In 2015, customer experience (CX) rose to the No. 1 priority for business and technology leaders. In 2016, it will be among the top 10 critical success factors determining who will win and who will fail in the age of the customer. And for good reason: Better customer experience correlates with stronger revenue growth. But this is only true when competitors provide meaningful differences in the experiences they offer and unsatisfied customers have the freedom to jump ship when treated poorly. So in order to reap the benefits that better CX can provide, in 2016, companies will need to get down to the real business of not only providing good experiences but also breaking away from the pack with meaningful internal operational changes.
This won’t be easy, because success in the age of the customer requires shifting to a customer-obsessed operating model that puts customers at the center of all strategic decision-making. In 2016, leaders will tackle the challenge of making this shift; laggards will underestimate the magnitude and speed of change required and will instead push forward with uncoordinated digital efforts and flawed business priorities.
This is a guest post by Erna Esa, a Research Associate on the Customer Experience team based in Sydney.
In the movie Love Actually, the chemistry between an Englishman (played by the very dashing Colin Firth) and a Portuguese housekeeper (Lúcia Moniz) was evident — but not having the tools to communicate in each other’s language left the pair feeling frustrated and annoyed.
Employees experience a similar type of frustration when they are not offered the opportunity to contribute to the conversations companies have about their customers. How do we know this? Well, we have found that 70% of information workers say that their job requires them to engage with or understand their customers but fewer than 40% of organizations in Australia and New Zealand systematically capture input from their employees about those interactions. That leaves a lot of employees who interact with customers and have knowledge of their company’s customer experience ecosystem without a structured, systematic way of telling their organization what they are seeing and hearing — and that’s frustrating.
Successful voice of the employee (VoE) programs have the potential to transform your organization into one in which talented, dedicated individuals strive to build a career. In many cases, these programs are inexpensive to set up and maintain, yet deliver considerable benefits when implemented across the entire organization. Forrester clients can read about these benefits in our latest report, Engage Employees To Nail The Customer Experience.
As CIOs, we all know digital disruption is happening at a rampant rate. The challenge we face is moving it from theory to reality. An executive at a client company recently posed the following questions to me: “How do you actually innovate and defend against this digital disruption without blowing up the budget? How do you really do that?”
For me, there are definitely a few steps that take this often discussed CIO requirement from the abstract to the concrete:
Are you close to your customers?
Everyone has customers of some kind, including B2B. Do you know where the pain points are in your customer experience? Where the opportunities are to innovate? You’ve got to understand this dynamic and the best way to start that is with customer journey mapping. Follow it up by keeping this “conversation” going by leading or staying involved in a regular customer testing and feedback effort or program. Above all, get out and talk to customers!
Can you innovate on your own mainstream platforms, quick and dirty?
If you can’t innovate easily on your major internal platforms — weeks or days, not months for moderately/small-sized innovations — digital disruptors and likely your direct competitors both have a significant leg up on you. This year alone, we’ve launched 35 small-to-medium, innovative improvements to our business by taking advantage of our SaaS platform. Business moves too fast to wait for months.
Do you use the same tools that startups use to go fast?
CRM purchasing is undergoing a sea change. I see that companies are no longer purchase heavyweight, end-to-end CRM solutions that have had the reputation of being complex, expensive and hard to implement - even if they have great industry specific capabilities. They itend to mpede user productivity with a bloated set of capabilities that many users can't leverage. A number of dynamics driving this change in purchasing behavior:
CRM purchases are moving to the cloud. Companies are replacing legacy CRM with SaaS solutions at a higher rate than before. Cloud CRM has gained traction, as it provides lower upfront costs, better flexibility, and faster time-to-value compared with traditional on-premises applications. It also shifts the burden of software maintenance to the vendor.
Cloud CRM extends the life of legacy CRM. Modernizing legacy CRM to support omnichannel customer journeys is a critical priority. Companies are using cloud CRM to complement and extend on-premises implementations. Cloud CRM provides the systems of engagement while legacy CRM provides business process support and data management capabilities.
Customers today simply want efficient, effortless service, and are increasingly using chat as a way to get to the information that they are seeking. Chat usage rates have risen in the past three years — from 38% in 2009 to 43% in 2012 to 58% in 2014. We find that all demographics - young and old - are comfortable with chat. Chat can cost less than a voice call, especially for organizations that allow their agents to handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously. Its no wonder that there are hundreds of case studies that showcase the power of chat.
The chat vendor landscape is crowded, and recently I profiled the capabililties of 21 vendors. Because of the wealth of vendors in this space, you have to be clear about your chat strategy, and your core requirements. Here are 5 questions to help you articulate your goals for chat.
Are you working as a CX pro in a B2B company? And do you find it challenging to make the case for your CX program? You are not alone.
In fact, many CX pros in B2B companies we spoke with struggled to get funding for their efforts --because they can't isolate the role of CX in driving financial success, they lack insight into how different clients’ experiences affect purchasing decisions, or they don't gather sufficient data about these experiences.
CX professionals managed to overcome these challenges by creating the preconditions for success. Following their lead, you should:
Rethink metrics and analytics to link CX to financials. CX pros need to look beyond the usual metrics like revenue or NPS to find the metrics that help link CX to business success.. For example food packaging company Tetra Pak found that a custom partnership index was a better predictor of sales and volume growth than other metrics they tested.
We all share this sentiment that we want to protect our resources — our planet for generations to come — so that our children and their children can live happily ever after. It’s that warm and fuzzy feeling we get when we see a little girl holding a flower in her hand. I realize that we all share this sentiment every time the press reacts with irate reports criticizing the extent of pollution in China — or when “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” became part of pop culture with Jack Johnson’s song of the same name (sorry if you have that song playing in your head now). Protecting the environment is the right thing to do. But how many times have you used disposable dishes or cutlery when there were other options that were just less convenient? And why do you do that? It’s easy: Life gets in the way.
As a customer experience (CX) professional, you’ll have noticed the parallels by now. You regularly try to share insights from CX measurement or the voice of the customer (VoC) program with your colleagues across the organization to tell them what important customers think about their experiences with the company and what their pain points are. Using these insights is the right thing to do. But how many times have you met polite but superficial interest? And why is that? Life gets in the way. Your colleagues are busy, don’t know why to care, or have other priorities. It’s no wonder then that 72% of CX pros we asked in our recent survey on the state of CX maturity said that their organizations have only been somewhat or not effective at all in improving customer experience.
I looked at ways that CX pros have managed to rally their organizations around CX metrics and found 10 tactics that companies like Avaya, Elsevier, Hampton Inn & Suites, Sage Software North America, and Verizon have proven to work in the real world.
Over the weekend, I read the manuscript for Don Peppers' upcoming book, Customer Experience: What, How, and Why Now.
Because Don is a talented writer, and because I love customer experience, it wasn’t hard for me to start reading it. It was, however, hard to stop reading it. If you’re also into customer experience, you’ll no doubt have a similar reaction when it comes out.
What I like most about the book is that Peppers consistently grounds customer experience in business fundamentals. For example, he points out that the decision to focus on customer experience should never be binary: You don’t have to be customer-centric or product-centric, nor does spending to deliver a better CX mean wasting money. The reality is that focusing on customer experience can lead to new and better products and help create an even more profitable business — provided that you understand it.
Of course, learning to understand the practical aspects of customer experience can be hard work — much like attending a particularly tough business class. But that’s not the case here. Peppers makes the nuts and bolts of customer experience engaging and even visceral. To see what I mean, check out two of my favorite quotes from the book:
"If you think about it, a customer is really just a bundle of future cash flows, with a memory. And these future cash flows will increase or decrease based on how the customer remembers being treated, today."
“Customers don’t necessarily stay because they’re satisfied, but they often leave because they’re not.”
Expectation Maps Are A Smart Way To Visualize Customer Journey Emotion
Talking to clients, it’s interesting to see and hear how the topic of “customer needs” still comes up as frequently as the sun comes out in Singapore. In a day and age when customer “needs” such as food, clothing, and human interaction are largely met, it makes sense for CX professionals to shift focus toward dynamically changing and ever-evolving expectations of what a quality experience should feel like.
When making a purchase online, for example, the “need” is for the item to get to the address provided in the time stated — that’s a given. It gets emotional when there’s a disconnect between the picture of the product purchased and the actual item received. Wildly exceeding or failing to meet expectations elicits emotional reactions that shape customer perceptions of the quality of a given experience.
Culture and language also have a very powerful influence on customer expectations, and companies need to be mindful of this when going after customers outside of their home markets and localize those experiences appropriately.
My latest report, part two in a three-part series on tools CX pros can use to customize customer experiences in markets they operate in overseas, explores expectation mapping as a tool to capture diverse emotional elements to augment your existing customer journey work.