• August 20, 2013
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Companies Need to Shift Their Focus

NEW YORK -– As the world of business changes, companies can't rely on good products or services any more to carry them. It's about the experience, said Ray Wang, founder and president of Constellation Research, who led a morning session on the second day of the CRM Evolution conference.

That's not to say that product innovation shouldn't be a concern, though, Wang cautioned, warning that Sony has faltered because it hasn't had a really innovative idea since the Walkman came out in 1981.

But, for companies like Apple or Samsung, which have largely stolen Sony's market share, it's also about creating meaningful customer experiences, Wang said.

Key to creating those experiences is acquiring customer data that will help put together customer profiles and interaction histories, Wang said. Equally important is what companies do with the data, he added.

Having data by itself is not enough. "Content is no longer king. Context is king," he said. "For an offer to be valuable, it has to make sense to you at the time and in your current emotional state."

Carrying through on the same theme, Kristen Vennum, principal in the customer practice advisory at Ernst & Young, said the business world is undergoing a swift customer experience transformation. "The world is changing, and consumer expectations are changing with it," she said. "Customer experience is the new battlefield, and transforming it is difficult."

Vennum identified a four-step process that begins with getting executive buy-in and identifying the right internal champions for the change. Next is engaging employees through the channels that drive a cultural change. Then companies need to involve customers to understand their needs. And finally, they need to unlock value by following through with the metrics and making corrections as needed.

The same applies to Web self-service, which, according to Mike Hennessy, vice president of marketing at IntelliResponse, has also evolved. It's no longer about call deflection but rather about delivering happier customers and driving increased sales."“Think of it as customer empowerment," he said.

Virtual agents, Hennessy said, can now field and respond to questions presented in natural language, and learn all the time to improve the next self-service request.

Beyond that, companies can use these questions to understand what customers are concerned about, making Web self-service and intelligent virtual agents "a great voice of the customer tool," Hennessy said.

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