The customer experience you provide is nothing less than delivering on the promise your company has made to the market. Every company makes some claim. In the business-to-business market, most vendors claim to make customers more efficient, more effective, or more profitable in some way. The unspoken promise is that buying your company’s product or service will improve your customer’s business.
Social media has exposed the gap between corporate claims and the customer’s experience. Virtual communities have given end users a voice unfiltered by management. The end result of this power shift is that end users have become more vocal and demanding about their experience. They are unwilling to settle for acceptable or even satisfactory products and services. Satisfied customers are willing to leave their vendor in exchange for an exceptional experience; at any given time 30-90% of a company’s customer-base is looking for another vendor. End users want, and expect, an exceptional experience.
What has been the reaction among executives to this shift in power? According to Michael Maoz from Gartner, executives across geographies are trying to re-engage with customers through customer service, and customer experience in particular. Eighty percent of executives believe that customer strategy is more important than it was three years ago. Ninety to ninety-five percent of executives expect customer experience will be part of their specific competitive differentiation in the next two to three years.
The emerging view is to create a customer experience strategy focused on the business success of the customer. By being a vehicle for the customer’s success, companies expect to:
- Extend the life of the customer.
- Develop a proactive advocate for their products and services.
- Extract usable value from the customer’s experience that can be re-purposed.
- Reduce transactional support costs by developing more educated users.
- Increase the value of the customer through additional product and service revenue.
There is considerable evidence pointing to the success of this approach. A study by Booz Allen found that customer centric organizations outperformed their industry peers 2:1 in revenue growth and generated profit margins 5-10 percent above their competitors. However, to deliver these results, organizations have to walk their talk. If a company wants to evolve from pushing product to delivering customer-advocacy level value, a shift in thinking and attitude is required.
Developing a Customer Experience Strategy
Customer experience is not an isolated transaction but a series of multiple touchpoints. It’s not limited to the customer service interaction at the support center but is an organization-wide process. The brand is strengthened at each touchpoint across the organization. While customer service can have a huge impact on the customer experience, it is not the whole story. Here are seven elements to consider in developing a customer experience strategy for your organization:
- Understand your own values. The customer’s experience is a reflection of the values a company communicates. To deliver exceptional customer experience a company must first of all understand its own values and secondly communicate those values through its products and services at every touchpoint.In many cases, employees don’t understand the values of the company they work for. Value statements are developed by well intentioned senior management and then relegated to new-hire training or unread posters in lonely corners of the office. Even mid-level managers charged with executing the company mission are hard-pressed to outline their company’s core values. Regrettably, core values are often undermined in the name of efficiency or expediency. This leads to employee cynicism and loss of faith in management’s commitment to any values other than profit. Mostly this loss of faith is because the values are not built into the service structure.
- Develop a customer-centric culture. The first step in delivering exceptional customer experience is to develop a culture within your own organization that reflects your service values. It is difficult to deliver exceptional service if your culture and service structure do not reflect your service values. If you don’t have well delineated service values, you need to start by creating them as they will form the foundation of your customer experience strategy.
- Choose metrics at each touchpoint that reflect your claim and the customer’s experience. One of the key choices management can make is the metrics they choose to measure in order to determine how well they are performing against their promise to the market. Metrics become the performance focal points by which an organization judges its behavior: organizations become what they measure. If you have a claim or promise you’ve made to the market, it makes sense to measure how well you perform against that claim. This involves measuring how well your employees deliver on the claim and what your customer thinks of the delivery.Engineering, marketing, sales, accounting, and support each have a specific and unique contribution to make in the customer experience process. Each has internal metrics they can use to gauge their contribution and external metrics they can use to assess the customer’s experience. Engineering may use an internal quality score of mean-time-between failure and an external metric around reported issues; sales may have an internal measure around contract renewals and an external measure of customer referrals; support may measure itself on first call resolution and measure the customer on satisfaction. Each of these measures should reflect the company’s commitment to its promise and the customer’s experience with the offering. Each reflects a shared accountability by individual departments for the customers’ overall experience.
- Extend your reach across channels and into the clouds. Clouds, SaaS, and social communities allow companies to serve customers wherever they are. All the channels customers use are available through a service cloud. Customer portals, search engines, community sites, as well as traditional chat, email, and call centers form a communication web within the cloud that can be harnessed to fulfill the customer experience promised by the company. Technology is not the goal but rather the vehicle for understanding what customers need to improve their business. The goal is to deliver what customers need. Increasing the touchpoints available to your customer brings tactical advantages to closing the gap between your promise and their experience. Cloud technologies allow a company to extend its reach into the user community. Each provides additional touchpoints to influence the user. Each provides a rich interface in which to communicate. They are, in effect, sticky technologies that deliver a rich stream of user information and preferences. מערכת אומניצנל
- Listen to your customer. Customer experience can be viewed as the new marketing. Examine, understand, and analyze what a customer might gain by doing more business with you and what you would gain from the relationship. Then act on that information. Understanding your customer’s needs and not fulfilling those needs creates an opportunity for a competitor. The technology for engaging customers in a meaningful dialog is available.
- Appoint a CXO from your company’s power base. The emergence of the Customer Experience Officer (CXO) is an attempt to coordinate the delivery of the promise across the enterprise. It is no small task! As companies grow, their individual departments become isolated from one another functionally, financially, and often geographically. Added to the difficulty is that all departments do not have equal power or influence. One department will typically have a disproportionate influence on policy. If the CXO is not a part of the power-base or does not have overwhelming support from senior executives, the task of managing the customer experience across the enterprise becomes difficult.
- Update your strategy to keep it dynamic and solution- oriented. As you develop a customer experience strategy, be sure that it is a dynamic, active strategy that allows you to:
- Be the vehicle for your customer to make money.
- Extract value from the rich source of customer information accessible within the cloud.
- Focus on an exceptional user experience rather than selling product.
- Close the gap between expectation and delivery of your claim.
- Be proactive rather than reactive to market changes.
These are the elements that will allow you to stay relevant and become an indispensable part of your customer’s success equation.
Social media is exposing the gap between what companies promise the market and what they actually deliver. Executives across the globe are looking to differentiate their companies by developing customer experience strategies based on the needs of their customers rather than the needs of their internal departments. By becoming a part of their customer’s success equation, companies increase their competitive positions, fulfill their promise to the market, and reap the rewards. The seven strategic considerations discussed above form the foundation of an emerging customer experience strategy that takes advantages of the multiple touchpoints inherent in cloud technology. Strategically positioning customer experience as a market differentiator is proving to be good business.
Malcolm Carlaw is CEO of Impact Learning Systems. Industry-certified and recomm