Strategy for customer experience management is lacking for most organizations, according to numerous studies, and lack of strategy is a cited widely by customer experience (CX) practitioners as a key obstacle to achieving business results.  A close look at the most prevalent CX practices underscores this dilemma: we’re “putting the cart before the horse” with near-brute-force on business results and by forgoing the essential building blocks to sustainable customer experience ROI.
Truth About Customer Experience Goals
Most of us are pursuing retention, loyalty, service excellence, and customer experience differentiation. Let’s explore the nature of these goals:
- Customer retention (duration of relationship) and loyalty (share of budget, recommendations) are outcomes that cannot magically occur through marketing campaigns or enticements, except with short-term spikes.
- Service excellence would be much easier to achieve if routine confusion externally and internally was prevented, freeing up front-line employees to focus on value-add opportunities rather than remedial issues.
- Customer experience differentiation would be more feasible if:
- Voice-of-the-customer methodology was designed to help the company make necessary transformations.
- Customer intelligence integrated all sources of CX data for a holistic picture of customers’ plight.
- Everyone across the company had an insatiable curiosity about customers and passion for innovating the customer experience.
Wilderness experts will tell you that using a compass to find your way requires an accurate starting point: if you don’t get that part right, and start out a few degrees off, you can end up in a very different place than your intended. In my recent conversation with Carol Borghesi, former Senior Vice President of Client Experience and Customers First Culture at Canadian telecom provider TELUS, we discussed what it takes to navigate the corporate wilderness to ensure we’re on the right trajectory for customer experience ROI (return on investment). Continue reading
Do we manage customer experience strategy like playing Jenga? (Jenga is the game with a stack of blocks where players take turns to remove one and balance it on top.) The game is supposed to start with a robust foundation, and in the quest to rise to new heights, holes are made to re-allocate resources, weakening the structure until it topples over.
In managing customer experience (CX), new heights are attempted by betting the farm on shiny silver bullets such as Continue reading
"Is customer experience management important in a business-to-business (B2B) organization?" Yes! It's interesting how often this question arises. I've been in the customer experience (CX) field in B2B organizations since 1989. What both business-to-consumer (B2C) and B2B companies are doing in CX management today (surveys, service/product improvement, customer loyalty/retention/value growth) is pretty much what we were doing in B2B since the '80s and '90s as well.
Customer Experience Biases
So why is "customer experience" often connoted with B2C? Continue reading
The role of Customer Experience Influencer is more realistic than the so-called Customer Experience Manager role. If you try to manage (i.e. control) the customer experience, you just might as well change jobs and become a cat herder. You will have many more successes to celebrate as a cat herder than you will as someone who attempts to manage (control) the customer experience. Why? It's mainly because people do not want to be controlled. You have to influence their experience, not manage it. Try to control them and you'll get the claw. Continue reading
In all my years of meeting about customer responsibilities, I have never once been in the same room both with those who actually lead the move to customer centricity and with the people that prevent the move to customer centricity. There are two reasons for this: first, organizations don't think much about how the business delivers customer experience and therefore how the leaders responsible for each function ought to be involved. Second, personal ownership for customer experience is devilishly difficult to define for non-customer facing functions, and not exactly a coveted designation.
Whatever way your company defines position power and influence, it is the first thing you need to figure out — and the answer is not necessarily a regurgitation of the org chart. Certainly, the CEO and his/her team must Continue reading
Customer experience can be brought to life through an Undercover Boss approach to rolling up your sleeves and walking in others' shoes. Each of us who has seen the Undercover Boss TV show has likely marveled at how eye-opening it was for a company' s top executive to try out various front-line and behind-the-scenes jobs — as a result, the executive typically makes sweeping changes to improve the employee experience. And this concept can also be applied to any employee to explore and improve the plight of external customers' experience, as Adobe has been doing Continue reading
CRM, experiential marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, contact center management, and social media customer service are more obviously applicable to B2C. Hence, these practices Continue reading
Customer experience management is necessary, yet insufficient. Traditionally, organizations have managed customer experience with a mindset of how the company is doing, in order to grow revenue. Consequently, surveys tend to ask more about the company than about the buyer, and customer programs typically emphasize excitement and urgency for new purchases and positive word-of-mouth. While attempting to be customer-centric, this mindset is generally centered more on the company's, rather than the buyer's, well-being.
This is an edited transcript from my presentation for CustomerThink’s Customer Experience Thought Leader Forum webinar on B2B Customer Experience Management, conducted February 21, 2013.
The Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study has been conducted for three years now. It was established in 2010 with an emphasis on understanding which functional areas were driving customer experience management and the scope of deployment within each company. In 2011, we continued the core set of questions along with an in-depth exploration of B2B voice of the customer practices, and we explored customer experience management success factors seem to be driving business results. And in 2012, we continued with that core set of questions and emphasized success stories of companies’ progress in their customer experience management, as well as showing three-year trends.
CEM Practices in Top-Performing Businesses
First of all, we wanted to identify which companies had the strongest business results. For example, some companies Continue reading
a href=”http://clearactioncx.com/customer-engagement/”>You're a customer, so you're a perfect judge of logic when it comes to the ways companies are trying to get ahead with customers. First of all, let's face it: when you buy something you want it to be easy to get, function flawlessly, and allow you to move forward in your life or business. That encapsulates what customer experience management is all about: companies that can make it easier and nicer to get what you need in life/business are the companies you'll say good things about and come back to. If you agree that this is your outlook on being a customer, then we've got a good foundation for properly defining the role of technology in customer experience management (CEM).
Customer Relationship Management
As a customer you hope you don't have to Continue reading
In any journey, it pays to have an expert guide — and that's particularly true in any company's ongoing journey toward superior customer experience. Some companies have appointed a Chief Customer Officer as their expert guide, to ensure that they take the high road, stay on-course, and accelerate results along the way.
"Showing the path and where we are on that path — kind of like the map at the mall: 'you are here' — gives everyone an idea of how far we've come and how far we yet need to go," explained Milista Anderson, Chief Customer Officer at risk management software firm Sungard's Energy and Commodities division. "I'm part change agent and also part customer advocate. I think there's a need for a healthy balance of both. If there's an issue in day-to-day operations, I'm interested in the process that got us there to begin with. And as a change agent, I'm trying to broker the best interests for customers along with the best efforts from our employees."
Voice of the Customer as a Pivot Point
As a guest on the Customer Experience Optimization online talk show that I host, Milista said she uses survey data as a conversation starter, to get people's attention. "One way we Continue reading
"Businesses are made up of people, and people have emotions." This focus on people has guided the customer experience strategy of industrial freight provider Maersk Line and many other business-to-business companies. Rene Bomholt, former head of customer experience at Maersk Line, shared these stories for the 3rd Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study:
CX Strategy & Deployment
Customer Trust: With 50-some country organizations around the world, everyone on the front line at Maersk Line was working to please customers according to their own interpretation, but not really with a common goal of how to do it. A session was held with top management to determine the kind of emotions they want to invoke, tying into company values and history. They wanted customers to feel trust, cared for and pleased in every interaction. That became the mantra which provided a common aspiration for customer experience success.
Playbook: Showing people what a customer experience means makes them reflect on how they as consumers act on their own experiences. In 3-day sessions held by Maersk Line, managers received a playbook of 24 solutions that each country organization could pick and choose from. The playbook included simple Continue reading
Financials and customer experience management (CEM) go hand-in-hand, whether it’s a matter of identifying financial results from CEM efforts, or a matter of financing CEM to begin with. New insights to this conundrum are seen in the 2012 CleaAction Annual Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study, where more than half of participants said that difficulty correlating CEM to business results is one of their top five obstacles to CEM success. While budget restrictions were cited less often as one of the top two obstacles in 2012 compared to 2011, still more than half of participants named budget restrictions as one of their top five obstacles in 2012. (Note: the obstacles list in the 2011 survey did not include big data or correlation of CEM to business results among the selection set.)
Customer Experience Management Investment
Uncertainty in the 2012 business climate may have been a factor in reduced investment levels of 35-60% as compared to 2011 and 2010. Interestingly, in 2010, shortly after the major global economic crisis, CEM investment increased for the majority of participating B2B firms. This appeared to be evidence of management's recognition of CEM as an essential building block toward revenue and profit goals. Continue reading
Stories of business customer experience management practices and successes are featured in the 3rd Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study. Examples span across voice-of-the-customer, employee engagement in CEM, customer-focused culture, customer experience profitability, and more.
Business CEM stories are rare relative to consumer-focused examples, despite the fact that business customer experience can be much more challenging, with high involvement of numerous influencers of the purchase decision, high stakes purchases with lengthy sales cycles, reciprocal buyer/supplier relationships, and complex touch‐points across functional areas, managerial levels, and products, among other factors unique to B2B environments.
An enterprise customer experience manager at telecom provider Orange, Emilie Smith, said: “In B2B there’s an even bigger argument for CEM linkage to revenue and profitability because often the products and services for businesses are a lot more sophisticated and cost a lot more for the company to provide them. For one account, millions may be at stake.” The head of customer experience at freight provider Maersk Line, Rene Bomholt, said: “Businesses are made up of people, and people have emotions. Close relationships with customers matter a lot.”
Inspiring stories about the progress of business customer experience management can be found throughout the 2012 best practices study, featuring companies such as Ciena, Citrix, LexisNexis, Orange, SunTrust, Symantec, tw telecom, and others in business services, building materials, remarketing, and semiconductor industries.
As the sole global B2B CEM survey, this research provides inspiration to Continue reading
Every one of us is a customer, so "Customer-Centricity" should be a very simple topic to understand. What do you, as a customer, think it means for those you buy from to be customer-centric? For me, it means they "get me" to the extent that I can easily access and use their offering that helps me do something in my life/business. Just stick with that statement and the gems are there:
- "Easily" typically means without much cost as burdens in time, worry, effort and financial aspects
- "Access and use" typically means both finding the solution that helps me get something done and using to get something done (pre-purchase and post-purchase)
- "Helps me get something done" typically means that whatever I buy is a means to an end. I’m just trying to live my life and run my business.
Note that as a customer it's all about me. Sure, I may like to provide feedback to my suppliers, but typically because I hope it will help me in the future — or at least help a fellow human being not experience the pain that I might have experienced. And this is the foundational fallacy of most CRM/CEM/NPS/C-Sat/etc. endeavors: companies tend to ask questions from their perspective, to map the customer journey from the company's perspective, to incent employees from the company’s perspective, and on and on — NOT from the customer’s perspective.
To be customer-centric, companies need to simply see things the way customers see them, and center their daily decision-making accordingly, with all other aspirations being secondary to — or within the context of — seeing things the way customers see them.
Why would it behoove a company to be customer-centric? Because customers enable the monetary machine. Continue reading
“Our client-centric banking approach is driving momentum in our core business fundamentals,” said William H. Rogers, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of SunTrust Banks, Inc. Business results for SunTrust are on a steady growth path, which the company attributes largely to renewed emphasis on Client First as a guiding principle. In my online talk show interview with Jeff VanDeVelde, Senior Vice President of Client Experience and Loyalty at SunTrust, he explained: “As our executives were re-writing our enterprise guiding principles, we determined the need to put more focus on being client 1st as a guiding principle, and especially the need to change way we include client voice in our decision-making process.”
What Does Client First Mean?
“One of the biggest challenges of people who do this work is they think that client experience and client loyalty is something that front-line people do,” said VanDeVelde. “We’ve tried to help people understand Client 1st is really everybody’s job, whether you’re doing item processing or deciding where to put your ATMs, or anything else. It means you’re using client input to inform all your decisions, not just when the client is in front of you. We engage our non-client-facing teammates by having them ask “Is this what the client would want as I design this process, or make this effort?”
Customer-Focus in Place of Product-Focus
Migrating from product-focus to customer-focus is a massive cultural change. “Part of our Continue reading
Open your mind to new ideas for improving customer experience. It’s a fast-paced highly competitive world, so continual improvement — and occasional breakthroughs — are imperatives for consistently delivering superior customer experience.
Every person has creative capability. “There’s this common perception among managers that some people are creative, and most aren’t. That’s just not true,” says Teresa Amabile, head of Entrepreneurial Management at Harvard Business School. “As a leader, you don’t want to ghettoize creativity; you want everyone in your organization producing novel and useful ideas, including your financial people. The fact is, almost all of the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work.”
Fool around with the vast Continue reading
When a customer asks you a question, do you double-check your assumptions about their intended outcome? So often we take customer inquiries at face value, or simply assume we know what is meant. No matter what your job, you have customers, and clarifying your customers’ intended outcome is smart business.
Examining Customer’s Intended Outcomes
An intended outcome may be quite different from the words a person chooses to make a request or to give you feedback. Different personality types shape our phrasing as well as our hearing. Have you ever played Boggle? It’s a letter-scramble game that challenges players to identify as many words as possible, and typically, it’s quite surprising to see that another player has a completely different point of view and hence, a unique list of words. Similarly, every interaction we have with a customer poses the possibility of mis-matched speaking and hearing.
Furthermore, the big picture may be unclear initially. It’s like the story of Continue reading