I was gratified to read a couple of share analysts’ retail store group picks, in the City pages of the London Evening Standard, both of which based their recommendations on the Customer Experience being delivered by the stores.
It made a pleasant change from the usual drivel about “rationalisation”, “offloading” and “focus on driving down costs” (or “up margins”).
Their analysis reminded me of the example of Claes Fornell, one of the world’s leading experts on customer satisfaction measurement and who set up the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which measures the quality of economic output – in other words, whether that output is based on sound foundations and is therefore sustainable.
The ACSI demonstrates that “customer satisfaction is a leading indicator of company financial performance. Stocks of companies with high ACSI scores tend to do better than those of companies with low scores”.
The ACSI patented technology is now used around the world, including in the United Kingdom, and Fornell has also set up a “CSat” investment fund which consistently outperforms the Dow Jones Index.
The simple relationship between Customer Experience and sales, customer loyalty and reputation is too often overlooked – and tends to be actively disregarded when the going gets tough.
After all, when sales are falling, you cut everything don’t you – staff, training, marketing; not to mention all those little intangibles that make the experience better for your team and/or your customers: treats, trips, toiletries, tulips (okay, flowers, but I was on an alliterative roll there).
If you want to outperform the market, beat the competition, develop a Brexit resilience strategy, achieve Team GB-style world-beating performance, you can – there’s no magic formula.
But there is a formula.
The formula is – whatever your customers want it to be, and then some.
The formula is not – cost-cutting, rationalisation and replacing human interaction with technology. (As Fornell has said, “Customers often end up feeling trapped in a technology maze, where they have to press this button or that button on their phones, and can’t find their way out.”)
The formula is yours to develop, refine and enhance, once you embrace the simple truth that satisfying customers is the essence of it. So, knowing your customers – how they think, feel and behave – must be your Holy Grail, your Double Double (or even your Triple Treble).
From there, building and operating a customer-centric business model is straightforward – not easy, but straightforward.
My model, “Project Stars” is one way to do it.
Whatever you do though, don’t just take my word for it that your Customer Experience needs to be at the heart of it. Don’t just take the Evening Standard analysts’ word for it. Don’t even just take Claes Fornell’s word for it, or the ACSI’s word for it.
Take your customers’ word for it.
Stephen Spencer is a keynote speaker, business coach and consultant, helping organisations create better Customer Experiences to unlock team and profit potential. He has over 25 years’ experience as a leader, trainer and experience developer with some of the UK’s most prestigious Retail, Tourism and Hospitality brands. Sign up for Stephen’s POSITIVE Customer Experience newsletter here.