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The One CX Research Strategy Every Brand Should Know

June 11th 2019

While traditional customer experience survey templates are effective for getting a snapshot of service at a certain point in time, bringing about a step-change in company culture needs a progressive research platform capable of looking at every customer touchpoint in the round. 

As consumers increasingly prioritise excellent customer service over price, Customer Experience Research (CXR) plays a core strategic role in helping organisations develop a truly customer-centric model – identifying what customers expect and receive at each contact point, whether they’re browsing in store or liaising with customer support on a post-sale problem.

Research companies and online survey tools offer an array of methods to monitor customer feedback, from mystery shopping to quick-fire survey templates. While these are effective for getting a snapshot of service at a certain point in time, what we’ve learnt is that bringing about a step-change in company culture needs a progressive research platform capable of looking at every customer touchpoint in the round.

Customer Service Gaps in an Omni-Channel Customer Experience

Customers use multiple channels to peruse, purchase and engage post-sales services, including mobile, social media, apps, websites, email and in-store. The build up to buying can involve searching providers’ sites and youtube videos, scouring customer feedback on social media and seeking personal recommendations. They might hop onto a brand’s app to ask specific questions, before purchasing face-to-face or online. Each contact point presents the chance to impress and delight the customer.

The problem is that while many organisations set out standards for excellent customer service at each touchpoint, few enact complete journeys from the customer perspective. Understanding how channels interact with each other is just as important as what happens at individual touchpoints. This is because customers judge a brand on the sum total of their encounters, and although channels may be run by different teams, departments, even different companies, each impacts the overall customer experience.                          

Customer frustrations with a brand’s omni-channel experience include:

  • Difficulty Swapping Channels - Customers use several channels to communicate with a company, often swapping between them to complete a task. Regardless of the number of channel swaps, customers expect a seamless, speedy experience from whichever they’re using. Having to repeat steps, start again, or wait for a company response to move forward, are key customer frustrations.
  • Single Customer View – Whether requesting a refund or an update on a complex insurance claim, customers expect companies to be able to retrieve key information, such as transaction details and their up to date case history quickly. If swapping channels requires a customer to repeat themselves or wait while a company representative gets up to speed, it indicates disorganisation and a lack of customer focus.
  • Inconsistent Responses – Customers don’t see channels as separate entities but integral to the company brand. A significant pain point is when customers are given different messages according to the channel they are using. As well as wasting their time, it suggests the company doesn’t have a joined-up approach and is unable to meet customer needs effectively.
  • Not Responding to Customers – Not responding to customer queries and complaints whether via post, email, social media or telephone is bad for business. It shows disinterest and is one of the main reasons for customer loss. Ignoring customers’ messages - especially complaints - on social media channels is particularly dangerous as not only is the customer watching but existing and potential customers too.            

Recognising the complexity of gathering meaningful metrics in an omni-channel environment, we have developed CEQA (Customer Experience Quality Analysis) - a unique CX research platform capable of measuring and analysing customer journeys across all channels.

The outcome gives organisations accurate insight as to where gaps in service delivery arise, allowing them to not only resolve re-occurring customer pain points, but implement a responsive cross-channel experience.

CEQA - Next-level Customer Insight

Our CEQA framework sits at the heart of a company’s operations, acquiring actionable data across all customer-facing and back-office functions to give a 360-degree view.         

The approach is based on the Gap Model of Service Quality developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry in 1985 and their later SERVQUAL model, developed in 1988. The PZB Gap Model identifies the core elements of ‘service quality’ and the five distinct gaps that lie between customer expectations and the delivered service quality.

The first four gaps relate to an organisation’s view of service quality delivery and the actions required to deliver service quality to the end customer. The fifth gap focuses on the customer and the gap between their expectations and service and is defined as ‘the discrepancy between consumers’ expectations of the service and perceptions of the actual service’.

This gap represents the ultimate test of a company’s service quality as it depends purely on internal factors, such as how well the company actively listens and responds to its customers’ needs, and to what extent the company has put policies in place setting the standard of customer service staff should follow. Although the first four gaps influence the customers overall opinion of service quality, gap five is the only gap that can be measured.

The authors expanded on the importance of the customer-led gap by developing a model specifically for measuring service quality (SERVQUAL). The model is founded on the expectancy-confirmation paradigm which indicates that customers perceive quality service according to how well their expectations of service delivery are met in real life. Originally founded on ten dimensions of service quality, the model was reduced to five factors that can be applied to a wide selection of industry sectors and settings. The five service quality factors are referred to as the RATER model and include:

  • Reliability - The ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately
  • Assurance - The knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence
  • Tangibles - The appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials
  • Empathy -The provision of caring, individualised attention to customers
  • Responsiveness - The willingness to help customers and to provide prompt service

The SERVQUAL model, in its most innovative form, feeds into the primary stage of our CEQA research process. This is where we undertake qualitative research to uncover customer opinions on a company’s service provision and products across the entire buying cycle, from consideration to purchase, post-sales and re-purchase. As well as in-depth telephone interviews and customer focus groups, we scrape data from the widest possible customer channels, including review sites and social media. This gives us undiluted insight into the service delivery issues affecting customers and the specific areas to target in the questionnaire.

The quantitative questionnaire measures the strength of customer expectation against perception across all relevant key areas, providing clear indicators of where gaps in service delivery exist, and where wider influencing factors impact the overall view of the experience. Unlike customer research carried out from a company’s perspective, the CEQA questionnaire is designed by the customer for the customer. As such, it prioritises the factors that customers care about the most, allowing companies to drive targeted, measurable cross-company improvements.

CEQA gap analysis works as an effective stand-alone CXR instrument while also providing companies with reduced performance metrics to form baseline measurements for a comprehensive Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) programme.

The survey is issued to customers on a rolling basis with a live data feed of CSI scores across key performance areas going direct to managers’ dashboards. Alongside on-going customer satisfaction tracking, this enables quick identification of low-performance areas and effective action planning to boost customer feeling.

Additional benefits of CEQA include:                      

  • Differentiation Strategy – Enables companies to align service delivery with their customer expectations, creating a compelling customer experience that cements consumer relationships and sets them apart from competitors.
  • Customer-led research – Reliable, grass roots feedback about what customers want at every digital and face-to-face interaction over the purchasing cycle, from social media and app features, through to payment systems and customer service support.   
  • Personalisation and Anticipation – Identification of barriers to excellent service delivery - such as clumsy handovers and discrepancies between channels - and flagging of opportunities to personalise and build the customer experience, such as spotting and creating targeted communication campaigns for different demographics, anticipating customers’ next steps to cross-sell other relevant offerings, and digitising processes to reduce customer effort.  
  • Boost profitability – A cross-company management programme like CEQA integrates customer experience into the business model, coordinating different channels to bring about quantifiable improvements in performance, in turn increasing customer retention and customer lifetime value.   
  • Customer Experience ‘Visibility’ – Regular customer satisfaction data gives departments and teams a fresh focus on customer service, helping re-wire internal thinking. On a practical level, it helps track KPIs and, where changes are made, gives a clear measurement of their impact on customer satisfaction outcomes.

Ready to start transforming your omni-channel customer experience for the better? To find out more contact Glyn Luckett on 01753 214038 or email gluckett@tti-global.com