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26 November 2019 5 min read

The eight second CX challenge

Tom Nichols

Tom Nichols
Senior Consultant | Customer and digital | London

What if I told you that today’s consumers have attention spans of just 8 seconds?[1]

Back in 2000, this was 12 seconds – that’s a 33% loss over 19 years if you needed the maths. But what does that actually mean? That’s a consumer whose prized attention is increasingly being fought over, and as a result there is less time for you to impress them. By the time it’s taken you to read this, your unengaged consumers will have switched off.  You haven’t got any spare seconds to risk offering a sub-standard customer experience, pretty much any time your customer interacts with you.

So how can you make sure that you do offer a strong experience for each of those interactions, and make the most of that eight second window? Helping businesses design and deliver products and propositions – from new apps to retention programmes - I’ve noticed some of these consistent principles that can be adopted to underpin a really high-quality experience, relevant to any touchpoint in the customer journey:

  1. Provide differentiated, personalised experiences according to a customer’s individual wants and needs. Historically, personalised experiences were often the result of ‘little black books’. Today, premium retailers, such as Hackett, are combining technology and data to recreate these experiences – tactical use of CRM and loyalty technology to reward and recognise customers through surprise and delight.
  2. Be insight-driven internally and externally, using data intelligently to really maximise the moments that matter for each customer. Being on the front foot with your data is key here – not just first-party customer data, but wider insights and contextual data. Have you ever been targeted with digital ads for umbrellas in the 24 hours before a storm is due to hit? Or pinged a smartphone notification for personalised offers for products only available at the store near your current location? This is becoming more and more common practice, so make sure you’re using insight to maximise the relevancy and value of each interaction.
  3. Proactively monitor customer behavior to ensure their needs are being met, with the ability for proactive intervention or increased friction where necessary, for example with vulnerable customers. A recent example was a national health club monitoring member retention data, developing capability to predict the membership lapse rate – fundamentally how likely each member was to leave in any given month. The data itself was insightful, but the real value came from enabling a personalised intervention from membership staff to ‘at risk’ members, offering them surprise and delight experiences such as additional training sessions or a free coffee, just to say thank you and encourage them to stay.
  4. Empower and enable other customer-focused teams including sales and customer operations rather than hinder them, to create consistent interactions across the business. Does it irritate you as a customer when you have a great user experience on an app, but when you contact the call centre, they can’t see the same information? Creating and empowering your teams with a single source of truth for each customer, including transaction histories and past records of synchronous and asynchronous messages, can greatly increase customer service efficiency if utilised effectively. (Plus, it can really motivate your employees to provide a great experience as well.)
  5. Foster inclusivity, community and collaboration; allow customers to access the full value that your brand and business can offer them, through a wider than one-to-business relationship. Monzo and Starbucks are two brands that have done this really well in recent years, creating forums and crowdsourcing platforms to allow their engaged members a chance to discuss concerns, share ideas and give feedback in a controlled environment. While it’s not the only contributing factor, this effort for community engagement and transparency, definitely has some part to play in both brands’ high NPS scores.

These themes can of course be adopted independently of each other, but together definitely provide value greater than the sum of the parts when combined within a customer proposition. Given the ever-increasing competition in almost every vertical, and the focus of agile start-ups on a superior customer experience, how do you understand which of these paths to follow?

When designing any experience, it’s critical to make sure you know your customer – through primary and secondary research, and analysis of accurate customer data – and focus on meeting their needs, making sure you capitalise on the true ‘moments that matter’.

This is the first step of customer-centric service design, ensuring an experience is designed to drive the right behaviours from a customer perspective, with their needs positioned at the heart of every proposition. Know your customer, truly understand their motivations at every step and make it easy for them to achieve their goals and do business with you.

However it’s all very well designing a world-class proposition to engage consumers in exactly the right way at every step, to drive the right behaviours to meet your business objectives. But this is only the first step - can your business set itself and its capabilities up to deliver it as seamlessly as you designed, and make it commercially viable?