Voices of CRM

Nov 18 2011   8:01PM GMT

Customer experience management speak: The facts are in the fluff

Rosemary Cafasso Profile: Rosecafasso

A recent webinar entitled The New Experience Economy, presented 20 industry experts offering insights on what companies need to do get their customer experience management programs in shape.

The webinar, produced by ThoughtLead and sponsored by ClickFox , a maker of customer data analytics software,  had the curious effect of over-stimulating my brain and making me want to take a nap at the same time. The sheer volume of information put me on high-alert, but some of the content was so fuzzy and warm that I could have nodded off in the comfort of such phrases as “creating a memory” and “self-actualized customers.”

I bet this is how people in the trenches — with  terms like “customer care” or “customer experience” in their titles – must feel at times. There is such an onslaught of information on how to do their jobs, but much of the expert advice is so conceptual in nature that it is difficult to get a few concrete tips that can actually be deployed and measured for results.

Even Clickfox’s CEO, Marco Pacelli, agreed that the language of customer experience management can be so soft as to dilute the meaning of the message. In a follow-up interview, Pacelli said that conversations with clients can be challenging because, at its core, customer experience management “is a humanity thing.”

“It comes down to ‘how do we change the way we care?’,” Pacelli said. “Technologies can expose the issues, but at the end of the day, it is fixed by human intervention.”

True, but how do CEM practitioners turn that into successful projects, or better yet, pitch that to the CEO?

“You might not be able to go tell your CEO to create memories, but you can tell him to go experience what a customer experiences and determine on their own if it is working right,” Pacelli said.

Well said, and good luck with that. But, in the meantime, here are few nuggets from the The New Experience Economy webinar about providing a good customer experience:

Focus on creating the single-customer view. Most people already know the big CEM challenge is creating customer files with histories and links to pertinent information, but here are some numbers that show just how imperative this is:

CustomerThink, an online community, recently completed a survey of U.S. consumers and found that 80% had experienced what it calls “touchpoint amnesia,” a clunky term that refers to that experience when a returning customer calls a company with a problem and is treated like they’ve never been heard of before.

Of that 80% from the survey, 50% said they were less likely to recommend the company and between 24% and 35% were less likely to actually make a purchase because of it.

Push social media across the organization. Companies are at risk of not getting true benefit from social media-a key piece to CEM strategies — because it is controlled by marketing or communications groups. “You talk to any CEO and they’ll tell you that our focus of 2012 and 2013 is to get closer to the customer, ” said Brian Solis, principal analyst at The Altimeter Group of San Mateo, Calif. “Yet social media is already a silo within the organization.”

Solis said that while marketing and communication groups own social media, “service is at the bottom [and] CEOs and the C-suite don’t actually use any of these tools.”

Put some meaning into the term “engage.” Don’t just say you are “engaging” with customers by responding to their social media comments. Let them really talk and start using their ideas to show that you really are listening. Many companies are having success with online idea exchanges, or communities where customers can offer their ideas on improving products and services. Becky Carroll, a founder of Petra Consulting Group, is working as a contractor with Verizon, and said the new Verizon Idea Exchange is getting good results. Not only can customers submit ideas about products and services, but other customers can support those or add their own ideas to the original one.

Train contact center agents to have conversations with customers. More and more, we are hearing that scripted contact center agents are bad news. Kate Nasser, a consultant with The People-Skills Coach in New York City, related her own experience of receiving a brochure in the mail for a new cell phone. She considered switching carriers, called the one promoting the new phone and, when she attempted to ask the agent a question, was instead given a scripted sales pitch. She didn’t make the switch.

“It wasn’t as if she was being a rogue rep,” Nasser said. “There are companies where they are driven purely by metrics and scripts because they think that the way to make customer service successful is to constantly measure the cost of it. I am not against metrics, but that’s not how you succeed.”

Understand when your customer might feel vulnerable because those are the precise moments when they can turn on you. Jeanne Bliss, founder of Customer Bliss and co-founder of the Customer Experience Management Association, said it is important to get ahead of those vulnerable moments when a customer is nervous or second-guessing their buying decision. One example: Following up on the sale of an insurance policy to make sure the customer understands what they purchased before they get the bill in the mail. She offered another example that had nothing to do with technology at all. She said a hospital in a small Connecticut town recognized that most people’s stress level increases as they approach a hospital. So, it pipes in soothing music to the parking lot to help people settle down before entering the hospital building.

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