In an increasingly competitive global market, customer experience is right up there among reasons customers buy from a brand, right after value for money. And with the high and ever increasing expectations of service, it is important to ask if a traditional approach truly captures the customer experience.
Bill McMurray, Managing Director, JAPAC, Qualtrics in an exclusive interview with Techseen, talks about the “experience gap” and why companies should adopt CX to survive in a rapidly evolving business landscape.
Techseen: In an increasingly competitive market, why is customer experience one of the top considerations for consumers when making the decision to purchase from a brand?
McMurray: In today’s world of instant access to information, if consumers do not get what they want, when they want it, and how they want it, they will simply look for better alternatives.
Consumers today buy more than just a product; they buy the experience associated with it. The experience is everything from the product experience, brand experience, and the interactions with the company’s employees.
A recent study by Qualtrics showed that 80 percent of customers in the APAC region would switch brands based on poor customer experience alone. This clearly shows that once a customer is engaged with a company, the organisation has to provide a positive experience. If the experience is a positive one, the customer is more likely to remain loyal, buy more, and recommend the brand to others.
Techseen: Singaporeans are notoriously among the world’s most demanding when it comes to good service, says the Amex 2017 Global Customer Service Barometer. Do you see any specific challenges in customer service facing this region?
McMurray: Customer Experience (CX) is a hot topic right across the APAC region and there is a significant increase in customers’ expectations on how companies should deliver experiences. Customers now expect companies to detect dissatisfaction promptly and respond swiftly to remediate the issue and so recover loyalty.
APAC millennials are among the fastest in the world to adopt mobile technologies and organisations serving customers in APAC need to recognise this, and keep it front of mind when designing and managing their customer experience programs – everything needs to be mobile responsive. Crucial to their customer experience program is the ability to collect feedback from consumers through multiple mobile customer touch points, such as in-app feedback, website feedback, SMS, social media, etc.
Once this feedback is collected, organisations need to be able to respond to consumers in real-time. With this generation being accustomed to the norm of instantaneous feedback, if the organisation is not responding to a customer’s feedback instantly, they may lose them to their competitors.
Techseen: According to a recent Qualtrics survey on 1,700 Asia Pacific consumers, almost 30% will drop the brand or company without notice if they experience a service failure. Can you suggest 3 tips that ensure a satisfactory UX across the globe?
McMurray: The concept of “experience management” is fast-rising among marketers and strategists to unlock competitive advantages. This comes as no surprise as often the difference between success and failure lies in their customer’s experiences. In fact, customer experience is among the top differentiators for brands.
Most organisations tend to focus on the more “operational” aspects of service delivery, but few combine this with the “experience” aspects of their service. This results in “experience gaps” (the difference between what you intend to deliver and what you actually deliver), which creates a disconnect between your customers from your brand, in turn reducing brand loyalty.
To ensure an enhanced UX, first, organisations should respond in real-time. As mentioned earlier, APACs millennials are accustomed to the norm of instantaneous interactions, as they are so tech savvy. If there is service failure and the customer complains about this and provides feedback, this is the organisation’s chance to win this customer back, but they only have a small window to do this, so they must respond in real-time to customer feedback.
Second, they should measure across the entire customer journey and focus on analysing consumer decision journey metrics. Consumers are changing the way they research and buy products, and hence organisations should be clear about possible obstacles, sources of motivation, or what drives satisfaction. Consistently tying journey performance, instead of one-off interactions, to actions, will help organisations deliver a more personalised customer experience that in turn will encourage loyalty and repeated purchases.
Third, companies should engage employees. An engaged workforce that provides great customer service is linked to revenue growth and is necessary to create a customer-centric brand. Organisations with invested employees almost always outperform companies that do not. Employees form the frontline of any organisation and interact directly with consumers to create the experience, whether outstanding or not.
Techseen: Qualtrics has recently launched the XM Platform to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, employee, product, and brand experience. How has its success been so far? Can you name some major clients using the platform?
McMurray: We reached a key milestone this year, with the launch of our Experience Management (XM) platform. This has created a new market category – Experience Management (XM), with Qualtrics receiving accolades such as Temkin Group’s Customer Experience Vendor Excellent (CxVE) Award, and being named a leader in customer feedback management by independent research firm Forrester.
Our clients within the APAC span a multitude of sectors. One of our recent clients in the region is Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA), which uses Qualtrics to manage their customer and employee experience programs.
Another Qualtrics client in Asia Pacific is Australian Unity (leading health, wealth and living company in Australia), which uses Qualtrics customer experience management platform to help drive their health insurance customer experience strategy and competitiveness.
Techseen: Why is there a disparity between what companies believe they’re delivering around customer experiences and service, and what customers believe they’re getting?
McMurray: Many organisations operate on a traditional model in how they think consumers arrive at a purchasing decision – or the discovery journey. With the pervasiveness of the Internet, consumers are much more well-informed, and their purchase journey is also more dynamic and interactive.
Traditional one-way communication-based marketing strategies are not as effective as they were, resulting in an “experience gap” between the experience companies think they are delivering, and how customers perceive it. In a Bain & Co study, 80 percent of companies say they deliver superior experience, yet only 8 percent of customers agree.
Consumers also now expect brands to respond immediately if they share their feedback online. While many companies acknowledge this as a new reality and strive to improve CX, the challenge lies in not being able to capture this “in-the-moment” feedback quickly and then act on it fast enough to address that customers concern(s). Rapid remediation of issues is critical and companies no longer have the luxury of surveying customers annually for their opinions.
Techseen: How can companies get their CX right?
McMurray: Opinions should be sought continuously and the resources invested into training customer experience teams to close the loop with customers should be a key priority.
As more companies shift their focus to customer-centric business models, there are three ways they can best capture in-the-moment feedback to offer better brand experiences:
1. Timing is Everything
Knowing the best moment to capture feedback helps you deliver great experiences across the customer journey. Mapping these ‘moments that matter’ allows your brand to better understand the unique paths your customers take. Learning about their post-purchase experience also helps build a fuller picture of the customer’s perceptions.
2. Get the Right Feedback To Make The Best Decisions
It is important for businesses to ask for more than just whether the customer is satisfied or not. Going deeper with the questions, pulling out a customer’s expectations, drivers and perceptions, will help you learn how to do things better.
3. Prioritise Closing the Loop at Scale
It is critical for brands to respond to individual customers as fast as possible. However, prioritising learning and closing the loop at scale can impact many customers at once. Building a stable, repeatable process for capturing customer feedback at every touchpoint and acting on it is foundational to good customer experience management and builds customer trust and loyalty.
Companies need ensure that their strategies align with the consumer purchase journey, and invest in the relevant touchpoints. To do so, companies should invest in a well-designed CX program that can deliver real-time, actionable feedback from customers across these touchpoints, and focus on the areas of the greatest impact. Such platforms can develop a powerful and differentiating mechanism for businesses to generate an enhanced CX that sets their brand apart from the rest.
Techseen: Can you comment on Qualtrics’ engagement with start-ups, SMBs and non-traditional innovators in the space?
McMurray: Qualtrics is a modular, scalable platform, which can be used from one-person organisations, through to large-scale enterprise organisations. Typically we see our startup and SMB customers start small with our sophisticated research platform and then grow their Qualtrics usage to include other functionality, such as role-based dashboards and advanced text analysis.
What makes Qualtrics different is that you don’t need to invest in a full CX platform, organisations can start small and grow as their programs mature.
Techseen: What are your goals for Singapore in this quarter? How do you plan to transform how SEA brands and consumers interact with one another?
McMurray: We’ve selected Singapore as the location for our ASEAN headquarters, offering support to surrounding countries in the Southeast Asia region.
It just makes perfect sense for us, given its ease of doing business, it’s role as an APAC headquarters for a number of brands, its regional connectivity, and access to local, regional, and global talent.
We are building a local initial team of 10 staff as quickly as possible, with the intent of growing beyond sales and support to include client success, implementation, marketing and additional supporting functions. The plan is to provide the full range of local resources to ensure the success of our rapidly expanding customer base.
Techseen: Do you have any plans for expansion in the APAC?
McMurray: Our focus in 2017 is to further accelerate growth in Australia and New Zealand, and expand across the region by opening local operations in each of Singapore and Japan. These local teams will look to assist their clients to drive revenue growth through the provision of superior experiences across their business with our experience management platform.
Since launching in late 2014, we have grown to over 600 customers in Asia Pacific and Japan and our revenues have more than doubled each year. We expect to see this expansion continue, especially with the launching of both our Singapore (ASEAN) and Japanese operations.