Australian businesses are spending a lot of time talking about CX as a critical driver of brand and growth. But the experts and the consumers are yet to be hugely impressed.
Forrester’s 2019 CX Index for Australia is not just the view of the analyst’s house, it is the result of interviewing more than 8000 customers, and the voice of the customer speaks without too much enthusiasm.
While the quality of the customer experience is improving, two-thirds of the 31 brands involved in the benchmarking study are delivering experiences that are "just OK," according to their consumers.
The good news is there is an improvement at the top end. In 2018, only 6% of brands delivered CX, which was rated as good by customers, but in 2019 this increased to 13%.
Winners and losers
The Forrester report also highlights names, at least at the top (and bottom) of the class. The best-rated CX performer shouldn’t perhaps be considered Australian – it is Dutch bank ING Direct, which can leverage global experience gleaned from mature home markets in Europe.
Local companies come next, with regional bank Bendigo Bank in second place. This is interesting because Australian banking is dominated by the Big Four, and a small regional player like Bendigo is clearly having some success in differentiating itself on the service experience. It is not just at face-to-face branch levels but also through digital channels.
Bendigo Bank knew that to succeed in a marketplace dominated by the majors, it had to forge a close connection with its customers.
The result is also not a one-off. Bendigo Bank started on its customer-centered approach two decades ago, before the expression CX had entered the business lexicon. It all came from an understanding that if the bank was to carve out a niche in a marketplace dominated by the majors, then it had to forge a close connection with its customers.
The Bank scores well not just in Forrester research, where it has regularly been mentioned honorably in dispatches. KPMG has a methodology around Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence and Bendigo rates highly in each of these: Personalization, Integrity, Expectations, Resolution, Time and Effort, and Empathy.
This also resonates with the Forrester view that CX is about more than merely making customers happy and that there are other emotions at play in two-way relationships that are just as important.
At the bottom of the class Australia, unsurprisingly, is Federal Government social security agency Centrelink, the organization responsible for pushing out the controversial “Robodebt” notices that led to the CX disaster story of 2019.
Not only has the Government suspended the program, but people are queuing up in a class action to sue Centrelink amid revelations that the Government had legal advice that the scheme was illegal all along.
In thinking about the difference in CX performance, the Forrester report nails it beautifully: elite brands build loyalty by making customers feel confident, happy and valued, while CX laggards foster resentment by making customers feel annoyed, disappointed and frustrated. Elite brands have 12 positive experiences against one negative experience.
Satisfaction and data challenges
All this is from last year’s report, and with many in the industry seeing 2020 as the year of – greater – CX maturity, those thoughts are worth pondering on but need updating.
Sure, most companies now see CX as a way to drive loyalty and satisfaction, but it is not always clear that in 2020 the two mean the same thing.
CX laggards foster resentment by making customers feel annoyed, disappointed and frustrated.
Satisfaction is more of an isolated experience and relates to one-off interactions such as the experience of receiving delivery or an empathetic conversation, which provided a solution. These are more important in driving satisfaction than in overall loyalty, which can – at its root – be due to laziness and a desire not to change.
The exciting thing about satisfaction is that it can drive more interactions, and more business, while loyal customers are often the ones who hang around doing not very much at all.
Then there is the ubiquitous issue of data. Part of developing CX has been to access data – from disparate sources – and, if possible, use new technologies such as artificial intelligence to drive insights that can create a better and personalized customer experience.
In 2020, many organizations have developed this capability. This was the aim of many projects in 2019, which was mostly IT engineering. Forrester's global research says that 35% of firms in 2020 are planning to invest in agent facing bots to improve customer service.
Meanwhile, many consumers are still concerned about the transparency of data usage, and the use – by some organizations – of "dark patterns," which cut corners to win customer attention. Forrester says that a quarter of companies will deploy these dark patterns.
Linking CX with trust
CX is also about that – perhaps too often used – word called "trust." The rise of the new "values-based consumer" who looks for "meaning" in their organizational interactions. This is evidenced in the success at Bendigo Bank.
It will also drive what Forrester calls "group-level digital personalization" where consumers' desire to connect with like-minded others will "drive them into private social media groups anchored around specific values."
Most organizations will be wanting to shift the needle on CX this year, but perhaps the best way to view it is to look at 2020 not as the “year of CX” but as the year of the “values-based customer.”
Through this prism, CX is just another channel to the most desirable customers. It might sound reverse engineered, but if organizations are genuinely customer-centric, this might be a more effective approach.
Photo credit: iStockphoto/Davidovici