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?
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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!
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:
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.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of CX
Is it just me or has CX entered the land of the Wild Wild West? Frequently labelled a ‘frivolous’ concept by the uninformed, Customer Experience actually has little to do with ‘warm and fuzzy’ and more to do with core fundamental business principles. It relies heavily on due diligence, governance, and most importantly, strategy. The pandemic has forced companies to innovate and wake up to CX which has been a huge win for the customer (the good), but oftentimes businesses don’t have a real strategy in place (the bad). This is when we start to see lawlessness taking over and the CX cracks begin to show (the ugly).
Shooting from the hip
Hurry up and automate, hurry up and digitise, hurry up and offer your service online. Sound familiar? Chances are you’re experiencing this panic in your own organisation, and rightly so. You do need to innovate and move with the times; you can’t afford to get left behind. But doing so with haste and impulse will not be of service to the customer in the long term. There are a lot of boxes that need to be ticked before implementing a digital CX strategy. What many companies are doing is relying on external tech vendors to magically solve their problems, without any real immersion into the process or genuine customisation. On top of this, they don’t have any metrics in place to measure the performance of a new system, or they haven’t a clue what to do with the customer data. This all comes down to not taking the necessary time to develop a proper plan. I can think of a few examples where, as a customer I’ve been excited about the automation of a service, only to be let down by its execution or functionality. The ‘Mobile Experience’ is a prime example. Banking apps can make things super complicated, and I’d be here all day if I had to list my woes with the local grocer app. Answer me this, why can I never find what I’m looking for in the search bar, but yet the item is theoretically on the ‘digital shelf?’ My worst is when an online system won’t recognise my login and password when it’s worked previously. Yes, subscription sites, I’m looking at you!
I wish more companies knew that rushing their innovation ‘plans’ is just plain reckless. You have to deliver a customer’s experience on the customer’s terms, not yours. All I hear around boardroom tables is the word DEADLINE. While deadlines are important, they hold us accountable, I think we sometimes allow them to compromise the integrity of a project.
You should never be chasing a deadline to please the higher-ups in the organisation or certain stakeholders if the customer will suffer as a result. This is short-sighted and the sales chart will reflect it.
Getting back in the saddle
So, let’s get back to those CX principles I was talking about. Really good CX strategies live by the basics. They are goal-orientated, structured, and revolve 100% around the customer’s journey at EVERY touchpoint.
Not every good idea is a good idea. All proposed CX improvement needs to be dissected, put back together, and then dissected again. Ultimately what you want to achieve is a more consistent approach to your CX strategy. This can be slower at times but will yield more effective results.
I will be unpacking fundamental CX principles in detail at our upcoming CX Masterclass. Join us on 21 & 22 October (2021) at the CTICC and learn how to build a solid CX framework. We teach you how to really get under the skin of your customer and provide practical CX tools that you can start using right away.
See here for more information: https://www.nlightencx.com/customer-experience/workshops/master-class/
True or false: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it?
The quote in the title of this blog was allegedly made famous by management consultant, Peter Drucker. I say allegedly because some of the internet trolls will tell you that it actually wasn’t Mr. Drucker, but another mystical business economist. There’s also an ongoing debate about if it was indeed quality and process control guru W. Edwards Deming who challenged Mr. Drucker by saying “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.” On both sides, you will find streams of arguments that are either in support of Mr. Drucker’s quote or aim to debunk it.
I stand firmly by this quote, and not just because I’ve spent 16 years building a CX company that is underpinned by the measurement philosophy, but because it just makes sense! How can you improve on an offering if its success cannot be tracked? If you don’t have a clear metric in place to measure your progress, all you have is guesswork and we all know that assumption is the mother of.
A lot of business leaders we chat to, who still aren’t yet sold on the power of CX (wakey wakey), will tell us that if sales are looking good, there’s no reason to invest in ‘costly’ metrics and deeper insights. Yes, this is what we have been told, in the age of data and tech, we STILL get businesses telling us that measurement is not a financial priority right now. The real issue, however, is not the investment in the metrics, it’s managing the data. They aren’t quite sure what to do with it. So, our job then becomes one of educating businesses on what managing the data actually looks like and highlighting the return on this investment.
If you’re one of these businesses that are on the measurement fence, here’s a little crash course in what measurement can do for you:
Track client satisfaction – figures on the sales chart only give you half the picture. Just because your new product is currently moving, this does not guarantee repeat or long-term business. Customers can be fickle. It doesn’t take a lot to turn their heads and move on to the next supplier. Those handsome sales figures can start to look very different in only a few months. Understanding what makes your clients tick will go a long way in gaining their trust and loyalty. This will not only assist client retention but help with acquisition too.
Incentivise clients to use your product or service –by measuring the success of your product or service, you can structure a rewards programme that adds continuous value to the lives of your customer. By this, I mean finding the win-win. Let me use the Discovery Insure programme as an example. By tracking their client’s driving behaviour, they can improve on their rewards programme in a way that incentivises customers to keep driving with the tracker. Drive well and get a free set of tyres (customer win). Good tyres and responsible driving habits equal lower insurance claims (business win).
Hold employees accountable – by tracking data and measuring client satisfaction, a business can identify where the cracks are in the system. This can then be looped back to employee performance and KPIs.
Lower your operational costs – insights into what’s working and what’s not enable you to change your approach. If you discover that an expensive digital system you’ve put in place is actually not serving your customer, you can re-assess. We’ve had clients that have used customer insights to cut operational costs dramatically, just by being able to identify unnecessary process or systems in their business. Customers can be amazing ‘tools’ for business growth, you just have to listen to them.
Ongoing value offering through agility – a well-oiled machine is what you’re after. If you can commit to regular measurement and tracking of progress, you can become agile. Today’s customer insights are not going to serve you in 12 months’ time. It’s an ongoing process and one that keeps you adaptable and ahead of your competitors. All because you consistently add value to your customer.
5 components that drive customer loyalty
Attracting customers is probably the hardest part of business. Retaining them is even harder. Throw into the mix a tough economic climate, and an ever-changing customer, and you’ve got your work cut out for you.
But this is where I get excited, because the more difficult it has become to attract customers, the simpler it’s become too. You see, in the good old days, businesses concerned themselves merely with offering their product or service, but today that will only get you so far. With all the choice customers now have, they are more likely to stick with a business that goes beyond the product or service. This is where the ‘simpler’ part comes in because it doesn’t cost anything. All that’s required is a bit of integrity.
Conducting business with integrity is now a critical part of the customer experience. It builds loyalty and trust, which are key factors in purchasing decisions. As a business differentiator, it’s really a no-brainer, and it baffles me that so many companies still don’t get it. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Report, 81% of consumers said that they need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them. In another report, 86% surveyed said that authenticity is a key factor in deciding which companies to support. These figures are representative too of the B2B purchaser. In fact, trust plays an even bigger role in B2B since in most cases, customers are locked into long-term contracts.
The best way, I believe, to approach earning customer trust and working with integrity is to remember that customers are people. Just like you, they have pain points and emotional needs. Every customer interaction is an opportunity for your company to act with purpose and deliver value that resonates on a human level. Get this right, and you’ll be rewarded with customer loyalty for years to come.
Below I’ve shared five components that a business should encompass to help drive customer loyalty:
You can’t fake care
Living through a global health crisis gets you thinking, especially when it comes to medical care. Why are we surprised by good healthcare service? Surely good service in the healthcare sector is a natural by-product of the job, I mean healthcare workers get paid to ‘care’ and to be of service, right? Well, what I’ve come to realise is that it’s a little more complicated than that. Healthcare is an extremely demanding sector, and even more so now that we are in the middle of a pandemic. The high-stress levels, fear of contracting covid-19, the long hours, and in some instances, questionable pay, lead to frequent burnout and job dissatisfaction. This makes it all the more impressive when you are faced with workers in health facilities who are serving with smiles on their faces (particularly at this difficult time). These are the workers who are genuinely devoted to what they do, and make one see that at the end of the day, you really can’t fake care.
Job vs Responsibility
Authentic care will strike a chord with a person. It will resonate emotionally, and when an experience makes an impact on an emotional level, people will talk about it. Take, for example, the abundance of complimentary posts recently made by South Africans on social media, praising the service they have received at covid-19 vaccination sites across the country. In one post I read, a gentleman said he’d never experienced such care and seamless service at a health facility before. He said he felt like the health workers were with him every step of the way.
And if I can shamelessly use this opportunity to name drop one of our clients (enter perks of having your own blog here 😊), the Cape Town Convention Centre (CTICC) has done a formidable job in offering Capetonians a reliable vaccination facility, receiving first-rate reviews from the public. This level of care and service excellence, I think, comes down to workers feeling like they are a part of something bigger than their daily duties, that they are a part of something they can believe in. This is the kind of care that is infectious and shines through in every part of the worker’s job.
If I think back to January this year when I was hospitalised for COVID-induced breathing complications, I’m still in awe of the Kingsbury Hospital staff, and how they treated their patients. This was not just a job for them, it was a responsibility, and one they took on with passion, valour, and devotion. In addition to daily patient monitoring, administering of medication, changing drips, etc., I watched the nursing staff take on an endless list of tasks with pure compassion. They washed patients, clipped toenails, did their hair, helped them face-time their loved ones, and even fed those who couldn’t feed themselves. All of this was done with such genuine care and friendliness.
Willingness vs Capacity
I could go on sharing inspiring stories but let me get to the crux of the real message I want to leave you with today. The difference between service that is delivered with authentic care and service that lacks thought can be boiled down to ‘willingness’ vs ‘capacity.’ Some staff have the willingness to provide a good customer experience, but they are not empowered. They may have all the right intrinsic ingredients for the job, only to be let down by the companies’ systems or processes. On the other side of the coin, there are staff that has the capacity, but not the willingness. These are usually people who are not the correct fit for a role or for various reasons have ‘checked out.’ To deliver real care and a world-class customer experience, companies and their staff need to have both willingness and capacity. It’s the marriage of seamless processes and the right employees that will leave a lasting impression on a customer.
In healthcare, this is sometimes easier said than done, as there is often so much working against medical workers. This is when care should go both ways. I’m sure you’ve all experienced a complete turnaround in service when you’ve demonstrated empathy and understanding of an employee’s circumstance. We’re all human after all.
To end off, let’s give a virtual round of applause to the brave medical staff who are working tirelessly with passion and care to help save lives.
A quick guide to modernising your CX
Blogpost by Nathalie Schooling
Don’t worry, I’m not going to harp on about how you need to use technology to improve your CX. You already know that technology has an important role to play in a modern CX strategy. Instead, what I want to highlight is how to build your CX strategy around the modern customer.
In our work as CX specialists, it’s alarmingly evident that many companies are falling behind in adapting to where their customers are at today. They appear to be preoccupied with ‘modernising’ their CX strategy by way of digital advancements or improvements only. While this is important, I urge companies to make sure they aren’t putting the cart before the horse.
To truly deliver on an exceptional customer experience, you need to speak to your customer’s values. This comes down to having deep client insights. Where companies sometimes go wrong is when they try to retrofit their updated processes or digital systems to the customer’s needs, when in fact, it needs to work the other way around. To quote Steve Jobs “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.”
Here is my quick guide to modernise your CX strategy with a customer-first approach:
Read my previous blog ‘ Data Rich, Insight Poor?, where I discuss how to use data correctly to better understand your clients changing needs.
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.