Utility Week

UTILITY Week 6th March 2015

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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UtILItY WEEK | 6th - 12th March 2015 | 25 Customers Market view E very organisation that is making the transition from customer service think- ing to customer experience thinking is also tackling the thorny issue of what to measure. When you are striving to create an excellent customer experience, it is impor- tant to know when you've done it. Working out what to measure can be an art, but once you've cracked it, you'll have superb visibility to inform your decisions. However, in customer experi- ence, not everything can be meas- ured in quantitative terms; you also need to assess qualitative performance. The starting point is to establish which elements of the experience your custom- ers really value – the elements that actually determine their satisfaction. These are not always what you think. Take care homes as an example. Care, cleanliness, friendliness, entertainment, environment and catering all play their part to varying degrees. However, a critical determinant of customer satisfac- tion is how the care home smells. It's difficult to measure, but because it is a fundamen- tal factor in determining satisfaction, it's essential that we take it into account. Typically, our clients determine what they will measure without customer involvement. This can work, but only if you are crystal clear about what your customers value and what determines their satisfaction. That insight needs to have been objectively cap- tured, directly from your customers – and recently. Most organisations measure key aspects of their customer journey and that is useful. However, a much broader view needs to be taken. Measures must cover the full range of elements that feature in the customers' expe- rience, which is a significantly bigger consid- eration than the customer journey. That is why we now focus on customer experience mapping, not customer journey mapping. This is part of the transition from old cus- tomer service thinking to newer customer experience thinking. As this change takes place, the full range of influences on the customer experience become visible. Consider a child going into hospital. The medical treatment this child receives is fundamentally important. Admission and discharge top and tail that journey. But the child's perceptions of their experience are based on so much more. Those perceptions are oen formed on subconscious senses: smells, noises, the feeling of the plastic sheet on the bed, the tightness of the doc- tor's grip, what happened before they arrived that day, what they expect to happen when they go home, how they perceive what their parents are feeling, their degree of famili- arity with the setting, their experiences of other medical settings, and so on. So much is influencing their perception of their expe- rience – much more than the actual journey associated with the medical procedure. Net promotor score, which measures the propensity of a customer to recommend an organisation to someone else, has become a staple measure of customer satisfaction. A stronger measure, albeit one not obtainable immediately aer an experience, is actual promotion, where you seek to measure how many customers have actually made a rec- ommendation and to how many people. Intent is a useful indicator of what might happen, but actual recommendation is a firm piece of information about what did happen. The importance of customers' time and effort must not be underestimated. As cus- tomers become increasingly time poor, so the amount of effort they are willing to, or expect to, expend in obtaining products and services decreases. Make it too hard and cus- tomers go elsewhere (if they can) or dissat- isfaction develops. Customer effort is now a crucial customer experience measure. There was a time when customers auto- matically trusted large organisations. Those days are gone and scepticism reigns. Trust is another key service element that has to be measured, yet few organisations do. Further- more, good insight is needed into the experi- ence elements that drive up trust and those that erode it for your customer base. Regulated industries have to accept that regulatory targets generally fail to keep pace with customer expectations. Thus outperform- ing the regulator's target may still not satisfy customers. The organisations we work with in regulated industries can accurately tell us the regulated time frames for various service elements. However, few can accurately tell us what the customer expects regarding time frames. Measuring the gap between the time frames involved in a particular service element and the customers' expectation is a key measure. Time and effort are two areas of customer experience where we are seeing rapidly changing customer expectations, so constant monitoring is required. Inevitably, with a proliferation of chan- nels and a better understanding of the full range of elements involved in determining customer satisfaction, there will be a require- ment to measure more things. That means even more data. The more we measure, the more complex the data picture gets and the harder it becomes for staff to understand what it is telling them and to work out what action needs to be taken. Ultimately, less change and improvement happens. While we can't avoid the growing amount of data, we can get better at making sense of it. Better analytics, a degree of automation and stronger interpretation skills can help. Getting real value from the metrics comes when you can translate the metric into a story. Stories engage people. Stories make situations clearer and motivate people to find solutions and take action. Stories can bring about change and improvement. Measure new things, present fresh insights, tell stories and watch what happens. Nicola Eaton Sawford, managing director, Customer Whisperers A measure of satisfaction Utilities are under pressure to improve their relationship with customers, but how can they tell if their actions are having the desired effect? Nicola Eaton Sawford offers some advice. "Measures must cover the full range of elements that feature in the customers' experience, which is a significantly bigger consideration than the customer journey"

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