CX Conference round-up:

The key to the perfect customer experience

Speakers from successful local and international organisations gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Auckland at the Marketing Association’s inaugural CX Conference to share their journey to CX nirvana – all the while being honest about the fact that there is no end. They’re continuously looking for that next eureka moment into how they can continue to deliver the kind of experiences that keeps their customers coming back for more.

Right from the start we were reminded that this shift to customer-centricity and the perfect CX isn’t one we can or should take on our own. As marketers we often feel pressured to deliver solutions, to come up with the ideas and execution that will deliver that deeply personalised, 1:1, ultra-engaging experience to our customer. But while we play an intrinsic part in this transformation, as Rob Limb, CEO from TRACK NZ & Australia, pointed out: ‘CX success is not in our hands alone’.  We need buy in and support from both the C-suite and the wider organisation. 

When you consider the success that organisations like Air New Zealand, THE ICONIC (AU), and John Lewis (UK) have enjoyed you can see that bringing the whole team into the fold is what sets them apart. 

Here are a few of key themes that were revealed throughout the day:

 

Keep the human element

When we travel with Air NZ what is that we remember about the experience? Sure, the Koru Lounge Coffee app is fantastic, but it’s the kids doing the lolly run at the end of the flight that gets the most Instagram love during School Holidays. It’s the staff-member that helps you lift your over-weight luggage onto the conveyer belt that helps ease some of your travel stress. 

It’s these kinds of 1:1 human interactions that we remember most and contribute to our overall experience with the company.

When talking about the transformation that John Lewis has gone through Simon Russell, Director of Operations Development, confessed that ‘The best thing I did was take staff on this journey.’  In the retail industry there is significant competition, especially in the age of internet shopping. Alongside improving the digital experience, encouraging people into the store continues to be a focus. As well as making sure that the digital experience is seamless, they’re also innovating the types of experiences that can be had in-store, like styling events or cookery demonstrations with celebrities to provide inspiration, and creating a reason for people to pop into the store.

 

Customers are driving the change – follow their lead

It’s important that your efforts to deliver a “better” customer experience don’t exist in a vacuum. Your solution should ease a customer need, make their life a little easier, or help them make a choice. You’ll find that successful organisations, rather than going fully digital because that’s what we’re being told ‘is the thing to do’, will often re-invent both the digital experience and the person to person experience – because that’s actually what people want. 

For example TVNZ which is part of an industry undergoing continual disruption. No longer just up against their immediate rivals like MediaWorks or Sky, they now have to contend with video on demand services like Lightbox and Netflix – or even online streaming services like YouTube or torrenting sites – offering enough content to satisfy even the most voracious consumer. 

Recognising that in order to survive they would need to offer a similar viewing experience, as well as continue to cater to the more traditional television viewers. They overhauled their TVNZ on Demand platform and alongside a ‘catch-up’ service for those who missed the latest ep of their favourite programme, the platform offers full seasons for binging purposes, and even online-exclusive content.

As Luke McKeown, Customer Experience Manager from AMI explained, the power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. We’re in the age of the empowered customer. You want to make sure that with any initiatives or changes you make to products or services you bring your customers into the centre of the process, listen to their feedback, understand their pain-points and build processes and initiatives to solve them.

And they don’t need to be big changes. Anyone visiting the Takapuna AMI office and sipping a barista made coffee has this process to thank.

 

Technology is an enabler – not a taker

While people are still central to delivering an outstanding CX – whether at the frontline or behind the scenes coming up with the next innovation - there’s no denying that technology is an integral enabler.

As Kshira Saagar, Head of Analytics and Data Science from THE ICONIC, explains: technology allows humans to be more human. It gives them time to think and innovate and come up with ideas about what else can be done to improve the customer experience. A lot of The ICONIC’s customer-centric innovations and improvements in business processes has come from their staff having the time to think through the automation of repetitive tasks.

We also had the opportunity to chat with Kshira Saagar the day before the conference - here's what we learned.

It’s important that when we’re innovating for CX excellence that we embrace new technology. Even AI. Far from the scary Terminator style robots set to take over the world, AI augments our human capabilities to make better decisions – and does it faster too.

 

Laying the foundation

As I mentioned earlier, the customer experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s often some internal change that needs to take place, or foundation laid, in how your organisation operates to understand the customer need, and then deliver the experience that solves it in an engaging and personable way.

One of these foundations is data. Customer-centricity requires data-centricity, and the democratisation of data. You need to be collecting and analysing data to understand your customer paint points, and it’s this data that should be driving innovations, changes and improvements to the CX. Your team also needs to be able to access this data to better serve customer and help identify what can be done to solve a customer’s pain point at a 1:1 scale.

The other foundation that needs to be laid is your approach to implementing change or new processes. One of the most common used was the agile methodology, taking small steps, seeing what works, and fostering a safe fail-fast culture. Another approach – discussed by a panel of experts in the field – was that of ‘design thinking’. Like agile it’s an iterative approach, but one where the customer is kept at the centre of each decision. At each step of the process you’re asking: ‘what customer problem are we trying to solve?’.

 

It’s the desire to solve a customer problem that is key to how we develop the customer experience – how can we fill a need, and how can we do it better than our competitors? Whether this is helping a customer easily shop the latest run-way look, get cooking inspiration from a celebrity chef, or being able to watch your favourite television programme where and when you want – making life easier and more enjoyable for your customers is the key to unlocking the best possible customer experience.  

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