Putting customers first

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Put yourself in the shoes of the customer...

Every customer touch point matters! I’ve said it before and will most definitely say it again… why? Because so many businesses focus too much on their goals and not enough on their customers. How do I know this? Because I am a customer! And I am constantly frustrated, bemused and disappointed by the hoops I have to go through to do what I set out to do – be that buying a product or consuming a service…

Here’s a couple of very recent examples:

Great example – flooring

I’ve been converting our summer house into an office and bar (what is a girl to do when they close the pubs?!). I found some flooring online at www.dctuk.com and the buying process was so slick. They had calculators so I could check how much flooring I needed, guides on other equipment necessary to lay the floor and video instructions on how to fit it myself. Followed up with a phone call post purchase to confirm the most convenient delivery day. I am one happy customer. 

Not so great example – TV on demand

It’s lockdown, I’ve binge watched a few series, mostly on Netflix. Last week I started The Hamdmaids Tale (I know, late to the party!) which is on Prime. Similar proposition, but a very different experience. When I log on ‘continue watching’ isn’t at the top, I have to scroll through all the ads first. It doesn’t remember where I left off and it gives me only two seconds to skip the recap. And last night it started playing the right episode number…from the wrong season! It just doesn’t feel as polished or user friendly as Netflix.

Putting customers first

Customer and user experience (CX and UX) are key focus areas for consumer giants like Apple and Google, they think about every interaction and the impact on the overall experience. This is quite a different approach to the more traditional customer journey mapping that concentrates on mapping the touchpoints for a transactional goal. They take the term customer-centric to the next level by:

  • Using data – the new oil! By analysing customer data across interactions and channels you can understand customer drivers, where problems are encountered on the journey, analyse the root cause and test the impact of improvements.
  • Tailoring journeys – the ultimate destination for customers may well be the same, but journeys will differ. Your customers are different. By personalising interactions to appeal to known preferences, you’ll improve their overall experience.
  • Continuously refining – this is a never-ending piece of work and the leaders in the field know it. They put resource into aligning the business around their customers – the approach they take is agile, actionable and quantifiable.

But don’t think this is another cost centre. It makes sound financial sense to invest in creating and maintaining a top notch customer experience. And thinking about the customer experience holistically will give you more opportunities to interact and build rapport.

Is thinking about customer experience important for pensions?

Hell yes! These mainstream giants are taking customer centricity beyond a buzz word, and making it part of the organisational core. They are setting the benchmark. They are part of our everyday life. And, the thing is, they are the benchmark for our pension customers too.

It’s not good enough to simply improve the current paper process you have by adding a disjointed digital alternative. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer – how willing are you to jump through administrative hoops because the company hasn’t thought about you and what you need to do? We’ve all been there, wanting to do something quick and easy online – and it turns out it wasn’t so quick and easy. So, we end up phoning a particularly unhelpful call centre that sends a form in the post. How do you feel afterwards?

For pensions, with our notoriously low engagement, I’d argue that the importance of customer experience is second to none. When a customer is engaging, for whatever reason, we have one chance to create a positive experience. To build trust. To nurture a lifelong relationship.

When the customer experience is disjointed we create another barrier to saving.

The secret to a great customer experience


I know you need a secure log-in and to verify details. But if face ID works for my bank, why can’t it work for my pension? If I can open a bank account completely remotely, why can’t I make a payment to my pension without printing a form?

Don't be bound by the current process

We’ve all been there – excellent intentions, but innovation is stifled by your knowledge and understanding of the existing process. Think outside of the current limitations – what’s the absolute ideal and how close can you make it.

Creating the customer experience for companies such as Netflix doesn’t happen by accident, or even after a successful 6-month project. Insights and analytics drive a cycle of continuous improvement – the technology they are developing doesn’t just react to the customer action taken, it predicts the next one. Plus it’s learning all the time, making the whole experience feel fluid and intuitive. In pensions we’re still some way to having complete digitalisation, so here’s some practical tips to embed customer centricity and experience:

7 steps to adopt customer experience principles

1. Internal agreement – this is not a one-man-show. To improve, and focus on customer experience you need buy-in across the organisation.

2. Set the vision – focus on the customer. It’s no good getting buy-in to the concept alone, you need an agreed vision. Think about how you want your customers to feel about the organisation.

3. Analyse the data – know what data you have across the business – email stats, web analytics, call centre data etc. Analyse and amalgamate it to build a picture. Monitor user behaviour too as it acts as a reliable indicator to identify flaws in your process.

4. Listen to customers – the voice of the customer is incredibly important, but analyse it fairly – not only just after a successful call resolution. Understand the sentiment across as many channels and touch points as possible to create a single source of customer truth.

5. Identify the problems – with all this information at your fingertips, look at the areas where your journey doesn’t align to your vision and prioritise them.

6. Embed solutions – use your priority list to make changes, these don’t need to all be done at once, plan them and keep a positive momentum going.

7. Continuously improve – stay connected to the data. Analytics and insight will help you see what is working and what isn’t. Learn and adapt.

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