Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is now jumping on the Customer Experience (CX) bandwagon. As it happens, I have been complaining for years about the lack of CX considerations in the times of maximizing shareholder profit and optimizing company productivity. Going against the grain of the times, we have first offered the closed customer communication loop in 2001. Now analysts, consultants and vendors are behaving as if this has always been their core focus. Even BPM vendors claim that they can improve CX through more and rigid processes. Amazing!
Analysts propose that the problem is caused by the use of different devices for engaging with a business across touchpoints. Therefore businesses have trouble to deliver a consistent cross-channel experience. I propose that this is just a minor side aspect. No one cares about that. The problem is after all caused by technology but not by the customer wanting it but by businesses who have used the technology to reduce customer interaction for cost reasons. If the customer can do it himself on Web or Mobile they need less staff and thus have lower cost. Well, cost cutting once more comes back to bite them. Customers that have no people contact also do not feel any loyalty towards a business or a brand. It does not have to be physical contact in a store, but Apple even came back to do that when everyone else thought ‘brick&mortar’ branches were dead.
But there is more broken. For a decade the idea of CRM was to gather more data about customers and use them to shove more stuff they don’t need down their throats. When the CRM craze started fifteen years ago I already said that a database does not improve relationships. Communication improves relationships. Customer Experience is about engaging with the customer in two-way communication. It is not about sending brand messages, but about actually listening to the customer and responding in a considerate way. It is the overall behavior towards the customer that makes him feel valued which creates loyalty. You can take all your loyalty bonus programs and just shut them down to cut your costs. They are not working. Put the money into customer engagement and communication.
Companies such as Oracle have acquired recently number of vendors to try and piece together an end-to-end ‘customer experience’. From marketing automation, via social marketing and social intelligence, customer service, enterprise search, knowledge management, to finally e-commerce systems. Do you see software for customer communication? I don’t! Not only will it be a nightmare to make them work together, but you are looking at a huge software stack that follows many different approaches to do the same thing and it actually does not engage the customer.
And technology is not the solution. Technology is at best the enabler. First you must change your business strategy.
Business principles as the key to Customer Experience
- Customers before shareholders
Which ones of the above are improved by a piece of software? None! To gain customer loyalty for your business you MUST FIRST show integrity and act in your customers best interest and trust them! When you look at all the terms and conditions we need to sign to become a customer then the one thing we do not get from businesses is trust. But we as consumers should be loyal? What the heck is this? I am not talking about ‘blind trust’ because clearly there are some people that are not to be trusted. But from a certain point in the relationship, namely after you have signed and paid, this trust must be extended.
To gain your customers loyalty you must be proactive and do good for the customer without being asked or being forced by Social media pressures. That is not a loyalty program, that is simply damage control. I do admit that even Apple is not that great in listening to the consumer and they are losing customers through that attitude. It is nearly impossible to get in contact with anyone at Apple outside a store. But at least they do have care programs that work reasonably well.
- RULE NUMBER ONE: Customers will be loyal and become an advocate for your product if you make them better than they are without you! That is the only reason that they buy a product and why they will tell others about it. It makes them feel better. It is that simple.
- RULE NUMBER TWO: If the customer says that what you do is too complicated, he/she is always right! While having a simple product is desirable too, that is not what I talk about. I talk about how simple you are to deal with in all aspects of customer engagement. How easy is it for the customer to get what he wants? Here is a giveaway: If your call center message starts with: ‘Your call is important to us and that’s why there is no one available to talk to you’ … then you clearly DO NOT care about this customer call. All you care about is cost, especially when the customer must wait in the loop AND pays a minute fee.
Customer Experience is about Customer Engagement
Once you got your mindset right you can start to look at what technology can help you to do this efficiently. Cool self-service Mobile apps do not guarantee customer experience. CX is improved by providing personnel with an engagement platform. Customer experience is neither a Big Data application that nonsensically tries to predict which messages at which time will make the customer buy. That is the same ridiculous approach as late-night infomercials: ‘… and if you call in the next five minutes you will receive a second unit for free!‘ The message?`You are too stupid too understand that the product isn’t worth half of what we are asking.’
Building customer data profiles with ‘clubs’ and ‘communities’ is ok if the core emphasis is the improvement in customer engagement and you actually have the means. If you only do it to gather more data, the last thing you are showing is integrity. Data and models do not ‘understand’ customers, only people can.
Maz Iqbal has written a great post on the subject of processes in Customer Experience. Maz says that the BPM process mindset is on a different floor than the CX one and you can’t be on both floors at the same time. I could not agree more. The only way that such customer engagement can be managed efficiently is via ACM-enabled, goal-driven processes that follow the customer lead to achieve the engagement goals.
So what is the key problem in actually doing something about Customer Experience and Engagement once the C-level has warmed up to the new mindset. It is actually the current IT landscape with its ECM, BPM, CRM and a whole list of other products that stand in the way. IT is no longer the driver of this but it is now the DISABLER. A few days ago I heard from a large energy provider: ‘But Max, we have already so many customer care solutions installed and we are now looking at how we could integrate them.’ Well, here is the tough reality: YOU WON’T! It is neither feasible nor sensible because you still won’t get an engagement platform.
It is the engagement platform that will do the integration with the existing backend systems and that will give you the ‘Single View of the Customer’. And you will need to get rid of some existing systems to make it happen. It is called creative destruction. If you are unlucky you have tied down your IT and business in long running outsourcing contracts. Once again, the cost cutting mentality coming back to bite you.
We propose that the ‘Single View’ is actually achieved through a set of business goals that drive what you do for the customer, ideally proactively. We define engagement goals for the business to ATTRACT, ACQUIRE, CARE, RETAIN, and GROW where ACM adaptive processes enable service personnel to receive and deliver content in the case/process context as consistent customer engagement without additional effort to Web, Cloud and Mobile interactions. These goals are a direct derivative of your business strategy and your operational targets.
Therefore we also provide the facility to use the engagement platform for the management team to define, execute and monitor strategic objectives, operational targets and process goals for all end-to-end value streams of your business. That TRANSPARENCY is the true enabler for your Customer Experience!
PS: We have our OpenHouse 2013 coming up and the roadshow series to celebrate 25 years of success. Would love to see you there and show you the above!