Customer Experience, once thought to be the “Buzzword of 2018”, is now a key driver to business success. Businesses are realising that they are nothing without their customers, and as customer expectation and scrutiny continues to rise, the ability to meet the needs and demands of your customers is growing more and more necessary every day.

But how do you create internal support and momentum in your organisation when customer experience isn’t always on the forefront of everyone’s minds? And just what can you expect when undertaking a CX transformation journey?

That’s what a room full of 270+ marketers were eager to find out at the CX Conference yesterday. It may have been a rainy Auckland start to the day, but inside, the classic Kiwi road trip was getting underway, with our speakers taking us on a CX journey, showcasing insights and outcomes that help navigate digital transformation in this crucial area.

We kicked the day off with a poll question “What is your organisation’s biggest CX challenge?”

45% of attendees stated that lack of real-time customer insights was the biggest challenge, with ‘convincing areas of the business the importance of CX’ coming in second at 31%. Setting the tone for where our attendees’ company and mindsets were currently placed.

Our first speaker of the day, Cath Brands, Global Industry Marketing Director of Microsoft US, reminded us that the consumer psyche is changing rapidly and that the likes of Uber, Amazon, Netflix and Airbnb all changed the game in industries that weren’t really innovating – resetting the playing field and raising consumer expectations.

Her biggest word of advice? Start with the customer and work backwards. Sounds simple right? You’d be surprised how many have it the other way around!

The key takeaways;

  • Know your customer, inside and out
  • Empower your people – invest in the right technology for your people to drive the brand
  • Unlock the power of your data – get customer-obsessed

And on a personal level:

  • Be nimble – be fast and be furious, don’t think too hard, just do it and try
  • Be brave – ask, why not? Remain open-minded to new possibilities
  • Be authentic – knowing the data and your customers make great marketers.
  • Be your customers – walk in their shoes, how does it make you feel? Think like them.

Sharing their journey to reach CX maturity by 2021, Susanne Stevenson, CX Strategy Manager for Australia and New Zealand’s largest general insurance company, IAG, reiterated Cath Brands’ point about market disruptors.

She stressed that CX is vital because today’s hyper-informed customers aren’t comparing your product or service to your direct competitors - you’re being compared to the experience leaders: The Netflix’, Amazons’ and Airbnbs of the world who are raising customer expectations about what experience should be.

IAG’s challenge? How often do customers actually interact with their insurance company? At renewal and at claims. So how can an insurance company drive loyalty and advocacy?

Susanne followed with a quote from Darren Kernahan, Co-founder and CEO of Proto Partners: “Brand is the promise we make. CX is the promise we keep.” By building meaningful experiences that back up that brand promise.

Here’s how IAG are doing it:

  • Enriching culture and capability: IAG actually applied their journey mapping framework internally in a dedicated programme. By doing so, they were able to identify pain points and act on them. The result was an increase in their internal NPS score of a massive 40 points.
  • Removing friction from customers and their people: This was IAG’s answer to building customer loyalty and advocacy. They built dedicated CX tools, including a physical design lab and online testing portal, and designed to reduce friction throughout the customer journey. Key friction reducers were introduced at the claims stage. IAG brought the process to social media via Facebook Messenger - where their customers wanted to interact - resulting in a 400% increase in social traffic.
  • Focussed personalisation and innovation: IAG is able to successfully personalise and innovate their services through data-led needs-based segmentation and a design thinking approach.

While the scale of a company like IAG might make one rule out any application to smaller businesses, Susan gave us three takeaways that all organisations can take on board:

  • Get the basics right: Address culture and friction and get it right. Introduce design thinking so you design the right outcome rather than jumping to solutions and shiny toys.
  • Be consistent: Give everything across the organisation a CX focus and include your customers and people in that design.
  • Listen, learn and act: Really listen, learn from what you’re customers and people are saying, and enable your people to act.

Russell Douglas, D&Co, co-presented with David Brem, Foodstuffs, to show us how enhancing the life of real people through human-centred design and experiences has paid off for New World.

They achieved this with 5 key themes;

  • Taking a broader view of users lives, understanding pain points and leaning in to solve them
  • Designing with the customer and remaining open to open innovation
  • Creating ecosystems of value around the customer
  • Instead of interrupting, serve them, make them feel something
  • Create experiences that account for need and mind state

At the early stages of New World’s CX journey, they knew that before they could deliver a customer-centric experience, they first had to acknowledge that they’re customers aren’t them.

For any organisation or CX professional, this is an important lesson - because most people aren’t CX professionals. It’s safe to assume that nearly every person who attended the conference also attended university - but only 26% of all New Zealanders have a Bachelors degree or higher qualification. CX professionals are experts, specialists, and typically hold leadership roles. The average annual income for a New Zealander is about $50k.

So, with this in mind, New World put their customer's shoes on and walked in them. They immersed themselves into the experience of a New World customer, sending ‘New Worlders’ on shopping missions and documenting every thought, feeling, and moment.

They undertook one-on-one customer interviews, observed shoppers and employed their impressive Clubcard data set to really understand their customers, and they mapped the customer journey with all the ‘Moments that Matter’.

Then they made it physical. Erecting the Moments that Matter boards in their collab space, they created meaningful interactions and became a key tool for induction.

New Worlds, win-win-win mindset (wins for customers, wins for owner-operators and wins for foodstuffs) and their 3-tiered approach to excellent CX (starting with brilliant basics, then performance enhancers, and topping off with the real key to CX: experience differentiation) allowed them to map uniquely ‘New World’ customer journeys and deliver excellent CX.

We then had the absolute pleasure to be joined by Grace Stratton, Co-founder, All is for All, who at just 19 years old has launched a company that focuses on accessibility and designing for diversity.

We all learnt a lot from having Grace present, including some truth bombs and hard-hitting stats; 24% of New Zealanders are living with a disability, that’s 1 million who have access needs and thinks differently as a customer.

Her advice for being all-inclusive?

  • Ask – you can’t understand someone’s experiences unless you ask them
  • “Me, We” – it’s not about you, it’s about the customer
  • Experience without barriers – accessible design is for all
  • It’s an individual experience – consider the individual when implementing universal design
  • Be aware – know the barriers are there so you can help rectify them

Grace left us to ponder this question, “Do you want to be setting the standard, or playing catch up?”

Boys aged 16-24 who are in the early days of their Restricted Licence period are over-represented in crash statistics. This was the issue discussed by NZTA’s Andrea Amies. To engage at-risk young drivers and generally make everyone safer and better drivers, NZTA built, theDrive Go app and the Drive toolkit.

They began by conducting thorough research to understand their customer. Andrea presented two customer personas: Matt and Dan, 16 and 19 respectively. 16-year-old Matt thinks he’s a great driver and got his restricted licence as soon as he could to give him more freedom behind the wheel. Dan isn’t prepared to make the effort to get his licence and he’s at risk of running into trouble for driving without a licence.

They sought to understand the barriers to learning to drive and what matters to their customers. Their customers were saying ‘make it about me’. The Drive tools were co-designed with customers and experts to create an experience that’s totally customer-centric. The tools are visual, designed for low-literacy, they’re interactive and fun, they reward progress and were designed with consideration for neuro-diverse people and people with learning disabilities.

To create something truly customer-centric, here are Andrea’s tips:

  • Know your audience
  • Test constantly with your customers
  • Continue listening to the needs of your customers, evolve and innovate accordingly
  • Creativity is key to working on a limited budget
  • Use data
  • Keep it simple

Redefining the customer journey is not always an easy thing to do, but that’s just what Toyota NZ has done in the automotive industry. Morgan Dilks and Shaun Crooks from Toyota NZ shared with us how combining an understanding of what customers want, with what’s possible, can come up with a viable solution.

With dealer visits decreasing and online research increasing, Toyota NZ had to change its focus to the customer experience to regain trust and make the car buying experience easier and more enjoyable for the customer – all whilst ensuring a sustainable business model.

What did they do to achieve this?

  • Including customers – a key to being customer-focused
  • Identifying pain points and helping to eliminate them
  • Transparency and consistency across in-store and online
  • Letting customers take control and own their journey
  • Testing everything, then testing it again

Customer Experience is just as important as the product and the results of a 23% uptake in test drive bookings via online and a 2.3% increase in new vehicle customers since the launch of the campaign is a testament to that.

Our second-to-last session saw Rob Limb, CEO of TRACK Australia and New Zealand, moderate a panel of CX decision-makers. Among the panellists was Air New Zealand’s General Manager Customer Experience, Nikki Goodman, Z Energy’s Head of Customer, Kieran Turner, Loyalty New Zealand’s Head of Digital Experience, Fiona Hicks and Managing Director of Goodale & Co, Ben Goodale.

The panel began with an interesting question: Why has CX become a discipline in its own right? Surely marketers should know that retention is more cost-effective than acquisition? Our panellists theorised that the need for CX was driven by the visibility of feedback: the rise of social media, the publicity of experiences and the resulting potential impact on brand. Like Susanne Stevenson quoted in the day: “Brand is the promise we make. CX is the promise we keep.” CX might be a discipline of its own, but as marketers, it’s our role to keep our brand promise across all touchpoints. Ben Goodale raised a point about the role of creativity in CX, that part of selling anything is entertaining people. Surprise and delight moments, clever copywriting, a meaningful brand story - all those things marketers love so much - are part of the experience.

Rob prompted insightful discussion from the panellists around CX, how to get everyone on board and ready to invest in CX, what CX means for marketers, how to measure results, and how small businesses can improve their CX. Here are some key takeaways:

Measuring results:

  • Be comfortable making decisions with ambiguity. You can’t always make decisions with 100% confidence, even with all the metrics in the world. Test ideas, experiment, don’t be afraid to fail. - Nikki
  • There’s no perfect metric, so use a combination of qualitative and quantitative. Then dig deep. - Kieran

Getting everybody on board:

  • Communication is critical. A CX strategy requires cohesion across the organisation, so communicate in simple terms anyone can understand. - Nikki
  • Tie it back to the bottom line. Friction costs, so show them your experience map, tell them what you’re driving for and give them tangible measurements that show the relationship between CX and the bottom line. - Kieran
  • Make it official. CX can’t be another great idea forgotten if ‘Customer’ is in someone’s job title. Put science, methodology and metrics behind it, set standards and hold the business accountable. - Nikki
  • Position the cost of CX against other costs. Fiona used the example of a service centre: an older channel that accrues high fixed costs. “If we’re spending this much here, why not more on a digital channel to improve CX?” - Fiona
  • Invest in metrics. Qualitative and Quantitative. Measure engagement, loyalty, advocacy, ROI and have robust, influential conversations with stakeholders that is backed up by numbers

Tips for smaller businesses:

  • Customer research doesn’t have to be expensive. Talk to your customer service team on the frontline, get people in and hear from them and start to be your customer: walk in their shoes. And challenge internal thinking by learning about your competitors. - Nikki
  • Don’t underestimate the little things. Look at your customer journey, spot the points of friction, and if you can fix even one of them you change the whole experience. Make everything you do an improvement on today: Know and use customers names, simplify a process, use messaging that puts their minds at ease or relieves pressure. Make people feel good. - Kieran

When Chelsey Gordon of Les Mills International and Catchi’s Cornelius Boertjens took the stage to wrap up CX 2019, they had the audience on their feet, warming up in true Les Mills style. With everyone’s blood pumping and breath puffing, the presentation commenced. Chelsey and Cornelius discussed how Les Mills International have been using customer behaviour insights to deliver personalised experiences through their On Demand programme.

Les Mills International’s purpose is simple: Create a fitter planet. They’re a global company in growth mode, so they’re chasing hefty targets and customer expectations are at an all-time high. The scale of their business creates a challenge: How can they stay close to their customers to make sure they’re delivering exceptional experience across the world?

Here’s how:

  • Experimentation: They take projects, break them down into smaller iterations, remain objective through the use of data and pay close attention to results to pivot quickly. In doing this, they’re able to stay close to their customer through data and constant feedback and optimisation.
  • Robust data: This was perhaps Chelsey’s most emphasised point. Data enables Les Mills’ approach to experimentation. If you can’t trust the numbers you’re wasting your time, so make sure your data is clean and usable.
  • Happy people: Listen to your customers and they’ll tell you what makes them happy. Happy customers, happy business. Kindness, professionalism and curiosity unlock innovation while egos stifle it. Invest in your people.
  • Be comfortable with failure: Not every experiment is going to go to plan, but your teams need the freedom to try.

Les Mills’ success with customer-centric experimentation stems from an obsession with their customers, design and innovation co-created with customers, prioritising internal experience just as they prioritise customer experience, and an organisation-wide commitment to CX - just like the success stories of our other speakers.