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The Customer Experience Tattoo
Gartner CRM Summit '08: Industry analyst provides recommendations in keeping interactions with the customer skin-deep.
Posted Sep 8, 2008
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WASHINGTON — Do your customers have your brand logo tattooed on their arms? If the answer is "no," your organization's customer experience strategy may need some reshaping. That's the view shared here today by Ed Thompson, Gartner distinguished analyst and vice president, who, in kicking off this year's Gartner CRM Summit, admits there's a reason that "the customer experience" is a hot topic these days at CRM conferences. With his keynote presentation, "Improving the Customer Experience," addressing the what, where, why, and how of that topic, Thompson delved into the metrics behind the customer experience.   

"Increasingly, I hear organizations say, 'We differentiate on the basis of the customer experience,' " He says that in talking with organizations, he hears of management teams bringing up the concept both as an issue and as a goal. "The reason is that everything else is increasingly easy to copy," he says. Thompson points to a survey of business executives and the fact that 80 percent of respondents said that they think the customer experience strategy is more important than it was three years ago. Despite the increased attention around it, there are roadblocks to achieving and delivering positive customer experiences.

To name a few:

  • metrics vary;
  • employees are cynics;
  • customer power is rising;
  • technology is seen as part of the problem; and
  • executives are not sure how to improve it. 

“All the technical stuff, according to most employees, is making things worse,” he notes, adding that another stumbling block organizations seem to face is that, “Unfortunately, customers talk to each another about the organization.” Admitting that the organization needs a customer experience strategy is only part of the first step. Asking various members of the organization what that experience actually means is another part of it. "You, first of all, have to have some form of definition. Second, you need to narrow that definition down. If you let it flop around in the organization, it means many different things to many different people," Thompson says, listing various definitions individuals hold for the word, "experience." "I recommend you focus on interactions, intelligence, and recognition of the customer in the handling of multiple events." 

In terms of deploying a customer experience strategy, Thompson recommends the following steps:

  • Define it: be clear what you mean by the customer experience;
  • Audit it: find what's being done already and compare that with what you could be doing;
  • Appoint it: get a vice president of customer experience;
  • Start it: determine your start point and either get the basics right, move above the average, or stay on top.

In terms of evaluating an organization's customer satisfaction, Thompson says the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is good place to go to ask why certain brands and industries remain on top. Heinz, for example, has remained close to the top of the ACSI for years. Why? "Memories last a long time," Thompson says. Additionally, he points to the service profit chain methodology (more or less the idea that employees satisfaction drives customer satisfaction, customer satisfaction drives loyalty, loyalty drives advocacy, and advocacy drives profit) as a solid way of thinking. However, he cautions that rational loyalty does not equate emotional loyalty. And emotional loyalty is what leads to purchases. Thompson also brings up the Net Promoter Score, which is a mechanism to show how satisfied customers are with their interactions with a company."It's simple and companies like simple things. It appeals to the board of the organization. They like nice simple metrics like a simple number to look at," Thompson says of the rationale surrounding the scoring system.

Although Thompson says "there's no one way to improve the customer experience," he doesn't think  "Every vice president of customer experience will tell you it’s a thousand little things that improve the experience in totality." There are about 50 ways to go about a customer experience strategy, Thompson says -- but they neatly divide them up into seven categories.

  1. Listen, think, and do: Thompson says 95 percent of companies are surveying their customers, but only 10 percent are deploying and listening to customer recommendations.
  2. Design the processes from the outside in: Engage with the customer; don't just do stuff to the customer.
  3. Act as one: focus on consistency across channels: "It's slow-burning but has massive impact," Thompson says.
  4. Be open and exclusive: Invite the opportunity for customer to co-create, contribute, be part of a community.
  5. Personalize the message: Leading organizations find the right balance between customization and simplicity. Let the customer make decisions-- just not too many.
  6. Alter attitudes and employee behavior: Human resources does have a role in the customer experience.
  7. Design the customer experience right from scratch: For example, the folks behind the park design at Disneyland know that the last memory you will have leaving the attraction will be exiting the parking lot -- probably with tired and possibly screaming children. Making it easy to get out of the parking lot is a priority and a key to creating a positive customer experience.   


News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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