How the CX Industry embraced Customer Care

Lesedauer: 5 min

Januar 5, 2021

In the late 1990s, the customer experience (CX) industry was stuck in a rut. Standard procedures were making the feedback experience frustrating for customers and wasting opportunities. But in the year 2000, we created a new approach to CX, one that has gone on to transform the industry.


The old Paradigm

Nobody sets out to create a bad experience. Whether you’re motivated by other people’s happiness, pride in your work, or the prospect of payment, a good customer experience is the best route to your goal. So when things go wrong, it’s always with the best of intentions.

That’s exactly what was happening in the CX industry at the turn of the millennium. In the 1980s, the industry had gone through a revolution, thanks to pioneers like Willy Sabautzki at BMW and Professor Klaus Bochmann. Companies had learned to focus on customer satisfaction as a path to loyalty and sought to do this through two steps – measuring satisfaction levels and reporting on them. The reporting let businesses know what was going well and what was going badly, giving them insights upon which to improve.

So far, so good.

By the year 2000, most companies used telephone surveys to measure customer satisfaction. After a sale or a service had been provided, we would contact a customer and ask them a string of questions, carefully designed to learn what the customer had thought of their experience.

As far as any of us could see, this was the perfect feedback loop. Do the job, get the customers’ opinions, and use them to improve. But in reality, the system was causing as many problems as it solved.


The Trigger for Change

The sea change for my company, moveXM | TTR Group, began in 2000 when we were working with the BMW Group. At the time, the company’s CX program was run by a manager named Martin Gerecke, who had extended BMW Group’s customer satisfaction program from 10 to 70 countries spread around the world. BMW has always been known as a premium brand, one whose customers expect great things, and this made CX critical to the company’s success.

One of the first things I learned working with Martin was that he had a dry and cutting sense of humor, the sort we refer to in Germany as “British humor”, and that he wasn’t afraid to turn it on our work. He would burst out laughing at the recordings of some of our survey calls, in which interviewers struggled to get through their questionnaires while customers desperately tried to talk about their problems with BMW Group’s service. There was a special sort of anger in the way the customers talked, a frustration that emerged from a feedback system that couldn’t cope with their feedback. Something was clearly very wrong.

For us at moveXM | TTR Group, providing CX services for the BMW Group, this was also a source of frustration. According to the rules of CX, we were doing everything right, and yet here was clear evidence that we’d got it wrong.

The impetus for change came with the arrival of Rob McEwan, a manager based in Dubai, who had responsibility for 13 of BMW’s Middle Eastern markets. He saw the same problem running through our CX work that Martin and I were confronting, and together we set out to fix it.


The Problem with CX

Our diagnosis was simple – we wanted to focus more on customer care.

Our questionnaires focused on the preoccupations of the company, not the customer. They asked about everything from the coffee machines in the showrooms to the friendliness of the salesmen, on ever-growing lists. If we discovered a new area of concern, then new questions would be added. Customers were exhaustively interrogated, and while many were happy to answer, others became frustrated that their concerns weren’t being heard. Of course, if we picked up on this, then we had a solution – add another question to future surveys. But this wasn’t addressing the systemic problem.

We were asking about all the things we had already considered, but not stopping to listen to the customer. This was particularly problematic when something had gone wrong. If a customer had a complaint, then asking irrelevant questions would only make them more annoyed. It showed that we weren’t listening.

Around the world, millions of dollars were being spent on CX programs built around telephone surveys, with the aim of improving customer satisfaction. But while we were drowning in data, the very act of gathering it was creating dissatisfaction.


The Solution

We at moveXM | TTR Group were given the challenge of solving this problem, a challenge that triggered our own evolution, from market researchers to CX consultants and finally into a CX software company.

Our solution was to add another stage to the two-step system of measuring and reporting, and a third module to our software platform to support this. The new step was issue management, and it transformed the CX industry.

Issue management started during the after-sales survey. Instead of focusing on topics we cared about, we asked a single question about the customer’s level of satisfaction and then an open-ended question: “Is there anything you want to tell us about?” The first question gave us quantitative data to measure performance, but the second question was the critical one. By drawing out complaints, it created the opportunity to improve.

Just by asking that question, we quickly found out about the problems we were missing. Critically, we immediately set out to fix them. This transformed our contacts with customers. By focusing on their concerns, we showed that the company cared. By accepting complaints and acting on them, we removed sources of dissatisfaction. By no longer talking at cross purposes, we tapped into the real customer experience.

To do this, we developed a new platform, moveXM (formerly CSM:move). At a company using moveXM, every customer interaction is tracked, and their details are added to the system. Customers are then contacted about their experiences, and their feedback goes into moveXM. Dashboards immediately show managers any issues that need addressing or feedback to act on. The system captures the few occasions when something doesn’t go well and flags them up for timely action.

Of course, creating new software wasn’t enough. We went out to dealerships, trained staff in the system, and provided consultancy on how to make the best use of the results. This meant improving processes, re-engineering work steps, and establishing appropriate business rules.

The program was first introduced in 2000 for Rob McEwan’s Middle Eastern regions of the BMW Group. Two years later, it was extended to the BMW Group in Thailand, and from there to other regions and companies around the world.

Under this approach, CX has transformed from a market research exercise to a comprehensive customer care program. It has become a crucial part of a business’s customer relationship, not just a measurement tool.


A New Era

The addition of issue management to CX was a game-changer. From the moment we introduced it, I could see its revolutionary potential, and I set out to make this technique accessible.

Instead of keeping our approach secret to give us a competitive advantage, we actively shared it with other CX agencies serving the BMW Group. Soon, three agencies covering 50 markets were approaching CX in a new way. Other companies saw what we were doing and learned from it, until now, 20 years later, issue management has become standard.

This was a paradigm shift. Before 2000, CX consisted of classical market research, measuring and reporting on what had happened, detached from the reality of customers’ lives. Now, it directly provides customers with a better experience. Before 2000, the vast majority of the CX budget worldwide was spent on telephone surveys by market research agencies. It has gone down dramatically since then, and this has affected which companies work in CX. Polling giants like Ipsos and Gallup have lost their power in the market, replaced by software startups.


The Benefits of Issue Management

In a large organization, improving performance is a major challenge. Managers are likely to be technical people, great in sales or a workshop but without the knowledge of change management needed to re-engineer customer experiences. Issue management helps them to recognize customer needs and respond to them. It has led to a rise in customer satisfaction in many areas.

More than this, seeking out and resolving customers’ complaints leads to greater loyalty. Research shows that customers who see an issue promptly resolved to become more loyal than those who never had a problem. By tackling complaints, businesses demonstrate that they are trustworthy and show customers that they’re not alone.

This makes a lot of sense if you compare customer relationships with personal ones. In a romantic relationship, you need your partner to tell you about the things that bother them, so that you can resolve your differences. When they stop sharing their complaints, they’re sending you a message, and that message is that they’ve given up on the relationship. As a business, listening and responding to customers’ complaints shows that you still care and that you’re working to make things better. That’s the sort of behavior that encourages loyalty.

In a large organization, the challenge lies in helping managers to work in this way. That’s part of the value of a system like moveXM. It doesn’t just gather customer feedback, it sorts it and presents it to the people who need to know. The system lets a manager triage feedback, identify actions, assign them to individuals, and track progress. Issue management is made integral to the system, to make sure it gets done.


The Next Step in CX

Adding this third step to the CX process was a huge success. Customer satisfaction and loyalty improved, and we still got the survey data and reporting. But we weren’t content to sit back and continue with what we had. For moveXM | TTR Group to thrive, we needed to keep providing better services for our clients.

We already had measuring, reporting, and issue management, but these were all about the performance of existing procedures, and we wanted more. We wanted to create a system that drove continuous improvement based on customer experience. And so, in 2005, we added a fourth step to the CX process – action planning. We’ll explore that step in my next article.

How the CX Industry embraced Customer Care
Autor: Yousef Hammory | CX pioneer & founder of moveXM | TTR Group