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Cause and Effect - Looking at both sides now

by Clive Hickman, European Insight Manager at GAPbuster Worldwide, with contributions from the GAPbuster Marketing Team

When it comes to Customer Experience who do you look to for an understanding of what you need to do to improve?

While the competitive landscape on which organisations compete continues to change at high speed, the need for winning and keeping customers remains the same. Success in business has always been driven by an organisation's ability to attract and retain customers. The continuing tough economic climate puts more pressure than ever on price and service in order to remain competitive.

Consequently, the best and most effective way to differentiate your business is by engaging with customers emotionally - through their experience with your brand. The quality of this experience is influenced by many factors, any one of which creates an experience which customers will want to repeat, to recommend to others, or simply to avoid. Creating this emotional attachment will increase the likelihood of your customers becoming a promoter of your brand.

But when a company wants to measure and improve the Customer Experience they deliver, where should they look?

Traditionally there has been two schools of thought:

a) Customer Satisfaction (CSS or VoC) Programs - To some this is the purist approach; you ask the customers what they think. Undeniably, this is the acid test, yet customers have a limited attention span. They will only tell you a very limited amount and this will often produce subjective rather than quantifiable, objective data. Moreover, they can only tell you about what they did, not about your entire operation. There is also concern that it gives polarised views as it tends to be those who love you and those who hate you that are moved to respond. Of course you can get many responses per site each period however the number of responses can vary considerably by site, making like-for-like comparison analysis difficult.

 b) Mystery Shopping Programs - These are well structured programs of research, capable of measuring operational store and staff performance in great detail. They provide a wealth of data across a breadth of issues. But practicalities and costs limit the number of evaluations that can be conducted at each site.

In short the choice tends to be a compromise of either lots of Customers providing lots of valuable little snippets of information (no more than 10 short questions is a common rule of thumb), or a much more limited number of responses but each providing a much wider and agreed range of measures across each site.

For some organisations it has been a matter of making a choice between the two. In other organisations both approaches may be adopted, but tend to be managed separately, with the Marketing (or Insights) team 'owning' the Customer Survey, and Operations tending to take the Mystery Shopping approach. In an ideal world customer experience programs are designed to provide a cohesive view of Customer Experience, where multiple methodologies come together to form a holistic view.

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Mystery Shopping programs provide the depth of operational detail required to run and manage the sites effectively, and measure their performance against goals. While Customer Survey Programs generate the breadth of response from real customers to assess how they react to the Brand's delivery.

To achieve this more coherent approach requires more planning and the smart use of technology.  However an improved ability to track and assess the impact of changes in service delivery (and store environment) on the actual customers of each store is well worth the extra effort.

The opportunity to directly assess how changes in operational performance (that are only available from Mystery Shopping) impact real customers' experiences and opinions opens up a new world of possibilities.

It becomes possible to examine how changes in staff training affect the NPS (Net Promoter Score) for that store. It can also highlight operational shortfalls that reduce Customer Satisfaction and NPS. For example, a failure to keep the premises clean, toilets properly stocked, etc.

To date these things have not been possible because the detail tends to be in the Mystery Shopping data but the Customers' Opinions and Satisfaction (at store level) are only available through Customer Surveys.

The advent of more sophisticated internet and smartphone technology, along with increasingly savvy consumers, means that customers are more able and willing to share their opinions and many want to be heard.

GAPbuster has recently developed KODO - smartphone technology enabling us to capture customers' feedback from wherever, and whenever, they want to provide it.

This means you can now get Customer Feedback from your own customers, reporting it from store level and up through up your management structure. As well as integrated reporting, the KODO service provides alerts and alarms among many other features. The technology has been trialled with large customers in our diverse client base. If you would like to trial the service alongside your current GAPbuster offering, your Client Service Manager can share more of our insights.

It is no longer necessary to choose whether you advocate Mystery Shopping or Customer Satisfaction measures. It is possible to do both in an integrated program, looking simultaneously at both sides of the 'Cause and Effect' - the operational delivery and the customer reaction.

 Click here to find out more.

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