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Mary Clarke, CEO, Cognisco

The customer experience is becoming increasingly important and often the key differentiator between companies.

A survey from Gartner[i] found that 89% of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016, a big rise since 2014 (36%) and 2015 (58%).

However, Gartner also found that fewer than half the company’s surveyed rate their customer experience as exceptional today, but two-thirds expect it to be so in two years.

Every year consumer champion, Which?[ii] produces its list of the best and worst UK companies for customer service. In their 2015 report they found that nearly nine in 10 people say poor customer service puts them off using a brand again and some of the UKs top brands are in danger of losing out to competitors because of poor customer service.

For 2015 there was very little change at the top and bottom of the Which? tables, with Scottish Power and Npower coming bottom of the table for customer service, and Lush and First Direct at the top. In 2014 the same two companies were in the top and bottom, albeit vice versa.

What this tells us is that whilst companies may recognise that they need to do more to make improvements in their customer service or indeed strive to compete on the customer experience it can take many years for things to change and filter down into such tables.

So what can companies do if they find they are continually coming bottom of customer league tables and want to compete on the customer experience?

The solution is to find out the reason why their customer services teams are not performing as well as they should and implement measures to counteract this, however this can often be easier said than done. One mistake many companies make is to provide everyone the same training, learning & development rather than identify individual needs and trends in these gaps and make the most relevant material available to help specific needs. Usually if their people do not pass standard assessments and refreshers, they will increase the frequency and rhythm of the training.

This is unlikely to be the best solution as companies never actually get to the root causes of why customer services advisers behave the way they do on the job. They may make someone do more training, but unless they know the advisor has truly understood what they have been taught and is confident to use this knowledge on the job and under pressure, they may just continue with the same behaviour that warranted the training in the first place.

Cognisco has worked with many customer services teams and those involved with face to face communication with customers, such as delivery drivers. We’ve helped companies get to know and understand the root causes of poor customer service, which in turn helps them tailor training to where it’s most needed.

We use a unique methodology that uses employee assessments designed to test and measure advisors in realistic ‘on the job’ situations. The results highlight knowledge gaps and unacceptable behaviour giving managers a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of every individual.

Once gaps in understanding have been identified, companies can design specific interventions, avoiding the one-size fits all approach to training and provide appropriate learning media and resources to address it. For companies seeking to improve their customer services in 2016, getting to the root causes of behaviour and embedding appropriate intervention is the only real way to make lasting changes.



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