7 Keys to Customer Experience

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For the rest of the December 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

Despite the economic difficulties in 2009, we’ve seen a significant uptick in real customer experience efforts. What do I mean by real? Efforts that address systemic issues such as poorly designed interactions, broken processes, outdated business rules, insufficient customer insight, and cultures that are far from customer-centric. [Editors’ Note: See this month’s cover story, "No Substitute for Experience," for an in-depth look.]

Next year will likely be even more active. Many companies will make substantial progress; others will falter. Here’s some advice for keeping customer experience efforts on track:

  1. Drop the executive commitment façade—Executives can say customer experience is important, but it’s difficult for them to dedicate the time and energy required to make it a true priority. In 2010, executives should either get actively involved in customer experience transformation or drop it from their agendas.
    Start here: Develop a customer experience dashboard and manage the results with the same energy dedicated to managing financial results.

  2. Acknowledge that you don’t know your customers—When market-research teams require long lead times and expensive projects to answer questions about customers, too many organizations choose to go without. But the path to success in customer experience requires significantly deeper customer insight. Companies need to develop voice-of-the-customer programs in 2010 that provide ongoing and continuous access to these insights.
    Start here: Create a voice-of-the-customer program with a cross-functional team that focuses on four “LIRM” components: listening to customers; interpreting the feedback; reacting to the insights; and monitoring results from actions over time.

  3. Don’t get too distracted by social media—Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites may seem sexy, but they aren’t the only channels for customer feedback. In fact, other channels—such as comments on surveys and calls into the contact center—can often provide richer insight. Companies need to learn from social media feedback in 2010, but not overreact to it.
    Start here: Treat social media as one of many listening posts in a comprehensive voice-of-the-customer program that examines both structured and unstructured feedback.

  4. Stop squeezing the life out of customer service—My research shows that consumers care more about good customer service than they do low prices. It also turns out that many customer service interactions are critical moments of truth that drive customer loyalty. But companies often treat customer service as an unwanted stepchild, focusing almost exclusively on aggressive cost-cutting. In 2010, companies need to start viewing customer service as a strategic asset.
    Start here: Measure customer service organizations based on how effectively they help customers instead of efficiency metrics like average handle times.

  5. Restore purpose to your brand—True brands are more than just color palettes, logos, and marketing slogans, they’re the fabric that aligns all employees with customers in the pursuit of a common cause. They represent a firm’s raison d’être. Unfortunately, many companies have lost this sense of purpose in their brands. Every company needs to spend 2010 redefining its brand and embedding it in the hearts and minds of all employees.
    Start here: Translate your brand into promises you will make (and keep) with customers at every key touch point.

  6. Don’t expect employees to get on board on their own—Employees are often the most critical element of any customer experience effort. But firms can’t just hope that everyone will participate in these change initiatives. So companies need to actively focus on engaging employees at every level across the organization in their customer experience efforts.
    Start here: Communicate (a lot) about why customer experience is important and allow employees to participate in defining how to make improvements.

  7. Translate customer experience into business terms—My research has uncovered a strong correlation between customer experience and loyalty. An average $10 billion company can generate $284 million of additional revenues from customer experience improvements. But most companies don’t fully understand the connection, and that’s something they can strive to identify in 2010: how customer experience impacts financial results.
    Start here: Engage the chief financial officer to develop a model which shows the impact that customer experience has on customer loyalty. 

Bruce Temkin (btemkin@forrester.com), one of the leading experts on customer experience, is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research and author of the popular Customer Experience Matters blog (http://experiencematters.wordpress.com).

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