It has to be the biggest question I have heard this summer! “Ah so you work in Customer Experience, isn’t that just another name for……” and then the top trumps list unfolds! So it seems that across all industry sectors, people are taking their most favoured association with what Customer Experience means and are then tagging it to mean that when it comes up in conversation in their organisations and networking groups. So I thought I would give you a run down of the top reasons I have encountered this summer when discussing this topic across focus groups & conferences, with customers and with networks of executives who have this on their agenda.
So, Customer Experience isn’t that just another name for…
One of the most common misconceptions out there is that Customer Experience is just the new name for Customer Services, and in some companies that has been the case! Organisations have heard about the need for Customer Experience to be an area of focus in their business and have thought, “Well we have a Customer Services department already, lets just rename them and give them a few more responsibilities” (Like finding out what CX really means, and also being accountable for it!) Without doubt Customer Service plays a big part in the Customer Experience, when a customer interacts with a representative, but that is only a part of the journey. Educating employees about the importance of the Customer and how to deal with scenarios with empowerment is certainly valuable, but it isn’t a like for like replacement. More to the point, you can’t make someone responsible for Customer Experience just by changing their job title and expecting it to be any different, you’ll still get what you always got, you’ve just re-badged it! The importance of good customer service should flow through both your sales teams and your aftersales teams to make sure that a customer interaction is a positive one. This will give you the best chance of a consistent experience and also to recover those situations where other parts of the CX have let down the brand.
With the rise of digital being such a hot topic at the same time as CX, they inevitably get linked together quite often. There is quite a difference though between the digital experience and the customer experience. Often the UX (User Experience) and CX (Customer Experience) are thought to be the same thing, whereas in reality the UX is the experience of interacting with your product, whilst CX is the overall experience of dealing with your brand. Inevitably the CX generally contains within it the UX as more and more interactions are through the digital channels with the rise of mobile, self service, online etc. A customer can have a good experience with your UX whilst using your website, finding the appropriate webpage easily through an optimised SEO, being able to get information on products and complete tasks easily through a good web experience. At the same time their overall CX could be poor as they have struggled to get through to the call centre for extra help, been given bad service in the retail store, or experienced problems with their product once they have purchased it. So it isn’t enough to just consider the UX strategy and then be sure of offering a great customer experience. Its one of the key considerations you must make, but one of many!
Omni Channel Technology?
Another big technology topic that has been on the lips of many this year is the company strategy towards Omni-channel communications. Linked to the rise of Digital it is now uber important to ensure that you have an effective Omni-channel programme as part of your customer strategy. Previously the aim was to have a Multi-Channel communication strategy for your business, but with the rise in the digital channels it now means that it isn’t enough to have individual solutions for your social media, online and call centre channels. Today’s customer is using multiple channels when they interact with you, choosing to use whatever channel is convenient for them at the time they want to interact. This means that they could start with a web browsing approach on their smartphone, continue at their desk pc at work whilst interacting with the online web chat, before finally calling the call centre to ask a question that isn’t in the FAQ they are viewing on their tablet on the journey home and then arranging collection at the retail store after purchasing through the original channel for web discount! Now this may be the most extreme of examples but a version of it does happen more often in your business than you think. Over 86% of customers use more than one channel to interact with their company of choice so are you tracking and reacting to all this behaviour? Your customer expects you to be able to see that they have emailed in when they call, and what the content of the subject was. They don’t expect to have to repeat themselves when they contact the retail store about a chat session they had earlier today, they expect you to know about it! Customer personalisation is now a very important commercial strategy with outcomes of +14% increase in sales for those who adopt this approach. The best companies are linking together all their channels and their single view of the customer, which is the expected experience of the Millennial customer who knows no different (Remember, they don’t even know why you would need a CD, and Cloud has nothing to do with a silver lining!)
Big Data has been increasing in priority for many senior executives as the rise of the machines started to take place from the turn of the millennium. Although Big Data is becoming Bigger Data, and the amount of information about our customers is now far exceeding the capability and capacity of many companies R&D or Marketing teams. At a dinner recently one attendee went as far as to suggest that CX was purely about data, nothing else! His argument being that CX is just a commodity of using data to create insights and a competitive advantage for a company to make more money. Now in some respects he is absolutely correct about the commercial advantage of knowing your customer through the insights produced from big data. Inevitably the more we know what our customers like and dislike, want and desire, we can position our proposition more personalised to their requirements, and we know the value of that can be significant (See above paragraph). Although in the same way that UX is part of CX, so is the use of data. If data and insights is all that you base your proposition on you will only win those interactions that are data dependant, not those that require empathy or emotion. The use of data needs to become part of your toolkit or armoury when striving to deliver the ultimate customer experience. Your data and insights strategy will become a significant advantage to that of your competitor, but only if you use it in the right way to trigger ‘Moments of Truth’ that a customer will remember and value when interacting with your brand. Otherwise, as soon as someone else can do it better or more sincere, then they will be off and become new best friends with your competitor or challenger brands!
Who owns the customer these days anyway? Is it Marketing or is it the Operation, or maybe even the IT team who handle the data? No, surely it belongs to the Strategy team or the Finance department who know how profitable a customer is? It is any wonder the question is quite confusing? Traditionally the customer has been the responsibility of Marketing with the goal of increasing customer spend, share of wallet and customer retention. We often see the Customer Experience ownership sitting in the Marketing team and this is a sensible place for it to be based if it is just to manage the above areas. However it is finally becoming more common for businesses to have a separate CX department completely to manage the customer, with roles such as the Chief Customer Officer being created at the top table in companies that are deadly serious about the customer being their number one focus. The amount of information needed to be known about the customer is growing exponentially as the rise of big data gets bigger, and the amount of analytic tools to understand the data become more accessible. The owner of the customer has the requirement to know what the customer journey looks like across all channels & touchpoints, the processes that are followed by the operational teams, how all of that interacts with the digital strategy and how personalisation preferences can be added to the marketing strategy in a targeted approach that is suitable for the channel it is applied to and the timing of the contact cycle! It is a wide remit and needs to cross the matrix of departments that make up a company, engaging IT, HR, Operations, Marketing, Complaints, Product teams along the way. The investment in teams that can handle all of this has been a long time coming, but as the understanding in the value of CX starts to become known, more and more companies are finally coming around to thinking it is a worthwhile investment.
In order for your company culture to be one that puts the customer at the heart of the organisation, it requires much more than just a corporate statement to use as wallpaper. It must be genuine and sincere, resonating through the whole organisation from the recruiting of new staff, to the customer touchpoints and documentation. But perhaps more importantly the vision and goal of being truly customer centric must being championed by the leaders of the business and withstand the test of budget pressures and priority of focus. You will only deliver a great customer experience with a team of engaged employees that believe the business genuinely cares about its customers. And this starts by caring about its employees. The service profit chain is nothing new having been first discussed by a group of Harvard researchers in the 1990’s, but its concept is as true today as the it was when first discussed – Get great people recruited and give them a fantastic environment to work in. Treat them well, making sure they are rewarded fairly and they will become loyal employees that provide a great service to your customers. Great customer service generally delivers a much greater customer loyalty, resulting in better customer retention, more recommendations and higher share of customer spend whilst delivering lower operating costs from reduced customer queries and complaints. The end result is that everybody wins, but it all starts with the employee experience. So when looking at the customer experience it isn’t enough to consider just the customer journeys, you must also look at providing the best employee experience too as 30% of all failed CX programmes do so as a result of a lack of employee engagement!
So which answer is correct?
Actually, in order to deliver an amazing Customer Experience you need to ensure that your Transformation Programme contains all of these elements if it is to deliver the kind of results that make a commercial difference to the bottom line (See my stats in “The Distinguished Dozen” for further details).
Your CX strategy should to include a ‘People’ category that includes workstreams on Employee Engagement, Recruitment & Onboarding, Stakeholder Management, Matrix Communications, Training & Development as well as a compelling vision that has ownership and bandwidth at the top table of the C-Suite. It should also include a ‘Technology’ category that looks at the Omni-channel, Digital & Data strategies alongside solutions integration within the business architecture, to make sure that a single view of the customer is formed with intelligent decisions from insights, whilst the customer can experience a joined up interaction whatever channel they choose to use. Finally you cannot forget to consider the ‘Process’ category with focus on Operational Excellence, Standardised Process Ownership, CRM and Customer Lifecycle, which ensures the consistency of approach to a customer in the operational interactions and marketing strategy.
I have expertise in all those areas making sure that the latest Digital and Technology Solutions are available for you to have a Commercial Advantage, whilst a focus on both the Employee and Customer Experience means that I maximise your chances of a successful delivery of your Customer Programme. For more details get in touch for information on how I can help you with your customer transformation.