Customers are the lifeline of any organisation to survive and thrive. For this reason the customer experience management is everything. In today’s competitive world, organisations competitive advantages are blurring, customers’ are spoiled with options, competition is vying for the same customers with compelling offers, expectations have increased, access to social media to share experiences and gathering feedback about a product/service is on the rise, has left no threshold for dealing with poor quality of product or support. All of these trends have a domino effect on organisations.
Customer Experience Management (CEM) is a practice to design and respond to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations across the channels. In doing so, organisations increase customer satisfaction, trust, loyalty and advocacy. In this blog, we have used CEM and Customer Experience (CX) interchangeably.
Let’s look at the real impact of customer experience management and why organisations need to pay attention:
- 49% of executives believe customers will switch brands due to a poor customer experience
- 89% of customers say they have switched brands because of a poor customer experience. Recognize these customers did not report that they may or would switch brands based on a poor CX, but they actually did.
- 93% of business leaders say that improving their customers’ experience is one of their top three priorities for the next two years
- 97% state that CX is critical to their business success. They also understand the cost of failure is large—estimated at 20% of revenues.
As much as CEM is critical to today’s organisations, it’s not without challenges. For example, any organisation embarking on CEM needs to confront with:
- Changing the organisation culture aligned to customer
- Identifying new customer experiences, processes, technologies and people
- System integration between heterogeneous systems with new CX technologies
- 360 degree view of customer since customer information is dispersed in siloed systems including multi-channel complexity
- Organization structure
- Measuring CEM ROI
- Long term vision, strategy/execution, investment and management commitment.
Despite the challenges, organisations representing different industries and geographies are adopting customer experience management. The difference is some organisations have a holistic and long term view of CEM (blue bar leading – edge) while others have need based, reactive and short term view of CEM (teal – laggards). The challenges faced by both these type of organisations are the same, it’s just that the approach and commitment to overcome these challenges vastly differ from one another. It makes perfect business sense to commit to CEM long term, and here is why:
Source: Harvard Business Review (HBR).
How do organisations deal with this type of rapidly evolving customer behavior directly impacting business?
One of the significant levers organisations have is to implement CEM Program. CEM is about placing the customer at the center and rallying organisation’s functions, processes, technologies and people around the customer. It means, customer is no longer incidental but is focal to an organisation.
It’s true that CX impact may be different given the business environment. CX impact has a bigger footprint if the organisation is directly dealing with end customers (B2C). Let’s see which industries adopt CX and how organisations operating in these industries are performing with regard to CX.
Source: Forrester’s Customer Experience Index Online Survey, US Consumers Q3 2015.
When we talk about CEM, it should permeate the organisation’s major functions; Marketing, Sales and Support. Employees from each of these functions interact with customers often. Customers form perceptions based on the interactions they have across the functions and channels/touch-points. Therefore, it’s of paramount importance for organisations to devise a well thought out CEM program. For example; Marketing professionals need to personalize offers based on segments/micro-segments, buying behavior, propensity for channel preferences, life time value and more.
During the course of customers’ relationship with an organisation, they share a lot of their personal data and therefore expect the organisation to recognize their needs and meet expectations. In other words, customers expect organisations to design processes, systems and interactions keeping them in mind. This puts organisations on the spot because customers not only expect a positive relationship but personalized interactions, resolution of their problems and consistent delivery on commitments made to them.
Organisations intending to be ‘leading-edge’ players, need an approach to implement their CEM Program. Let’s look at the recommended approach for the ‘leading-edge’ players.
We find many organisations where executives, employees, processes and culture consider customers as incidental and not focal to their business. This is immensely detrimental to any organisation embarking on an CEM Program. Change is hard because it is time consuming, needs intensive energy & effort, persistent policies, programs to reward, recognize employees, leadership vision & commitment. Organisations need to foster customer-centric culture with their CEM approach. Employees are key, must ensure employees embrace this change with energy and enthusiasm. Because, happy employees always results in happy customers. Remember, what Peter Drucker said ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ So avoid that trap.
Form a core team with executive sponsorship. This team essentially drives all CX initiatives within and outside the organisation. Organisations need to ensure this team has a healthy representation from multiple functions, visibility across the organisation, access to management, authority make decisions and resources to perform their duties.
Objectives & ROI
No initiative without well-defined Objectives, KPIs, Metrics, Timelines and ROI will sustain for long especially when resources are limited. According to the Global Customer Experience Disruptive Study research; top cited CX objectives included: Organic Growth (50%), Customer Retention (48%), Differentiation (44%), New Customer Acquisition (35%), Operating Efficiencies (33%) and Customer Advocacy (22%). Organisations need to identify the most critical objectives and rally their people, resources and leadership behind them.
Customer First Approach
Start with the customer, reach out to them to enlist feedback on what they like, dislike, needs improvement on your product/service, process and support. Often, these insights surprise many organisations. Identify key areas to improve, incrementally. Starting point could be to define customer journey maps, identify the processes (old and new) to enable these journeys, map them to existing systems and gather data from data warehousing to drive insights.
Team requires tools and technologies to better articulate customer journeys, inculcate design thinking, customer profiling (segmentation at multiple levels), simulate scenarios, targeted campaigns, personalize content, build Mobile PoCs/Prototype, Analytics to measure results and more….
Understand Customer Behavior
Customers use multiple channels to interact. For example; product discovery is done through mobile or online, research about product reviews is done through social media, blogs, reviews, visit store to try the product, make the purchase online, interact with staff through email, online chat and call centers. Organisations can establish a co-relation between a customer and channels preference to understand behavior and therefore define an engagement approach.
Organisations traditionally have created functions, processes and technologies which operate independently. In such an environment, it’s challenging for organisations to achieve 360 degree view of customers and engage customers with cross-channel persistent behavior. So, with new technologies, big data, analytics, it’s possible to create an Omni-channel experience. Retailers are a good example for successfully adopting omni-channel strategy.
We conclude by reinforcing the need and urgency to adopt CX strategy. In this extremely competitive and dynamic business environment, traditional competitive advantages like product features, pricing, offers, and support are blurring and capricious customer behavior is adding to this. CX has the potential to create real and sustainable competitive advantage because putting together a strategy, execution, cultural change and continuous improvement is not easy and many organizations fumble at that. After all, a happy customer gives repeat business, demonstrates loyalty, recommends product and becomes your champion.