B2C markets have been using Customer Loyalty Programs for decades. Can they be as useful in B2B markets?

Why Your B2B Should Have a Loyalty Reward Program

A quick look in the slots where bank cards should sit in my wallet is revealing. Firstly, I could do with a receipt purge and secondly, customer reward programs are ubiquitous in the B2C world. From cafes to shops to gyms. There are few consumers immune to a juicy perk for remaining loyal to a particular brand. Rewarding loyalty enhances the customer experience, aids client retention, and builds brand engagement. Rewards programs in the business-to-business arena are gaining popularity. In this article, we will look at why loyalty programs work and how you can measure their success.

 

Why do loyalty programs work?

Loyalty programs work because they help customers feel valued and appreciated. It’s not just about giving the consumer the warm and fuzzies. Tapping into these emotions leads to increased retention, referrals, and revenue. Loyalty schemes help businesses stand out from their competition. They can also incentivise desired customer behaviour.

Granted, in the B2B space, customers are a less studied group than their B2C counterparts. And considerably more difficult to define. Often, B2B companies will be targeting a team of buyers, rather than an individual. But, that team is still made up of people guided by the same emotions as those targeted in B2C marketing strategies. Developing relationships with B2B customers can be extremely beneficial.

 

Should B2B Companies Reward Customer Loyalty?

The short answer is yes, B2B companies should reward customer loyalty. Why?

Acquiring a new client can cost five times as much as keeping one. It is worth strategising to keep the customers you have happy and loyal to your brand. The best loyalty programs can also be considered customer retention programs.

According to Lumio, at least 80% of B2B buyers are not only looking for but expect a buying experience like that of a B2C customer. That’s a high number of clients who want to feel valued and appreciated on their B2B customer journey.

The ramifications of a customer loyalty program for B2B businesses are huge. Arguably, they are just as important as they are for consumer-facing businesses.

What does customer loyalty look like in the B2B world? Because loyalty may manifest itself in different ways, it’s challenging, but possible, to quantify. You can use the following three metrics to measure customer loyalty:

  1. Repeat Customer Rate (RCR)

How many of your consumers return to buy from you? This indicator measures how long clients stay with your company after making their initial sales. You can track RCR with your customer relationship management system. Use RCR as a benchmark for measuring the performance of your loyalty programs and initiatives. You can measure this monthly to see what percentage of consumers are returning to you as your loyalty efforts progress.

  1. Customer lifetime value (CLV)

This metric calculates the profit generated by each of your customers during their relationship with you. Calculate the CLV for each of your clients’ using data on annual revenue, buy frequency, and sale trends. Identify your highest-value consumers and find out what is keeping them connected to your brand. This may unlock what is preventing loyalty among your lower-value customers.

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS reveals how likely your customers are to suggest your product or service to a friend or colleague. Your customers becoming ‘mini-marketers’ on your behalf is one of the most obvious ways to assess customer loyalty.

Any one of those three indicators will offer you useful information about how loyal and engaged your customers are. If you consider these markers altogether, they can provide a full picture of how successful your loyalty program is.

 

The Global B2B Brands using Loyalty Programs

 

IBM’s Loyalty program is one of the most well-known B2B loyalty programs available. The scheme has two main goals.

1)To show appreciation by rewarding customers for their current activities

2) To encourage members to learn more about IBM’s services.

To do this, IMB’s program includes:

 

Is a B2B Loyalty Program right for your brand?

Efforts to improve client experience demonstrates to customers that you care. As a result, these customers will become loyal and buy from you again and again. Make a connection with your present clients. A loyal customer will continue to engage with your brand and tell their friends and family about it. Customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing go hand in hand.

Your expectations vs customer needs: mind the gap

If you check out the meaning of the word hospitality, the internet will tell you it’s about “the friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors or strangers.”

 

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it – kind of like that feeling you get when you visit someone’s home for the first time, and they greet you at the front door with a big smile. They’re warm and inviting, and you can tell they’ve used their Jamie Oliver cookbooks and taken out the good gin.

 

That’s the sort of welcome I expect from hotels, too. In my mind, the entire hospitality industry – whether a five-star tribute to architectural elegance, complete with million-count cotton sheets or a cosy Airbnb tucked away in the middle of nowhere – one should feel like they are visiting the home of a friend who cares for you very deeply and wants nothing more than to make you feel special. The clue is in the name, right? In the ‘hospitality’ industry, warmth should be standard.

 

That’s why I found my January holiday a little disappointing. My teenage son and I decided to treat ourselves to a trip up the Cape East Coast. After a tough year, we were looking forward to stunning sunsets, delicious seafood, and small-town getaway spots where we could truly relax.

 

I can’t fault the sunsets or the seafood, but when it came to the accommodation, we felt something was seriously lacking. After a lot of online investigation, we had booked ourselves into a Guesthouse that had all the right credentials: fantastic reviews, beautiful pictures, a great location, and so on and on.

 

This isn’t a horror story intending to warn you about the two-faced nature of the Internet, and how pictures aren’t to be trusted. Far from it: the establishment was just as lovely as its website (and past guests) promised. It was in immaculate condition and the décor was gorgeous – everything looked perfect.

 

Too perfect, actually. After just a few days, it became clear that our hostess had made a great effort to ensure that everything was just so and that she was determined that it should remain that way.

 

That’s all very well if you’ve curated a great look for a magazine spread, or a show house model – but when there are people moving about a home, there’s bound to be some disruption. Even the tidiest among us may accidentally bump a table, move a chair, or shift a cushion so that we’re more comfortable. And in a place where hospitality was truly valued, that wouldn’t be an issue, but in our case, our host seemed determined to keep us in line. She would passively-aggressively ask us to please not touch anything and wouldn’t even allow my “always hungry” teen to bring takeaway food into his room.

 

So, after feeling as though I was living inside a museum plastered everywhere with ‘look don’t touch’ posters, with that irritating little rhyme stuck in my head (“lovely to look at, delightful to hold, but if you should break it consider it sold), I got thinking: which is more important? Staying in a place that looks amazing? Or feeling like you’re in a home away from home? I was so caught up in the question that I created an online poll on Linkedin, and the responses backed up what I already thought: 85% of respondents said they value hospitality and comfort when they stay somewhere, compared to 10% who place a higher priority on features and amenities. Just 6% said they consider style and aesthetics to be the most important.

 

The message? As always, it’s about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. Yes, I may have appreciated our hostess’s efforts to create a beautiful environment – but I will certainly never return to that Guest House,  nor will I recommend it to others. If she had taken the time to consider my needs, rather than placing emphasis on what she thought was important, I probably would been a “return guest”.

 

I wonder how many of us have fallen into a similar trap?

These SA companies totally nailed their CX in 2021

In business, there’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve hit the mark with your efforts, and even better, being recognised for a job well done. Since it’s been a tough ‘ how many months/years now?’ of surviving a global pandemic, giving credit where it’s due is an important part of keeping our spirits up.

While we often hear a lot of CX success stories on the international front (and it’s great to learn from them), today I thought I’d put the spotlight on a few CX champions that hail from our very own shores.

So, in this blog post, I’ve cherry-picked a few examples to share with you of local companies that in my opinion have weathered the COVID storm with notable grace, and quite frankly, nailed their CX in 2021.

 

Sun International 

Boasting premier entertainment and hotel designations across the country, the hospitality group has been quick to adapt to the covid-induced blow to the tourism industry, by keeping their most valued guests at the front and centre. Good call because client retention is far cheaper than client acquisition.

Turning to tech to enhance and improve their CX in 2021, Sun International introduced a nifty little app to help streamline communication for their most-valued guest programme (MVG). The app makes things easier for guests to view best available rates, assess how many reward points they have to redeem, and access important information at the click of a button. Super convenient when you think about how frustrating it can be to deal with outdated websites or waiting on hold while the front- desk scrambles to assist you.

Understanding that their guests want instant access to information in a way that’s easy to navigate, is evident of the group’s commitment to implementing a CX strategy based on customer feedback and insights.

According to Sun International CEO, Anthony Leeming, the users of the app can enjoy a richer, more interactive experience with the brand. Sounds blissful!

The CX lesson?  Make it easy to do business with you.  Stay on top of your customer needs and design your customer experience accordingly.

 

Arrowhead properties 

Remember the landlord and tenant war that made headlines in the early days of lockdown? Embroiled in arduous negotiations for days on end, landlords and retail tenants argued over the payment of rent. I’ve always found that a big problem in the property sector is the disconnect and trust between the tenant and landlord. Unfortunately, many landlords don’t view the tenant as a customer. This is especially apparent in the retail and commercial space.

One property group that was quick to remember during lockdown that tenants are in fact customers, was Arrowhead Properties. The commercial property group which owns a portfolio of retail, office, and industrial assets demonstrated empathy for what their tenants were going through, and as such, provided approximately R 82 million in rental relief.

With a clear focus on tenant retention, this act of compassion yielded great reward, as the group’s interim results in May last year showed overall client retention of 85%, up from the year before. Arrowhead COO and co-founder, Mark Kaplan, said that they decided to shift strategic focus from an emphasis on sales to enhancing returns on properties through a ’tenant-centric’ approach – putting the tenants at the heart of all property management decisions.

Further to this, the group has made environmental, and social factors an integral part of their business. Their social initiative, Arrow for Change’ was launched in 2021 and has positively impacted communities that have been severely affected by COVID-19.

The CX lesson?  You can’t put a price on customer relationships, and you certainly can’t ignore the power of empathy. Moving into 2022, something to also consider is that being socially conscious is a huge part of how your customer experiences your brand.

 

Checkers

I’d be remiss not to give Checkers a mention, given the retail giants insatiable appetite for innovation. It appears the stars aligned when they launched the Checkers Sixty60 app just a few months before the hard lockdown in early 2020, making it the perfect on-demand grocery solution for customers who didn’t want to leave the house.

Rolling out to 146 more stores in the past year alone, it’s safe to say the app has been a smashing success. In fact, I read that it is the number one grocery app in the country. Impressive stuff! So, what’s their secret? Well not only are they aggressively proactive, but they are really good at listening to their customers.

Case in point. As part of their new digital tech hub, ShopriteX, last year the group made their in-store Xtra Savings reward programme available on the Sixty60 app in response to customers asking to have the same deals online. According to Neil Schreuder, Chief of Innovation & Strategy at the Shoprite Group, “ our customers asked, so we listened.” That easy hey? Yes, apparently it can be.

These guys seem determined to lead  the ‘quick commerce’ revolution, and what’s working in their favour is that they just fundamentally ‘get’ their customer. Take their new pilot concept, Checkers Rush,  for example – an automated, cashless, “no queues, no checkout, no waiting” store. Who doesn’t want that?

Okay before I stop CX ‘fangirling’ over Checkers, can we just take a quick moment to acknowledge what an awesome touch the Sixty60 drivers Santa outfits were over the December holidays?

The CX lesson?  Know thy customer, innovate, and most importantly NEVER stop improving your product or service.

 

 

CEOS take note: The pandemic has brought about a fundamental shift in what customers see as your ‘product.’

CEOS take note: The pandemic has brought about a fundamental shift in what customers see as your ‘product.’ 

The mistake we see a lot of companies making is they treat their product and CX as two different things, when in fact CX is the product. The CX community and trend forecasters have touted CX as being the number one differentiator over price and product since 2020, and while this is true, I believe these last 20 months have inspired a fundamental shift in the customer’s idea of product. If we look at what the insights are telling us about customer behaviour and how it’s changing, companies can’t afford to be separating their product or offering from CX efforts. Moreover, CEOs can no longer be removed from the CX process. They have to be the main drivers of  a CX strategy if it’s going to have any real meaning in an organisation’s output.

 

How product and experience are intertwined 

An interesting conversation to come out of our recent CX Masterclass was around the disconnect between expectation and experience. While a client’s expectations may have been met in terms of the product or offering, it does not necessarily imply they had a good experience. This divide is a result of the product being measured based on meeting the client’s expectations only and not against the holistic experience. What does that mean exactly? Well, if you’re just going by expectation, you’re only concerned with giving your client the product or service they paid for (e.g., taking out a specific insurance policy). But that’s not enough anymore. Your client can get a similar, if not the very same product elsewhere. It’s their interaction with the product or offering that determines whether or not they will be a repeat customer.

Sticking with the insurance policy example, to truly deliver a good ‘product,’ you would need to ask yourself if the communication was clear throughout the process? If the broker was pleasant to deal with? If he or she was knowledgeable about the policy being sold? If he acted within in the best interests of the client etc.

Do you see how product and CX can essentially become one? This synergy is what today’s customer wants. The pandemic has forced companies to not only jack up digital transformation, but also step up their personalised marketing efforts, and become more transparent in their communication. Getting this right requires going beyond just the functionality of a product or service, so you’d be remiss to think that customers are going to expect anything less than a seamless holistic experience as we head into the ‘post-pandemic years.

 

Why pick on  CEOs? Don’t they have enough on their plate? 

Only a few short years ago, the key to business success was having the best quality product on the market at the most affordable price. However, today, this will only get you so far. CX has changed the game completely, and the companies that are winning the game have cottoned on to the fact that their clients want more, they understand that they want to do business with companies that go the extra mile, and that provide them with value through authenticity and connection.

According to a 2021 report by Deloitte, a study of almost 2,500 end-users in April this year, found one in four people will walk away from companies they believe acted in self-interest. The reason this is so significant is that it ties directly into how customer-centric an organisation is or is not. CEOs who are still operating on a price and product first business model will have a very limited view of what makes their clients tick, and in turn, so will their employees.

 

The misalignment of KPIs

What I find is that too many CEOs preach about how they prioritise CX, but if you go down the food chain, heads of departments and employees are operating according to very different KPIs. For example, the procurement departments of a lot of bigger corporates act as their profit centres and are usually offshore. They aren’t aligned with a bigger ‘customer-centric picture, all they are concerned about is squeezing every last penny they can out of their customers. They’re looking only at the numbers on the sales sheets. Where is the customer in all of this? Putting the customer’s interests ahead of your sales target requires a certain level of CX maturity, and that folks is a gap I believe needs to be filled by the CEO. If the CEO is not living and breathing customer-centricity, how can you expect it from employees and external suppliers?

Ironically, in a recent poll we ran on Linkedin, we asked which department head should be responsible for driving the CX strategy. An overwhelming majority listed the CEO as the man for the job….BUSTED! Even those in your very own company are looking at you Mr/Ms. CEO to lead the CX way. And if you’re going to make it through the aftermath of the covid storm, you’re going to have to be the glue that holds the CX strategy together. More importantly, you’ll need to ensure that CX has a very prominent seat at the table alongside both price and product.

Breaking up can be hard, but you make it so easy!

 

Breaking up can be hard, but you make it so easy!  

 

I had an experience a while ago that set my CX senses tingling, in all the wrong ways. After a long, mostly satisfactory, relationship with a service provider I’m going to call “John”, I needed to make a change. My reason for cancelling my subscription service had nothing to do with John. Sincerely, all my interactions with ‘him’ at every touchpoint had been good. Not “set my world alight good”, but at the very least, solid and reliable. So, to my mind, I was leaving with fondness and a thought of, “maybe one day I’ll want ‘him’ back…”

 

The response from John started off as expected, “What did I do wrong?” “Is there anything I can do to change your mind?” And then the cat and mouse game began. You know the one, where it becomes nearly impossible to cancel the service. You’re forced to jump through hoops on end, get passed along from pillar to post, only to land up back where you started. Why I ask? Why do they make is so hard to say goodbye? Don’t they understand that neglecting this customer experience touchpoint, will sour the possibility of you ever returning?  After-all, us humans are fickle bunch. We don’t always know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.

 

So, I thought I’d pen a little break-up note to said provider:

 

DEAR JOHN

 

Ending a long-term contract can be like breaking up… Something has changed, and we make the decision that it is time to let go and move on; but we have invested a lot of time and energy into this relationship. As humans, we struggle with change and want to be loyal. No matter how difficult a situation may be, it is hard to make, or take, that break.

 

It’s not you, it’s me

 

There are a thousand reasons to end a relationship, business or personal, and it often has nothing to do with you, John. I may have hit financial troubles, be moving to a different city or country, or I may just have fallen for a shiny new partner, promising me the world.

 

It’s over, but I still want to be friends

 

Even if you, John, let me down or increased the pressure (or pricing) or we had a bad moment, there is a shared history and memories of the good times just below the surface. In either case, leaving the one you’re with can be difficult and we may be uncertain if we are making the right decision. So, we approach the ending of the relationship with mixed feelings.

 

And here is where it can so easily go wrong… How you, John, take on “the talk” will be the final arbiter of our shared future. Will we be left with a sense of regret or relief at the decision we have made?

 

The 1988 power ballad

 

The easier the parting, the more difficult the decision. If you are fair and let me go with kindness and understanding, that is the memory I carry. When someone mentions your name, I remember the parting as sweet sorrow and speak kindly of you.

 

Over time, the reason I made the decision to leave becomes hazier and I hear the 80s hair band singing “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”… And if our circumstances change, or the new partner doesn’t live up to their promise? We regret leaving and feel safe returning, more loyal than we ever were.

 

 

Despite the CPA clearly laying out consumer rights with regards to the cancelling of long-term contracts, service providers like John too often find ways to skirt the edges of the law. The endless complaints on social media or review platforms, where people are still being charged for canceled services months later, or even being handed over or blacklisted, are appalling!

 

Service providers, listen up… I’ve said it before and I am saying it again, Customer Experience is about the feeling your customer has about you from the moment your eyes meet across a crowded room until long after the relationship ends. Ending a contract isn’t personal and putting your customers through Squid Game to free themselves will leave you with a depleted and resentful client pool. Set them free with enough care and ease that they think of – and speak of – you as the one that got away.

POPIA – too little too late?

 

POPIA – too little too late?  

Blogpost by Nathalie Schooling

POPIA (Protection Of Personal Information Act) is now officially in full effect. Gosh, talk about getting ducks in a row!  I have to smile at the irony of all the millions of emails that got blasted out to databases this past week promising from now on to only spam upon request. Contrary to POPIA’lar belief (see what I did there?), I don’t think all will now be well.

While POPIA will hold organisations accountable for the privacy of stakeholder information, businesses will be ill-advised to think that their customers will now magically feel safer in entrusting them with their data. Whilst being POPIA compliant can certainly help put some customers’ minds at ease, there is a backlog of trust issues and a consumer lethargy that businesses need to address. Unfortunately, companies have shot themselves in the foot by letting loose with digital technologies and spam marketing, with very little consideration for the customer on the receiving end. Now because POPIA dictates it, they will ‘show’ customers they care because they have to. This is not going to erase the bad taste already left in a lot of customers’ mouths.

The consumer trust deficit 

POPIA has been a work in progress since 2005. Data security is nothing new, it’s been a concern for consumers for many years, especially because there’s been an unspoken expectation that organisations will respect their privacy. While businesses have been aware of POPIA and the disastrous implications of data breaches, why have so many waited until the very last minute to put the right processes in place to protect their customers information?  This laziness has resulted in some really poor customer experiences, loss of sales, and an erosion of ‘blind’ trust from consumers.

Let’s look at some consumer sentiment. A study conducted at the University of South Africa in 2019, found that consumers are becoming increasingly disenchanted with South African organisations when it comes to the issue of privacy and data protection. The same study also found that there is a huge disconnect between the privacy consumers are legally entitled to and what companies are doing to adhere to these privacy rights.  Research dating back further than this highlights that trust is the main hesitancy for South Africans in making online transactions.

It’s therefore evident that there is a large trust deficit that businesses need to overcome if they want to remain competitive. And let’s not forget public scepticism when it comes to governance and enforcement of POPIA.  Just because non-compliance to POPIA can land a company in hot water, this doesn’t necessarily mean customers will automatically feel safer. The public have been duped so many times and will question if proper governance will actually be enforced. Companies need to work even harder to dispel this doubt.  Remember, trust is emotional, and there’s nothing stronger than human emotion.

Authentic customer-centricity can build back trust

To build back trust, I urge companies to take a hard look at their customer experience strategy and prioritise seamless service, not cheaper overheads. According to our research, most companies believe that they are customer-centric, but in reality, this is not the case. Only a whopping 18 % of companies see the customer experience as a priority. Real trust and consumer confidence come from a series of positive experiences because if customers are having good experiences, it shows that the brand genuinely cares about them. But this care needs to be across the board, just ticking the POPIA box won’t be enough.

Since the customer experience is now very data-driven, companies are in for some serious due diligence, but given the COVID-19 pandemics’ acceleration of digital transformation, South African companies should be up for the challenge. If there’s one thing we know how to do as South Africans, it’s adapt, even if we don’t quite get it right in the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

#Allthefeels with great CX

#Allthefeels with great CX

Nathalie Schooling : CEO nlighten

You’ve heard the term and may even use it loosely yourself. It gets tons of lip service in sales and marketing meetings and it’s all the rage around the company water cooler. CX…. it just sounds sexy, doesn’t it?

But how much do you really know about it? It seems simple, and on one level it absolutely is, but the Customer Experience is a little more complicated than just getting a positive review or a few Likes on a company social media post.

At the core, CX is not about action, but rather about feeling. It’s about the journey that customers go on when interacting with your brand, and involves every single touchpoint, from first seeing your marketing message to buying your product or using your service, to the after-sales assistance. It is fundamentally about how you make your customers feel through every step of this journey.

Does CX really matter?

The aforementioned lip service surrounding CX, while counterintuitive, is somewhat understandable when you consider how little managers know about it and its power to transform a business.  I’m talking real power! Customer experience has a tremendous impact on how your brand is seen. When your business is perceived positively, then you can expect that to be reflected in your sales and growth. Offering great CX doesn’t just provide a temporary sales boost. Instead, it has a direct impact on customer loyalty and retention.

It has long been accepted as a fact that it is much more cost-effective to retain customers than attract new ones. In truth though, CX can do both. Good CX keeps your customers loyal and encourages them to share their positive experiences with others in their circles, which in turn brings you more customers.

Delivering on brand promise 

Delivering on your brand promise is the golden ticket to great CX and making your customers feel good about their purchase. Breaking this promise is where many brands go horribly wrong. What they don’t realise is that breaking a brand promise is akin to the betrayal one feels when they put their trust in a person, only to be let down. Add money into the mix, and it’s extra eina!

So where to start? Staying true to your word (that’s your brand promise if you haven’t already picked that up) starts with two fundamental steps. The first is to ensure that all the company stakeholders (including ALL parts of your supply chain – I can’t emphasise this enough) have a full understanding of your brand promise so that you can work collectively to keep it. The second step involves making things as easy as possible for your customer or client. In essence, every brand claims in some way or another to be the solution to a problem, but when your product or service is not easy to use, this leaves the customer feeling frustrated. There are those ‘feelings’ again! By definition, frustration refers to the feeling of wanting or needing something, but your action is blocked. CX 101 – you should never be adding to your customer’s problem by missing the mark on ‘ease-of-use.’

Are you starting to see just how much goes into CX? And this is only step one and two. A lot of effort is required to consistently deliver on CX, but when it’s done right, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. People will continue to do business with a brand if they experience those ‘feel-good’ chemicals when interacting with it or as the kids say ‘all the feels’ – can you tell I’m a mom to a teenager?

Rome wasn’t built in a day 

Before I sign off and let you get on with brainstorming a master CX strategy, I must mention one of the biggest misunderstandings about CX – that it’s a quick fix. Really good CX does not happen overnight. It is planned and purposeful and requires investment from your side.

You can’t get by on providing a few good experiences here or there or delivering on great CX in one department and not another. This is why it’s important to get your hands dirty and dig deep, really deep, to understand every touchpoint of your customer’s journey. Ask yourself how you want your customers to feel through each step and take the time to build a strategy that achieves this. It’s going to take time and even money, but as they say, slow and steady wins the race.

Why governance is vital for CX to not only survive, but thrive!

Why Governance is Vital for Customer Experience to thrive.

Nathalie Schooling : CEO nlighten

Strict regulations, the growth of technology, and an increasingly challenging marketplace mean customer experience and governance must go hand in hand. 

The concept of client experience is in a complicated place. On the one hand, it is a vital component of any business strategy. On the other hand, new regulations, growing customer demands, and an uncertain economic climate mean CX departments face pressures from all angles. CEOs are becoming increasingly cost-sensitive with many insisting that those departments that cannot show a clear return on investment be cut back. For this reason, Forrester’s predicts as many as one in four CX professionals will lose their jobs as CEOs tighten their belts.

All these challenges mean good customer experience must go hand in hand with good business governance.

Data, regulations, and CX governance

Data has become increasingly important for the client experience process over recent years. Digital technology means companies are capable of collecting huge amounts of information, from all sorts of sources, about their customers. This can be crucial for their business strategy – it deepens their engagement with customers, improves customer experience, and boosts revenue.

However, as data has proliferated, regulations have evolved. The arrival of data protection regulations such as GDPR places certain clear responsibilities on companies for how they handle data such as:

 

These provisions come together with vastly increased penalties which have the potential to cripple some businesses.

In addition, different countries are developing their own approach to data protection. Most take a lead from the EU’s GDPR but may differ in various ways. Those companies handling data in multiple jurisdictions will have to ensure their processes adhere to the rules in each country.

All of this creates an added complication for business governance.

Aside from the regulatory imperative, data protection rules have shifted customer expectations. They now understand much more about their data rights and will be much more likely to complain if they are violated. For example, if a company fails to stop emailing you after you have unsubscribed, it will sour your entire relationship with that company.

Data, therefore, is a regulatory and reputational issue. Before engaging with customers, you will need to have clear processes in place to ensure everyone in the organisation adheres to the rules when contacting customers. This includes making certain you have all relevant permissions in place for contacts, and that all contact information can be deleted promptly.

 

Cybersecurity 

The other big risk is the danger of cybersecurity. Cybercrime has surged over the last year. The rise of Covid-19, lockdowns and the shift online created a perfect environment for cybercriminals and contributed to a 400% rise in attacks during the pandemic.

If you handle data relating to your customer’s attacks, it can compromise both your own systems and that of your customers. If an attack compromises their details, the impact on your reputation and relationship with your customers could be terminal. Research from Opinium shows that 78% of customers say their perception of a brand changes with an attack.

Whether that change is positive or depends in part on how you engage with customers if an attack does happen, If you’re clear, transparent, and notify them quickly, an attack could actually improve your relationship.

If you adopt a defensive stance and try to hide the extent of the problem, it can shatter customer trust.

The same is true for those customers targeted with spoofing emails. Companies of all kinds are being targeted by cybercriminals mimicking their branding in an attempt to defraud their customers. Most people have become relatively digital savvy and will spot attempts as the frauds they are. A few may even play good corporate citizens and alert you of a breach.

If so, it helps to reply to them promptly thanking them for their information and to provide an update on your site alerting your customers to the existence of these emails.

 

Continuous improvement 

CX governance should be seen as an ongoing journey. You should be continuously improving your entire approach from business strategy through to deliverables and metrics. By doing so you can ensure you are constantly learning and delivering the best client experience possible.

Governance plays a key role in this. It helps you set down a clear roadmap, establishing who owns CX, and ensuring different departments are working to the same objectives. In many companies, individual departments may have differing views about client experience, who owns it, and what they are wanting to achieve.

For example, both the IT and marketing departments may believe CX strategy sits with them and have their own ideas about what this should look like or how they should go about it. This leads to a tug of war in which competing parts of your business pull in different directions.

 

Independence and accountability

To solve this you need a clear structure in place, perhaps with a chief customer office overseeing everything. He or she can develop the strategy and ensure all departments have the same idea about how it should look and what they want it to achieve.

Having independent ownership of client experience benefits your wider business strategy as it ensures one department does not dominate at the expense of another. It allows goals to be set which benefit the organisation as a whole, rather than the myopic vision of one department.

Having a clear line of governance, measurement and accountability gives the entire business a clear idea of the overriding goal, who is responsible for what, and how success will be measured.

This, in turn, will provide the information you need to set about a continual program of improvement ensuring your client experience business strategy is having the desired effect. In a world in which businesses are coming under pressure to find a return on investment for everything, this will help businesses get the most from their CX strategy.

 

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