Businesses with multiple service channels are ‘scrambling’ to meet customer expectations


Leading companies across a range of sectors – including finance, utilities, government, education, automotive and telecommunications – need to lift their game when it comes to customer experience (CX), a new study reveals.

CX consulting firm, Customer Service Benchmarking Australia (CSBA), studied 3000 customer interactions with 136 companies in Australia, assigning each a score out of 100 for quality of service across phone, face to face, email and chat. The three key elements measured were success, ease of doing business and sentiment.

The Commonwealth Bank achieved the highest score, with 62.4 out of 100, followed by Melbourne Water (60.2), NAB (58.9), Western Sydney University (58.8), Sunsuper (58.6), Water Corporation (58.1), MAZDA (57.6), Teachers Mutual Bank (57.5), REST (57.2) and Volkswagen (57.1)

According to CSBA Director Paul Van Veenendaal, the overall findings indicate that leading companies “really need to lift their game” because they are failing to meet “increasingly high” service expectations in Australia.

He spoke to Dynamic Business about the need for companies to place a greater emphasis on CX quality as distinct from CX governance, the challenge they face in providing a consistent experience for customers across multiple service channels and whether or not Net Promoter Score (NPS) is still a relevant measure of CX.

DB: Do the findings suggest companies aren’t measuring CX?

Veenendaal: Customer experience is being measured by leading companies – there is no doubt about that. The challenge facing nearly all organisations – large and small, corporate and government – is what to do with the metrics once they get them. Most organisations have some form of management KPI that is designed to ensure the score gets managed. However, when scores don’t move in the right direction or other challenges appear on the horizon, the customers’ experience can be the first thing de-prioritised.

Secondly, there needs to be a greater distinction between measures for Governance (e.g. agents asking customers for account numbers) vs assessment for Experience. We have seen growth in the former to meet regulatory requirements but organisations are still developing the latter.

When the CX barrier is low, this makes it easier for the international competitors to come into the market.

DB: Where are companies falling short when it comes to CX?

Veenendaal: Over the last decade, organisations have shifted customer servicing online. Often described as customer lead innovation, this approach has had the concurrent effect of lowering service costs due to the fact that customers have effectively become self-serving. By reducing calls to the customer service team, organisations have saved money. Now, however, when customers do reach out to an organisation, it is for something more complex – something they can’t do themselves. Consequently, organisations have seen call times increase over the last five years, with their contact centre staff forced to deal with more complex problems. Throw in customers now preferring more than one channel and you have whole industries in a state of flux.

Everyone is now scrambling to develop strategies that enable them to service across multiple channels. Some organisations are better than others. Some are finding that the systems they thought would work, no longer will. Others are questioning the service models they have. In a quest to provide customers more choice, sometimes we are seeing too many channels and the experience across all of them deteriorating – think of the example of maintaining both an app and a mobile responsive web portal…. investing in one well rather than diluting resources across both does improve the customer experience.

One thing is clear, the increase in channels has made it harder for the companies to provide a consistent experience across all channels and this can lead to more communication and not less.

DB: Are companies out of touch with what customers expect?

Veenendaal: Sometime back, CSBA identified the shift in customer expectations and created the CX measurement tool SenseCX. It is an independent quality assurance program that enables an organisation to operationalise outstanding customer experiences. It makes those great experiences that most of us can recall and tell people about, something that organisations can create repeatedly. Even more importantly, the standards CSBA has developed work across channels. In fact, for the chat channel, I believe we’re the first organisation to test with people their views on what they expect during a chat. Our research found that although businesses often viewed chat as a more informal channel, that customers still expected correct punctuation and spelling throughout the interaction.

We are excited by the incremental improvement being delivered to customers in the Australian marketplace but we know all too well the impediments to continued progress – boardrooms are still struggling to unite silos and how to account for upstream costs driving downstream customer benefits… the next evolution in CX maturity will see shared Enterprise level CX metrics, joint accountability for issue resolution, stock allocation for customer outcomes rather than top line growth or cost efficiencies and a much higher focus on intrinsic employee engagement.

DB: Any tips for SMEs seeking to ensuring high standards for CX?

Veenendaal: It is important for all companies to be clear on the experience they want to provide the customer. This experience needs to be clear to all in the company.  It should be measured across all channels. Companies should not be distracted by focusing on just the governance issues in assessing the experience (e.g. asking for an account number). When seeking new employees, they should also look at measuring the agent’s ability to provide a great experience rather than just product knowledge.

DB: What is your position on Net Promoter Scores as a CX measure?

Veenendaal: It Our position on NPS is that while external benchmarking can create a platform for action (for poor performers) companies should set their own realistic (but aspirational) target reflective of their commercial reality to improve over time…in essence, moving in the right direction over time is the important thing.

We have many clients who were once NPS advocates who have become less so over the years. This is because no single measure is going to give you what you need to improve and develop your business. Ease of doing business has become increasingly more relevant, and for many, a better measure as it is more tangible for organisations to rally teams around. No one wants to be known as being difficult to deal with. This can often translate into actions and improvement initiatives more easily.