9 lessons about digital and the modern customer experience

James Gadsby-Peet, senior digital services manager at Cancer Research UK, explains how digital can translate to providing great customer experiences – both online and offline.

| 28th Aug 15

James Gadsby-Peet, senior digital services manager at Cancer Research UK, explains how digital can translate to providing great customer experiences – both online and offline.

Through our work at one of the largest charities in the world, we’ve been at the sharp end of pushing a traditional fundraising organisation into the digital age. A key component of that journey has been about making the customer / user / supporter experience as effective as possible. These are a few of the lessons we’ve learned.

Digital IS customer experience

In my view, our digital strategy is not a document looking to drive technological change. Its main purpose is to align our business to the needs of our users — and we need to set ourselves up so that we can respond to them as they interact with us at a speed never seen before.

Customer experience IS NOT just digital

Organisations need to respond to their customers through an ever-increasing number of channels. And yes, these days that does likely mean something with at least an element of digital in it. However, if we are to be truly user-centric, we will often have to use offline channels too. So if someone wants to hear from us by post, then that’s the medium we should use. Our job as a digital team is to make sure that we can identify all the opportunities to improve that offline experience by using the new capabilities we have at our disposal.

People expect personalisation no matter what

Internally, we rated six aspects of effective customer experience. We then compared these to what our supporters expect from us. By far the biggest disparity was between our perception of the importance of personalisation and our customers’. For the people we interviewed, personalisation was considered so important, it had essentially turned into a hygiene factor, ie, you don’t get many points for doing it but you sure are going to lose out if you don’t.

Dear Mr Gadsby-Peet does not count as personalisation

Our customers’ expectations of personalisation go far beyond just addressing communications in the right way. They expect a fully informed and customised experience based on all their previous interactions with the charity. Again, if you don’t get this right, you stand to lose BIG.

You can’t do any of this if you are working in silos

Having a joined up customer experience is completely reliant on being able to share information across the organisation, seamlessly. This means data at the very least — but far more than that to be truly effective. From the personas we work with, the tone of voice, branding, design — everything needs to align so that we can give our customers what they want.

It’s about people

It’s often tempting to start looking at these problems and their solutions from a tool point of view. “We need the best CRM system!” shouts the data team. “I need Drupal NOW!” says digital, while IT are saying “has anyone considered using SharePoint?”

However, what all of this really comes down to is the skills, knowledge and experience of the people making up your organisation. If they’re not thinking customer-centrically, then there’s no way that the organisation will be able to. At the end of the day, the organisation is just a collection of people trying to pull together these tools through processes.

So invest in your people — and not just a one-day training course in digital, user-centred design or customer experience. Make sure that you build in opportunities for people to share what they’re working on, lessons they’ve learned and, perhaps most importantly, mistakes they’ve made.

We’ve all been doing a lot of this for quite a while

Battersea has been helping dogs and cats for 150 years. The organisations that came together to make Cancer Research UK have been trying to beat cancer for over 100. The NSPCC has been protecting children from cruelty since 1884. The reasons that people want to be involved is the same today as it was then, in my opinion.

We provide hope, belief and a way for people to come together to make a difference about things they care about. We provide services that people would suffer without.

The ways people engage with us are changing constantly, but making sure that we are meeting their needs has to remain central to everything that we do, as it has done for more than a century.

It’s very easy to ignore data that suggests you’ve got a problem

The world’s most ignored statistic is probably the email unsubscribe rate. It’s always tiny so people find it easy to pass by on their way to the all-important open and click through rates. But if we start to consider that  perhaps the number only tells 1 per cent of the story, and that in fact every single unsubscribe actually represents 100 people who we have just annoyed with our content, maybe we’d make more of an effort to be relevant.

We need to set ourselves up to iterate

Iteration is easy to say but really hard to do, because it will entail failure. However it’s essential if we want to work towards the solutions, products and services that will mean great customer experience. Everything from manager conversations, 1-2-1s and product development should be starting with something that isn’t quite right.

It takes a great deal of confidence to work in this way, but it’s completely essential in the customer-centric world. People and their expectations are constantly changing. We have to as well.

In conclusion

Digital and the opportunities it presents are changing the world around us as we speak. Charities play an amazing role in our society and will continue to do so in the future. But we need to constantly improve the way that we meet our customers’ changing expectations, based on their needs and not our perceptions of them.

Join James in a panel discussion and share your lessons with us at the Institute of Fundraising’s Digital Fundraising Conference on September 28th. Create radical and pervasive change in your organisation to prepare it for the future of fundraising.