Modern Key Account Management Segmentation

Modern Key Account Management Relies on Proper Segmentation

                           

Customer relationships have moved far beyond the typical sales cycle, specifically within the B2B space. Instead of ushering clients into the traditional sales funnel, brands must now focus on bringing top-notch service to their customers at every stage of the journey. But for those companies looking to juggle growing demand and heightened expectations simultaneously, it’s essential to segment their customer bases in order to establish which accounts are most vital to their continued success and deserve “trusted advisor” services.

Beyond all else, companies must first acknowledge that it’s impossible to treat all clients equally. Not only would such an approach be taxing on sales and service associates, but it would also put undue strain on the brand’s finances. Segmentation, however, enables leaders to assess and categorize customer relationships so they may provide each client with the appropriate attention. No matter the size of your company, resources can become strained if associates are forced to devote equal amounts of time to clients that don’t ultimately yield the same level of customer lifetime value.

Segmentation offers companies an opportunity to add value through maximizing the use of their products / services. This added value (trusted advisor services) is reserved for those customers who meet the segmentation Tier I / Tier II criteria as shown below.

Below is a basic account segmentation example:

Tier I: Significant annual revenue and / or strategic value

Tier II: Potential significant annual growth and / or customer lifetime value

Tier III: Remaining customer accounts

When developing your company’s segmentation strategy, however, leaders must ask the core questions that’ll determine which accounts are essential for current / future growth:

  1. Which customers qualify for trusted advisor services now / future?

  2. What changes must the company make throughout the organization to achieve this desired level of segmentation?

  3. How will the company measure the value (ROI) of segmentation?

Forming deeper, more targeted relationships affords brands increased loyalty, sales, and profits, while customers enjoy an enhanced experience that adds value to their bottom line. Exceptional service must be the baseline for all, but leaders need to build upon this solid foundation to preserve and expand their relationships within key accounts. In recent years, Big Data has forced companies to sift through the “white noise” that threatens to cloud their understanding of those they serve. Segmentation, while not an exact science, allows leaders to organize customers into manageable groups that promise to add clarity to an increasingly perplexing, saturated market. Companies must ask themselves: Are you willing to earn “trusted advisor” role?

Once your company has developed its own solid segmentation strategy, it will be easier to determine which customers require key account protection program (KAPP). KAPP theory is based on “the process of building long- term mutually beneficial relationships with your most valuable accounts. Many of CRMI / Marketii clients of the NorthFace ScoreBoard Award (NFSB) for customer service excellence, have added (KAPP Relationship Survey) component to their existing CX strategy.

Leader must evaluate both revenue and strategic value in choosing key accounts. Leaders must also limit the number of assigned key accounts to start because overcommitting the company puts their reputation and the reputations of their customers at risk. By starting small, brands can ultimately position themselves as leaders within the given market as they strategically fine-tune their ability to help key accounts excel.

Key account managers are also an integral part of your company’s success. Though it might seem logical to promote your best salespeople to key account managers, leaders must recognize that this role requires special training and skill. These employees aren’t merely trying to sell or upsell to these clients. Instead, they’re responsible for expanding these strategic relationships. They will need to develop an intimate understanding of the client they are working with so that they may collaborate effectively and proactivity.

KAPP, after all, must become interwoven with the fabric of your brand. It’s not some lone offshoot? it’s an enterprisewide policy. Key account managers must be evaluated using metrics that prioritize the lifetime value of the customer, as these associates are tasked with establishing and maintaining rapport with clients that’ll prove most beneficial to the bottom line of both parties.

Ideally, those heading these key accounts will become so intimately evolved that clients will no longer see them as vendors, but instead as partners (trusted advisor) who have nothing but their interests at heart. At this point your brand has moved beyond selling, therefore, the buyer-vendor relationship has transitioned to the client-partner phase. If clients perceive you as their vendor after you’ve deemed them one of your key accounts, then it’s likely both the company and the account manager have failed to convey the client’s worth.

In general, vendors are seen as companies that aim to sell products and solutions even when they don’t satisfy the needs of the customer in question. They push their services despite the fact that their offerings fail to address the customer’s specific situation. They neglect to tailor their sales approach to accommodate those with which they seek to do business. Partners, however, are proactive. They foresee challenges and offer solutions before problems arise. They’re reliable and honest. They treat the client with dignity, respect, and overtime earn their “trusted advisor” role.

Trusted advisors, first and foremost, are in relationships for the long haul. They understand that the customer’s success begets their success. Trusted advisors know that, to prosper, they must communicate clearly and hold themselves accountable in their effort to lift the client up and never let them down. Ultimately, key account management depends upon services rendered after the sales team has worked its magic. Service has become an undeniable differentiator throughout today’s market, but when it comes to key account management, it’s not just ideal – it’s critical.

About the Authors

Bill Moore is Vice President of CXDNA Practice for Customer Relationship Management Institute LLC (CRMI) (https://www.crmirewards.com/about). He delivers (CXDNA) strategies best practices training / workshops, as well as CEMPRO employee soft skills certified training programs, that raise employee’s customer service awareness – competence – operational practices resulting in employee’s who continuously exceed customers’ expectations.

Duncan Heal, President/CEO for Market Intelligence International (Marketii.com), where he oversees the activities of the company’s marketing / sales, customer experience operations team and professional consulting group. Marketii is a global market research firm that specializes in the area of customer satisfaction with service quality surveys (25 native languages), reporting, feedback, analytics and consulting.

Contact Diane Rivera, Director of Membership Services email: drivera@crmirewards.com Tel: 978-710-3269 to learn how your organization can prevent competitors from winning your accounts.

Groundbreaking Customer Satisfaction Award Marks 20th Anniversary

Groundbreaking Customer Satisfaction Award Marks 20th Anniversary

NorthFace ScoreBoard Award℠ Established Defining SBI Metrics for
Creating World-Class Excellence in Customer Service and Support

 

By Bill Moore

VP Client Services CXDNA Playbook Strategy

Customer Relationship
Management Institute LLC (CRMI)

By Bill Bradley

VP Marketing, CXDNA Stakeholder Strategy

Customer Relationship Management Institute LLC (CRMI)

 

In 1984, IBM’s annual report was dedicated to the “Year of the Customer,” the first recognition that superior customer service/support (CX) is the company’s true competitive differentiator.  Over the years, IBM would be joined by many other service thought leaders: Lexus, Ritz-Carlton, Walt Disney, L.L. Bean, Nordstrom, et. al. who made the transition making customer service/support their strongest and most critical competitive advantage.

This vision was counter to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” that imagined a society where individualism and independent thinking were regarded as “thought crimes” instead of “thought leadership.”

This turnaround towards service thought leadership would continue with the impact of an award that was the first (2000) to recognize organizations that consistently exceeded customer expectations for service/support – and that CX must be the most critical component of a company’s DNA, (CXDNA).  That award –NorthFace ScoreBoard Award℠ — marks its 20th anniversary in 2020 (NFSB Recipients Press Release).

The NorthFace ScoreBoard (NFSB) Award created the structure necessary to objectively measure and validate the quality of the customer experience in all interactions with a company.  Before the NFSB Award, measuring customer satisfaction was largely an ad hoc, reactive activity performed periodically by service organizations.

But the NFSB Award contributed to changing the subjectivity and marginal importance of the customer experience.  Since 2000, the award has been presented annually to organizations that — based solely on survey responses from a company’s own customers — consistently exceeded customer expectations for service/support for a full calendar year.  To ensure objectivity and absence of bias, the survey and results are audited by Customer Relationship Management Institute, LLC (CRMI), an independent third party and an expert in the field of CX.

 

NFSB Award Delivers a Clear Competitive Edge for Recipients (above Haemonetics)

The business world has come to understand that customers – not products and services – are the source of all revenue and profits.  This means that companies cannot afford to turn a blind eye to CX and just rely on product features and benefits, which had been the standard before the NFSB Award helped in the transition to CXDNA culture.  In truth, while there are clear differences in product performance among direct competitors, no vendor has a distinct advantage for a long period of time, and consistent problems with product installation, usage and service/support will quickly prompt a customer to choose another supplier.  In other words, customer loyalty must be earned – not just assumed by product performance and technology vision.

The NFSB Award was innovative in establishing universal survey measurement standards’ (SBI – 1992) that use a five-point weighted average scale to measure both customer satisfaction and customer loyalty by using Level 1 as the lowest rating and level 5 as the highest rating.

 

Customer Satisfaction:

  1. Failed all customer expectations
  2. Performed below customer expectations
  3. Met customer expectations
  4. Performed above customer expectations
  5. Exceeded customer expectations

Customer Loyalty:

  1. Definitely would not recommend
  2. Highly unlikely to recommend
  3. Maybe recommend
  4. Highly likely to recommend
  5. Definitely would recommend

 

The weighted average formula, referred as the ScoreBoard Index (SBI), provided a much more accurate measurement of customer sentiment (clear customer intelligence) than the traditional percent satisfied /loyal metrics.  For the first time, the service executive could clearly see customer metrics that directed priorities for critical corrective action and which overtime could be re-measured to see the impact of the corrective action taken. The five-point scale made survey responses more accurate/ easy to understand and the weighted average calculation resulted in any ratings below 4.0 as simply not good enough to retain / grow customers, rather, over time would lead to customers defections. The NFSB Award five-point criteria was extended to include other rating scales (such as 3-6-7-8-9-10 point / Net Promoter Score NPS).

Example: SBI Formula (based on weighted average):

Assumption: satisfaction and recommend responses were identical

Please rate your overall satisfaction with our customer service?

  1. Failed all customer expectations
  2. Perform below customer expectations
  3. Met customer expectations
  4. Perform above customer expectations
  5. Exceeded customer expectations

 

Value
Level 5 (18 responses) x 5 points Subtotal A / 90
Level 4 (14 responses) x 4 points Subtotal B / 64
Level 3 (3 responses) x 3 points Subtotal C / 9
Level 2 (3 responses) x 2 points Subtotal D / 6
Level 1 (2 responses) x 1 point Subtotal E / 2
Total (40) responses divided by Total point value (171)= 4.28 SBI

 

Please rate your overall willingness to recommend our customer service?

  1. Definitely not recommend
  2. Highly unlikely to recommend
  3. Maybe recommend
  4. Highly likely to recommend
  5. Definitely would recommend
Value
Level 5 (18 responses) x 5 points Subtotal A / 90
Level 4 (14 responses) x 4 points Subtotal B / 64
Level 3 (3 responses) x 3 points Subtotal C / 9
Level 2 (3 responses) x 2 points Subtotal D / 6
Level 1 (2 response) x 1 point Subtotal E / 2
Total (40) responses divided by Total point value (171) = 4.28 SBI

 

SBI Formula:

Select each question and multiply each level responses (5-4-3-2-1) by their associated point values (5-4-3-2-1) = subtotals (90-64-9-6-2) then divide sum of all subtotals (171) by the total responses (40) = SBI 4.28 rounded 2 decimal. When viewing the above results over a minimum three (3) month window, market research shows that continuous superior customer service is the key metric in retaining / upgrading customers. Also, that 4.0 and above rating for service and loyalty is clear customer intelligence evidence that the competitor barrier has dramatically increased to win these accounts. Further, these accounts are excellent candidates for marketing testimonials to be used to acquire new accounts and / or winback lost accounts. Lastly, SBI measurement is key to providing clear customer intelligence data to conduct the critical corrective action necessary to provide continuous superior customer service that results in long term customer loyalty.

To receive the NFSB Award, a company must achieve a minimum 4.0 rating (or equivalent) over a full calendar year.  Again, the survey instrument and the customer responses are audited for accuracy and absence of bias by CRMI.  For this reason, earning the NFSB Award is objective proof that a company consistently provides superior customer service / support that competitors who have not received the award simply cannot match.

“NFSB Award recipients have proven that excellence in customer service /support has delivered measurable CX ‘Big 4’ bottom line results,” said John Maraganis, president & CEO of CRMI.  The CX “Big 4” includes: 1) attracting new customers; 2) retaining customers; 3) growing wallet share; 4) winning-back lost customers.

 

NFSB Award is Powered by CXDNA Playbook StrategySM

CRMI’s revolutionary CXDNA Playbook Strategy (launched in 1994) acts as a roadmap for companies to maximize the value of their products/services to customers by accurately measuring the impact to their customers.  CXDNA strategy makes it possible, for the first time, for organizations to measure, analyze, act on and assess their efforts to establish a CX culture as a business strategy just as they’d always done for sales, engineering, manufacturing, finance and other traditional operating areas.  There are four phases to the Playbook: Measure, Analyze, Act, Assess with 12 component practices within those phases.

  • Measure: CX Governance, CX Account Management, CX Technologies
  • Analyze: CX Business Intelligence, CX Analytics, CX Benchmarking
  • Act: CX Corrective Action, CX Employee Engagement, CX Change Management
  • Assess: CX Stakeholders Communications, CX Win-back Strategy CX Return on Investment (ROI)

The CXDNA Playbook strategy continues to evolve over the years including leveraging social media and communicating CX results thru a comprehensive stakeholders communication campaign (press release – annual report – report card – webcasts – etc.) targeted to customers, partners, employees and prospects.

NFSB Award Background and Evolution

The award was created by CRMI’s founder and first presented in 2000.  CRMI’s founder was a pioneer in the field service industry, introducing the first automated service management software (fieldwatch) that improved customer experiences in the field service marketplace.  From this pioneer came the CXDNA Playbook Strategy that embraces employee engagement as its founding principle.

The Playbook provides the knowledge and strategy to create a customer-centric culture that includes overall CX governance and employee engagement to raise the awareness of, commitment to, and competence in, continuously delivering superior customer experiences.

Since 2000, more than 500 recipients have earned the NFSB Award — many have done so multiple times and often in many consecutive years.  Prominent recipients include Avaya, Boston Scientific, CA Technologies (now part of Broadcom), Citrix, Fresenius-Kabi, Haemonetics, Hologic, Kronos, NETSCOUT, Oracle, Pitney Bowes, Sony, Wolters Kluwer and many others.

CRMI added a new Summit category presented to organizations that that have truly transformed into CXDNA culture. The Summit CXDNA criteria includes organizations that have received the award for five consecutive years, implemented customer relationship training focused on engaging employees to provide consistent superior customer experiences, and have an annual CX strategy review process.  The new physical NFSB Award includes a Summit classification with a gold circle of stars surrounding the number of years the company has earned the award along with “World Class Excellence” exclusive classification.

In 2020, CRMI added a special NFSB COVID-19 Service Award to recognize companies and their supply chain partners who have been recognized by President Trump’s COVID-19 Task Force and/or Forbes magazine for exceptional service in fighting the deadly pandemic. “We choose to recognize these companies as the volunteer army for the battle against COVID-19 via our NorthFace ScoreBoard Customer Service Excellence Award with an honorary NFSB COVID-19 certificate that will memorialize their contribution,” Maraganis said.  Not since World War II has the United States and other countries seen a shift to produce hand sanitizers, masks, ventilators and other critical healthcare items. This is a time that will live in the history books, and the NFSB COVID-19 Honorary Certificate will record those companies who contributed to winning this epic battle.  These companies may also submit their customer survey results for customer service/support to see if they qualify for the actual NFSB Award.

Since implementing effective CX principles is vital to sustaining consistent growth in revenue and profits, sharing stories of companies’ CX successes is crucial.  The stories should allow the company to provide a review of its CXDNA strategy and measurable results, include customer testimonials and case studies.  The vehicle to tell this story is a powerful webcast that clearly communicates the company’s journey to making CX the most critical component of the company’s DNA.  Companies invite their customers, prospects, business partners and employees to the webcasts and post the content on their websites as well as using it in other marketing activities.

The CXDNA Playbook Partner program extends the NFSB award criteria to 3rd party vendors (EFM – CRM – CX Consultant – CX Educational training – CX Market Research) with the opportunity to bundle the NFSB Award with their products / services.) To qualify for the partner program, these organizations must be identified as an significant contributor to improving CX as described in the CXDNA Playbook Strategy. Partners receive NFSB co-brand license that includes their logo and the specific Playbook component (s) on the physical NFSB award delivered to their customers who meet the NFSB criteria. The NFSB co-brand award provides an “added value service” to their products / services (above – Marketii CXDNA Analytics).

 

Conclusion

Twenty years is not a very long time in the business world.  But since the introduction of the innovative NFSB Award in 2000, the very substance of a successful business model has changed.  Rather than being product/technology driven, today’s successful companies have embraced the wisdom and logic of putting customers at the center of everything they do.  Having a proven, verifiable reputation and culture for providing excellence in CX is key to customer acquisition, retention, growth and win-back for any company.

Moreover, as companies move increasingly to online/virtual business models, achieving and sustaining optimal levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty have become even more critical factors of success.  Physical and voice contact with a company’s customers and other key external stakeholders has largely been replaced by electronic and other web-based interactions.  This means that, increasingly, while companies conduct heavy email and web marketing programs to attract new accounts, potential customers often find you before you identify them.

This trend has made it even more important to measure and understand the true “voice of the customer.”  Since the NFSB Award criteria is unique in both measurement metrics (SBI rating or equivalent rating system) and that only customer survey responses are used to determine the level of CX excellence a company provides, the NFSB Award is the ultimate VoC measurement.  That’s why recipients are so proud to earn the award and take full advantage of the service, sales and marketing opportunities they have to deliver a clear competitive advantage to the marketplace.

 

To learn more about the NorthFace ScoreBoard Award, the CXDNA Playbook Strategy and other programs mentioned here, contact Diane Rivera, CRMI’s director of corporate membership and sponsorship services.  She can be reached at 978/710-3269 or via drivera@crmirewards.com.  Also please visit CRMI’s website: www.crmirewards.com.

 

Utilizing Employee Soft-skills Home Training through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Now more than ever as we navigate times of uncertainty, at home employee soft-skills training will produce long-term positive customer experiences. Are your employees armed with the necessary soft-skills training to deliver exceptional customer experiences?

Many companies are reviewing @ home employee work plans and as you look at the possibilities, one is the opportunity to train your staff’s soft-skills to improve the customer experience.

Often in the past, it may have been difficult to provide your staff with the time to train and provide them with the opportunity to improve their skills.  Much research has shown that employees with soft-skills training significantly improve customer satisfaction, their productivity and lead to long-term customer loyalty. Also, at the same time by improving their soft-skills to effectively deal with customers, especially during these unprecedented times, builds the road to “Trusted Advisor” which is the key component to long term profitability.

Here are four (4) basic training content for any organization:

Customer CARE is the basic employee training for building long-term strong customer relationship skills. Learn the keys to what customers value – drives behavior – causes dissatisfaction. Learning how to become a “Trusted Advisor” NOT “Vendor” is the key to building customer loyalty.

  • Learn about Customer CARE and why customer satisfaction and loyalty are important
  • Understand that effective customer relations is essential to individual and organizational success
  • Understand that Customer CARE is not just the job of the service organization
  • Understand how your job ties into the mission of the company
  • Experiential exercises in understanding your encounters with good and bad Customer CARE
  • Understand the drivers of good and bad Customer CARE
  • Learn how to deliver exceptional service, why customers quit and what they really want
  • Learn how Customer CARE ties directly into bottom-line profitability

 

Dealing with Difficult Customers provides skills for diffusing heated customer complaints. Teaches customer empathy while providing a resolution to the customer’s irate complaint. Turning a bad situation into a memorable favorable solution is the road to “Trusted Advisor”.

  • Understand why we need to deal with difficult customers
  • Learn why a difficult customer is a precious gift and a great opportunity
  • Understand why customers are difficult and the three levels of customer expectations
  • Understand the qualities of a good and bad listener
  • Understand your listening style and how it meshes with your customers styles
  • Understand the importance of listening and learn how to become a better listener
  • Learn a 5-Step process to successfully deal with difficult customers
  • Learn how to turn that dissatisfied customer into an advocate
  • Learn how to deal with your fellow employees, customers and others to get better results

 

Problem Solving Skills teaches employees how to use their skill sets to resolve various problem situations. Learn how to ask the right questions, connect problem symptoms and utilize technology to quickly resolve customer issues, again is the road to “Trusted Advisor”.

  • Learn the difference between problem solving and decision making
  • Evaluate situations and determine the correct process
  • Learn the importance of early identification and resolution of problems
  • Learn the importance of gathering and recording the correct information
  • Learn a 10-Step process for Successful Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • Know how to formulate and implement problem solving plans
  • Know how to formulate and implement decision making plans
  • Understand how these processes provide a common language and approach that enhances teamwork and provides better results

 

Time Management teaches skills to increase employee productivity. Customers greatly appreciate those service providers who can resolve multiple issues in a reasonable timeframe. You can add time management to the requirement list to become a “Trusted Advisor”.

  • Definition of Time Management
  • How to prioritize your tasks to be more effective
  • How to manage time and reduce deadline stress
  • Understanding major time wasters and how to deal with them
  • Understand the evolution of time management and the current fourth generation
  • Understand why setting reasonable expectations that can be exceeded is essential
  • Learn techniques to increase your efficiency while improving customer satisfaction

 

These are four basic soft-skills needed for all organizations. Now is the time to invest in employee engagement that will pay recurring dividends in exceeding customer expectations. Use these unprecedented times to invest in your @ home employees soft-skills training.

 

 

Bill Moore Vice President of Employee Engagement
Customer Relationship Management Institute LLC (CRMI)
Telephone: 617 803-1639 | Email: bmoore@crmirewards.com

Destructive data mistakes in customer experience

CX Network looks at two data mistakes that hinder customer experiences: Data silos and the big data myth.

It is a fact of business that poor data practices have the ability to do real damage to customer relationships. After all, as Emmanuel Obadia , VP of Marketing at Oracle, states: “Data is the foundation upon which you can build the entire customer experience (CX) effort. It’s blood to CX. If you don’t have data, you can’t go anywhere.”

When customer data resides in several isolated pockets in a portfolio, the conflicted customer view can trip up multiplay providers when they attempt to identify a customer across multiple lines of a business. If a brand fails to recognise that a customer is simultaneously subscribed to various products they could send communications that are anything but targeted: For instance, sending a customer an enticing offer for a product they already have at a lower price point than they paid for it. During a time where people expect convenience and personalisation, this sort of insulting mistake can do real damage to a customer’s perception of a brand and even push them to switch to a competitor company.

It’s not just a lack of data integration that can be harmful; too much integration can be damaging when you have several groups in a company capturing data. Flimsy governance procedures could result in customers suffering from “creepy” experiences where they are unsettled by unexpected preemptive actions. This can occur when data is borrowed or cross-referenced between divisions in a company. Safeguarding procedures are needed to ensure that customers retain control.

Poor data practices like these will hold companies back from progressing to providing sophisticated predictive customer experiences. A truly unified view of customer data is integral to unleashing the power of artificial intelligence (AI), or more specifically, machine learning in a compliant manner.

In this article we look at two data mistakes that are hindering customer experiences: Data silos and the big data myth.


Data silos

Data silos were labelled as the top customer experience challenge by CX Network members in our latest research. Many organisations across the world struggle to bring innovation into their businesses because of legacy systems. A lack of interoperability between systems results in data being trapped within individual sections of the tech stack. This forces companies to compromise on the quality of the end product and experience due to antiquated (but well-embedded) technology. Despite it being a tall challenge, especially in larger companies, it is a mistake for brands to ignore the value of breaking down data silos.

 

How to overcome silos 

Betty Chuah, senior manager of EMEA retailer consumer insights at Volvo Cars, notes the importance of having a global CX team with the global responsibility to govern the CX vision and battle silos.

“In many companies the IT department was founded many years ago to handle all the information from customers and today they are in separate departments,” she explains. “I [have] seen some companies have combined digital and customer experience departments and are striving towards having one customer dataset to have the complete customer journey map out and control all the data.”

Darya Vselubsky customer success manager at travel software start-up Triptease, agrees that transparency is vital to defeating data silos and innovation blocks.

“Transparency is the key to overcoming any data silos and listening to the customer needs,” Vselubsky remarks. “Customer success teams in general are really crucial as they’re the glue that will connect customers to data to product.

“Product teams may have an idea of customer needs and some of the things that they can do with data. But unless there is transparent communication, which is of course nurtured by customer success teams, there will be misunderstandings that could lead to product development that’s not easy to use or necessary, which will lead to churn and product failure.”

 

Overcoming silos 

In the eyes of James Alexander, Decisioning Director at London based media company Sky, the key to enhancing the digital customer experience for connected customers starts around the concept of identity, gluing together all the different interactions as much as possible into an actionable profile.

Alexander explains: “First of all, it allows you to get much better visibility of what’s going on with your customers. In particular, how they interact with you on your websites, your apps, your call centre and other channels across all of those silos in the organisation. Combining this with key bits of core customer data provides an incredibly rich asset that allows you to really understand your customers.

“Typically, as you integrate the data and marketing technologies to construct the customer profile, it also allows you to go in the other direction and execute a tailored experience at the individual account level.”

 

Big data myth

Another data mistake that causes fragmented experiences is the misconception that quantity is more important than quality. ‘Big data’ as a phrase isn’t as prevalent as it was a few years ago. As mentioned by CX expert Shep Hyken in The Big Book of Customer Insight, Data and Analytics 2018: “Big data is really another way of saying too much data, and when you have too much it gets confusing.” In fact Sherif Mityas, Chief Experience Officer at TGI Fridays, believes the quantity-over-quality viewpoint is perhaps the biggest data mistake a company can make.

Mityas says: “The biggest mistake is thinking you need to have all the data. When we first started TGI Fridays, everyone told us: ‘You have to collect all the data, create the data links and put all the data into one system.’ There was the assumption that more data was better, but this is false. More data is just more noise; it’s not relevant and it’s expensive.

“Instead, it’s about collecting the right data, the data that will create a difference in the action you want to deliver. Data that will inform your AI tools to create a better, relevant and more personalised message.”

A blind focus on data quantity over quality could have damaging results when it comes to AI. Thierry Derungs, Chief Digital Officer at BNP Paribas Wealth Management, acknowledges that AI is always starving for data and “its hunger is gastronomic”, but he maintains that data quality is still compulsory.

“[The classic phrase is] garbage in = garbage out, but with AI it is even stronger because it’s garbage in = total mess out,” remarks Derungs. “You really need to understand what your intelligence is doing, especially if you have machine learning or deep learning. If you cannot be sure that your data at the entry is of the top quality, then understanding what your intelligence is indicating or building as a model will be very difficult.”

 

The power of data quality over quantity

Shep Hyken notes that the best people in marketing analytics will be aware that they only need a few select, but crucial, pieces of data to complete their objectives.

“You’ve got to look at who are we going after and what data is important, and recognise that you can’t be all things to all people,” Hyken explains.

“Systems today are more powerful than ever and have made it easier than ever to understand your different customer segments,” he adds. “Most companies typically have four to six main types of customers. When you understand what those four to six are, then you recognise you don’t need to be everything to everybody, but be as much as you can to those four to six groups of customers and split them up, market to them appropriately and service them appropriately.”

Interested in conquering your data mistakes? Join hundreds of other CX practitioners at CXN Live: Customer Insights and Analytics for exclusive data strategies from the likes of Paypal, TGI Fridays and start-up Triptease. 

Want to Capitalize on Customer Service Excellence? These 14 Key CX Marketing Activities Can Help.

Of the three primary disciplines in business—marketing, sales, and service—customer service has the power to make your company stand out amongst the competition. After all, a recent American Express survey stresses that seven out of 10 U.S. consumers say they have spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service. Yet, while countless companies offer excellent service, few take the time to tout their CX strategy, thereby leaving them to blend with their competitors.

“Customer service is of critical importance to your business because it’s key to retaining the customers you close and extracting more value from them,” Swetha Amaresan writes for HubSpot. “By providing top-notch customer service, businesses can recoup customer acquisition costs and cultivate a loyal customer base that will refer friends and colleagues, serve as case studies and testimonials, and write customer reviews.”

Amaresan adds that, not only are happy customers more understanding and less sensitive, but they’re also your brand’s best advocates, as they can convince prospective new customers of your company’s merits more effectively that your own marketing materials and salespeople ever possibly could.

Customer service, therefore, plays an increasingly pivotal role in your company’s continued success, as today’s saturated, fast-paced market leaves little room for error (or modesty).

“With consumers facing so many choices with who to do business with, you need to set yourself apart from the rest,” R.L. Adams explains for Entrepreneur. “What makes you different? What added value do you bring to the table? Why should a customer work with you rather than your competitor? We’ve all heard the horror stories of people dealing with poor customer service. Yet, we seldom hear the raving-fan stories.”

But your brand has the power to highlight these stories and share its successes. By embracing these 14 key CX marketing activities, your team can use its own history of superior service to support its legacy of satisfaction and loyalty

 

 1.  Customer Satisfaction Annual Report

Much like your company’s annual fiscal report, this summary allows you to convey the results of your customer experience strategy with your stakeholders and customers.

 

2.  Voice of the Customer Video

Interview your top executives to provide the public with high-level insight into your CX strategy and what you are doing to sustain customer loyalty.

 

3.  Case Studies & Customer Testimonials

Allow your stakeholders and customers to shine the light on your success by sharing their own stories and experiences with your brand and expertise.

 

4.  CX Certified Report Card

By partnering with an outside analytics organization, your brand can provide customers and prospects with a third-party audit of your company’s exceptional customer satisfaction data.

 

5.  Intelligent Visual Communications

Project your CX content in real time via dynamic, multimedia LED dashboard displays and handheld devices to promote and improve transparency.

 

6.  CX Infographic

Share the story behind your CX strategy and how you serve your customers through engaging graphics that clearly highlight your brand’s continued efforts to satisfy and delight.

 

7.  Public Relations

Make sure customers and prospects are sufficiently informed by sharing your successes through news releases, newsletters, white papers, and other such collateral.

 

8.  Social Media

Connect with your customers and prospects where they live by tapping into social networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share your wins and announcements.

 

9.  Live Video Streaming

Create an online event that captures your CX story as it happens and reach your customers and prospects by embracing today’s most engaging, fastest growing medium.

 

10.  CX Podcasts

Participate in or develop a branded podcast that highlights your CX story so customers and prospects can listen to at their convenience.

 

11.  CX Webcasts

Join an established webcast or develop your own series so your company can tout its successes and your top executives can demonstrate their expertise in their industry.

 

12.  Competitive Satisfaction/Loyalty Analytics

Demonstrate your CX strategy’s effectiveness by illustrating its measurable business impact through competitive satisfaction and loyalty analytics that reinforce your success.

 

13.  Customer Events

Invite customers and prospects to come together so you can simultaneously show your appreciation and highlight your company’s countless CX success stories.

 

14.  CX Awards

Leverage industry awards, such as CRMI’s NorthFace Scoreboard and CEMPRO, to demonstrate and reinforce your brand’s customer service excellence within its industry.

Not sure where to begin? Reach out to CRMI directly for quickstart tips and successful hints that will help your brand stand out amongst the fiercest competitors in your industry.

Geo-specific game-plans: North America

When crafting a customer experience game-plan CX practitioners should consider the geographic location of their target audience if they want to fully meet expectations and delight customers.

As mentioned by Martin Ortlieb, User Experience Researcher at Google, humans are more similar than they are different. However, an awareness of what those differences are and how culture contributes to them could be the key to having a competitive edge with customers in a certain location.

Murray Goodwin, Director, CX Advisory, IPSOS MORI Customer Experience notes: “Understanding how your customers interact with your products and services within different cultures can make or break your commercial successes.”

He adds: “We recently helped a global CPG manufacturer interpret the role that laundry fragrance plays around the globe. Our research revealed a whole host of interesting quirks, but in the US in particular, we learned that having clean-smelling clothes plays a far more important role than it does across Europe, as people were more likely to greet one another with a hug in the west and therefore the way you smell has more significant implications for peoples’ perceptions of your social status.”

He urges brands to remember that people give different NPS scores in different countries. “Selling new cars in the US? We’ve shown that your customers will be far more likely to recommend you to others than if you were selling the same cars in Italy.”

Market consensus agrees that the United States is the most advanced region for brand experience and customer segmentation in most industries, with trends emerging first in the US and then spreading to other countries a few weeks later. As these customers have a higher chance of exposure to world-leading experiences, people based in the US are likely to have higher expectations than their global counterparts.

Support for this argument was witnessed in Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service report which polled 5,000 individuals across Brazil, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Of the US customers surveyed:

 

  • 62% have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience *
  • 43% have done this in the last 12 months *
  • 42% feel the quality of customer service is getting worse *
  • 56% have higher expectations for customer service now than they had a year ago 

 

*This rate exceeded the global average.

Here, CX Network looks at how CX practitioners in North America are reacting to industry trends in their mission to impress US customers and prospects.  This piece will delve into exclusive insights from a research group of US CX professionals from the 2019 Global State of Customer Experience Report to map out key localised customer engagement trends and pain-points.

Top trends for US CX practitioners

Omni-channel: The omni-channel model and the notion of meeting customers in their channel of choice appears to be a much higher priority for US practitioners than their international peers.

If they want to field the omni-channel set-up, brands need to have the correct resourcing in place. In regards to the offline vs digital prioritisation, in one of the recent CX Network Advisory Board calls, Board member Claire Hill, Customer Experience Director of Studio Retail Limited noted: “In previous years there was a laser focus on being digital first – but now we are no longer talking about the online vs offline piece. We are shifting away from just going digital for the sake of it. Internal operational changes are in place so we aren’t pushing the digital agenda forward – we very clearly display phone numbers for customer contact or live chat. We are allowing the customer to interact with us via the channel they choose.”

To inform the operational strategy that would ensure their resourcing was flexible enough to respond to different channels, Claire recalls: “….we turned to historical data to spot trends to inform decisions about having resourcing in the right areas. When a new channel is introduced there may be a spike where take-up is higher than expected – this will even out and help to inform future decisions.”

Human-centred design: Human-centered design centres on providing an experience that solves the needs of a target audience. US practitioners seem to have more interest in this area than the global average, which is encouraging as customer-first cultures need to be nurtured and these exercises contribute to the foundations needed to roll-out more predictive customer service efforts. According to Microsoft’s report, US customers appreciate proactive customer service notifications. Therefore, brands which can pre-empt the needs of their US customers place themselves in a strong position to win loyalty.

At the Omnichannel Exec Forum, Steve Kato-Spyrou – UX Manager, John Lewis highlighted the importance of validating concepts using design thinking approaches. The process of 6 Up-sketching in workshops was discussed – coming up with as many ideas as humanly possible, as hearing ideas from peers can spark creativity. He noted that John Lewis puts ideas generated from workshops in front of its customers to see which ones are popular. In fact, customers visit the John Lewis Customer Hub in person four times a week to inform the validation cycle followed by researchers.

Investment priorities 

Customer acquisition and contact centre solutions seem to have attracted more budget from this section of customer experience practitioners in comparison to their global counterparts.

Customer acquisition:  Healthy lines of new business are critical in the US as customers may be at a high risk of churn. According to Microsoft’s research, the number of US customers that have left a brand because of poor customer service in the last 12 months exceeds the global average.  Businesses should capitalise on this switching economy by making their brand desirable to their competitor’s neglected high-lifetime value customers. Advocates should be empowered to entice new customers and brands should turn themselves into digital listeners offering multiple options for conversion.

Contact centre solutions & Customer insight: It is logical that this batch of CX professionals are investing in bolstering contact centres with more training and equipment with the strong emphasis from the region on knowledgeable customer service representatives.  

A holistic and, if possible, 360° view of the customer will helpful to brands as the majority of US customers surveyed agreed that customer service representatives should know their contact, product and service information/history. This dashboard view provides agents and frontline staff with a more intimate understanding of customers, the services they are subscribed to, their past behaviours and real-time preferences. This rich, relevant insight and real time visualisation of data can be leveraged to proactively engage with customers’ needs in real-time when it really matters.

Key Challenges 

Building a customer-first culture: Similar to practitioners based in countries outside of the US, it appears difficult for businesses to fully tear away from a business-first, product focused end-to-end business mind-set in order to live and breathe a customer-first culture. Customer-centric validation techniques are crucial for educating researchers on improving products and processes. This is especially important in the US as customers in this region seem to be more willing to switch brands after a bad experience.

Linking CX initiatives to ROI:  ROI and board buy-in are significant challenges for all CX practitioners. Both areas are crucial for unlocking future CX investments. CX has a strong influence on business success hence the strong level of investment going into CX, but this of course triggers a desire from senior management for results. The inability to communicate the financial business case can jeopardize the future of a finely crafted CX program.

Final Remark 

In order to win market-share in a certain location, brands should arm themselves with any insights that will give them the edge over their competitors.  A few of these game-changing strategies may be hidden in the regionally influenced preferences of your customers. To capture these preferences, companies should mine their Voice of the Customer data and use it to inform their personalisation methodologies going forward.

For this region in particular, businesses would be well placed to remember that US customers appear to be ready and willing to leave a company because of bad customer experiences. Therefore, when servicing these customers in this area a conscious effort should be made to provide a solid service and recover experiences as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If you want more detail on these findings click here

Top 5 Customer experience trends in Retail

Customer experience has gained respect from various verticals as findings signal that experience will soon be the key decision-maker for consumers, above product and price.

Here we look at five customer experience trends in retail highlighted in our recent research.

 
1. Customer experience is a good revival strategy

Retailers are finding themselves in the position of having to do more with less. Many are reacting by making cuts.  Closing stores, reducing staffing levels or hours according to store size projected sales and ignoring location surrounding facilities and competitors and turning to tech to deliver services at scale.

However, a recent Wharton University study looking at the relationship between staff levels and store performance has shown that it’s a big mistake to react this way to the retail apocalypse. Their study states that well-trained staff are the long-term solution for stable profits. “Understaffing stores and undertraining workers was never a good idea, but it’s especially bad now, because it takes away the biggest advantage traditional stores have over e-tailers: a live person a customer can talk with face-to-face”, said the study’s authors.

In the study after boosting staffing levels at certain outlets over six months, the stores in question made over $8.9m in extra profit even after accounting for additional labour costs. Around 6% more revenue was provided by staff who had received an hour per month in training that empowered them to solve problems for the customer.

Customers are utilising stores now as experiences, Steve Kato-Spyrou – UX Manager, John Lewis notes: “They visit to do fun things and spend the whole day out, not just to simply purchase something. So that’s where we’ve got to head in the next 12 months with in-store: the experience.”

 
2. Utility is key 

Serious investment into CRM, customer insight and analytics represents investment into a robust CX framework for a brand to provide value to clients.

In regards to adding value for customers, Steve Szymczyk, Director Digital Marketing, Adidas (Retail) says: “[A CX trailblazer is] anyone that can capture a consumer’s imagination and use data to combine the two to provide a great consumer experience.”

“What Nordstrom Men’s is doing in the US with the virtual store, that’s a really interesting model. Obviously it’s one store, so we don’t know if it’s working yet.

“There are so many things happening in this space and we’re going to see a lot of ‘trailblazers’ that will have some phenomenal successes and some will have pretty spectacular failures. What is important is to test things, listen to the consumer and they will vote with their wallet, they will tell us what they want.

“As brands, it is our job to provide new levels of comfort, convenience and be thinking about things that the consumer doesn’t know they want yet. In reality, the things that will work are the ones that will be edgy enough for the consumer to have fun with and add value to them in a real way.

“If you’re not adding value and not looking at it from a consumer-centric point of view, then it’s probably not going to work, no matter how much you want to make it happen.

“The one piece of advice is to really put yourself in the shoes (pun intended…) of a consumer to see how they experience your brand, spot where their touchpoints are and work out whether you control them or not. Because let’s face it, a viral video from a 16-year-old on YouTube giving an opinion on your brand counts as a brand interaction, whether you like it or not.”

 
3. Customer-first culture 

Highlighted as the main challenge for CX practitioners in retail, a customer centric or CX centric culture is fundamental to creating an organisation that embeds customer experience into all of its decisions and activities. CX must be a framework for business activity, just as profitability, efficiency and marketability have been embedded previously.

Steve Kato-Spyrou, UX Manager of John Lewis notes that the key retailer battles with breaking down business silos. “We have the knowledge in the building; it’s getting every human into the right place at the right time to disseminate that knowledge and talk to each other to come up with the product or service or experience that works.”

There is no such thing as stand-alone product development, marketing, or digital strategy. Those disciplines are all, essentially, feed into the same purpose; they are the customer’s interaction with the brand or organisation.

 
4. More consistency needed with actioning customer data

Data and analytics dominate as the most important, impactful trend for retailers. Although they recognise actionable insights as a challenge, research from CX Network indicates that many in retail are indeed actioning customer feedback in someway. This has had strategic benefits for the research group involved regarding customising products or packaging and new tactics to improve delivery speed.

However, the research did signal that there is a need for more consistency as many insights fall through the cracks and aren’t fed back to relevant business units.

Retailers should continue to aim to consistently close the loop with the voice of the customer. In a sector increasingly reliant upon social proof it is logical that consumers need to recognise the power of their feedback and contributions. This closure will also encourage the customer to keep the channels of communication open with retail firms, thereby helping the brand to improve their products and processes.

 
5. Omnichannel 

Businesses are struggling to make the omnichannel ecosystem a reality. Minor progression has been made year-on-year according to these stats.

However, businesses must press on in this journey, as omnichannel customers are thought to have more lifetime value than single channel customers. Also, the more your competition progresses with omnichannel the higher expectations will rise from your prospects.

Steve Kato-Spyrou – UX Manager, John Lewis said: “We heard today there are infinite touchpoints. So as far as omnichannel: you should be everywhere your customer is. If you’re saying: ‘we need to look into mobile or we need to look into in-store’, that’s correct, you need to go where the customer is.

“As far as the baseline, I would say look at your strongest competitor – that’s the expectation. It’s a case of: ‘Amazon do X, Y and Z – so, why don’t you do it?’.”

 

Now and Later: How Present Business Intelligence Impacts Future CX Decisions

Companies are constantly inundated with data. Yet, despite regular advancements in analytical strategies, said information often pours in too quickly to comprehend. Business Intelligence (BI), however, offers leaders an effective way to generate actionable information about critical business operations, including company and customer experience management (CEM) specific data, in an effort to bring structure and meaning to the knowledge that would otherwise remain just slightly out of reach.

According to Mary K. Pratt’s definition for CIO, “Business intelligence (BI) leverages software and services to transform data into actionable intelligence that informs an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions. BI tools access and analyze data sets and present analytical findings in reports, summaries, dashboards, graphs, charts and maps to provide users with detailed intelligence about the state of the business.”

Thus, before companies can understand and implement Business Intelligence reports and results to the fullest extent, leaders must lay the foundation necessary to bring the insights gleaned to action.

When it comes to segmenting business intelligence—an essential step when determining which data points to act upon first—leaders must break said information down into the two key fundamental, actionable components necessary to drive continued customer loyalty. Therefore, they must segment information by account type and contact type:

Account Type—

1.     Tier I: Accounts that provide the highest revenue and are strategic accounts (i.e. 80/20 rule—80 percent of your revenue, representing 20 percent of your customers)
2.      Tier II: Accounts representing the next 10 percent of revenue
3.      Tier III – Tier ‘N’: Your remaining accounts (last 10 percent of your revenue)

Contact Type—

1.      Identify the Decision Makers Title: – Executive Management
2.      Identify the Recommenders Title: – Middle Management
3.      Identify the Influencers Title: – Frontline (Select Key Employees only)

Business Intelligence reports, of course, are typically presented in dashboard format, as they are accessible to everyone across the organization. Dashboards include gauges, charts, and other graphical representations that deliver at-a-glance views of critical metrics. Dashboards also offer drill-downs, which enable leaders to take a more in-depth look at specific information regarding products, organization/function, and country/region/district/branch or individual. BI reports also include multi-dimensional cubes, which allow for correlated analysis by multiple areas, such as customer, product revenue, and timeframe. Other BI report types include:

  • Delta analysis
  • Vulnerability Index
  • Key driver analysis
  • CRMI ScoreBoard Index
  • Balanced ScoreCard
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

 

Leaders know that smart decisions require reliable data. But, before they can begin to consider the future, they must first analyze the actions of both the present and the past. That’s where BI comes into play.

“In its most basic form, business intelligence encompasses the analysis of a company’s raw data and analytics, to produce actionable takeaways,” Chris Lukasiak, senior vice president of MyHealthDirect, a health-tech company that offers a SaaS platform for online scheduling and digital care coordination, writes for Forbes. “Data analyzed might include current sales figures, customer shopping habits or operations costs. With more data at our hands, business intelligence is critical to making informed business decisions and can be a key component of forming predictive analyses for the future of a company.”

Business Intelligence reports provide companies with historical and present views of business operations, which subsequently inform their predictive views of the organization. Essentially, BI tells leaders what once was and what is in an effort to help them determine what will be down the road. Examining said data helps leaders understand pervasive trends and derive actionable insights that influence better business decisions in both the short and long term.

“Careful analysis of your data will help you understand customer behavior and even give you the power to better detect what your customers would like in the future,” Lukasiak adds. “From predictive analytics to data that reveals service or product gaps, business intelligence findings have the power to help companies stay ahead of the curveball.”

While brands across industries are decidedly enamored by the concept of predictive analytics, many lose sight of the importance of Business Intelligence and data that explores the past and present of their given organizations. Before companies can determine where they are headed, they need to establish where they have been. Countless organizations invest in analytics that forecast future moves or outcomes, yet leaders often neglect to recognize how past initiatives and present programs influence the customer experience. They need to pause and audit what’s worked and what hasn’t in an effort to proceed in the most lucrative way possible.

Business Intelligence ultimately empowers companies to focus on the ‘now’ so they can truly succeed when ‘later’ becomes the new normal. Leaders need to know where the organization has been if they hope to live up to their titles and adequately lead their companies toward the future they’ve predicted for themselves all along.

On the Road to Key Account Management, Customer Journey Maps Pave the Path

Prior to the introduction of social media and smartphones, the customer journey was typically linear. Consumers often traveled from the top of funnel to the point of sale with nary a detour. But, now that there are numerous inlets for onboarding, leaders must ensure that each available touchpoint offers customers a coherent brand experience at every stage of the average lifecycle. That’s where customer journey mapping comes into play.

Originally, companies used customer journey maps as an opportunity to nail down any customer experience issues that might arise. However, customer journey maps have become an integral part of the customer experience development process, as these tools offer leaders insight into how consumers might perceive and interact with the brand at all points of entry. Analyzing the customer journey from the initial point of contact to the inevitable point of sale can help leaders determine the best way to nurture such accounts along their path to purchase.

While discovering customer pain points will always prove useful, the fruits of these labors can’t be reaped if leaders don’t have the appropriate guidelines in place to rectify issues and alleviate strain. Thus, customer journey maps provide each member of an organization—from the C-suite to the frontline—with insight into how to manage every single account at the most basic level. Customers now expect instant results, after all, so companies must be prepared to serve every need in real time at any point along the customer journey.
To ensure that customers don’t encounter any obstacles on their path to purchase, companies need to hone their key account management strategies. Because customers and clients can now enter the funnel at multiple touchpoints simultaneously, leaders must integrate methods that’ll guarantee consistency and relevancy in an environment where disparate channels can limit the brand’s ability to satisfy the customer’s wants and needs from the moment of first contact.
Before companies can achieve effective key account management, leaders must first recognize that it’s difficult to treat all customers and clients equally. While everyone deserves top-notch customer service, leaders must segment their client base in order to determine which accounts are the most crucial for their brand’s continued success. Segmentation, as it stands, empowers leaders to assess and categorize customer relationships in an effort to deliver appropriate levels of service at critical moments throughout the customer journey.

Typically, basic account segmentation falls into one of three categories:

Tier I: Significant annual revenue and/or strategic value
Tier II: Potential significant annual growth and/or customer lifetime value
Tier III: All remaining customer accounts

Ultimately, resources can become strained if employees are forced to devote equal amounts of time to clients that don’t ultimately yield the same level of profit. Thus, forming more targeted customer relationships affords companies the opportunity to boost loyalty, sales, and profits. Of course, while exceptional service must be the standard for every client, companies must use this baseline to take relationships with key accounts to the next level.

Segmentation certainly isn’t an exact science, but this process enables organizations to break customers into manageable groups as leaders work to make sense of an increasingly saturated market. Despite the allure, leaders must not become distracted by those accounts that promise the greatest revenue gains, as relationship value must also be derived from the client’s potential for strategic partnerships over time. It’s easy for brands to become preoccupied with the “shiny” prospects that pose the highest potential for profitability. However, it’s important to start small and proceed with caution so as not to strain your resources—or your client’s resources—as you work to establish a synergy that empowers both companies to succeed.

To guarantee that both new and existing customer relationships flourish, leaders will want to train key account managers, as they will become the client’s first point of contact for any service needs they might have throughout their lifecycle. Because they’re responsible for nurturing said strategic, long-term relationships, they must be well equipped with an intimate knowledge of the client and their personal goals, as collaboration remains the cornerstone of any effective, proactive partnership.

But, with the help of customer journey mapping, companies have the capacity to understand clients in new ways as they work to hone their key account management strategies. With critical information in hand, companies have the tools they need to acquaint themselves with prospects right from the start and use data from these early interactions to tailor engagements to meet prospects’ needs in an effort to convert and retain clients. Every interaction matters, especially in a market with ample competitors. By knowing precisely what the client hopes to accomplish, key account managers can provide personalized service that ultimately benefits both parties every step of the way, thereby carving a path that leads to profitability for all involved.

It’s Not as Easy to Do Business With You as You’d Like to Think It Is

Your executive team is committed to customer experience (CX) success. On paper, your customer journey map looks strong. But that doesn’t mean your organization is easy to do business with.

The proliferation of new channels and touchpoints brings ever greater complexity to customer interactions—yours included. Plus, your current processes and silos may create bottlenecks for customers trying to make a purchase, get service, or expand their business with you.

You can use all the shiny objects you want to add glitter to your marketing and service interactions. But it’s only putting lipstick on a pig if your organization isn’t easy to do business with. Maybe you’ve added more mobile app functionality, for example, but your customers are pinching, swiping, and scrolling to the point of frustration to accomplish a basic task. Or you’ve launched an attractive marketing promotion, but your contact center agents don’t have any information on it for customers who call with questions.

Whether your organization is easy to do business with cuts to the core of the customer experience. It can give you a leading indicator of future trends for customer relationships. After all, your organization can have a great product, a great brand, and even great intentions for CX, yet still be difficult to do business with.

Perhaps most important, “Are you easy to do business with?” is a question that if explored and measured thoroughly, can quickly reveal whether the various pieces of the CX puzzle are working together as they should.

In fact, once you’ve examined whether customers think your organization is easy to do business with and use the resulting feedback to improve, you’ll find that it’s one of the best ways to ensure that your organization’s customer-facing operations (as well as those that support them) are living up to the spirit of your CRM and CX efforts.

Following are three lessons I learned while exploring that pivotal question, “Are you easy to do business with?”

Truly understand, and measure on a regular basis, whether customers think that your organization is easy to do business with.
Internal naysayers will claim that, of course you’re easy to do business with. After all, the CX efforts are refined, leadership is customer-focused, and the company puts the customer first in everything it does.

But, wait, not so fast…

Whether a company is easy to do business with is not solely determined by the efficiency of processes and programs it has in place. Instead, it’s a reflection of customer perceptions that can rarely be gleaned from operational data. To find out whether customers really believe that your organization is easy to work with requires a dedicated effort.

Ideally, you can attain this view of your customers’ true perceptions through a combination of methods. Surveys and one-on-one interviews with customers—preferably through a third party to ensure that feedback is candid—are exceptionally valuable and powerful tools to gather external perspectives. Speech and text analytics tools that make real-time sense of customer feedback, moods, and reactions are also extremely helpful. Customer-initiated digital feedback offers a goldmine of information, as do online communities that marketers and customer experience leaders can use as a listening tool. Use as many of them as you can to really understand where your organization falls on the “easy to do business with” spectrum.

Define what “easy to do business with” means for every
customer-facing role.

One of my aha moments in CX was when a particularly savvy customer-facing employee confided that she didn’t know if she had the ability to make it easier for customers to do business with the company, or even what that would entail. And she was right! Most people don’t intuitively know what something as encompassing as “easy to do business with” means.

To address this reality, we instituted a series of workshops across all departments throughout the company. These interactive sessions begin by exploring why it’s important for us to be easy to do business with. We then delve into what that means for each person in the room, and more specifically, which behaviors for each role will make the company’s vision come to life. Through these workshops, our employees helped to define what it meant to be “easy to do business with” and how to achieve it. Defining expectations is important, because most people have different interpretations of what makes an organization easy to do business with.

Apply what you learn across the organization.

Once you know the customer perception of the ease of doing business with your organization, you’ve defined what that ease means for various departments, and you have a framework in place that outlines required behaviors for specific roles, it’s time to use that information throughout the company to guide other decisions and processes. This includes hiring the right people, rewarding the right behaviors, and creating processes that complement them.

Perhaps, most important, institutionalizing these practices and encouraging these behaviors ultimately creates and nurtures a true, customer-centric culture that not only rewards behaviors that make it easy for customers, but also inherently encourages them among all employees.

Asking your customers if your organization is easy to do business with, and seeking candid answers, isn’t easy. But it’s one of the most powerful ways to ensure not only that the customer relationship and CX programs you oversee are working well, and that they’re being successfully applied where it matters most: with customers.

 

About the Author
Nancy Porte, CCXP, is the vice president of Global Customer Experience at Verint, a board member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association and a frequent speaker at industry events where often presents on her passion: developing meaningful customer experiences through the collaboration of numerous business functions and effective employee engagement.