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August 2012

Perspectives on Customer Experience

by Clive Hickman, European Insight Manager at SmartWorld

When it comes to Customer Experience, is your business starved of insights?

Most companies these days have data coming in from every corner of their business. Internally it will come from operations, stores, finance; externally data will arrive from suppliers, business partners, and of course all those market research providers, to name but a few.

In many cases companies have far more data than they can comfortably manage. Yet despite this wealth of information businesses will still say they lack the insights they really need in order to make those 'informed decisions' that we all talk about.

In our case SmartWorld's business revolves around examining the business/customer interface and helping our clients to improve the customer experience they provide.

The 'Customer Experience' is a key focus for many businesses. It is that magic moment when your customer takes out their purse (or wallet) and decides to contribute something to your coffers. Or not!

The quality of this experience is directly affected by many things, any one of which could make it either a positive or negative one. Making it an experience they will want to repeat or not, one they will recommend to their friends or not.

It is not surprising then that companies collect and study information from several different data sources and surveys relating to this magical moment. These will cover the three core aspects of the experience; the store environment, the staff, and the event itself. This often includes:

  Point of Sale data (EPOS)
  Customer Satisfaction surveys
  Mystery Shopping Programs
  Retail Audits
  Staff Surveys

In some cases there will even be videos taken of events in store.

Each of these data sources tell us something about the event, they attempt to measure different aspects of those things that make up the 'customer experience'.

Yet while  we may all agree in principal that a poor 'store environment' will contribute to low customer satisfaction and that 'Satisfied' and motivated staff are key to business success, the real challenge is in quantifying these effects and hopefully being able to prove it!

It is hear that we find the heart of the problem. To tackle this challenge you need to use several, if not all, of the information feeds you have available. Not to look at it from differing perspectives, but from a single perspective based on several threads of information woven into one.

Yet how often do you see Point of Sale data analysed alongside Staff Satisfaction or Customer Satisfaction alongside Retail Audits? In our experience it very rarely happens.

The obstacle is that in too many cases the data is 'owned' by different parts of the business. Even putting aside petty inter-department politics and power struggles the simple reality is that often each team is so busy measuring it's own business area, calculating and circulating it's KPI's and looking for areas of improvement within it's own remit, it doesn't have time to look outwards at the bigger picture.

Typically the different data sets are owned, commissioned and paid for by different departments or teams.

 news1 Data:      Owned by:
Point of Sale data Marketing
Customer Satisfaction Insights
Mystery Shopping Operations
Retail Audits Operations
Staff Surveys Human Resources


The result is that not only do different teams not get to 'see' the other information in many cases they may not even be aware of it's existence, let alone know or understand how they could benefit from it. The fact is that the term 'data silos' may be getting a little over worked, but it is no less true for that.

The result is that the different datasets rarely appear within the same presentation yet alone on the same slide. Typically individual aspects of the 'Customer Experience' get examined (often in great detail) from just one perspective at a time, by one team at a time. Getting a holistic view of the 'Customer Experience' is therefore still difficult and quite rare.

But in truth by now it is getting a little too late. By now the data will have been aggregated into reports. Even where companies are able to see Consumer Data and Point of Sale results it will already be at regional or maybe national level, but not at individual store level.

This really is a big missed opportunity. The real insight and the power comes from being able to see as much of this information as possible at store level. After all that is where the Customer Experience happens. It is only then we can start to see the direct impact of what we do has on our customers.

It is then that we will be able to begin to assess the effect of great Customer Service on Customer Experience, and the effect of Satisfied and Motivated Staff on Customer Loyalty, and most importantly we will be able to gauge the impact these things have on the revenue of the individual stores, and ultimately profitability.

On the flip side we will also be able to recognise the cost and damage that disenfranchised and unengaged staff delivering poor Customer Service, in an inefficient and unappealing environment mean to both the customers and the business.

At SmartWorld we are working hard with our clients to take a more holistic view. We are increasingly building Customer Satisfaction programs and even Staff Satisfaction programs to work alongside their Mystery Shopping program.

Now we are developing platforms that can give clients the ability to see the results of the Mystery Shopping and the Customer feedback (and or Staff Satisfaction) integrated into the same BI reporting system, and with KPI and tailored performance reports available both at management level and store by store.

Analytically the prospects from these developments are truly exciting, opening up a wealth of possibilities. For our clients this represents more manageable data offering more powerful insights into what makes the customer tick and what ticks them off.

At this point we will start to see the wood from the trees, and we will start to gain some holistic insights into all the different components that comprise that magical 'Customer Experience' and to see, measure and understand it in the round.

This will be a big step forward, creating a new depth of understanding into the dynamics and interactions that effect customers. Crucially we are doing this where it really matters, store by store and providing insights that only these integrated solutions can provide.