Is Your Business Social Enough To Create Great Customer Experiences?

Your customer experience (CX) is the product of the interactions between your employees, partners, and customers within your operating environment. Forrester has labeled this as a customer experience ecosystem. It's important to understand CX ecosystems' two components — the people and the operating environment — for two reasons: 

  1. People participate in the ecosystem if they get value from it. Each actor in the CX ecosystem is asking, "What's in it for me?" Employees want things like professional development, recognition, and advancement. Business partners want access to customers, sales support, and strong revenue growth. And the customers expect quality products and services that meet their needs.
  2. The operating environment affects people's definition of value. Every ripple in the operating environment changes what employees, partners, and customers value and how they expect that value to be delivered. The economic downturn, for example, meant that many workers valued stable work over things like personal fulfillment — which is reflected in Gallup's report that just 32% of US workers are engaged. Many software companies transitioning from delivering server-deployed software to cloud services has changed how those vendors' traditional channel partners are compensated, going from large payouts on perpetual licenses to annuities from subscriptions. And disruptive sharing-economy upstarts, like Uber, have reset consumers' expectations of how they find and use services as diverse as car services, hotels, and office rentals.
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B2B Customer Experience Professionals: Do You Know Who Your Customers Are?

In April 2015, we started a conversation about what is different between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customer experience (CX). That early discussion focused on the fact that in B2B scenarios, there isn't one customer; there are multiple stakeholders within a client account whose work depends on interactions with the vendor. Now we're ready to elevate this conversation to its next level: How do B2B CX pros help their businesses find the stakeholders who matter?

I know what you're saying: "Don't all client stakeholders matter?" Yes — you want to make sure that each individual in an account who interacts with your firm has an experience that helps them achieve their goals. But when business leaders assess the value of customer experience, they want to know that it contributes to revenue growth, a business success indicator. So when B2B CX pros examine customer experience, they must understand the perceptions of stakeholders who influence:

  • Retention. Who are the stakeholders who must see value in the vendor's products and services before the buyer(s) renews the contract?
  • Upsell and cross-sell. Who are the stakeholders whose perceptions of value influence their colleagues' decision to acquire more products and services from the vendor?
  • Advocacy. Who are the stakeholders whose opinion of the vendor can sway their colleagues' or industry counterparts' decision to do business with the vendor?
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Can Your Organization Build A Customer Experience To Rival The Cloud-Based Upstarts?

The cloud is not just reshaping how companies provision technology; it's changing customers' experience. A technology platform that is easily scalable for and accessible to the billions of connected devices customers use — PCs, smartphones, tablets, TVs, cars, jet engines, and more — has allowed cloud-services companies to completely reinvent experiences. No one was using black-car drivers' idle time to disrupt the taxi industry on a mass scale prior to Uber. Millions of customers, both consumers and business clients, have flocked to these cloud services, believing these are better experiences. The proof? The cloud computing elder Amazon is a perennial leader in Forrester's Customer Experience Index and has a market capitalization of more than $200 billion. So, the question you're probably asking is, "Does this mean that we need to build our customer interaction points in the cloud?"

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B2B Customer Experience Is Grounded In Collaborative Relationships

On a recent podcast with my colleagues Deanna Laufer and Sam Stern, I was asked about the difference between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customer experience (CX). My answer is what I believe is the problem that vexes CX professionals trying to establish CX programs in B2B firms: In a given account there isn't one "customer"; there are many stakeholders whose interactions with the firm must help them be successful in their work. This puts stress on the B2B CX organization -- how do you coordinate these many experiences to ensure each of these stakeholders gets the value they seek from the firm? 

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Social Analytics Can Help You Better Address Customers If You’re Willing To Experiment

*This post was originally posted on the Destination CRM Blog

Thanks to digitization and inexpensive storage, businesses can now collect incredible amounts of information on their customers, competitors, and other market factors. But you only profit from this bounty if an employee can find the right data nugget when they need it. And here lies our problem: The average information worker lacks tools to cull disparate data repositories for useful information.

The foundation for addressing this issue is emerging in cloud-based collaboration services. Vendors like Huddle and Microsoft are embedding social analytical tools in their collaboration portfolios to observe when, where, and how employees interact with people and content. As these collaboration services begin to understand these relationships, they promise to make these information workers:

  • Aware. Fundamentally, social analytics surface information and people an information worker had not considered before. Giving employees a broader perspective will help them do things like staff a fast-moving consulting project.
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The Cloud Will Drive Agility Into Your Customer Experience Ecosystem

This past June, Forrester began a conversation about what ails the networks of customers, partners, and employees we call customer experience ecosystems. My colleague Rick Parrish attributed the problems to an unhealthy mix of cumbersome rules, disorganized technologies, and complacent management. The result? Businesses aren't able to leverage those customer, partner, and employee relationships to quickly and effectively respond to market changes. Now, if you've followed this blog, you've seen me argue that you can't resolve these issues without a technology strategy that aligns with your business vision. Why? Because you can only do what your technology allows.

In our new report, Want To Improve Your Customer Experience? Turn To The Cloud, we examine how cloud services can help customer experience professionals drive flexibility and responsiveness into their customer experience ecosystems. At the heart of this report is our read of cloud services' fundamental value:

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You Need Great Employee Experiences To Create Great Customer Experiences

It's easy to get swept up in the power of the digital age, where smart mobile devices and cloud services open the door for new and exciting ways to engage customers. We think a lot about how these technologies will create enticing customer experiences (CX), making these digital touchpoints the face of the brand. I admit, as a technology fan, I'm enamored with this idea. But I'm also someone who thinks a lot about technology and the workforce, so I was equally animated by a conversation I recently had with the head of a CX consultancy. He warned that businesses risk over rotating on technology, viewing their people as receding in importance in delivering satisfactory customer experiences. He went on to say that businesses that make this make do so at their own peril. I agree.

More than three quarters of the information workforce -- those using a computing device (e.g. PC, smartphone, tablet) at least one hour per day -- interact with at least one customer as a routine part of their job. Over half of the workforce regularly interact with customers, partners, and customers. Are CX professionals thinking about the experiences these employees need as they think about customer needs? And -- close to my heart as a tech guy -- have they thought about what these neat digital tools can do for their employees, as they have about digital's effect on customers?

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Agility Must Be At The Core Of Your Customer Experience Ecosystem

This past June, my colleague Rick Parrish alerted customer experience (CX) professionals to a dire problem: Their networks of customers, partners and employees that affect customer experiences are fundamentally broken. Rick’s diagnosis reveals numerous organizational, cultural, and and partnership issues across businesses’ sprawling CX ecosystems. I admit it — this description makes the challenge of fixing these problems sound daunting. So where do you start?

The problems Rick identified in CX ecosystems seem to be the result of ossified organizations, cultures, and business relationships. This means CX leaders must drive new levels of responsiveness and creativity into their ecosystems. And the way you drive these attributes into your ecosystems is to seize on the concept of business agility. My colleague Craig Le Clair outlined 10 dimensions of business agility that provide the market, organizational, and process frameworks necessary to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine. This is merely setting the strategy, though; executing it requires a marriage between the business and technology strategies.

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Collaboration Technology Should Be Part Of Your Customer Experience Tool Kit

Businesses invest considerable sums of money with vendors like Box, Cisco, Google and Microsoft for a collection a technology we call collaboration tools. As an analyst, though, the question that has dogged me in watching this space is "why?" As in "what is the actual value a business gets from investing in collaboration technology?" The vendors' rationale for acquiring collaboration tools has shifted in emphasis over time, going from a conversation on cost savings to one on productivity gains. However, cost savings is an undifferentiated and limited message while "increasing productivity" can feel ephemeral because it is difficult to measure. Yet my inquiry queue remains full of companies trying to figure out how best to deploy these technologies and my briefings calendar is filled with startups and incumbents pitching new offerings in this space. This brings me back to my original question: Why?

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Your Technology Reflects The State Of Your Customer Experience Ecosystem, So Plan Accordingly

The business press has come alive over the past few weeks as companies as diverse as Delta, Facebook, and Tesla have publicly declared that they want to own software development for key applications. What should catch your attention about these announcements is the types of software these firms want to control. Delta is acquiring the software IP and data associated with an application that affects 180 of its customer and flight operations systems. Facebook is building proprietary software to simplify interactions between its sales teams and the advertisers posting ads on the social networking site. And Tesla has developed its own enterprise resource management (ERP) and commerce platform that links the manufacturing history of a vehicle with important sales and customer support systems. Tesla's CIO Jay Vijayan, in describing his organization's system, sums up the sentiment behind many of these business decisions: "It helps the company move really fast."

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