Having grown up in Mumbai, I have been greatly influenced by the legend of the Parsis in India. As the much-related story goes, a group of Parsis (essentially, people from Persia) had fled their land, which is now around modern day Iran, following an invasion on their dynasty, and had arrived on the shores of modern day Gujarat. The leaders were brought into the audience of the ruler, Jadhav Rana, whom they requested for asylum.
The king offered them a potful of milk signifying that his kingdom was already well populated. To this, the leaders, without spilling a drop of milk, stirred in some sugar to signify that they would become one with the kings’ people and add to the joy of the land, without unsettling it.
As everyone is aware, Parsis truly enhanced India’s culture and have been great positive contributors to the Indian society. This is best exemplified by the illustrious Tata family, Dr. Homi Bhabha, Ardeshir Godrej, Aruna Irani to name a few, who have contributed greatly to not just the Indian economy, but the society, arts, sciences and more.
But why am I narrating this story? Well, it’s because this story couldn’t have been a better example about the importance of integrating customer insights into business strategy.
Customer focus is usually treated like a separate initiative/project and not fully embedded into a business’ operational DNA. In other words, it is treated like a hobby that you get to if you have the time. But who has the time these days?
Markets across the world are making efforts to bounce back. Even India’s banking sector is walking the optimism route since the last month with an increase in loan demand and credit card spends. However, this is the time to prepare the ground to bounce into a better place than the pre-Covid times.
In reality, most businesses function with lag measures such as sales and revenue leading the business strategy. But is that the right means to achieve the outcome any business seeks? Probably not.
Sales, revenue, margins, reviews – these are all like the milk in the business pot. You may achieve all this in the short term. But what if your experience is bland? Will those numbers truly pay off in the long term? According to my 2018 study of banks in Australia I found that brands that were considered bland by customers had their Net Promoter Score® drop by 39 points. This is important to note as NPS scores are strongly correlated to Stated Loyalty, Positive Referrals and the fact that Promoters are much more likely to purchase additional financial products. To add to this, customers who stated that their banks were bland also showed high levels of negative emotions such as frustration, disappointment, irritation, unhappiness, stress, anger, etc.
ING, the bank that earned the highest NPS in the survey, led the NPS list at 47.6. About 62.6% of ING’s customers were its Promoters, with over 35% of the overall customers stating that they purchased services from ING primarily based on word of mouth.
So what exactly made ING click where traditionally strong and older banks in the market could not make the cut? The answer lies in its focus on customers.
When a business begins to become customer centric and merge customer insights into its business strategies, just like the sugar in the milk, it begins to chart its success story.
So here’s what ING did. For starters, they strengthened their online banking system and kept real estate costs to a minimum. This helped them transfer their savings into profits for their customers. They strengthened their customer support, bringing in a strong culture of proactivity to ensure customers have an unmatched virtual banking experience.
By focussing on aspects that required the bank to provide their customers with:
- Good service
- Good quality products
- Good value for money
ING began achieving the outcome that it desired:
- loyal customers
- strong word of mouth
- business growth
While most often we find that B2C businesses are the ones that focus more on customer retention, B2B often benefits multi-fold. I say this out of experience. When I deal with multiple vendors, it is often the service that is offered by a vendor that makes me decide to either stay or leave the brand. Many a times, I have overlooked subscription costs and extra features only because the service of the vendor has been par excellence.
Just like the sugar in the milk you need to treat your voice of the customer program as a way to enhance your business and build a sustainable competitive advantage.
Let’s take a look at a more vivid example that many of you may be able to relate to better. We often wonder why iPhone users always prefer upgrading to another iPhone despite the cost. There are definitely other smartphones in the market that offer similar features and at even one-tenth the cost! So why Apple? That’s because Apple follows a strong customer-centric approach.
The Apple ecosystem keeps offering customers new services and upgrades that allow them to do more if they invest more in the system. Apps got cheaper on the iStore; product service support got better and Apple included exclusive features that began creating an Apple cult. The more Apple devices one used together, the stronger the communication system grew, and the stronger a customer’s loyalty to the brand for the sheer seamless experience.
But then there is Singapore Airlines as well. The airline has consistently maintained its high-quality customer service, with frontline staff focussed on going above and beyond to deliver great customer experience. For those who are unaware, the airline’s flight code SQ has nothing to do with the airline’s name or Singapore. SQ stands for Superior Quality, and acts as a constant reminder to its staff to go above and beyond to deliver the unparalleled customer service. The airline is also said to give away the highest reward within the organisation to the team or individual who responds to unique customer situations with the most selfless acts of service, and in the most innovatively possible way.
These simple acts of putting the customer first and merging the customer’s requirements with the business requirements is what makes a brand resilient and helps it chart a successful growth story.
But how exactly does a brand know if it is offering its customers what they actually need, rather than what the brand believes the customers need?
The answer lies in not just measuring your CX program regularly but measuring and taking immediate action based on customer feedback. It is important to remember that CX is not a separate line graph in your business strategy. It is like the sugar that you need to mix into your business to sweeten the success story. And for this, you need to conduct comprehensive CX surveys.
Even as the two-question survey has become popular, unfortunately it does not provide adequate strategic insight. You need to measure key touchpoints, attributes, propositions. Embedding the CX program into your operations, measuring your customers’ experience and analysing their feedback regularly can help you enhance the quality of your products and services. This feedback becomes the sugar that endears your brand to your customers and results in greater RoI.
It is this a comprehensive analysis that helps one understand the functional and emotional elements that appeal to or repel customers from a brand. The results of this style of survey is what gives a brand critical and strategic insights into building a strong customer-focussed business strategy that can help the business not just revive and thrive during the ongoing economic crisis, but also stay strong through any future crisis.
Chris is a Global Brand and CX Expert. He is the Managing Director of Engaged Strategy, which is the world’s first official distributer of Nice Satmetrix. Chris is the developer of the Total Engagement Model®, which designs and aligns key elements to maintain brand integrity and customer focus. He is a published academic author and a guest lecturer at the University of Queensland at a Masters Level.