What Customer Satisfaction Ratings Told Thomson Reuters

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"A big part of our customer experience is about digital so we want to be able to use the power of the enterprise to innovate [there]," said Debra Walton, global managing director, customer proposition, financial & risk, Thomson Reuters, in a keynote talk at our BIMS event in Fort Lauderdale in November. (Watch it here.)

"What we find from our customer satisfaction monitor, the rating we get for the ease of doing business is the greatest driver we have in our proposition offering in terms of reasons or likelihood to recommend. It says we've done a pretty good job of actually delivering on the product but what our customers are really looking for is ease of doing business. How easy is it to get a contract done? Do are bills look simple? The answer, by the way, is no they don't."

Interestingly, this came during the Q&A portion of her keynote, amplifying one of my mantras that you must leave sufficient time for Q&As in any event you do because they can allow the speaker to deal more with the specifics of the audience.

"Just last week we hired a chief digital officer at the corporate level," she said. "It came with a fair bit of hand-wrangling as we moved customer experience to have accountability at the [that] level. But we all own the customer experience."

Customer experience is clearly becoming a popular topic in publishing spheres—and for good reason. It inhabits everything we do. I think how time-pressed we are has brought this on. We're already so caught up with our day-to-day jobs, that any outside force—even though meant to make our tasks easier—must come to us quickly.

Too long? I'm not reading that. Too complicated? I can't fill that out. Too many steps? Please, I'm a busy person.

Robyn Duda, who just formed Robyn Duda Creative after seven years at event giant UBM (now part of Informa)—the last four as VP of brand strategy & experience design—believes that customer experience trumps efficiency and ROI. And that having a sound customer mission will lead to a much greater ROI.

"Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to what the needs of the customer are," she said. "We had teams of folks developing different website platforms, live-chat functions, but everyone was working in different silos. They weren't on the same mission." So she led a major initiative to make sure that the customer is at the heart of everything UBM is doing.

Walton takes it a bit further. How hard is providing that flawless experience when your customers range in age from 25 to 85? You would think the tactics have to be so different. But instead of an easy, give-everyone-personalized-treatment answer, she's more practical.

"What I think is very interesting in the financial services industry," Walton said, "is that it's been described to me as the Prince Charles syndrome—caught between two generations. If you look at some of our large wealth adviser [customers], some of them are 75 or 80 years old. They want a very human experience, whereas millennials don't want to have a trainer showing up one day a week. They want online chat help, etc., etc.

"We're going through a mix now where our customer base is moving to a tipping point. We will be better able to unlock a digital experience in a more cost-effective way so that we're not trying to balance both worlds."

Duda's goal at UBM was to make sure an inter-dependency existed across all of their products, as well as a clear customer commitment. In the past, she said, they had all these amazing initiatives and a council for this and that, but no one was talking to each other. Things were being built that didn't fit in. So they took a step back and created a customer roadmap—by product—and made sure every event fit in. 

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…