A masterclass in customer experience management

Chris Wright, marketing director, UK and Ireland at BSI, discusses the cultural implications of delivering an excellent customer experience

When it comes to customer experience (CX), where should an organisation start, Chris?

Firstly, every organisation should agree its CX principles, its own definition of what good looks like, and ensure both back and front-office employees understand what those mean, the role they personally play in delivery, and how the principles align with the overall strategy of the organisation.

Some companies may choose to take a ‘command and control’ approach from the top down, but my experience suggests this isn’t the most effective way of engaging staff.

Instead, organisations should focus on establishing the right culture and creating an engaged workforce that is bought into the organisation’s CX principles.

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By keeping members of staff informed and including their input (perhaps even by creating an internal CX committee), organisations will see much more positive engagement. Furthermore, this will also ensure that should mistakes be made, employees will be more likely to take responsibility and help to put things right. 

What are the challenges of embedding a CX strategy?

It’s important to prioritise actions and engage departments in order of priority. Customer-facing teams should be engaged and trained where appropriate on the programme first, ensuring all teams are equipped to deliver excellent CX. 

If you’re trying to change the culture of your organisation to become more customer centric, it’s vital to explain clearly why there’s a need for change. If you can ground this reason in facts and evidence, ideally delivered through the mouths of your customers rather than just a research deck, you’ll stand a much better chance of your people making the change.  

Perhaps most importantly, you should consider the internal customer, as well as the external customer – if this element’s ignored, your CX culture won’t be successful. The complete customer journey must be considered – from initial contact right through to the post-service follow-up that therefore impacts every department – from finance all the way through to marketing. At BSI, we apply our CX principles to both internal and external customers.

"At BSI we invite a client into each of our monthly executive meetings so we can hear first-hand how it feels to be one of our customers and where we need to improve"

How do you ensure the board is on side?

As with many things in business, an excellent CX culture must start from the top. Data can often demonstrate trends in customer retention and highlight areas that need improvement, but one of the most powerful tools is to enable the board to hear it first-hand. As Bill Gates famously said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Scheduling face-to-face time between your customers and the board can provide invaluable insight into exactly where the opportunities to improve CX are. The board must see it from the customer’s perspective in order to drive change internally. At BSI we invite a client into each of our monthly executive meetings so we can hear first-hand how it feels to be one of our customers and where we need to improve. 

How do you measure customer satisfaction?

There are various ways to measure how well your CX strategy is working – from the NPS (net promoter score) through to customer surveys that can be sent out following each interaction with the customer. Saying that, face-to-face engagement with customers is often the most insightful. Ensuring that CX is regularly talked about internally between departments and that it’s high on the corporate agenda is a must, and will ensure you promote a culture focused around the customer. 

How does CX vary in different countries and industry sectors?

From my experience, the principles of excellent customer service are similar throughout the world, although these might be applied differently depending on local culture. As an example, when we were rolling out our ‘customer-first’ programme in the Middle East, the local team were asked to define what a great CX meant to them. We then cross-referenced this to our UK definition of customer-first principles and found almost an exact match. 

However, when we talked about how we dealt with customers on a day-to-day basis – in terms of how they handled telephone calls that came into the office and the tone of voice in which they wrote to customers – we discovered this needed to be changed to allow for more specific local cultural differences.    

Likewise, the principles are the same across industries but they have to be made relevant to the customer segment in question. In our business, for example, a medical device customer and construction customer may require the same core service but will need information to be tailored to their business and industry, and explained in a language appropriate to them.

Which B2B brands do CX better than the rest?  

As with any industry, some do it better than others and that’s certainly the case with marketing agencies. The best ones ensure that their service is relevant to their customer and that they keep the promises they make. They’re open and transparent with customers, and understand their needs, as well as their product offering – they won’t just produce the same content for every customer but will tailor it to their individual needs instead. They will deliver on time, on budget and, crucially, will accept responsibility if they make a mistake. These are all things that any brand should aspire to, regardless of sector or country. 

How does BSI put the customer first?

CX is our core brand differentiator, which is why we’ve developed our ‘customer first’ programme. This programme has already helped to establish a company-wide understanding of the importance of delivering an excellent customer experience. We’ve been able to define and share what good looks like to all staff, we’ve focused on rewarding and recognising staff who deliver a great customer experience, and we’ve been actively listening and responding to customer feedback.

We’ve made huge headway already by training our teams on our six ‘customer first’ principles, and pleasingly our NPS score is now at the highest level it’s been, which is a great step towards enhancing the overall experience of our customers.