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Expect the Unexpected from Customer Experience
For true results, try, try, and try again.
For the rest of the August 2013 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Now that we have finally moved past the hype surrounding Social X, we are immersed in the hype surrounding customer experience.

All the promises we made about Social X (long-term loyalty, unlimited customer lifetime value, unsurpassed customer satisfaction, engagement, advocacy, etc.) are now being made for customer experience.

Did you know that if you implement a customer experience program, you can increase customer loyalty by 25 percent? That if you do it quickly, you can turn back the clock and reverse customer churn? Were you aware that customer experience is the only proven way to build lifetime advocacy (yeah, forget what you heard about Social X—this is THE one)? Skeptical? Welcome to my camp. I have been researching and working with a number of companies on customer experience, and can tell you—it ain't the slam dunk you've heard it is.

I have been preparing for a presentation I am doing this month at CRM Evolution in New York City (August 19–21) and have been more focused on benefits than hype. I can show you benefits you can get from customer experience backed by case studies. I don't have space in this column for all of it, but I want to give you a glimpse.

Benefits do come to those who implement a customer experience program—just not as quickly or miraculously as you've been told. They are not automatic and not immediately understood, but they are always there for those who work hard. I like to categorize them into four areas:

Money. There is a direct relationship between better experiences and making more money, but it is not because of the experience; it is because you meet expectations (or if you are really good, exceed them).

Savings. You don't save money because you do things better (although that often occurs). You save money because satisfied customers cost less to maintain. Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition, and delivering better experiences retains customers.

Value. For an experience to generate value, the value must be equal to both parties: your customer and your organization. Value is generated during an exchange and must be recognized as such by both parties—which is hard to do, and thus makes justifying CX by value not a popular choice (though it delivers better in the long term).

Unexpected. We used to call these intangibles, meaning that we could not measure them or generate a specific number to substantiate them as benefits in an ROI calculation. While intangible benefits still show up in these implementations, I want to highlight those benefits we could not preview before we started, but that show up when the initiative is iterated.

It is this last group that I want to spend a little more time exploring.

You probably expect me to get all mystical about the definition of unexpected, but I won't. It is just what it sounds like: benefits you did not expect to find when you agreed to start the initiative. Not very interesting.

What is interesting, however, is what those benefits are.

Without fail, all the people I worked with who deployed a CX initiative found it to be an iterative process. That means that you implement it once, learn from the deployment and feedback from customers, and then do it again. Once you are finished with the second deployment, there is a third...and a fourth...and an nth one just waiting. If you are not doing this for the long run, you won't be able to find these unexpected benefits.

Here is why, after several iterations of your CX deployment, your customers, and likely your employees, will point out to you areas where you never thought you could improve, or were hesitant to do it. They were too dangerous politically, there was no significant upside that you could foresee, or the process was too cumbersome or complex to change. After you did some nibbling at the edges of that process by improving other areas nearby, that process is now ready to be improved and deliver benefits.

Voila! An unexpected benefit shows up...just like that.

This is what I will cover in detail at my session at CRM Evolution. Come, share, and go home with a better understanding of what those unexpected benefits can be.


Esteban Kolsky is the principal and founder of ThinkJar, an advisory and research think tank focused on customer strategies. He has more than 25 years of experience in customer service and CRM consulting, research, and advisory services. He spent eight years at Gartner, and has assisted Fortune 500 and Global 2000 organizations in all aspects of their CRM deployments.


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