Until recently, much attention had been given to “Defining the customer experience”, with articles dedicated to identifying the “starting point” of the customer experience. I particularly liked this short piece by Jeannie Walters from February 2010, When does your customer experience start?
Her reference to “brand discovery” started me thinking about how the transaction occurs today, and how it has evolved and diverged, making it an even bigger question than it was even two short years ago. In fact, the lack of definition was actually the lead-in by Adam Richardson on the HBR Blog Network when he talked about the definition of customer experience varying from digital experiences and interactions to retail or customer service or the speed at which problems are solved in a call center.
Although I would agree with Richardson’s statement, “To be really successful on a long-term basis, customer experience needs to be seen as all these things, and more. It is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer”. I believe that this is an area in which companies are struggling.
Defining the need and how those needs will be met
All too often, customer experience management is focused on how the solution will be delivered in terms of process and mechanics, with little consideration for what the real customer need actually is, and what the brand promise consists of. To improve the customer experience implies that you would know exactly where you stand with your customer today and what you have to do to improve that standing in the future. Positive customer experiences that create loyalty are increasingly seen as a key differentiator. To achieve this, we need to listen carefully to the Voice of the Customer (VOC).
Some great ideas for creating a remarkable customer experience positioned by Douglas G. Davidoff, Creating a Remarkable Client Experience: are 1) “Never, never, treat a potential client better than you treat a current client.” I love that one, as it happens every day. How many times have you purchased something only to feel kind of disheartened when it appears on the sales rack for a fraction of the price? 2) “It is the customer, not the business, which determines what is remarkable and what is not.” The business does not exist without the customers, and too many times we decide what we’re giving instead of asking how we can better serve. 3) “What is remarkable for one person is not remarkable for another.” Once again, we have to go back and imagine what would be important to the customer, not what’s important to ourselves.
We need to capture customer feedback, and operationalize it so that we can share information, take action and evolve our business to better meet the needs of our customers and the marketplace.
Where technology stumbled, determination prevailed
After the deployment and re-deployment of CRM, companies are embracing the its ability to better understand the holistic customer to enhance the customer experience and to impact the bottom line. With improved key interactions, we can increase retention, and drive customer loyalty and referrals.
The mad rush to increase profitability and performance through systems may have left consumers feeling that the process was more important than the actual level of customer satisfaction at the end of their personal experience. How many times have you been caught in a help line where the service professional concludes by asking if you would participate in a survey on their service and reminds that how you score them impacts their pay (while your problem or experience may have only been average – I have experienced this personally each of the last three times I purchased a car)?
Ron Burley captures the true essence of why each and every customer experience counts in a recent blog post about a problem customer that turned into their largest account, just because the person believed in providing the customer the best service possible despite a low ROI.
I found an interesting March 2011 Oracle Retail commissioned study “Consumer Views of Live Help Online 2012: A Global Perspective,” where 3,111 consumers in 15 countries were surveyed for consumers’ preferences for connecting with companies using traditional and online customer service options.
Key findings of the survey include:
- Online consumers want and value live online help. Both Click-to-Call and Live Chat were ranked highly by consumers and ranked ahead of many other common Web site features.
- Although Click-to-Call and Click-to-Chat is among consumers’ top choices for support, consumers’ first choice is in-person support followed by calling into an 800 number.
- Social media is a channel consumers expect to provide live support access, which continues to support my notion that Social Media is a branding tool.
Customer Experience Management (CEM) continues to receive serious executive-level attention for its ability to impact the bottom line. In many industries, churn rates are rising, and delicate economic conditions demand attention to value. Online and mobile comparison shopping has made it incredibly easy for customers to change suppliers without effort. Make certain you evaluate all channels of your customer service solution and identify and document the “Moments of Truth” throughout each to rank them for effectiveness and possible portability across channels.
Moments of Truth exist throughout the customer lifecycle, experienced by different customers at different moments though different channels. Getting a view of the customer experience is as varied as online, telephone, retail and mobile. A bad experience in one or more channels due to lack of authority or usability creates lasting and irreparable brand damage. The goal is to identify key interactions and build a “Voice of the Customer” program that focuses on those moments and customer needs in order to maximize the customer experience. Simply adjusting software and processes in an attempt to improve an experience will not engage customers; employees have to be involved and empowered across the entire enterprise.
In summary, your employees have to know what the customer is looking for and understand what their goals are to ensure a positive experience.