The empty chair: How do you ensure you keep the customer at the front of your business culture and strategies?

Retail Financial Services

Retail Financial Services


Feedback Ferret    kpmg-jpg.JPG      lansons-new-1.jpg

Sponsor introducing: Piers Alington, Feedback Ferret

Facilitated and written by: Tina Hansen, KPMG and Megan Murray Jones, Lansons

Headline finding 1:

Put the Voice of the Customer in ‘empty chair’ to tackle the HiPPO (Highest Paid Persons Opinion)

Increasingly businesses have customer representation at key meetings, e.g. in the form of a Chief Customer Officer or customer champion, acting as the voice of the customer, sharing insights from customer feedback or frontline employees. By bringing these insights into BAU business planning and decision making, the influence of the HiPPO, (who is often furthest from the customer) is managed and key decision makers are better equipped to bring the wanted experience/ service / product to customers. Larger organisation should follow their smaller peers who, perhaps not surprisingly, find it easier to tap into front line insights through regular catch-ups.

Headline finding 2: 

‘Ask less to get more’

In an ‘opt in’ world, elaborate structured surveys alienates many customers, resulting in low response rates with a distorted view of customer satisfaction (‘very satisfied or dissatisfied customers are most likely to respond). Surveys should ask less and allow the voice of the customers to come through e.g. through a simple scoring system supported by ‘why did you give me that score?’ Questions such as ‘what did we do well and how can we improve’ should be avoided: It is for businesses to work out how to meet the needs of their customers.

Be guided by what they do or say, not who they are: ‘19 year olds are watching dance moms, 73 year olds watching breaking bad’ (Tod Yelling, Netflix)

Businesses must gather customer insights and feedback from multiple touch points to build a comprehensive understanding of the wants and needs of customers and avoid type casting. A combination of open verbatim feedback from customers and customer facing employees, web chat and social media can:

  • highlight topics of concern/interest to the customer
  • enable businesses to anticipate and/or influence customers’ decisions
  • inform business prioritisation

     2.       Consolidating customer feedback takes analysis and human emotion

Text analysis can find key trends in open questions and provide sentiment analysis, thus helping to find the needle in the information haystack. However, the insights will never be completely accurate. Big data can = big distraction unless the insights are validated. A business needs to use it’s ‘brain’ by engaging with employees to understand customer needs/ wants and grievance from the grassroots.

  1.     Some feedback requires remedial action, other does not – know the difference!

Insight can be turned into profit but businesses need to differentiate between the

  • ‘Hot lava’ feedback that needs acting on to prevent loss or capitalise on opportunities.
  • A grumble or small complaint requiring thanks or empathy. A programme of simple empathetic emails allowed Eurocamp to turn this type of feedback into a £1 million uplift in rebooking.
  • Thanks and recommendations that can provide insight and strategic direction.

Customer facing employees and systems need to recognise the difference.

     4. Expectation management is key

Feedback ultimately reflects if the product or service delivered has met customers’ expectations: If British Airways and Ryanair deliver the same product at a similar price, the British Airways customers will be disappointed and Ryanair’s delighted. A business needs to be clear on what its customers should expect to prevent inflated expectations. Acknowledgement and empathy when services or products fall short of expectation can go a long way to engender loyalty and support customer retention.

Challenges and concerns:

The issue of opportunity: How can you champion the consumer AND stakeholder needs? Is it realistic to have their views and wants aligned and how do you manage any misalignment?

A full chair is easier to find in a smaller organisation: How can larger businesses to take inspiration from smaller businesses for testing new approaches to customer feedback?

Most people only give feedback when they are really happy or unhappy with a service: We are missing out on 80% of the customers that are content or neutral about the product or service provided. How can businesses make sure that they are not just hearing the loudest voices and ignoring their loyal customer base?

Simple feedback can restrict companies with large offerings: If you have multiple business offerings how do you access feedback specific to each business unit?  

Employees are important to communicate the voice of the consumer: How can they be inspired to be loyal advocates of the business?