of the experience

The Awards highlighted plenty of best practice examples that we can learn from when it comes to the extremities of the CX (i.e. focusing on the beginning and end of the customer lifecycle and/or particularly positive and negative experiences), such as:

  • Effective resolution and complaints handling
  • Proactive acquisition and retention strategies – e.g. recommend a friend schemes, loyalty programmes, and personalised marketing informed by customer segmentation and a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) model
  • Leveraging Promoters – e.g. encouraging them to write reviews on consumer sites via links at the end of a customer survey
  • Understanding the issues affecting Detractors, e.g. via text analytics and root cause analysis

Key considerations:  What is your business doing in relation to these areas? What are you doing to maintain and optimise the CX for those customers in the middle?  And how do you ensure that you’re not resting on your laurels – i.e. how can you shift your CX from ‘good’ to ‘great’?

#6      Employee engagement

When it comes to CX, we know it’s not just customers who are important. The Awards presentations included great examples of employee engagement initiatives – from ‘employee recognition Friday,’ to dedicated areas (e.g. feedback walls) for employees to make suggestions, to Facebook pages to reach frontline teams. 

To deliver a consistent and branded CX, your employees also need to really understand your CX vision/ brand values (and what they mean in practice) – and need to have a reason to deliver that experience.  For example, the winners of the Hospitality, Leisure & Travel category now include their new values within their employee appraisal process.

Key considerations:  Have you equipped, empowered and motivated your employees to deliver on your CX vision?  Do your employees have all the tools they need to deliver a consistent, branded CX?

If you’d like to discuss any of these areas in more detail and consider how you might set yourself up for entering for an award in 2018, please just get in touch –


B2B customer experience, Customer experience strategy, Customer journey, Customer journey mapping, Customer journeys, customer-centric, customer-first, start-up businesses

UK start-up businesses are on the rise – 2016 saw a record number (650,000) of new start-ups, with this trend predicted to continue in 2017. Alongside this, customer experience is being recognised as a driver of growth amongst B2B service providers, yet less than 25% are excelling and only 23% of B2B organisations claim to have a customer-centric approach. With last week marking six months since starting up ourselves as ‘lens’, we wanted to reflect on some of our own experiences to illustrate:

– Why we firmly believe that a ‘customer first’ approach is so important
– How getting the customer experience ‘wrong’ can have a negative impact on customer behaviour, loyalty, and advocacy
– …And why/ where significant opportunities exist for B2B organisations who ‘get it right’

Here, we take a look at some of the fundamentals of a customer first approach and illustrate how they played out across our own experiences when starting out…

#1 – Understand your customers’ mind-set and needs

Taking the plunge into ‘start-up world’ brought about a whole series of conflicting emotions – we were in a place that we hadn’t been in before…a totally different ‘mind-set’. We were very focused on an overall mission – ‘To set-up our business so that we were ready to go on day 1’. This meant creating a ‘to do’ list which included things like registering the business, buying (and setting-up) the right IT equipment, taking out the right business insurance, and setting-up business banking, etc.  Each item on our ‘to do’ list represented an individual customer journey that we would go on, with each journey involving different organisations.

Our mind-set very much shaped our needs, which was somewhat different to what we would want/ need as a consumer – we were a different persona.  In general, we felt that very few of the organisations we dealt with really took the time to understand this.  Some of the banks got off to a reasonable start – they suggested that they had products for us by having the word ‘business’ in the naming of their accounts and, with some, we could then look at accounts for ‘start-ups’ versus those who were ‘already running a business’ or ‘switching providers.’  Beyond this, the questions they asked us were pretty much about facts and figures (e.g. ‘What will your turnover/ net profit be, will you be dealing in cash?’) and not about what we actually needed.

The impact?

First impressions count.  We started out feeling that we weren’t fully understood and that the banks, in particular, weren’t all that interested in us as a business. Turns out, that feeling became a reality…

#2 – Design around customer goals, not a product or a process

After understanding who your customers/ target customers are, the next question a business should ask is, ‘What are customers trying to achieve with us?’  This leads to the identification of customer goals, which define individual customer journeys, e.g. ‘to set-up our business banking.’ 

It quickly became clear that the bank had designed their experience around their product and associated process, not around us achieving our goal.  This was most apparent in terms of where we each perceived our journey to end – to us, being ‘set-up’ meant that we had everything we needed and knew how to access and manage our accounts; to the bank, the emphasis seemed to be on our account being open – they sent out the necessary comms. and then it felt like ‘job done’…

The impact?

In the short-term, we had some issues with setting-up and support was hard to find – we were unsure who to contact, which lead to us sending several emails and making quite a few calls.  This quickly descended in to feelings of ‘what have we done…’

#3 – Map the end-to-end journey, not just interactions with your brand

It’s also important to note where our business banking journey had started, which was before we got in touch with our chosen bank.  We’d begun by researching and comparing bank accounts online and seeking recommendations from other businesses, meaning that we came armed with information, perceptions, and expectations.  This vital context surrounding interactions, including the ‘route’ taken to get to the brand, is often missed by businesses, who often perceive that the customer journey starts at first contact with their organisation. 

The impact?

In our case, setting-up business banking was also just one of the journeys that we were on in our ‘quest’ to achieve our overall mission – and many of these journeys were dependent on each other, e.g. we couldn’t set-up our direct debit for insurance without our bank account details.  Therefore, when we had to wait 4 weeks for an in-branch appointment, it may not have seemed like a big deal; however, to us, this was part of a much bigger picture – meaning it was more of a ‘pain point’ than the bank is likely to have anticipated.

#4 – Understand the rational journey – i.e. the thought process and support needs beyond the product/ service

The bigger picture, and the journeys themselves, were also about much more than the physical interactions (touch-points) we experienced – the more touch-points we went through, the more questions we had…and the extent to which we could get answers dictated our behaviour. 

When it came to laptops, we wanted to know which one was right for us.  We started off in store, where one retailer provided attempted to provide some POS guidance – laptops for different ‘purposes’ (none of which mapped to what we needed).  We reverted to comparing laptops online and managed to narrow our options down by seeking recommendations from friends and family in business and applying some guess work.  To make our final decision, we decided to go in back in to store, where we chose the most expensive of our shortlisted options.

The impact?

You could argue that this was a win for the retailer as we bought the most expensive laptop from our shortlist.  However, we also needed an ‘all-in-one’ printer/ scanner, a cloud-based storage/ file sharing system, and various software…cue more questions. We’d have happily bought them all in one go if we’d have known we could get the answers we needed.  However, the lack of proactive help from the ‘advisor’ in-store meant we decided it would be ‘easier’ to go back online and purchase the other items we needed from elsewhere – so, does this really count as a ‘win’?

 #5 – Understand what matters most (and why) to build an emotional connection

Across the different journeys, we expected to feel a ‘healthy level’ of anxiety – but there were some stages/ touch-points where we felt more anxious.  In some cases, this felt natural; in others, this was due to, or at least ‘heightened’ by, poor customer experience. When we started our business banking account journey, we wanted an in-branch appointment initially – we called to make one, the contact centre ‘pushed us’ back online…and even when we were (finally) at our appointment, it was suggested that an online application might have been better. Whilst online would be our preferred channel in ‘consumer world,’ this was different – we were in a new territory and we had to get this right. 

The impact?

We wanted to use specific channels for specific reasons. Whilst digital channels will enable us to manage our accounts ongoing, at this point we wanted face-to-face contact with someone who would be on-hand to answer key questions we had and would be accountable for helping us to achieve our goal. For the bank, this was a real opportunity to connect with us and start to build a relationship – whilst in the end, they gave us an initial face-to-face meeting, it was with reluctance and we certainly didn’t feel valued. Our stance now is that we’ll stay with them for the free banking period offered by the product; however, beyond that, our decision will depend on how well they respond to what matters to us in future.  Building an emotional connection where/ when it matters most is so important in terms of customer loyalty and advocacy – people will forget what you said or did but will remember, and talk about, how you made them feel.

#6 – Measure the right things and prioritise based on key drivers

The things that matter most to customers should be amongst the things that a business measures – this means focusing on key stages/ touch-points (‘moments of truth’) and the drivers of satisfaction across these interactions. 

The impact?

Our experience has led us to question whether the organisations we have dealt with have designed around the things that are important to start-up businesses specifically… Interestingly, none of the organisations that we have dealt with have approached us to ask us for feedback on our experiences.

Some final reflections…

So… we didn’t have the best customer experiences and we wouldn’t recommend the bank or the retailer…or any of the businesses we dealt with for that matter.

As the start-up market continues to grow, it’s time to take things seriously. Adopt a customer-first approach; Get the customer experience right, identify opportunities to fulfil other needs at the right points, create reasons for business customers to be loyal, and build advocates of the future.


Customer experience strategy, Customer journey mapping

Looking back over the last few years, Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) has risen as one of the latest ‘trends’, with businesses becoming increasingly interested in their own journeys – 86% of senior-level marketers now say that it is ‘absolutely critical or very important’ to create a cohesive customer journey.

With new ways for customers to touch brands continuing to emerge, sources of data continually expanding, and consumer expectations rising, CJM will be fundamental in enabling businesses to continue on their path to being truly customer-centric throughout 2017 – and beyond.

For CJM to be embedded within a business and achieve its true potential, there are a number of factors that will be critical to successful implementation:

#1 A universal customer experience (CX) strategy

Beyond the fact that CJM continues to be a ‘hot topic,’ why the interest from businesses in their own customer journeys? The ideal answer to this question is that CJM has been identified as a key ‘tool’ required to execute a clearly defined Customer Experience (CX) strategy – a strategy that has gained buy-in from stakeholders and employees across all levels of the business, and is directly linked to the overall business strategy. In our experience, the success of CJM initiatives ride on the level of investment in this upfront work. A good, solid CX strategy outlines:

  • The overall experience that the brand wants to deliver to its customers – articulated by a clear CX vision, priorities, and customer-centric measures of success
  • How the brand will deliver its vision to customers – a set of CX design principles which act as a framework to drive consistency across all journeys and channels and are grounded in how customers want to feel about their experiences with a brand
  • What customers can achieve with the brand – a customer journey framework with journeys defined from a customer perspective, based on customer goals or the ‘jobs’ that customers are trying to get done

Getting the CX strategy right positively impacts the bottom line – 73% of marketing leaders say adopting a customer journey strategy achieves revenue growth.

#2 Customer journey management

Although it means time and investment – in cross-functional teams with journey owners and dedicated resource – creating a customer journey management structure is the best way of ensuring CJM drives change. ’This structure also brings about consequential benefits that will aid a business on its path to customer-centricity, including:

  • A shift in mind-set – once journeys have been defined from a customer perspective, mirroring the way that your customers see you as an organisation should result in the business thinking and feeling like a customer, rather than by the way the business operates (in terms of products, channels, processes and systems)
  • Collaborative working – cross-functional journey teams (that include frontline representation) cut across siloes, pooling expertise and encouraging knowledge sharing in pursuit of shared actions
  • Cohesive thinking – decision making at all levels geared towards delivering against customer needs, rather than individual agendas

#3 Emotional profiling of customers – segmentations and personas

Winning at CX is about building emotional connections with customers. We see personas used extensively in CJM and experience design as a way of understanding customer types and thinking more ‘emotionally’ about:

  • Customers’ wants and needs – building a deeper, more empathetic understanding of the customer
  • Customer experience – which journeys each customer segment is likely to experience
  • Personalisation – how to better ‘connect’ with customers and tailor the experience at the moments that matter to them most

The risk is, however, that developing personas is often an isolated exercise for the purpose of a CJM project – to form yet another version of customer segments or ‘types,’ which are often different to what the insight team holds, and different again to what the digital team uses.

This is where the ‘reignition’ of segmentation needs to happen – utilising the wealth of data within a business so that ‘segmentations of the future’ not only include demographics and history with the brand, but also knowledge of customers’ wants, needs, and desired experiences. By combining historical and predictive data in this way, brands will be able to build a more emotional profile of their customers that, in turn, will enable greater personalisation of the customer experience.

#4 Primary customer (and employee) research

At the point of embarking on a CJM programme, we are often faced with the challenge of ‘convincing’ clients that such an exercise should be informed by primary customer and employee insight. Whilst businesses often hold a huge amount of existing insight, and this is often invaluable, the benefits to making primary research (qual and /or quant) a key step in the process should not be underestimated:

  • For providing the full picture – existing insight often only covers the parts of an experience that the business is directly involved in, rather than the end-to-end experience as the customer sees it – the end-to-end often highlights unaccounted for drop offs, missed opportunities, the cumulative impact of touchpoints and the true impact of key ‘moments of truth’ (both positive and negative), to list a few
  • For buy-in and alignment – making sure everyone is aligned and bought in to the ‘as is’ journey as a platform to move forwards from
  • For closing the gap between internal and customer – to go through process of establishing the gaps between internal and customer view – this is a hugely valuable exercise to facilitate between a cross-functional journey group
  • For generating customer-led solutions – without primary customer insight we can only assume how and why customers are impacted in certain ways and what the ‘fixes’ or future design solutions should be

#5 Connected insight and data

Lastly, but most critically, to realise the true benefit of customer journey mapping, it must be the tool that creates the framework to connect all sources of insight and data, providing a single view of the customer experience and a way of managing the CX.

Initially, the challenge is often the number and variation of sources and types of data that a business holds and/or the way it is often held (in siloes) – resulting in a business not always knowing what it holds or even sometimes holding it ‘secretly.’

Using CJM to connect insight and data will mean that the customer journey cannot be mapped overnight – it requires an iterative process, with buy-in to the customer agenda across the journey team, with the time and dedication to audit the journey, using data and insight to…

Map the ‘as is’ journey initially…

  • Validate and understand the extent of the issues raised through primary research / existing insight
  • Establish the root cause of an experience and the ability to address
  • Create the business case for change – through linking the customer journey directly to backstage operations and processes

Manage, measure and re-design the journey on an ongoing basis…

  • Review how we get the right / relevant sources feeding in to the journey on an on-going basis to inform the correct customer picture on an ongoing basis
  • Establish where there are gaps and where we need to start using data to inform
  • Set the baseline, manage the customer experience and measure the impact

We believe customer journey mapping should be a way of life for a business – used as a tool to connect a business around the customer and a way to successfully differentiate through the customer experience.