Successful businesses make a practice of spelling out key objectives for the coming year. These are typically expressed as quantitative measures such as sales, profit, and cash flow. But increasingly, executives are asking their teams to achieve qualitative goals, such as increasing customer satisfaction, customer retention and providing a superior customer experience (CX). While these goals may seem a bit nebulous compared to measures of return on investment (ROI) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), senior management realizes that the quantitative goals cannot be achieved unless the underlying drivers of sales and profits are nurtured and sustained.
This recognition, coupled with major advances in customer analytics technologies, has led to the evolving business strategy of customer experience management (CXM). CXM blends thought processes and skill sets from the customer care and marketing functions. Gartner defines CXM as “The practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”
Understanding the Customer Journey
A first step to implementing a CXM program is to construct a customer journey map. This lays out a series of steps through which consumers progress from initial awareness to brand advocacy. Each identified step in the customer journey represents a point of interaction and therefore an opportunity to positively influence a favorable outcome.
Following is an example of a very basic customer journey:
Simplified Customer Journey
Consumer becomes aware of a product he/she would like to own or a problem that needs to be resolved.
Customer reviews alternate solutions. The amount of effort expended is directly related to the cost of the solution or the penalty for making the wrong decision.
Customer engages a product or service provider through personal, telephone, or digital communications.
The customer makes a purchase decision or accepts the recommended solution to the customer’s issue.
For businesses that rely on repeat purchases, such as subscriptions, insurance, and financial services, customer retention is key to the organization’s long-term success.
The most desirable outcome is to deliver such memorable experiences that your customers become strong advocates of your brand.
Step 1: Discovery
The contact center can facilitate the discovery process by bringing products or solutions to the attention of customers through a soft selling approach. For example, the customer sends an angry email complaining about the price of their wireless service. The agent responds with a link to their latest bundling offer which reduces total cost compared with dealing with separate vendors.
Step 2: Deliberation
Whether it is high value purchases, complex transactions, or simple consumer product purchases, the customer may need some time to evaluate alternatives. Today, many deliberations begin with an internet search of alternate providers and ratings from respected sources such as Consumer Reports and Amazon. Contact center agents and other customer facing employees can shape the deliberation phase in their favor by proactively distributing trade articles, white papers, testimonials, blogs, and even links to YouTube videos.
Step 3: Engagement
At this stage, the consumer is interacting with the enterprise, perhaps as a response to promotional messages or as a plea for immediate help with a serious problem. This presents an opportunity for the enterprise to put its best foot forward through product knowledge, empathy, and problem-solving skills. The most common channel is through a voice call, but nonvoice channels, such as web chats or text messages, are becoming more prevalent. This means that agents must be skilled in both telephonic communication and digital communications. Armed with customer analytics, agents can intelligently present products or services that are ideally suited to the particular customer or class of customers.
Step 4: Transaction
At this stage, the customer is ready to seal the deal. In today’s environment most interactions are digital or through telephone conversations with contact center agents. It is very important to make the transaction as effortless as possible. Best-of-breed organizations will provide a digital interface so intuitive that the transactions can be completed with just a few keystrokes. Voice interactions should be equally frictionless. Friendly and knowledgeable agents will guide consumers through purchasing and generally make the customers confident that they have made wise choices.
Step 5: Retention
Perhaps the most important metric for evaluating the CXM program is customer retention. Loyal customers purchase more product, purchase more often, and are eager to learn about new products and services. Contact center agents should have access to important information such as purchasing history, warranty expiration dates, subscription expiration dates, and any data from voice of the customer surveys and speech analytics that would suggest a particular customer may be at risk for brand abandonment. This is an important touch point to the customer, so well-trained agents are key to fostering and maintaining customer loyalty.
Step 6: Advocacy
Brand advocates purchase more product, purchase more frequently, and share their support with their communities. The same actions that drive customer retention should be used to create brand advocates. Today, customers have many ways to communicate favorable or unfavorable views of the company or its brands. An enthusiastic customer can spread the good news to potentially of hundreds or even thousands of potential customers through personal and digital communications.
Your loyal customers need to be continually armed with favorable information which they can share with their networks. Their advocacy can also be cultivated. Ask them for testimonials, create newsletters, or sponsor special communities where they can correspond with the company and other loyalists. To accomplish this, businesses will need metrics to identify brand advocates and quantify their contribution to your business.
Embracing the CXM philosophy requires the implementation of customer-centric policies and practices. It begins with recruiting and training the right personnel. Contact center agents need to be problem solvers. They must have real-time access to relevant customer and product data. They need the authority to resolve specified classes of problems on the spot. Recognizing that interactions will be recorded and analyzed, it is important that agents learn to probe for root causes of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Unless this data is expressed during the call, all the speech analytics in the world are not going to uncover the information needed to improve the CX.
Management also needs to take a broad view of performance metrics. This does not mean that traditional measurements, such as service levels and handle times, are no longer important, but other less precise metrics are also valuable. Examples include customer lifetime value, customer effort scores, customer satisfaction levels, net promoter scores, customer saves, first contact resolution, bounce time, and shopping cart abandonments.
The core applications required to adopt the CXM program are not new and are probably already in your contact center. These include:
Customer Experience Management Software
Omnichannel recording software
Automated QM scoring
Quality monitoring (QM)
Voice of the customer surveys
Customer journey software
Success with CXM is less dependent on the availability of specific technology tools but on how effectively they work together. For example, imagine you are the Chief Customer Officer for an auto insurance company. Your assignment objective is to increase annual customer retention from 80% to 83%. To do this, you will need several data points:
What has been the trend over time?
Do we have the ability to identify at-risk customers?
What are the primary reasons previously loyal customers choose to defect?
What incentives or actions that have worked in the past to retain at-risk customers?
Why do long-term customers remain loyal?
All this data probably resides somewhere within the enterprise. It could be from survey data, recorded interactions, sales statistics, advertising/promotional activity, or actions taken by the firm, such as price and design changes. The problem is not having the data but being able to harvest it, homogenize it, and then analyze it. We humans are simply ill-equipped to absorb and digest all this information generated from different organizations and then organized in different manners and probably over different time frames. It is not that human intelligence is inadequate, it is just that artificial intelligence (AI) is much better suited to deal with this kind of complexity.
Toward a Customer Experience Platform
Progressive vendors are exploring ways to consolidate customer data generated from independent silos such that it can be tapped and analyzed to immediately solve problems. This is the concept of a data warehouse for the CX.
One such company that is moving in that direction is OpenText. Headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, OpenText is a world leader in information management, helping companies securely capture, govern, and exchange information on a global scale. OpenText solves digital business challenges for customers, ranging from small and mid-sized businesses to the largest and most complex organizations in the world.
The OpenText Qfiniti Explore suite provides the core workforce optimization (WFO) and analytics applications required by the contact center. Coupled with the company’s leadership in information management, OpenText is uniquely qualified to build a CX suite that can help enterprises understand and profitably manage the customer journey.