Narrowing the gap between US and UK customer experience
Consumers in the US are six times more likely to receive outstanding consumer experience than their counterparts in the UK. That’s the stark finding from new research from KPMG Nunwood, based on a survey of 7,500 US consumers covering 243 brands across 10 sectors.
By comparing this data with previous research in the UK, KPMG Nunwood found that not only did US consumers receive a better experience, but that the US outperformed the UK in eight out of ten industries. Telecoms and the public sector were the only areas where the UK led the way.
The positive news is that the gap between the US and UK is narrowing, according to the research, but will take three years to close. This is because US organisations are generally far more mature when it comes to customer experience than their British counterparts.
So, what lessons can UK businesses learn from across the Atlantic? The report lists multiple points, including:
1 Clear purpose – set from the top
US companies have clearly planned and set out the experience they aim to deliver to customers, and use this to create an organisation that ensures it is delivered consistently. In comparison UK businesses can struggle to provide great experiences on an ongoing basis.
Senior managers, including the CEO, are much more involved in the customer experience, understanding the importance of service to differentiate their company and offering in the marketplace. Programs can be led directly by the CEO or through a Chief Customer Officer with high level responsibility for their impact.
2 Customer service culture
The US way of life has always encouraged a greater focus on service and delivering what the customer actually wants. This means that expectations are high, and consumers are not afraid to complain if standards are not met – both helping ensure companies deliver on their promises. Companies therefore are committed to a culture where the customer genuinely comes first, boosting the experience. This attitude is gradually being adopted in the UK, but the old idea of not bothering to complain about poor service still lingers on.
3 The experience starts with employees
Engaged, positive employees are one of the single biggest factors in delivering a superior customer experience. US organisations recognise this, often paying above average salaries and spending a great deal of time and effort on recruiting staff with a passion for delivering great service. The perfect example is retailer Zappos, which moved its business from San Francisco to Las Vegas, in order to tap into the large pool of people trained in the hospitality industry who had the right personal qualities to deliver the legendary Zappos service. No wonder that a large number of leading US companies in the KPMG Nunwood report also score highly in Great Place to Work indexes.
4 An end to silos and barriers
Many UK organisations are still structured on departmental lines that don’t match the customer journey. This silo-based design can harm the end-to-end experience, disrupting the service provided and not giving staff an overall view of the journey. Again, this is changing, with UK companies adopting customer hubs, focused teams that bring together different skills in the same location.
At the same time in the US there is an omnichannel approach to service, with digital channels integrated into the overall customer experience, rather than run by separate teams or departments. Joining up service doesn’t just benefit customers – it also increases efficiency, eliminates overlaps and consequently drives down costs as well.
5 Customer experience is an investment
The KPMG Nunwood report says that in the US “The voice of the customer carries more weight than the voice of finance,” meaning that businesses see that experience is a revenue-generator that benefits the bottom line, rather than a cost that needs to be minimised. This also links to treating staff well, and investing in their careers to retain and develop them.
6 Focus on the details – and the big picture
Even the smallest positive or negative experience adds up – therefore it is vital that companies get the details right. US companies understand this and focus on the micro experiences to differentiate themselves. This is combined with also seeing the big picture– looking at how customers can be wowed by new ways of delivering the experience that really engage with consumers, such as the service provided in the Apple Store.
As the KPMG Nunwood research demonstrates UK companies can learn a lot from how customer experience is handled in the US, improving how they operate and consequently boosting loyalty and revenues by delighting and retaining customers, whatever sector they are in.