Anna Hardie, Head of Customer Engagement, Property Exchange Australia
The inherently digital world that we now live in presents both opportunities and challenges for companies to develop meaningful relationships with their customers. On one hand, digital methods have provided a platform for gathering and analyzing customer insights from larger data samples, subsequently helping to facilitate enhanced customer experience management (CEM). However, once a significant number of customer interactions are conducted digitally, many people struggle to provide for and understand their customers without the benefit of face-to-face interactions. Companies are now facing the tricky prospect of creating real connections that facilitate trust and loyalty in this tech-driven climate.
Many companies have turned to digital means to meet the demands and expectations of their customer and keep up with rapidly evolving trends. There is a large amount of pressure on companies to embrace this digital evolution with the notion that you must either “get on board or be left behind”. This mentality has led to an increase in the production and implementation of digital products in the race to have the best technology and service. However, this digitization often takes away the human element that so many of us crave in our interactions with companies. When we call a company, we want to speak to a real person, not a robot that lacks empathy and understanding. To avoid negative perceptions, I believe that using a combination of personal and digital elements can truly elevate a company’s customer experience offering.
In my experience in CEM, I have worked with companies at different stages in their customer-first journey. My most rewarding challenge was helping build a member-centric organization that was able to leverage both digital and human means to provide its members with the best experience possible. Property Exchange Australia (PEXA), has revolutionized the industry through digitizing the way property is transacted and is where I have been able to implement a number of member first initiatives as Head of Customer Engagement, armed with a dedicated member-focused team.
At face-value, PEXA may appear to be a tech-driven organization. However, critical to PEXA’s delivery to the network was its ability to establish, grow and maintain relationships with its members in order to deliver a superior customer experience.
We understood that many interactions with our members had to be made in person in order to make and maintain strong connections and the trust in the network. But, in conjunction with this, we also had to be realistic and implement digital solutions to capture our member’s voices when we physically couldn’t.
One of the most important components for a company’s CEM is to be able to accurately collect and analyze customer feedback and insights. If you don’t know what your members are saying, how can you respond to their needs? In today’s digital world the relationship between companies and their customers are usually formed through a screen and lack context and true understanding. For example, online, people tend to be very honest and passionate when they provide their opinion on something, however, their insights are missing the real context.
Through our digital feedback tool, PEXA is able to collect valuable data on our member’s experiences, however, a lot of the comments received were responses such as, “it was okay”. From these, we gathered few details of their experience and what factors contributed to their overall sentiment. To solve this issue, PEXA now closes the loop with every detractor either by phone call or through a physical visit which allows us to gain context into their experience and investigate the root cause. This human element empowers our members and is just one example of how we include digital and personal components in the service we provide.
Although it is vital to build strong relationships with front line staff and customers, we at PEXA wanted everyone from the technology team right up to its executives to be able to connect with our members on a personal level. To facilitate this, I was fortunate enough to help champion our member open days where we welcome industry participants inside our Melbourne head office. Our member open days have proven to be highly successful, with PEXA approaching its sixth sell-out event. Members travel from around Australia to engage with PEXA’s product development teams, watch demonstrations, participate in workshops and give in-the-moment feedback. Most importantly though, our members can connect with product and technology staff in a way that was previously not possible, facilitating strong relationships and trust with the network. The event itself is proven to convert detractors to promotors with one member saying, “I found the PEXA culture, vision, the genuine determination to collect feedback and help users, and resolve to get to 100% e-conveyancing very inspiring”.
Hosting these events and really taking the time to connect with our members has absolutely changed the experience we offer. In a twelve-month period, PEXA’s NPS quarterly average soared +32 points from a score of 14 to a score of 46 in the last quarter. PEXA’s own measurement tool, Member Effort Score, which assesses how easy a member found completing a transaction with PEXA, also increased significantly by +43 from 13 to a score of 58 in the last quarter. There is no doubt that these improvements have come down to PEXA utilizing human and digital connections to empower members and truly understand them.
Although this digital world can at times be a daunting and challenging to navigate, I do still believe that the increase of technology will only improve our ability to manage customer experiences to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. With it, we are able to reach mass audiences and collect data that was previously impossible. However, it is so important for companies to leverage both digital and human means when it comes to improving customer experiences and investigating in which areas what approach works best. It is up to companies to make human connections an equal priority to the data they collect to transform the service that they provide.