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Are outdated myths holding your customer experience back?

SilverStripe CMO Nicole Williams busts some of the common myths holding companies back from outstanding customer experiences. 

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In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of immersing myself in great conferences and hearing from leaders in digital and customer experience. The crowds at both CMO Executive Connections in Australia and the first NZ Digital Banking conference in Auckland showed marketers are eager to learn how to improve customer experiences.

There were some common themes and myths discussed that often hold companies back from turning their digital channels into outstanding customer experiences. Here were a few of the lessons that resonated:  


Truth: Customer experience is a business problem

Often there is one team that “owns” customer experience (CX) in an organisation. A siloed approach can lead to a feeling from the wider organisation that this isn’t their problem. When CX is seen as a marketing problem, it can lead to brands that are inauthentic. Rebranding exercise try to “reposition” the company, rather than deal with underlying issues.

When CX is seen as an customer support problem, it leads to “ambulance at bottom of cliff” solutions. Again this approach focuses on one portion of the customer journey, failing to address other pain points.   

To resolve this, companies need strong leadership commitment across departments and a recognition that the customer experience is a shared responsibility.  

Break down silos, every single person should understand the customer promise - Peter Harris, Vision Critical, CMO Executive Connections  

Myth 2: Total customer focus leads to great customer experiences 

Truth: Customer engagement starts with staff engagement

We often value user testing and user experience in crafting digital experiences, but it’s also vital to recognise the part played by our own employees. An American Society of Quality report shared at the CMO Executive Connections event highlighted this clearly. It was found that only 9% of customers leave to switch to a competitor, 10% from a personal circumstance change and a further 14% due to product dissatisfaction. This was dwarfed by the 67% of customers who leave because of the attitude of indifference of a single employee.

Customers will more likely leave you, not because of competitors or product dissatisfaction, but because of the actions of indifferent of one employee.  ~ Joe Quitoni, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation of the Ritz-Carlton

Customer experience starts with your internal culture and employees. Employee engagement leads to customer engagement.

Joe Quitoni, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation, Ritz-Carlton shared how they went from 50% staff turnover in 1991 to low 20% in 2015, and the affect higher staff engagement had on customer satisfaction rates. Every single employee, a workforce of over 40,000 globally, spends the first 15 minutes of each day sharing “wow” stories of customer delight and discussing the company credo and mission. Much like an Agile stand-up, but with a focus on the bigger picture, as well as individual actions or projects.

Joe Quitoni, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation of the Ritz-Carlton

Joe Quitoni, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation of the Ritz-Carlton 

Myth 3: Create consistent, scalable processes

Truth: Empower individuals to make decisions in line with values

Excellence is often associated with the idea of “best practices”. However, when customer experience becomes a set of processes, scripts and policies these best practices can actually impede great customer experience. If there’s not flexibility to adapt to the situation then we miss opportunities to exceed expectations. Joe of Ritz-Carlton shared how each employee, at every level, has a daily budget they can spend helping customer. There’s no need to get prior approval and it lets staff react in the moment, while a strong sense of the Ritz-Carlton brand helps guide these decisions.   

Joshie the Giraffe - a tale that shows how Ritz Carlton puts customers first

Joshie the Giraffe: It’s the actions that don’t scale well that can lead to the biggest impact. This toy giraffe was left at a Ritz-Carlton and was returned with a photo album from his extended holiday. It delighted not only the giraffe’s owner, but millions of people who read the story later on Huffington Post.

Myth 4: No complains, no problems

Truth: Complaints are a lagging measure

Richard Burns, GM of Aussie Home Loans warned that customer complaints is a lagging measure that often comes too late. Instead Richard and others at the CMO Executive Connections events advised on using a combination of Net Promoter Score and “micro surveys” as stronger predictors. Micro surveys are short 2-3 question surveys at critical moments in the customer journey. These are valuable for gauging the pains where the experience could be improved, rather than asking a customer to remember the whole process and try to pinpoint this for you. Prevent survey fatigue by ensuring these are short, relevant and timely.  


Truth: You have to deliver better customer experiences than their last great experience

At the NZ Digital Banking conference, Shane Howell, Chief Product Officer, Westpac, reminded the audience that customer experience was no longer measured against other banks. Customers measure our experiences against other brands, not other options. Your digital channels will be judged against the Air NZ and Airbnb’s of our world, not your direct competitors.

Digital needs to be a core value, not just a strategy ~ Shane Howell, Chief Product Officer, Westpac

Being top of our industry is no longer enough to delight customers. The bar for “great customer experiences” has never been higher, and will continue to be lifted. Digital, and customer, focus are vital to providing experiences that measure up to the best, not just our competitors.

CX panel at the NZ digital banking conference

Customer experience panel at the NZ digital banking conference

Becoming a mythbuster 

At the NZ digital banking conference, I had the pleasure of chairing the Customer Experience panel which brought together experts from industries that NZ continuously excels in – tourism and sports. The learnings and stories shared were applicable to all in the room, reinforcing that innovation in customer experience won't come from examining our competitors.

My challenge to marketers is to think about brands and leaders that you can benchmark your customer experience with. Outstanding customer experience is a never-ending journey – set the bar for yourself high and keep pushing for continuous improvement. 



About the author
Nicole Williams

Nicole has over 10 years experience in marketing and communications. As Head of Product, she is responsible for overseeing product management, product delivery, and marketing at SilverStripe. Nicole is responsible for engaging with public sector agencies to drive forward the vision and roadmap for the Common Web Platform, harnessing the potential of open source to share government innovation

Nicole is an advocate for knowledge sharing, believing it’s key to keeping up with the pace of tech. Her writing has been featured on Hubspot, and Huffington Post.


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