Experts say improving a client’s emotional attachment to a product or service means paying attention to every point of contact with the customer, and understanding his or her expectations.
The “customer experience” concept has been around in the corporate world since 2003, but Hungarian firms began to seriously take up efforts to promote the idea – capturing the power of emotional bonding with a product – only around six years ago.
Now that the internet makes it much easier to gather information, and quickly compare value, service content and prices, customers are a lot better informed. In this environment, the power of customer experience has become essential. As a result, what used to be an odd item in the marketing toolkit of mobile providers is now a lot more widespread than you think. Statistics show that 75% of Hungarian-based firms consider customer experience to be among their top three priorities, and that they are seeking to become a leader in this regard is also clear.
And yet, local shoppers hardly perceive these efforts. Surveys show that customers in Hungary do not feel any improvement in customer experience. Obviously, Hungarian companies need to do more when it comes to improving matters.
“This proves perfectly that customer experience is not up to strategy, but whether it can be implemented on the front line,” Csaba Szabó, CEO of Develor Hungary points out to the Budapest Business Journal. He maintains that by focusing on efficient implementation, his consulting company can teach firms how to provide improvements in customer experience that customers will actually notice.
“Our method assesses the so-called Customer Experience-Readiness of an entity, whereby it is established to what extent the organization is prepared to embrace it. During the audit, it is examined how far internal conditions comply or how deeply customer experience has been integrated in the organizational culture. In short, how committed the entity is to follow through its ambitious goal to make its clients feel better, that they are heard and valued,” Szabó explains.
Audits tend to reveal that tools, processes and systems – such as sales plans, store operation models, or related templates that are meant to increase the level of service – might already exist, but they are not interconnected, and at the time when they were made they weren’t designed to improve customer experience.
Develor seeks to make sure that existing elements are applied to make full use of them and adds new ones to set up an integral structure. “Companies had better prepare for a long-term development though, since even with targeted prioritizing you can’t do it all at once and it takes time for new practices to turn into daily routine,” Szabó says.
Strategy by itself won’t do
“Implementation must take place in every channel and in every transaction and every point of contact. In order to achieve that, first and foremost the customer journey itself needs to be identified,” says Zsolt Pozvai, Global CEO of the Develor international network. “It is essential to find those contact points during this journey that make the biggest emotional impact on you. When you are served in a bank for example, the speed with which you are called to proceed to the counter, or whether you are welc
omed at the entrance, might have a bigger impact on you than when you are called by your name.”
To achieve this, Pozvai says, it is important to define critical behaviors – the ones that have the largest effect during a transaction on the customers and his or her commitment to a brand. Making staff familiar with expected behavior requires classroom and on-the-job training, where immediate feedback is given and corrections made, Pozvai says.
Meanwhile, direct superiors are in key roles and have homework to do too for long-term benefits via controlling or coaching front line employees. “In their efforts, they are assisted by a so-called operational leadership model, which clearly defines the expected tasks and routines to follow in order to ensure the critical behaviors happen in the frontline. This is what we co-create with clients to ensure measurable changes,” Pozvai notes.
To what extent implementation is successful is measured by different tools. The most popular customer experience index, the Net Promoter Score (NPS), is said to be applied by 30-40% of Hungarian companies. To apply the NPS, clients are asked at the end of a transaction how likely it would be that they recommend the service to others. Other methods include the customer satisfaction index and the customer effort score.
Time to adjust your expectations
Scoring highly on these indexes involves giving a good overall impression at different points of customer contact, and it depends a lot on expectations.
“We apply all sorts of sources of information in order to get a clear idea of those expectations, since most of the time such preconception is formed subconsciously. Customer complaints are analyzed for that matter, or biological sensors are attached to test subjects in order to measure how stress level fluctuates in the course of transactions,” Pozvai adds. Experience shows that even small gestures such as a handshake between the loan officer and the customer can make a difference. “In that particular example, a handshake can make you feel that you’re treated as a partner,” Szabó points out. “The problem is that customer expectations are sector-neutral, so if certain sectors are improving, others need to keep up, otherwise they would start lagging behind even if their service remains at the same level.”
Top multinational companies excelling at providing customer experience are successful because expectations are kept high, but everything is designed in a way that helps meet expectations. Apple, for one, provides product and retail experience by hiring people whose strength is not knowing every technical detail of a device, but to be able to explain how it offers an experience for you. Similarly, Emirates airline applies methods that strike emotional chords with passengers. “When you fly Emirates business or first class, you are always called by your name. Now that doesn’t cost money, but a bit of an extra effort that, again, provides evidence that very minor things can translate into emotional effects,” Pozvai says.
Another small thing that can really matter is reducing waiting time – or at least making waiting time less annoying. “We trained staff to address waiting people to sell stuff in connection withthe business, for instance helping with downloading a mobile banking app and setting up a mobile banking account. You see, this is what magic is, since you don’t have to cut waiting time at all costs, but simply find out how to turn it into a profit while making your client feel more comfortable,” Pozvai explains.
Budapest Business Journal, July 29 – September 2, 2016 – Levente Hörömpöli-Tóth