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The key ingredient in any customer experience strategy is people. According to Jason Bradshaw, Director Customer Experience at Volkswagen Group Australia, the people within your organisation are just as important as your customers.
“There are two critical parts to every business: the people that work within the business and how they serve the people that buy from or interact with the business, the customers,” says Bradshaw. “I have a fairly broad definition of who a customer is. For me, a customer is anyone who interacts with your brand, whether it be a potential customer, someone in the media, your suppliers, or a competitor. It’s all of these people, and, of course, your team members. You need to be obsessed about all of these areas because that’s your ecosystem.”
Bradshaw honed his people focus with roles at Optus, Target and Fairfax Media before joining Volkswagen Australia in October last year. His role was newly created and was driven at the board level. He says: “It was decided by the board that having a dedicated department, and someone that sits on the board that’s responsible for customer experience, was important for having that focus and passion. If you try to divvy it up amongst the rest of the organisation – and they all have a part to play, of course – you don’t necessarily get the same laser focus. So while all of us here at Volkswagen play a part in CX, my job is to make sure we’re driving our capability and processes in a way that is focused on the customer.”
While Bradshaw has a propensity for putting people at the heart of an organisation, he’s aware it’s not possible for all companies to do the same. He says: “It doesn’t surprise me that not every company is customer-focused because the harsh reality of the world is that businesses exist to deliver a profit. That means, at times, you’ve got to make difficult decisions and sometimes those decisions mean short-term gains versus long-term customer retention models.
“It’s part of the challenge for customer experience professionals: how do you continue to deliver a return on investment that may not be visible, and a program that can scale to the business and keep customers as opposed to being a cyclical focus point.”
What does customer experience mean to your organisation?
The definition of customer experience is an elastic one that varies from company to company and Bradshaw says the first step any CX department needs to take is to define what it means to the organisation. Bradshaw says: “It’s something you can ask 50 people and probably get 70 different answers. It does mean different things to different people.
“At Volkswagen Group Australia, we’ve launched an online, interactive learning module to make sure everyone in the company understands what we mean by customer experience, and importantly how our customers measure it.”
As we’ve discussed before, measurement is an ongoing challenge in the field of CX with some people in the space championing a return on experience or RoX metric. From a customer perspective, Bradshaw says: “The one fundamental truth is customers always measure their experience across three things: success, effort and emotion. If you only deliver success and an easy or effortless experience to customers, they’ll be satisfied but it may not build advocacy. You really need that third component which is about building an emotional, one-to-one connection.”
The CX journey at Volkswagen Australia
Volkswagen Australia oversees three distinct brands: Volkswagen, Volkswagen Commercial and Skoda. Given the different offerings of each brand, what works in customer experience for one could vary wildly from another. But Bradshaw says there is an overarching principle that applies: the goal of having lifetime customers. This means continual service before and long after a purchase is made.
This desire underpins the many initiatives the brand is undertaking in the CX space with Bradshaw highlighting the importance of constantly evolving the customer proposition. He says: “There can be the view that a customer experience team needs one program the organisation lands its hat on. ‘If we land this, we’ve got it right’. I believe a true customer experience program is a constantly evolving obsession around customers, which means what we do today will be different from what we do in a month’s time, perhaps even tomorrow.”
Customer feedback is vital to this constant evolution and Bradshaw says this data needs to be looped back into the organisation’s CX program to achieve the desired result. By doing this, Bradshaw says: “When you set a benchmark you’re already looking at how you can exceed that benchmark. If you don’t, there’ll become a need for a new version of that silver bullet down the track.”
In today’s market, companies can ill afford to rest on their laurels when it comes to CX. Bradshaw says: “Customer experience in 2016 and beyond is much less about silver bullets and more about a consistent, targeted obsession to drive improvements for customers by listening to what team members and customers are saying.”
Bradshaw concludes: “People crave to feel like they’re part of something and if you as a company can deliver that connection, then you’re off to a winning empire.”
Jason Bradshaw Director Customer Experience – Volkswagen Group Australia
Jason Bradshaw’s passion for delivering an outstanding customer experience started at just 14 years of age. Since his humble beginnings as an entrepreneur advocating for customers, he has delivered significant transformations in customer experience delivery across the telecommunications, banking, finance, government, retail and automotive sectors. Jason Bradshaw is currently Director Customer Experience, Volkswagen Group Australia.