Customer Retention: It's All About the Experience

Imagine this nightmare: You're a hotel chain that's undertaken a multimillion dollar CRM installation to better know and grow your customer base. Loyal Customer A checks into your property in Chicago and your CRM database alerts staff in the Windy City that he prefers cold spring water in his room, a Wall Street Journal in the morning, and pulpy orange juice with his breakfast. Your bases are covered, right? However, customer A's Evian was warm, his Journal
arrived late, and his OJ was pulpfree--he left angry, never to be heard from again. Clearly, just knowing his preferences was not enough to drive either customer satisfaction or retention. An extreme example? Sure, but for every successful CRM installation the customer service landscape is littered with CRM projects that didn't quite hit the mark. In many applications, CRM has a great big blind spot. CRM effectively pulls information from the customer to benefit the company, but it lacks insight into the customer's actual experience with that company across the crucial experiential touch points. No amount of CRM technology lets the company "see" the customer's experience. An integrated customer experience management (CEM) program can help fill in those blind spots and complement the potentially powerful data collected in a CRM project. Put plainly, where CRM is weak, CEM is strong. By focusing on the experiences of customers and how those experiences impact behavior, CEM addresses the quality of the company's execution and the efficacy of the result. A CEM application can work hand in hand with CRM to create loyal customers...for life. Among the elements involved in a successful CEM support program are:
  • Standards and practices development: Without a good game plan, you can't win the game. This process enables a company to design, write, organize, and communicate the standards required for employees to deliver the desired customer experience--every time. This game plan will serve as the backbone of any CRM program.
  • Customer service and leadership training: Put the game plan into action before your team hits the field. Make sure your employees have the proper skills and resources to deliver customer service excellence and are empowered to do so. Regardless of the impressive technology involved, CRM won't engage people without the right human touch.
  • Customer and employee research: Is the plan working? Are you satisfying your customers and engaging your employees? What do you do (or not do) that drives loyalty? Answering these questions allows a company to better use the data gleaned from CRM to service the customer, not the company.
  • Quality assurance: When all is said and done, are you and your employees following the game plan? Whether through site inspections, mystery shopping, or call monitoring, this final CEM piece will help nurture a CRM project to full potential.
  • Together, these CEM elements ensure that the company's customer experience promise is being delivered to the customer in ways that CRM alone could never handle. Blind spot eliminated. So what ever happened to Customer A? Turns out the hotel also had a CEM program in place--his dissatisfaction was instantly registered in a customer satisfaction e-survey; a regional manager soothed his frayed nerves with a weekend in South Beach. The team at the Chicago hotel was referred back to its standards and practices materials and a trainer flew to O'Hare that night to conduct a refresher course at the property, just in case. And when the mystery shopping team showed up in Chicago two months later...you guessed it--pulp! About the Author Rob Rush is CEO of LRA Worldwide, a leading consulting and research company specializing in customer experience management. LRA offers an integrated suite of services designed to measure and improve service quality, employee performance, customer satisfaction, retention, and profitability. Clients include Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, the PGA Tour, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and others. Contact him at rob.rush@lraworldwide.com Related articles: It's All About the Customer Experience Organizations must understand their customers and adapt to their behavior. What Can and Cannot Be Managed With CRM How customer experience management, CRM, brand, and delivery management can affect a customer's interactions with a company. Web Collaboration Creates a Satisfying Customer Experience Service reps can resolve issues immediately while online with clients.
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