q and a with Briana Millar

Q&A with customer experience advocate Briana Millar

Briana Millar - Tonkin + Taylor Customer Experience Manager, Cross Fit Newie, Beach Lover, Foodie

As a customer, can you recall a recent example of a great customer experience you had and why you thought it was valuable?

Like many New Zealanders, my interest in online shopping peaked while we were in lockdown because of COVID-19. One purchase comes to mind which was when I bought something online off a small business located in Wellington. Not only did they get the basics right, but the package was beautifully hand wrapped and inside was a handwritten note thanking me for making the purchase. It was those small touches that made me feel like they had thought about me as a person, and not just an order they had to get out the door. They also included some New Zealand chocolate which I thought was a nice nod to supporting local in the challenging economic environment. The whole experience made me feel really good about purchasing off them.

How much do you think customer expectations have changed in the last five years?

A lot! In the last five years, the bar has been raised time and time again when it comes to generating positive customer experiences. The more incredible experiences we have as consumers, the higher our expectations become. I also think people are talking about their experiences more and more, whether that is in person or online, amplifying the impact of a positive or negative experience.

Over the last five years, there has also been huge changes in how we can utilise data to create more personalised experiences. People are more and more conscious of the personal information they share with businesses, and there is now an expectation that a business will use that information to provide a more personalised, seamless experience.

I also think there has been a big shift in the number of B2B structured companies who are now viewing customer experience as a crucial part of their success. As consumers, we’re so used to incredible personalised experiences in our personal life, we now expect the same in our work life too.

Over the next 12-18 months, what CX trends do you anticipate taking off?

I think there will be a big shift in how we collect and use data. Data can be incredibly powerful, but only if we act on what it tells us. Rather than focusing on how much data we could collect, I expect CX professionals will be more targeted, choosing to collect less data that we know we can act on and asking ourselves what data we need to begin to influence customer behaviour, not just understand it.

I also see a shift in how brands compete with one another, especially in B2B environments. Instead of competing on price, there will be more and more focus on competing on personalisation, relationships, and overall experience.

Is there a current CX trend out there at the moment that you think is overrated or less valuable than others?

There is a lot of discussion in the CX community at the moment around creating ‘wow moments’. While I think it is great to do something unexpected and memorable, I do think this is the cherry on top, rather than an area businesses should be focused on earlier in their CX journey.

A ‘wow moment’ is worth nothing if a business has let their customer down at other critical points in the journey. For example, that amazing experience I had with the Wellington based business I spoke about earlier had a ‘wow moment’, but that would have been worthless if the online store was hard to navigate or my package turned up a week late. You can’t overlook how important it is to get the basics right.

If a business currently has no CX strategy and a limited budget, but they want to improve their customer experience, where should they start?

Talk to your customers. It costs nothing but your time and can give you incredible insight into how you can improve customer experience. Have a think about what your customer segments are, group customers with similar needs together. Go and see them one on one, and chat to them about their business, the challenges they face and how you can help combat these challenges. The truth is, you don’t know what really matters to your customers unless you ask them. If you’re on a limited budget, there is likely to be a hundred things you could do, ten things you probably should do, and one thing you can do, so you really want to ensure you’re investing in the one thing that is going to have the biggest impact.

Is there an area that you believe most businesses fall short in delivering CX?

I think communication is often where many businesses trip up. Life isn’t perfect, and every customer experience won’t be perfect either. Most customers are fairly understanding when something doesn’t go 100% to plan, but only if they are kept in the loop.

I also see many businesses who treat customer experience as an afterthought, rather than an integral part of the business. Customer experience should be intrinsically linked to policies, strategy and how we execute our day to day tasks, ensuring it is a part of the fabric of who we are as a business, rather than an add on.

What do you see as being the biggest challenge CX professionals are facing in 2020?

Most businesses throughout New Zealand and internationally have experienced significant challenges in 2020, many of which were unpredictable. With restrictions on gatherings and social distancing in place, I think the biggest challenge for CX professionals has been navigating how to sustain and build relationships without face to face interactions.

Those who have been able to pivot quickly, adapting their digital strategy to fill this void will have minimised the impact of this.

How do you ensure customer experience is prioritised across all areas of a business, especially with different departments who may have differing priorities and KPI’s?

Whether you’re a small business or a large corporate, customer experience is everyone’s responsibility. Even large businesses like Tonkin & Taylor who have a dedicated internal team looking after CX require buy in from all areas of the business, otherwise, we fall short.

Something we have found to be really useful is identifying influential people across different areas of our business and getting them on board with CX initiatives early. By helping these people understand their role in delivering a great customer experience, they act as powerful advocates for the rest of the business. Rather than the CX or marketing department flying the flag solo, these advocates help to gain buy in from the entire business.

Another recommendation would be to share the voice of the customer directly. It’s hard to argue with facts or direct quotes, so use them wherever possible to support your initiatives.

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