Most businesses believe that they are “customer-centric.” Most customers disagree. This is the “CX Perception Gap” or the “Delivery Gap” - whereby companies think that they are focussing on their customers, but customers just aren’t feeling it.
This gap was identified by Bain back in 2005 when they found from surveying 362 companies that 80% believed that they delivered “a superior experience to customers” while customers believed that only 8% were delivering. More recently in 2018, Capgemini had similar findings - 75% of executives believed their business to be customer-centric with 30% of consumers citing “their satisfaction with experiences delivered by the firms.” The findings show that while customers may be a bit happier than they generally were in 2005, business executives still don’t understand how their customers feel.
Having an awareness of this discrepancy can only serve to improve CX as it shows that the standard CX trends and tactics don’t do much to impress customers.
So, what can be done to bridge the gap?
Ensure executives understand CX
Bain and Capgemini surveyed executives to get the results above, so obviously, executives just aren’t understanding what it means to be a “customer-centric” business. There is a general confusion amongst executives on how customer experiences work, so it may need to be explained to them. This isn’t surprising as they are the furthest removed from customer interactions so they can, unfortunately, see CX as a matter of dollars and cents alongside a variety of metrics. It often the case that there is a razor focus on the bottom-line and short term financial outcomes, which unfortunately doesn’t necessarily entail reading customer feedback or examining difficulties employees may face to meet customer demands.
Ensuring executives truly understand CX in your business is the first step to bridging the gap. The top CEOs in the world understand the importance of the customer’s experience and the value of listening. Ensure that your VoC programme is robust and dynamic and invite your executives to take part in reading and responding to customer feedback. It’s likely they are due for a bit of a reality check. There is a treasure trove of information to be learned and for them to truly understand CX, this may be the first step for them to gain front-line insights.
Meet customer expectations
As we’ve discussed before, we are living in an Expectation Economy, in which customer expectations are constantly rising. This was already a problem in 2005 when Bain did their study, but it even worse now with the introduction of the more instant gratification business models of Amazon, Uber and the like.
You may think that your business is doing a great job at CX, but your customers might not be very impressed. They expect great quality at a reasonable price and are unwilling to settle for anything less. This isn’t an easy issue to tackle but try focussing on the ease of experience to impress your customers. They don’t need exceptional out of the box innovations - they expect speed, efficiency, consistency and hassle-free experiences to be truly satisfied.
Don’t just improve metrics, improve CX
There tends to be a big disconnect between improving CX metrics and actually improving the customer’s day to day experience. With all of the metrics that are attributable to improved CX, it’s easy to forget they don’t actually represent the customer experience. A lot of CX professionals focus a lot of energy into manipulating their surveys to get better NPS or CSAT scores, but neglect to take away the insights that can be learned from the most important aspect of a survey - the customer feedback and comments. Feedback data is, of course, important and there is much to be gained from metrics to understand your business, but if you aren’t actually listening and actioning that feedback - you fall short from being fully customer-centric.
It is imperative to have a clear strategy in place that doesn’t only focus on improving NPS - it needs to include a plan for next steps to address customer concerns, complaints, or suggestions. To begin with, you should encourage customers to give feedback and respond to them. The majority of unhappy customers do not complain. They simply take their business elsewhere without letting a lot of the time it’s too much effort for them to tell a business about their disappointing experience - even if they have no trouble complaining to their family and friends! Try engaging with your customers as much as possible so they feel heard and appreciated and you can prevent repeat negative experiences in the future.
The CX Perception gap exists because we think we understand our customers, but we don’t. Really listening to your customers is easier said than done, but is essential to understanding their needs, wants and expectations. There will always be room for improvement, but if you adopt these strategies you might be able to take the steps to not be part of a bad statistic.