Learn the differences between customer service versus customer experience, and how they work together to boost lifelong loyalty
Pop quiz, corporate business leaders: Which team or department is responsible for customer experience? Here’s a hint: Think beyond department borders.
Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Logistics, IT, etc. Delivering incredible customer experiences in today’s agile economy is a team sport. Each and every area of the company is customer-facing in some way, shape or form. Transforming operations to get every department rowing in the same direction to improve customer experience starts with simply listening to your customers and continuously improve or surprise them with better products, services or interactions, that’s customer experience management.
Carsten Ley is the Co-founder of Asia PMO (asiapmo.com), a management consulting firm based in East Asia and is an expert in customer experience & agile management. His career in focusing on customer demands and improving their experiences has made him an expert in the field, and he has worked with H&M Online Global, Milano Coffee Vietnam and MIT Myanmar, among others to improve their organization, services and products and giving their customers a pleasant shopping or service experience.
Oi sat down with Carsten and spoke to him about his journey in the industry and the many complex layers of providing the best customer experience.
How did you get involved in customer experience and what led you to become a customer experience consultant?
I was working for Home Credit Vietnam in 2013 as Project Manager in charge of company-wide projects and innovations. In 2014 I led a customer service project to restructure and improve the CS hotlines, and in 2015 I was approached to kickstart the Customer Experience (CX) project by collecting all customer-relevant data throughout the company, analyze main issues and implement improvement actions on a monthly basis with all major departments involved. After a couple of months, the CEO asked me to be CX Manager as CX was established as a full-function within the company.
Within the next 12 months, I set up a CX team for research, data analytics and action management to improve services, products and processes based on customer needs. In 2016, I received an offer from Lazada Vietnam to be their Vice President of CX/CS so I switched, in a similar role, on a bigger scope to the start-up and e-commerce sector. Beside customer data analysis and improvements we were running CX in Lazada to change the mindset of the employees and partners to be customer-centric and more sensitive to customer demands and expectations.
There are a lot of initials on your website – OKR, CX, CS, EX, PMO – what do they stand for and why are they important in your industry?
Asia PMO offers management consulting to make an organization more actionable towards their targets, their market, and their customers while caring about employees. “PMO” is the basic “Project Management Office” that monitors and controls all actions and projects within the company. Customer Experience (CX)/ Employee Experience (EX) are strategic initiatives to understand & analyze the needs of customers/employees and to implement actions to make their lives easier (so they stay longer with the product or company). CS (Customer Service) is usually the hotline or chat team in the company that solves customer inquiries, issues or complaints.
OKR (Objectives & Key Results) is a management technique used to plan, organize and measure the progress of a company, team or individual. While KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are performance measures that are given by the top management to the staff, OKR is a more inspiring and teamfocused planning which connects the company’s strategy & objectives to the purpose of the teams or employees.
OKR is also more flexible and agile as we plan on a 3-month cycle for fastmoving sectors like tech, start-ups or e-commerce.
What are some critical mistakes businesses make when it comes to customer experience?
- Businesses confuse customer experience with customer service: Customer service is fixing mistakes for an individual customer, which is very important but is very time and cost-intensive for companies. Making the customer happy by fixing mistakes could work to retain him/her but it is not a sustainable happy experience. Customer Experience is looking for the main needs/issues of the majority of customers and trying to fix regular processes, product parameters & service dimensions to avoid more unhappy customers in the future and to create more fans of a brand.
- No involvement of CX before launching a new product or service: Most companies first implement apps, payment systems, delivery channels, search features, etc. and wait for the customer feedback to see if it works or not. A testing approach with potential customers can assure customer-friendly features.
- No proactive feedback channels: Companies are only reacting to complaints and negative social media posts to fix their issues. However, 50-60% of their customers are typically neither happy nor unhappy with a service/product and do not give any active feedback whether by rating, surveys or posting. These customers are likely to switch to a competitor and therefore can be a huge loss. It is necessary to understand these “neutral’’ customers and why they do not come back.
When launching an e-commerce website, what are some of the key mistakes beginners make?
- Generic international templates for webpages and checkout (e.g. each country has specific requirements on address, payment and other fields).
- An overly complicated way to pay and checkout, such as having too many steps/info required.
- Not controlling the customer experience of the third parties (seller, delivery companies, etc.).
Service staff in Vietnam like to hover over customers because they feel that it is considered good customer service, but foreigners find that uncomfortable and intrusive. How accepting or tolerant should we be with cultural differences in customer service?
Generally, we should not accept anything that makes us uncomfortable when it comes to customer service, however, we should respect cultural differences. We should allow for a compromise. For example, certain things like shouting “em oi” to get a waiter’s attention you’ll need to adapt to otherwise you will sit there for ages without service, other things depend on the price level and internationality of a place. I expect more of a top-class service in an Italian restaurant or 5-star international hotel than in a local family eatery.
What do you find to be some of the biggest challenges in helping companies and their employees deliver the best Customer Experience (CX)
CX is a long-term continuous improvement cycle with regular small wins rather than a big leap forward, and most companies and employees do not have the patience for this. Also, the ROI (Return on Investment) can only be measured mid- and long-term in the form of customer retention and recommendation.
How are social media and customer experience both parts of a continuous cycle?
Social media is a great interactive and feedback tool (besides being a sales channel for retailers and services). Social media can help us understand customers and can be a channel to communicate improvements and promotions to customers. As a feedback tool, it is important to scan social media channels to respond to customers quickly and in an appropriate way (we explain this further in our Customer Experience Intro Training).
In terms of online and offline Customer Experience, which do you find harder to train employees in and why?
The online journey is basically the UX (User Experience) of an app or webpage and could be more easily designed, measured and adapted by tech teams. Offline experiences (the real taxi ride, e-commerce product, food service, etc.) are much harder to excel at because it requires smooth processes between different suppliers and good soft and behavioral skills by service staff.
Typically, third parties or freelancers, such as delivery companies, freelancers or restaurants, are in charge of the real product the customer ordered and therefore more difficult to train or control.
Moreover, in a country like Vietnam the impression on offline and real experiences are stronger, therefore some tech companies have branding and complaint issues on the end product even when their apps are good. During our project for H&M online shopping, we realized that their return conditions on the online store are different than in a brick and mortar shop and that online purchases cannot be returned or changed in shops. A customer does not care if he/she buys from the company’s website or in the shop or even from the company’s distributor or partner. As long as it is your product, the customer expects similar quality, service and conditions. We advised H&M to follow the example of Zara and create a consistent experience as to not confuse the customer and let them easily understand how to do deal with you.
One of your training services is called Customer Experience Boot Camp. What does this involve?
Our CX boot camp is an interactive training and workshop in which we understand customer experience as a process, team, change tool and implementation cycle. We will learn and practice how to map all steps of the customer on your product and services (customer journey map), find out who is your typical customer (persona) and apply all the tools needed to measure customer feedback and data. Based on that, we develop actions to improve your product or services and ways to measure the impact. The second part of the training is how to implement Customer Experience as a team and process into your company and how to start and grow a customer-centric culture.
Which countries stand out when it comes to CX and which ones still need the most improvement?
I do not think we can make it country specific in a globalized world, however, the level of hospitality and professionalism influences CX.
Images by Vy Lam