Whether a customer experience takes place in a physical or a digital environment, it must make the individual feel positively about the brand. It is important for them to feel as if they have been treated as a human being, that their thoughts, emotions and custom needs have been taken into account, and that any problems they’ve encountered have been addressed in a heartfelt manner. To achieve this, it is essential for brands to incorporate the wisdom of The Six PillarsTM into their customer experience design, particularly for digital platforms, where there is an intrinsic danger of an interaction becoming ‘depersonalised’.
Importance of The Six Pillars
The Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence are the universal facets of all great customer experiences, and these are Personalisation, Time and Effort, Expectations, Integrity, Resolution and Empathy. And whilst they play an important role in over-the-counter interactions, and conversations on the telephone, they are also essential for those brands who engage with customers via digital channels, such as social media platforms. Moreover, in the ever-connected world of the 21st century, customers have quickly grown to expect the quality of their digital engagements to match – or exceed – the ones they encounter in a physical environment.
Humanising the experience
In the first instance, this would involve addressing the customer by name. This simple act makes an otherwise ‘faceless’ encounter more humanised, and reassures the customer that they are important and that they are being dealt with as an individual, and that they are not simply being handed a generic ‘copied and pasted’ response. One company that is particularly good at this is the retailer Marks and Spencer, which currently sits in 21st place in the Customer Experience Excellence rankings, (although its connected brands – M&S Bank and M&S Food – rank at 12 and 18 respectively.) Many customers take to the company’s Facebook page to enquire about products and to offer feedback, and the brand is thorough and personable in its interactions, using the customer’s name in the response and even signing off using the name of the employee, such as “Thanks, Natalie” or “Thanks, Denise.” This reminds shoppers that they are engaging with another human being who is solicitous about their needs, and that the M&S Facebook page is not a distant digital entity that will simply quote retail policies at them.
Being available to the customer
Moreover, there is an increasing amount of pressure being put on brands in the pillar of Time and Effort. As customers have access to the internet and social media platforms at any time of the day or night, there is an expectation that they will be able to contact a brand on Facebook at 7pm and receive a speedy response. For this reason, it is important for CEM companies to be accommodating of this in their customer experience design.
For example, the “unexpected bank” first direct – which is telephone and internet-based, and does not have physical branches – operates a 24/7 contact service, a facility that is managed consistently across all of its platforms, be it Twitter, Facebook, or over the phone. Employees are available to speak to customers throughout the night, and at the beginning of each ‘shift’ on Twitter, the person in question will send a tweet introducing themselves, and invite customers to get in touch if they have any problems or concerns. And this constant availability extends to bank holidays and even Christmas Day; on December 25th last year, the social media team posted a photograph of themselves at the first direct office, reminding customers that, “We’re here today if you need us.”
A great digital experience, therefore, will likely reflect the approach of companies such as Marks and Spencer and first direct, who are proficient in the pillars of Personalisation and Time and Effort. But that is not to say that the other aspects of The Six Pillars are insignificant. Customers will still expect their issues or enquiries to be resolved as satisfactorily as in a physical branch, with the organisation displaying integrity and empathy throughout the interaction. Once a brand has mastered these facets and made them the cornerstone of its customer experience design, then it will be well on its way to success in the UK CEE rankings.
For more customer experience insight visit the KPMG Nunwood CEM blog.