The publication of the CXi Ireland Customer Experience Report 2021 provides food for thought. The report, which incorporates 245,000 customer evaluations of 150 organisations over seven years, ranks companies across 11 business sectors and is a growing source of information for the property industry.
Retailing is a major sector in the survey and it is interesting to see retailers, either continuously rising or falling, relative to their competitors. This is excellent market intelligence for landlords, particularly retail and management agents, who seek to increase footfall by attracting the most popular brands.
Traditionally, a landlord’s appraisal of a tenant was based on a bank reference, two years’ accounts, a previous landlord’s reference and trade references. However, retailing has been changing so fast, that this type of information is almost useless, and provides little insight into the tenants’ trading prospects. But what better measure of a retailer could there be than seven years of customer evaluations, straight from the coalface?
Not only that, but a sustained improvement in customer experience ratings, across a chain of shops, for example, does not happen by accident.
The same quality of staff are available to everyone and becoming best in class means senior management has made a strategic decision to invest in persistent staff training. And that is yet another indicator of a dynamic and progressive management, and a tenant that is most likely to thrive.
In the context of the pandemic, it’s not surprising that pharmacy chains, which made gargantuan efforts to look after their customers, is the most improved sector. This was led by Hickey’s Pharmacy, who are third ranked of all business brands in Ireland, and I proudly declare an interest as I have trained their staff in customer experience.
Overall, the report reveals a continuing reduction in the quality of customers’ experience, and CXi attribute this to the ongoing over-reliance on digital, at the expense of customer experience. This will come as no surprise to anyone who does regular battle with their banks, their communications providers, their insurers and many others, who are rushing lemming-like into forcing all their customers online, in a bid to reduce costs.
I’m convinced there is a big opportunity for one company in each sector to break from the groupthink and employ people to answer and return phone calls. They will dominate their markets as waves of new customers run screaming from their competitors’ answering machines.
Estate agents must also be very careful in finding this balance between human interaction with clients and inquirers, and a reliance on e-mails, chatrooms and video meetings. As CXi reports, “people have been starved of human contact for many months, and there is a hunger to return to one-to-one interactions”. The younger generation, in particular, must be taught that just because you have a regular flow of e-mails with a client, does not mean that that client is feeling happy about your service. The opportunity to create the emotional connections that build long-term client relationships, are extremely limited, online.
The property industry did remarkably well to continue to operate throughout the pandemic, and technology made that possible. But a danger is that the connection between management and staff has been weakened. As we cautiously return to the office, managers must find out what their staff are experiencing and feeling. Because an empowered and happy frontline, is key to your client’s experience.