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How a Group of Leading Brands in Spain are Joining Forces to Create Best CX Practice

For the past two years, a growing group of leading brands in Spain have joined forces to better understand, learn about and educate businesses and professionals in Customer Experience (CX).

Steven Walden

CX Director, UK

Jorge Martinez-Arroyo is President and Founder of DEC (Asociación para el Desarrollo de la Experiencia de Cliente). DEC’s 100 members include leading brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, La Caixa, Iberia, Mapfre, Endesa, Telefónica, Correos, BCG, Accenture, Bain&Co, Metlife, Mahou, Gas Natural, E&Y, Evo Bank,Grupo Santander, Asisa, Mutua Madrileña, Everis, Toyota, Banco Popular, SAP, AENA, Metro Madrid, Deloitte or Orange. He tells how the initiative came about.

“The association was founded by myself and a group of other CX directors who considered that CX wasn’t well organized enough as a function and that there wasn’t  much CX knowledge available to us. We felt we needed to make CX more sustainable for our companies and for our society as a whole if we wanted to be competitive. Especially as the world’s best-known firms are investing in CX!” Martinez-Arroyo explained.

Martinez-Arroyo has a background in strategy consulting for financial services, having worked at McKinsey and Accenture. For over a decade he has held a variety of roles within the Santander Bank in Spain including Head of Channel, Head of Product, and Head of Brand Customer Experience. He is currently Head of Marketing, responsible for developing and rolling out the company’s global Risk Management program. 

“We started the Association for the Development of Customer Experience two years ago”, he says.  “We now have  110 member companies  who are a blend of  top consumer brands like Coca cola, Mercedes, Santander, Telefonica, Orange, and consulting firms like Bain and BCG. Our main purpose is to develop customer experience and to learn.”

CX in Spain has improved in varying degrees depending on the sector. “Spanish insurance firms, for example, have invested a lot of time, talent, and money and you can see they are improving. They used to come in the bottom of the ranking and now you can see they are making it to the top.” 

Spain also has some leading examples of CX best practices. “Mercadona, a family-owned Spanish supermarket with 14.7% of the market share of total food retail space, has enjoyed consistent growth in recent years despite the difficult economic environment.”
In Martinez-Arroyo’s opinion, firms want to deliver good results, and to do this, they need to invest in innovation. “Unfortunately, they often lack an understanding of its impact on customer experience. You cannot innovate without considering customer experience. You cannot innovate just for innovation’s sake.”

Spanish companies have increased their investments in CRM, and are finding new ways of to exploit Big Data to better understand customer behavior. Marketers are working on segmenting people by behaviors and lifestyles and by how they really navigate online. They are also using analytics to improve the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. 

However, Martinez-Arroyo believes that what is missing is investments in people. Companies are not investing enough in understanding their culture, getting people committed, and telling them what experience to drive. He quotes Drucker: “‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast, that is very true, and why we need to invest in culture.”

There are examples of Spanish firms that are making the investment in people and culture and seeing the results. “Mercadona is an example of a supermarket that has got it right”, he explains. 

“If I go to buy fish, the person behind the fish counter will tell me how to cook it and give me other practical advice. No matter who you get behind the counter, at Mercadona you always have the same type of experience - the same tone and friendliness. The company also spend time evolving their products, it is a great culture!”

Knowing that employee engagement is really the secret ingredient to success, Mercadona takes a clear approach.

“It starts with onboarding, when you join the company they tell you exactly what they expect from you, and what the customer expects from the company. They also rotate their employees; even their high-level managers get to see the shopfloor and experience it from the customer’s perspective.

In some of the bigger stores they have a customer experience lab, so they can better understand what customers are doing. Last, but not least, the customer is key to getting promoted! They don’t just promote the person who just sells more. That creates the right kind of culture!”

Not all retail in Spain perceives the need for a big push on CX. Take for example Spain’s department store El Corte Inglés, which has seen declining profits.  Martinez-Arroyo explains, “all too frequently in customer experience there is some cherry-picking. There may be some pockets of good CX activity but many firms do not make the big bets because of the pressure to deliver results. As a result, many CX programs focus on trying to get quick results. However, customer experience requires planning, agility, ideas, people, and organization. There is no silver bullet. It takes a long time.”

“Right now, good business practice starts with understanding what customer experience is. The way we see customer experience is that it starts with the brand proposition, positioning, and promise. The experience has to consistently match the brand promise, the employee culture, everything! From there, everything else, like products and services, can be developed. It’s not just about offering customers a good experience, they want a unique experience. Otherwise we won’t get the results.
“When is comes to measuring results in customer experience, many firms have moved away from basic customer satisfaction surveys,” says Martinez-Arroyo. “That is not what leads to customer loyalty - you can still be satisfied and go somewhere else for your services. Next up on the measurement scale is Net Promoter Score, slightly more emotional than satisfaction - and the brand’s Purpose Index. Then you get what I call the NFS: Net Fan Score. That is where we are going. We need to get customers to be in love with us. That is the only way. Metrics are moving to measure emotions. However, we are a long way away from implementing NFS.”

DEC hopes that by delivering knowledge to its members, writing white papers on best practices, recognizing firms for best brand and best employee, etc., they can start to change business practices in Spain to develop customer-centric cultures. Their certification program has already put over 100 professionals from member companies and business schools through their CX paces, and has ambitious plans to expand outside of Spain’s borders. It’s a great example of CX in Action.