Q&A With Darren Bentham, Chief Customer Officer, Southern Water

Harley Manning

Design is, without a doubt, the sexiest of the six customer experience (CX) disciplines. So when we talk about CX design at Forrester, our favorite example comes from a really sexy industry: water utilities.

That’s right — water utilities. And one in particular: Southern Water, located in the southeast of the UK.

We like the Southern Water example because it shows that CX design is not about what shade of blue your logo should be, and it’s not just for people who wear black turtlenecks. No, CX design is about a repeatable problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of customers, employees, and other business stakeholders.

And that’s why we invited Darren Bentham, chief customer officer at Southern Water, to speak at our SOLD OUT Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA in London on November 19th and 20th. Darren has taken on one of the biggest, toughest CX challenges we know of: installing thousands of water meters for customers who have never had them before, didn’t ask for them, and in many cases don’t want them. And yet, by applying CX design principles, he’s making this a positive experience for all parties involved.

In the run-up to the event, Darren took the time to respond to a series of questions about what he’s been doing to improve customer experience and what advice he’d give to others in his shoes. His answers appear below.

I hope you enjoy his insights, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!

Q. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

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Designing A Great Customer Experience In The Age Of Irrational Customers

Harley Manning

Recently we’ve seen a lot of interest in the emotional aspects of customer experience by some of the smartest practitioners we know — chief customer officers. There’s a reason for this. Recent advances in the behavioral sciences now give us a better understanding of how people make decisions, experience pain and pleasure, and recall their experiences.

Maybe you’ve read about some of these studies in books like Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, or Switch by the Heath brothers. If you have, then you picked up on the fact that we now know our customers to be inherently irrational, making most of their daily decisions without any particular logic.

For example, we know that people experience the pain of loss more acutely than they feel the pleasure of gain. That’s the reason why people dump shares of well-run mutual funds when the economy turns down, irrationally converting their paper losses to real losses. It’s also why it’s easier to lose a customer than to gain one — people are less likely to forgive you when you inflict pain on them (got the order wrong, didn’t resolve the problem) than they are to love you for satisfying them.

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