Bridging the gap between leader perceptions and the customer experience

26 Sep Bridging the gap between leader perceptions and the customer experience

Did you know that what CEOs believe is good customer service often differs from what customers feel is good service? Research by Bain & Company found that 80% of leaders believe they deliver a superior customer experience – yet only 8% of customers agree! This alarming statistic points to a growing gap in perception between the type of experience leaders think they are delivering to customers, and the actual lived experience of the customer on the front line.

So how can there be such a perception gap? One reason is that those at the top are often looking at statistics and percentages rather than the broader context of the customer experience. For example, companies that measure Net Promoter Score (NPS) look at a net score: the number of brand promoters minus the detractors. Meanwhile, the ‘neutrals’ in the middle usually get overlooked – yet they pose both the greatest risk and the greatest opportunity to the business.

‘Neutrals’ pose a problem for leaders, namely because they’re not (yet) loyal. This group of customers are susceptible to switching brands at any time. However, they also pose an excellent opportunity to be converted into loyal customers. To achieve this, it’s key for CEOs and leaders to bridge the gap between their own perceptions and those of the customer.

Tips for aligning leader perceptions with customer perceptions to enhance the customer experience

  1. Tune in and really listen to the customer. Gaining direct insights from the ‘fence sitters’ can be the difference between a good customer experience that keeps customers satisfied, and a great customer experience that sends people away as raving fans. This will help you create an accurate ‘story’ of the customer experience much more powerful than a number on a page. Smart leaders are those who listen to customer stories rather than relying solely on statistics. Qualitative customer focus groups are far more likely to yield insightful improvement opportunities than survey results (i.e. an unhappy customer may be less likely to want to give feedback than a happy customer, causing skewed results).
  2. Get feedback from your frontline employees. It’s the employees on the front line that really have the pulse of the customer and know exactly what’s bugging them and delighting them. However, there’s often no feedback system in place for frontline employees to report on what is and isn’t working in customer service. At FuturePeople, we have found that a set feedback system will speed up the process of identifying issues and increase both customer and employee engagement through a sense of ownership. We recommend the involvement of the front line in solving customer problems and identifying opportunities for improvement.
  3. Reward your best brand advocates. Most companies know who their best brand advocates are, but often don’t acknowledge or reward them for their loyalty. Given the intrinsic connection between employee engagement and customer advocacy, leaders who acknowledge a job well done will connect employees to a sense of purpose, with a positive trickle-down effect to the customer. It’s also important to understand why your brand advocates are willing to promote your brand. To leverage these insights and convert a customer’s willingness to recommend into actual recommendations, a reward system is key.

Our research here at FuturePeople shows that 70% of customer decisions are based on emotional factors. Ultimately, how customers feel about your brand will determine what they spend, if they stay and if they recommend to others; that is, do your selling for you. The best leaders are those leverage emotional intelligence to interpret customer sentiment and understand the impact of how both employees and customers are feeling. After all, employees on the front line are the people experiencing the customers’ frustrations every day and are more likely to be emotionally invested in solving customer problems. Like leaders, the front line needs to be equipped with the emotional intelligence skills to build emotional connections with customers. Emotional intelligence can be recruited for and it can be learned. Ask FuturePeople how.