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Image/Perception: A Mirror to Your Brand

In an earlier post we discussed including a loyalty proxy as part of your brand perception research.

Establishing and measuring loyalty proxies is important, but your brand perception research should not end there.  Brand perception research should produce insight beyond loyalty.  It should determine the extent to which customers impressions of the brand are aligned with your desired brand image.  Additionally, perceptions of the brand among the most loyal and engaged customers should be compared to those who are deemed less loyal or engaged to identify opportunities to improve perceptions of the brand among customers at either risk of defection, or not fully engaged

In a subsequent post, we will address ways to measure engagement/wallet share.

Brand Definition

The first step in measuring your brand perception is to define your desired brand.  Ask yourself: if your brand were a person, what personality characteristics would you like your customers to describe you with?  What adjectives would you want used to describe your brand?

In addition to describing your brand personality with adjectives, come up with a list of statements that describe your desired personality.  For example, you may include statements such as:

  • We are easy to do business with.
  • We are knowledgeable.
  • We are like a trusted friend.
  • We are interested in customers as people, not just the bottom line.
  • We are committed to the community.

So, we defined the brand in terms of personality adjectives and statements.  Both will be used in designing the survey instrument.

The Survey Instrument

Unaided Top-of Mind

The first step in the survey instrument, is asking customers for their unaided top-of-mind perceptions of the brand.  This will uncover the first thing that comes to customers’ minds about your brand prior to the effects of any bias introduced by the research instrument itself.  There are many ways to capture unaided top-of-mind impressions.  We like a simple approach, where you ask the customer for the one word that they would use to describe the company.  This research question will yield a list adjectives that can be quantified by frequency and used to determine the extent to which customers top-of-mind impressions match the desired brand image.

Aided Image

After we have defined top of mind impressions of the brand, we recommend comparing brand perception to your desired brand identified in the brand definition exercise described above.  This is a fairly simple process of presenting the customers with your list of brand personality adjectives and asking the customer which of these adjectives would the customer use to describe the company.

In a much earlier post we discussed using word clouds to interpret brand personality adjectives.

The next step in comparing the reality of brand perception to your branding goals is to ask the customers to what extent do they agree with each of the brand personality statements described above.  As with the list of adjectives, this holds a mirror up to your desired image and measures the extent to which customers agree that you are perceived in the manner that you want to be.

Identifying Attributes with the Most ROI Potential

The value of these brand perception statements goes beyond just evaluating if you live up to your brand.  Used in conjunction with the loyalty proxies discussed in the previous post, they become tools to determine which of these brand personality attributes will yield the most ROI in terms of improving customer loyalty.  This is achieved with a simple cross-tabulation of agreement with these statements by customer loyalty segment.  For example, if NPS is used as the loyalty proxy, then we simply compare agreement to these statements from promoters to detractors to determine which attributes have the largest gaps between promoters and detractors.  Those with the largest gaps have the most ROI potential in terms of customer loyalty.

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Loyalty: The Foundation of Brand Perception

Customer loyalty is the business attribute with the strongest correlation to profitability. Loyalty lowers sales and acquisition costs per customer by amortizing these costs across a longer lifecycle, leading to extraordinary financial results. A 5% increase in customer loyalty can translate, depending on the industry, into a 25% to 85% increase in profits.

ROI

Many customer experience managers want to include a measure of loyalty in their customer experience research.  Indeed loyalty and how brand perception drives loyalty is the foundation of any brand perception research.  However, loyalty is a behavior measured longitudinally over time, and surveys best measure customer attitudes.  As a result, researchers typically use attitudinal proxies for customer loyalty.  Generally the two most common proxies are either a “would recommend” or a “customer advocacy” question.

  1. Would Recommend:   A “would recommend” question is typically Net Promoter (NPS) or some other measure of the customer’s likelihood of referring to a friend, relative or colleague.  It stands to reason, if one is going to refer others to a brand, they will remain loyal as well.  Promoters’ willingness to put their reputational risk on the line is founded on a feeling of loyalty and trust.
  1. Customer Advocacy: A customer advocacy question asks if the customer agrees with the following statement, “the brand cares about me, not just the bottom line.”  The concept of trust is perhaps more evident in customer advocacy.  Customers who agree with this statement trust the brand to do right by them, and not subjugate their best interests to profits.  Customers who trust the brand to do the right thing are more likely to remain loyal.

We’ve seen some loyalty surveys (particular those employing the NPS methodology), which only ask the loyalty proxy with little or no other areas of investigation.  We believe this is a bad practice for a number of reasons:

  1. Customer Experience: Customers who have affirmatively taken the action of clicking on the survey want to give you their opinion (they want to participate in the survey), and based on their experience are expecting a multiple question survey.  Presenting them with just one rating scale risks alienating them as they may feel they didn’t get an appropriate opportunity to share their opinion, and ultimately feel it was not worth their time to participate.  Secondly, some customers may conclude the survey system is broken in some way as it only presented them with one question, resulting in customer confusion.
  1. Actionable Research Results: A survey consisting of one NPS rating is not going to yield any information from which to draw conclusions about how customers feel about the brand.  It will produce an average rating and frequency of promoters and detractors, but no context in which to interpret the results.

Establishing and measuring loyalty proxies are an important first step in evaluating brand perception.  Additional areas of investigation should include indentifying and comparing customer impressions of the brand to your desired brand personality, and evaluate customer engagement or wallet share.

 

In a subsequent post, we will address ways to measure the brand personality.

Also, in a subsequent post, we will explore ways to measure engagement/wallet share.

 

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Build Call to Action into Your Brand Perception Research

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These days, post-transaction surveys are ubiquitous.  Brands large and small take advantage of internet-based survey technology to evaluate the customer experience at almost every touch point.  Similarly, loyalty proxy methodologies such as Net Promoter (NPS) are very much in vogue.  However, many NPS surveys are fielded in a post-transaction context (potentially exposing the research to sampling bias as a result of only hearing from customers who have recently conducted a transaction), and are not designed in a manner that will give managers appropriate information upon which to take action on the research.

At their core, loyalty proxies are brand perception research – not transactional.  We believe it is a best practice to define the sample frame as the entire customer base, as opposed to customers who have recently interacted with the brand.  Ultimately, these surveys are image and perception research of the brand across the entire customer base.

Happily, this perception research offers an excellent opportunity to gather customer perceptions of the brand, compare them to your desired brand image, as well as measure engagement or wallet share.  An excellent survey instrument to accomplish this is a survey divided into three parts:

  • Loyalty Proxy: Consisting of the NPS rating or some other appropriate measure and 1 or 2 follow up questions to explore why the customer gave the NPS rating they did.
  • Image perception: consisting of 3 or 4 questions to determine how customers perceive the brand.
  • Engagement/Wallet Share: consisting of 3 or 4 questions to determine if the customer considers the brand their primary provider, and to gauge share of wallet of various financial products & services across the brand and its competitors.

This research plan will not only yield an NPS, but it will provide insight into why the customers assigned the NPS they did, evaluate the extent to which the entire customer base’s impressions of the brand matches your desired brand image, as well as identify how the brand is perceived by promoters and detractors. This plan will also yield valuable insight into share of wallet, and how wallet share differs for promoters and detractors.

Such a survey need not be long, the above objectives can be accomplished with 10 – 12 questions and will probably take less than 5 minutes for the customer to complete.

In a subsequent posts, we will explore each of these 3-parts of the survey in more detail:

 

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Research Tools to Monitor Planned Interactions Through the Customer Life Cycle

As we explored in an earlier post, 3 Types of Customer Interactions Every Customer Experience Manager Must Understand, there are three types of customer interactions: Stabilizing, Critical, and Planned.

The third of these, “planned” interactions, are intended to increase customer profitability through up-selling and cross-selling.

These interactions are frequently triggered by changes in the customer’s purchasing patterns, account usage, financial situation, family profile, etc. CRM analytics combined with Big Data are becoming quite effective at recognizing such opportunities and prompting action from service and sales personnel. Customer experience managers should have a process to record and analyze the quality of execution of planned interactions with the objective of evaluating the performance of the brand at the customer brand interface – regardless of the channel.

The key to an effective strategy for planned interactions is appropriateness. Triggered requests for increased spending must be made in the context of the customer’s needs and permission; otherwise, the requests will come off as clumsy and annoying. By aligning information about execution quality (cause) and customer impressions (effect), customer experience managers can build a more effective and appropriate approach to planned interactions.

Research Plan for Planned Interactions

The first step in designing a research plan to test the efficacy of these planned interactions is to define the campaign. Ask yourself, what customer interactions are planned based on customer behavior? Mapping the process will define your research objectives, allowing an informed judgment of what to measure and how to measure it.

For example, after acquisition and onboarding, assume a brand has a campaign to trigger planned interactions based on triggers from tenure, recency, frequency, share of wallet, and monetary value of transactions. These planned interactions are segmented into the following phases of the customer lifecycle: engagement, growth, and retention.

LifeCycle

 

Engagement Phase

Often it is instructive to think of customer experience research in terms of the brand-customer interface, employing different research tools to study the customer experience from both sides of this interface.

In our example above, management may measure the effectiveness of planned experiences in the engagement phase with the following research tools:

Customer Side Brand Side
Post-Transaction Surveys

Post-transaction surveys are event-driven, where a transaction or service interaction determines if the customer is selected for a survey, targeting specific customers shortly after a service interaction. As the name implies, the purpose of this type of survey is to measure satisfaction with a specific transaction.

Transactional Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is about alignment.  It is an excellent tool to align sales and service behaviors to the brand. Mystery shopping focuses on the behavioral side of the equation, answering the question: are our employees exhibiting the sales and service behaviors that will engage customers to the brand?

Overall Satisfaction Surveys

Overall satisfaction surveys measure customer satisfaction among the general population of customers, regardless of whether or not they recently conducted a transaction.  These surveys give managers a feel for satisfaction, engagement, image and positioning across the entire customer base, not just active customers.

Alternative Delivery Channel Shopping

Website mystery shopping allows managers of these channels to test ease of use, navigation and the overall customer experience of these additional channels.

Employee Surveys

Employee surveys often measure employee satisfaction and engagement. However, they can also be employed to understand what is going on at the customer-employee interface by leveraging employees as a valuable and inexpensive resource of customer experience information.They not only provide intelligence into the customer experience, but also evaluate the level of support within the organization, and identifies perceptual gaps between management and frontline personnel.

 

Growth Phase

In the growth phase, one may measure the effectiveness of planned experiences on both sides of the customer interface with the following research tools:

Customer Side Brand Side
Awareness Surveys

Awareness of the brand, its products and services, is central planned service interactions.  Managers need to know how awareness and attitudes change as a result of these planned experiences.

Cross-Sell  Mystery Shopping

In these unique mystery shops, mystery shoppers are seeded into the lead/referral process.  The sales behaviors and their effectiveness are then evaluated in an outbound sales interaction.

Wallet Share Surveys

These surveys are used to evaluate customer engagement with and loyalty to the brand.  Specifically, to determine if customers consider the brand their primary provider, and identify potential road blocks to wallet share growth.

 

Retention Phase

Finally, planned experiences within the retention phase of the customer lifecycle may be monitored with the following tools:

Customer Side Brand Side
Lost Customer Surveys

Lost customer surveys identify sources of run-off or churn to provide insight into improving customer retention.

Life Cycle Mystery Shopping

Shoppers interact with the company over a period of time, across multiple touch points, providing broad and deep observations about sales and service alignment to the brand and performance throughout the customer lifecycle across multiple channels.

Comment Listening

Comment tools are not new, but with modern Internet-based technology they can be used as a valuable feedback tool to identify at risk customers and mitigate the causes of their dissatisfaction.

 

Call to Action – Make the Most of the Research

Research without call to action may be interesting, but not very useful.  Regardless of the research choices you make, be sure to build call to action elements into research design.

For mystery shopping, we find linking observations to a dependent variable, such as purchase intent, identifies which sales and service behaviors drive purchase intent – informing decisions with respect to training and incentives to reinforce the sales activities which drive purchase intent.

For surveys of customers, we recommend testing the effectiveness of the onboarding process by benchmarking three loyalty attitudes:

  • Would Recommend: The likelihood of the customer recommending the brand to a friend relative or colleague.
  • Customer Advocacy: The extent to which the customer agrees with the statement, “you care about me, not just the bottom line?”
  • Primary Provider: Does the customer consider the brand their primary provider for similar services?

As you contemplate campaigns to build planned experiences into your customer experience, it doesn’t matter what specific model you use.  The above model is simply for illustrative purposes.  As you build your own model, be sure to design customer experience research into the planned experiences to monitor both the presence and effectiveness of these planned experiences.


 

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Onboarding Research: Research Techniques to Track Effectiveness of Stabilizing New Customer Relationships

As we explored in an earlier post, 3 Types of Customer Interactions Every Customer Experience Manager Must Understand, there are three types of customer interactions: Stabilizing, Critical, and Planned.

The first of these, “stabilizing” interactions are service encounters which promote customer retention, particularly in the early stages of the relationship.

stable

New customers are at the highest risk of defection, as they have had less opportunity to confirm the provider meets their expectations.  Turnover by new customers is particularly damaging to profits because many defections occur prior to recouping acquisition costs, resulting in a net loss on the customer relationship.  As a result, customer experience managers should stabilize the customer relationship early to ensure a return on acquisition costs.

Systematic education drives customer expectations beyond simply informing customers about additional products and services; education systematically informs new customers how to use services more effectively and efficiently.  Part of this systematic approach to create stabilizing service encounters is to measure the efficacy of customer experience at all stages of this stabilizing process.

Onboarding Research

The first step in designing a research plan for the onboarding process is to define the process itself.  Ask yourself, what type of stabilizing customer experiences do we expect at both initial purchase and at discrete time periods thereafter (be it 30 days, 90 days, 1-year)?  Understanding the expectations of the process itself will define your research objectives, allowing an informed judgment of what to measure and how to measure it.

Specific recommendations vary from industry to industry, however, typically, we recommend measuring the onboarding process by auditing the performance of the process and its influence on the customer relationship.

Performance Audits

Mystery shopping is an effective tool to audit the performance of the onboarding process.

First, mystery shop the initial sales process to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of the sales process.  Be sure to link the mystery shop observations to a dependent variable, such as purchase intent, to determine which sales behaviors drive purchase intent.  This will inform decisions with respect to training and incentives to reinforce the sales activities which drive purchase intent.

Beyond auditing the initial sales experience, a mystery shop audit of the onboarding process should test the presence and timing of specific onboarding events expected at discrete time periods.  As an example, a retail bank may expect the following onboarding process after a new account is opened:

Period Events
At Opening Internet Banking PresentationMobile Banking PresentationContact Center Presentation

ATM Presentation

Disclosures

 

1 – 10 Days Welcome LetterChecksDebit Card

Internet Banking Password

Overdraft Protection Brochure

Mobile Banking E-Mail

 

30 – 45 Days First StatementSwitch KitCredit Card Offer

Auto Loan Brochure

Mortgage/Home Equity Loan Brochure

 

In this example, the bank’s customer experience managers have designed a process to make customers aware of more convenient, less expensive channels, as well as additional services offered.  An integrated research plan would recruit mystery shoppers for a long-term evaluation to audit the presence, timing, and effectiveness of each event in the onboarding process.

Customer Perspective

In parallel to auditing the presence and timing of onboarding events, research should be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the process in stabilizing the customer relationship by surveying new customers at distinct intervals after customer acquisition.  We recommend testing the effectiveness of the onboarding process by benchmarking three loyalty attitudes:

  • Would Recommend: The likelihood of the customer recommending the brand to a friend relative or colleague.
  • Customer Advocacy: The extent to which the customer agrees with the statement, “you care about me, not just the bottom line?”
  • Primary Provider: Does the customer consider the branch their primary provider for similar services?

These three measures tracked together throughout the onboarding process will give managers a measure of the effectiveness of stabilizing the relationship.

Again, new customers are at an elevated risk of defection.  Therefore, it is important to stabilize the customer relationship early on to ensure ROI on acquisition costs.  A well designed research process will give managers an important audit of both the presence and timing of onboarding events, as well as track customer engagement and loyalty early in their tenure.

 

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Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design

The question was simple enough…  If you owned customer experience measurement for one of your bank clients, what would you do?

Through the years, I developed a point of view of how to best measure the customer experience, and shared it with a number of clients, however, never put it down to writing.

So here it is…

Best practices in customer experience measurement use multiple inputs in a coordinated fashion to give managers a 360-degree view of the customer experience.  Just like tools in a tool box, different research methodologies have different uses for specific needs.  It is not a best practice to use a hammer to drive a screw, nor the butt end of a screwdriver to pound a nail.  Each tool is designed for a specific purpose, but used in concert can build a house. The same is true for research tools.  Individually they are designed for specific purposes, but used in concert they can help build a more whole and complex structure.

Generally, Kinesis believes in measuring the customer experience with three broad classifications of research methodologies, each providing a unique perspective:

  1. Customer Feedback – Using customer surveys and other less “scientific” feedback tools (such as comment tools and social media monitoring), managers collect valuable input into customer expectations and impressions of the customer experience.
  1. Observation Research – Using performance audits and monitoring tools such as mystery shopping and call monitoring, managers use these tools to gather observations of employee sales and service behaviors.
  1. Employee Feedback – Frontline employees are the single most underutilized asset in terms of understanding the customer experience. Frontline employees spend the majority of their time in the company-customer interface and as a result have a unique perspective on the customer experience.  They have a good idea about what customers want, how the institution compares to competitors, and how policies, procedures and internal service influence the customer experience.

These research methodologies are employed in concert to build a 360-degree view of the customer experience.

360-degree bank customer experience measurement

The key to building a 360-degree view of the customer experience is to understand the bank-customer interface.  At the center of the customer experience are the various channels which form the interface between the customer and institution.  Together these channels define the brand more than any external messaging.  Best in class customer experience research programs monitor this interface from multiple directions across all channels to form a comprehensive view of the customer experience.

Customer and front-line employees are the two stakeholders who interact most commonly with each other in the customer-institution interface.  As a result, a best practice in understanding this interface is to monitor it directly from each direction.

Tools to measure the experience from the customer side of interface include:

Post-Transaction Surveys: Post-transaction surveys provide intelligence from the other side of customer-employee interface.  These surveys are targeted, event-driven, collecting feedback from customers about specific service encounters soon after the interaction occurs.  They provide valuable insight into both customer impressions of the customer experience, and if properly designed, insight into customer expectations.  This creates a learning feedback loop, where customer expectations can be used to inform service standards measured through mystery shopping.  Thus two different research tools can be used to inform each other.  Click here for a broader discussion of post-transaction surveys.

Customer Comments:  Beyond surveying customers who have recently conducted a service interaction, a best practice is to provide an avenue for customers who want to comment on the experience.  Comment tools are not new (in the past they were the good old fashioned comment card), but with modern Internet-based technology they can be used as a valuable feedback tool to identify at risk customers and mitigate the causes of their dissatisfaction.  Additionally, comment tools can be used to inform the post transaction surveys.  If common themes develop in customer comments, they can be added to the post-transaction surveys for a more scientific measurement of the issue.  Click here for a broader discussion of comment tools.

Social Monitoring:  Increasingly social media is “the media”; prospective customers assign far more weight to social media then any external messaging.  A social listening system that analyzes and responds to social indirect feedback is increasingly becoming essential.  As with comment tools, social listening can be used to inform the post transaction surveys.  Click here for a broader discussion of social listening tools.

Directing our attention to the bank side of the interface, tools to measure the experience from the bank side of bank-customer interface include:

Mystery Shopping:  In today’s increasing connected world, one bad experience could be shared hundreds if not thousands of times over.  As in-person delivery models shift to a universal associate model with the branch serving as more of a sales center, monitoring and motivating selling skills is becoming increasingly essential.  Mystery shopping is an excellent tool to align sales and service behaviors to the brand. Unlike the various customer feedback tools designed to inform managers about how customers feel about the bank, mystery shopping focuses on the behavioral side of the equation, answering the question: are our employees exhibiting appropriate sales and service behaviors?  Click here for a broader discussion of mystery shopping tools.

Employee Surveys:  Employee surveys often measure employee satisfaction and engagement.  However, in terms of understanding the customer experience, a best practice is to move employee surveys beyond employee engagement and to understand what is going on at the customer-employee interface by leveraging employees as a valuable and inexpensive resource of customer experience information.  This information comes directly out one side of the customer-employee interface, and provides not only intelligence into the customer experience, but also evaluates the level of support within the organization, solicit recommendations, and compares perceptions by position (frontline vs. management) to identify perceptual gaps which typically exist within organizations.  Click here for a broader discussion of employee surveys.

For more posts in this series, click on the following links:


Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Bank CX Research Services

Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design: Customer Surveys

Post Transaction Surveys

Many banks conduct periodic customer satisfaction research to assess the opinions and experiences of their customer base. While this information can be useful, it tends to be very broad in scope, offering little practical information to the front-line.  A best practice is a more targeted, event-driven approach collecting feedback from customers about specific service encounters soon after the interaction occurs.

These surveys can be performed using a variety of data collection methodologies, including e-mail, phone, point-of-sale invite, web intercept, in-person intercept and even US mail.  Fielding surveys using e-mail methodology with its immediacy and relatively low cost, offers the most potential for return on investment.   Historically, there have been legitimate concerns about the representativeness of sample selection using email.  However, as the incidence of email collection of banks increases, there is less concern about sample selection bias.

The process for fielding such surveys is fairly simple.  On a daily basis, a data file (in research parlance “sample”) is generated containing the customers who have completed a service interaction across any channel.  This data file should be deduped, cleaned against a do not contact list, and cleaned against customers who have been surveyed recently (typically three months depending on the channel).  At this point, if you were to send the survey invitations, the bank would quickly exhaust the sample, potentially running out of eligible customers for future surveys.   To avoid this, a target of the required number of completed surveys should be set per business unit, and a random selection process employed to select just enough customers to reach this target without surveying every customer. [1]

So what are some of the purposes banks use these surveys for?   Generally, they fall into a number of broad categories:

Post-Transaction: Teller & Contact Center: Post-transaction surveys are event-driven, where a transaction or service interaction determines if the customer is selected for a survey, targeting specific customers shortly after a service interaction.  As the name implies, the purpose of this type of survey is to measure satisfaction with a specific transaction.

New Account & On-Boarding:  New account surveys measure satisfaction with the account opening process, as well as determine the reasons behind new customers’ selection of the bank for a new deposit account or loan – providing valuable insight into new customer identification and acquisition.

Closed Account Surveys:  Closed account surveys identify sources of run-off or churn to provide insight into improving customer retention.

Call to Action

Research without a call to action may be informative, but not very useful.  Call to action elements should be built into research design, which provide a road map for clients to maximize the ROI on customer experience measurement.

Finally, post-transaction surveys support other behavioral research tools.  Properly designed surveys yield insight into customer expectations, which provide an opportunity for a learning feedback loop to support observational research, such as mystery shopping, where customer expectations are used to inform service standards which are in turn measured through mystery shopping.

For more posts in this series, click on the following links:

 

[1] Kinesis uses an algorithm which factors in the targeted quota, response rate, remaining days in the month and number of surveys completed to select just enough customers to reach the quota without exhausting the sample.


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