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Challenges, Triumphs, and Financial Returns of the Customer Experience Landscape

Claer Barrett, a writer for the Financial Times, recently delved into the realm of customer experience in an insightful piece titled "How did it get so bad?". The title says it all.  It's no secret to readers of this website that the quest to enhance customer experience is akin to scaling the Eiger. Yet, amidst the struggle, some companies stand out as beacons of success. Ocado, First Direct, and Starling Bank serve as exemplary models, leveraging technology not merely to cut costs but to prioritise customer satisfaction.


However, for every success story, there are a multitude of companies that are faltering. Energy providers and monopolistic entities like train and water companies, alongside various government bodies such as HM Revenue and Customs, disappoint. The path to seeking resolution for customer experience failures is labyrinthine, with companies purposefully obfuscating contact information, and (deliberately?) making us suffer and wait inordinate times for assistance that stretch beyond reason.


Barrett elucidates several reasons behind this decline in customer service standards. A significant challenge lies in recruiting and retaining personnel committed to delivering exceptional service. Yet, more troubling is the reluctance among senior executives to allocate resources to what they perceive as a secondary concern.


We, the consumers, are not entirely blameless. Empowered by our voices and driven by lofty expectations, we readily voice discontent when our perceived value for money falls short.


Nonetheless, it is imperative to acknowledge the merits of technological advancements. Banking apps have rendered branch visits obsolete, while online shopping offers unparalleled convenience. Summoning an Uber with a simple tap on our smartphones epitomises this shift towards efficiency and cost-effectiveness.


The adage "investing in customer service yields financial dividends" rings true now more than ever. The Institute for Customer Service (ICS) collected data from 2017 to 2023 which unequivocally demonstrates the correlation between superior customer satisfaction and financial growth. Companies surpassing sector-average customer satisfaction scores experienced a compound annual revenue growth rate of 7.4%, in contrast to the flat revenue of less customer-centric counterparts. EBITDA figures reflected an even greater disparity, with leading customer experience firms boasting a 20% average - twice that of their subpar counterparts.


As we often say, providing great customer experience isn't rocket science, but it is hard work. For companies that are customer experience believers, the rewards are indisputable. The value of prioritising customer experience is increasingly evident and the penalties of ignoring it are dire.


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