Customers’ perception of a company depends on their experiences with the organization at every point of contact. Companies can try to change how customers view a brand in a number of ways, such as a new mobile app or an improved complaint-handling process. However, to really improve customer perception, every interaction at every touchpoint must answer questions, suggest new services, and deepen the relationship. Many firms fail to tap into business opportunities that their front-line employees encounter because their processes and technology are antiquated.
Enterprise architecture (EA) programs can lead the effort to address these limitations and deliver benefits to customers. British Gas, one of the winners of the 2015 Forrester/InfoWorld EA Awards, is a firm that seized its opportunity. My recent report, Enterprise Architects Transform Customer Engagement, analyzes the key practices enterprise architects at British Gas made to serve as brand ambassadors and to improve customer satisfaction levels and highlights key lessons for EA leaders. These practices include:
APIs, cloud, and big data technologies power the new engagement platform. To build an engagement platform that delivers customer insights to front-line engineers, the British Gas EA team developed a platform architecture that uses APIs and cloud and big data technologies to support a new engagement platform and the applications on top of it. The API mechanism simplifies digital connections to business applications; cloud infrastructure provides robustness and agility for business operations; big data technology arms field engineers with customer insights; and policies and multitenancy ensure flexibility and security.
There’s a very large graveyard of failed CRM projects. There’s more CRM initiatives that have spiraled out of control to become multimillion-dollar investments that negatively affected large numbers of customer-facing employees and didnt deliver any real results. The cost of poor CRM adoption is twofold: underutilized investment and unmet business objectives.
We recently ran a survey in partnership with CustomerThink to understand the risks and pitfalls that CRM professions need to navigate to achieve a successful CRM technology project. We surveyed 414 individuals who had been involved in a CRM technology project as a business professional in sales, marketing, customer service, or technology management within the past 36 months. Not surprisingly, we found that successful CRM technology projects are not only about choosing the right software. They demand a balanced, multifaceted approach that addresses four critical fundamentals:
People issues.Nearly two-fifths (38%) of respondents stated that their problems were the result of people issues such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with new ways of working.
CRM Process. One-third (33%) of respondents faced problems because of poor or insufficient definition of business requirements, inadequate business process designs, and the need to customize solutions to fit unique organizational requirements.
CRM Strategy. One-third (33%) of respondents had challenges related to CRM strategy, such as a lack of clearly defined objectives, a lack of organizational readiness, and insufficient solution governancepractices.
In the age of the customer, executives don't decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do. And while good customer experiences can help control costs, executives are more interested in the potential for sustainable top-line growth.
Forrester defines CRM as:
The business processes and supporting technologies that support the key activities of targeting, acquiring, retaining, understanding, and collaborating with customers.
CRM is the foundational building block of a company's customer experience strategy to win, serve, and retain customers. It allows empowered consumers and connected employees to do business in ways we just couldn’t conceive of just a few years ago.
Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, knowledge delivers real, quantifiable results like:
Reducing customer service costs: For example, Dignity Health, a California medical group relies on a knowledge base to help them maintain a 73% call resolution rate and has resulted in a $580,000 annual savings.
Increasing customer satisfaction: For example, Zuora, a US-based subscription billing provider, uses web self-service to deliver knowledge relevant to the stage in the customer journey — including sales and onboarding — to drive product adoption and decrease churn. Zuora structures knowledge to encourage customers to learn how to use the product, instead of simply providing a fix. Increased customer engagement moved Zuora's NPS by 20 points, increased site traffic by nearly 100% year-over-year, with 55% of traffic driven by their self-service site.
Lots of things are critical to delivering a great customer experience (CX). For instance, do you really understand your customers or simply do a great job of segmenting them? Do you actively encourage employees to provide feedback and recommendations on CX issues? And do you consistently get back to them on actions taken as a result of their feedback?
The truth is, you need to excel at all these practices to deliver exceptional customer experience. But even if you do, it may still not be enough. Ultimately, you’ll only excel at CX if you’ve properly aligned your CX strategy with your overall company strategy.
Forrester recently surveyed 52 Australian and New Zealand businesses, and of those surveyed, 98% believe that their companies are committed to improving CX. But only one-third have a CX strategy that’s actually aligned with the overall company strategy. Forrester's clients can access the full report here. That gap, the one between the priorities of the company strategy and the priorities of the CX strategy, is the business equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle; not all ships that enter will find their way out.
Whether you call them consumers, businesses, patients, citizens, or something else entirely, winning, serving, and retaining those customers must be a primary goal. And how can you achieve that goal? Ensure your CX strategy is actually aligned with the organization’s strategy. If you are one of the almost 70% of companies that have not aligned their corporate and CX strategies, you are like that ship trying to navigate the Bermuda Triangle on a very dark night, without a compass or charts.
The CRM market serving the large enterprise is mature. A great amount of consolidation has happened in the last five years. For example, Oracle, focused on providing consistent end-to-end customer experiences across touchpoints, has acquired a great number of point solutions to round out its customer experience portfolio. SAP, like Oracle, aims to provide consistent end-to-end customer experiences via its breadth of products and has also made a few key acquisitions. Similarly, Salesforce has made a series of moves to round out the Service Cloud. It has used this same tactic to broaden its CRM footprint with the notable acquisition of ExactTarget for business-to-company (B2C) marketing automation (2013).
The large CRM vendors increasingly offer broader and deeper capabilities which bloat their footprint and increase their complexity with features that many users can't leverage. At the same time, new point solution vendors are popping up at an unprecedented rate and are delivering modern interfaces and mobile-first strategies that address specific business problems such as sales performance management, lead to revenue management, and digital customer experience.
The breadth and depth of CRM capabilities available from vendor solutions makes it increasingly challenging to be confident of your technology choice. In the Forrester Wave: CRM Suites For Large Organizations, Q1 2015, we pinpoint the strengths of leading vendors that offer solutions suitable for large and very large CRM teams. Here are some of our key findings:
The wild west of mobile in insurance is getting tamed. Mobile is no longer just a fun experiment—it’s now a crucial element in the customer and agent experience. We first published our mobile insurance metrics report in August of 2013. At the time, we were struck by how dependent insurers were on a single metric to prove their mobile success: Application downloads.
With 15 more months of mobile development chops under their belts, in November, we decided to take a look at how much more sophisticated mobile insurance strategists had become in their mobile performance measurement strategies. The answer? Unlike other industries where mobile metrics have grown up, insurers remain stuck in mobile adolescence. How do we know? Because topping the mobile insurance metrics list in 2014 are web traffic and app downloads. Fewer insurers are tracking metrics that measure real business outcomes like conversions and mobile revenue transactions.
As 2014 winds down, I have taken the time to pause, and look ahead to what top customer service trends are surfacing for 2015 and beyond. Good service — whether it's to answer a customer's question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be pain-free, proactive at a minimum and preemptive at best, deeply personalized, and delivered with maximum productivity. Here are 6 top trends - out of a total of 10 - that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:
Trend 1: Customers Embrace Emerging Channels To Reduce Friction. In our recent survey, we found that web self-service was the most widely used communication channel for customer service, surpassing use of the voice channel for the first time. In 2015, we predict that customers will continue to demand effortless interactions over web and mobile self-service channels. They will also explore new communication channels such as video chat with screen sharing and annotation.
Trend 2: Companies Will Explore Proactive Engagement. Proactive engagements anticipate the what, when, where, and how for customers, and prioritize information and functionality to speed customer time-to-completion. In 2015, we expect organizations to explore proactive engagement - whether it's proactive chat, proactive offers, or proactive content - delivered at the right time in a customer's pre-purchase journey to help answer customer questions. They will use learnings from these proactive engagements to improve operational performance and to predict future customer behavior.
Chat as a customer engagement channel is being used more widely today than ever before. All demographics use it widely, even the Older Boomers (ages 57 to 67) and the Golden Generation (ages 68+). Users are satisfied with chat interactions as they can be less painful than a phone call or a self-service session gone awry. Proactive chat — triggering of chat invitations based on a predefined set of visitor behaviors - is also on the rise, with 44% of US online consumers saying that they like having a chat invitation appear to help answer questions during an online research or purchase, up from 33% in 2012 and 27% in 2009.
Last week I presented an overview of cloud adoption trends in the banking sector in Asia to a panel of financial services regulators in Hong Kong. The presentation showcased a few cloud case studies including CBA, ING Direct, and NAB in Australia. I focused on the business value that these banks have realized through the adoption of cloud concepts, while remaining compliant with the local regulatory environments. These banks have also developed a strong competitive advantage: They know how to do cloud. Ultimately, I believe that cloud is a capability that banks will have to master in order to build an agility advantage. For instance, cloud is a key enabler of Yuebao, Alibaba’s new Internet finance business. 80 million users in less than 10 months? Only cloud architecture can enable that type of agility and scale (an idea that Hong Kong regulators clearly overlooked).