• July 16, 2021
  • By Chip Kahn , founder and CEO, Boomtown

Building the Cross-Company Customer Experience

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It takes a village to raise a customer these days. 

Twenty years ago, businesses were able to wholly own the customer experience, but today no enterprise alone can meet the expectations of their customers. You can blame the rising expectations set by digital transformation, but today’s customers want always-on support, the ability to seamlessly move between channels, and to feel as though the customer experience has been personalized just for them. And they want all of this from every single brand that they interact with, every single time they interact with them.

No matter how large your customer experience team or how robust your technology road map, these expectations are impossible for a single company to meet, which is why vendor ecosystems have sprung up across industries. These vendor ecosystems were developed to meet the rising tide of customer experience—to take the village approach to rearing your customer’s loyalty. Unfortunately, they have now grown into their own disorganized and disjointed urban sprawl.

Behind the scenes, businesses are doing their best to operate as the switchboard operator for the many vendors in their ecosystem and prevent customer experience fragmentation. However, it’s an untenable system, especially given how much customer experience expectations rise year after year. Are enterprises expected to continue playing the role of middlemen, as they hire more and more vendors to address increasing customer experience demands? Obviously not. This way of doing business isn’t scalable, and it ultimately doesn’t support the end customer.

It’s time to embrace our new vendor village reality and look for a better solution. It’s not a matter of changing the vendor ecosystem, but rather finding an approach to better manage it. CRM has fallen down on the job and failed enterprises, leaving companies with systems that don’t meet or manage these complex ecosystems. So what comes next? The realization of a true cross-company experience.

The CRM Red Herring

Regardless of product or service, enterprises in every industry are experiencing the challenges of managing a complicated web of vendors. Even community banks can deal with more than 7,000 different vendors, all of which interface with the end customer to varying degrees. Looking to commercial banks, this number continues to grow. 

It’s the same story in healthcare. The average hospital uses 16 disparate electronic health record (EHR) vendors and 18 different outpatient electronic medical record (EMR) vendors. And there are still all of the vendors to consider beyond the health record—from scheduling to patient onboarding to broader patient support platforms. While these numbers still may not reach into the thousands, the inoperability of these systems and the resultant customer experience challenges all put the burden on the hospital to effectively manage these vendors or else risk their patients’ ire. 

While industries across the board have largely turned to CRM as a way to try and manage this complex ecosystem, enterprises are stretching these CRM platforms too far. In 2017, CIO magazine reported that on average at least a third of all CRM projects fail. Digging further into these stats, some analysts found failure rates as high at 69 percent, with scope creep listed as one of the top reasons for customer experience breakdowns. 

The fact is, CRM is overburdened. In its brief history, CRM has evolved from a sales and marketing tool, to a customer service and support tool, to now an entire vendor management platform. The failure rates we’re seeing for CRM projects across industries are not necessarily the technology’s fault. CRM has simply been asked to solve something it was not designed to address. How can a system that was designed to prioritize the customer suddenly also provide an infrastructure through which to manage another company? 

If enterprises want to solve their vendor ecosystem challenges, they need to look beyond the CRM system. Just as one company alone can no longer steward the entire customer experience, CRM alone can no longer power the cross-company experience. Instead, customer experience management (CXM) technologies are beginning to fill in this gap in the market. As journalist Don Flucklinger summarizes, “CRM shows what a customer looks like to the company”; in contrast, CXM “defines what a company looks like to the customer.”

The Rise of CXM 

By this point, most organizations have completed their process of digital transformation, or are at least well on their way there. However, businesses that rely on CRM to manage their new digital ecosystem—or worse yet, ignore this responsibility entirely—are impeding the full benefits of their immense investment. CXM is the necessary next step to combat an ecosystem that can otherwise get confusing for companies and customers alike. 

The customer journey is no longer predictable. Today, customers come in at all different levels of the funnel, all run by different partner companies. Whether that cross-company experience feels intentional and seamless or disjointed and chaotic is entirely dependent on the strength of your CXM systems. Overlooking this process in the hopes that your vendors will uphold your brand’s customer experience values is a fool’s errand. Because when a customer experience falls short, it’s the core company whose brand is left with the black eye, not their vendor.

Chip Kahn is the Founder & CEO at Boomtown, the customer experience management company. As a serial entrepreneur, Kahn is an operator that understands the power enabling software to disrupt an industry. His previous companies include BroadHop, acquired by Cisco, and IP Commerce, a pioneer of payments APIs that processed more than $8Bn in payments volume. Now, in his role at Boomtown, Kahn helps enterprises deliver the customer experiences they imagine, exactly as they intend. You can find him on Linkedin here.

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