Customer experience management (CEM) means handling not only the technology and the people involved, but the processes as well. Everything from the navigation of a Web purchase to the ease of crossing from phone support to email must be considered. It isn’t a quick or inexpensive undertaking, but it can offer significant rewards, according to industry experts.
Improving the customer experience, however, is a complex undertaking that requires collaboration among different departments within an organization. It’s important to understand the integration of multiple customer-related technologies and the processes that flow -- or fail to flow -- among the departments.
For example, if a bug prevents customers from buying products on the website, agents should be available to help them complete the purchases. Experts say that customers should not have to pick up the phone and wait in a 15-minute queue only to have the customer rep claim that item is no longer available. To prevent a flood of such calls and ensure customer satisfaction, companies need adequate troubleshooting tools and staff to fix problems on the website as they occur.
Identify the profit producers in CEM
Before investing in customer experience improvement, analysts say a company must determine what the focus of the CEM strategy should be. Companies need to identify which customers, products and channels are the most profitable and determine what changes would increase that success.
“If you cannot measure the value of the customer experience in dollars and cents, don't bother doing it. It is a waste of money,” said Marc Mandel, director of business development and client strategy for Strativity Group Inc., a customer experience research and strategic planning company.
Analyze the target customers
Experts suggest that companies get to know what the target customers think about the organization and its products. What do they do on the website, what do they like or dislike about the customer service processes and what changes might make them want to do more business with the organization? Then use that information to tweak processes and policies.
According to Hypatia Research LLC’s September 2010 report Operationalizing Voice of the Customer, the most commonly used technologies for divining customer preferences are CRM applications as well as digital marketing, survey, feedback management and Web analytics tools. Additional types of customer intelligence tools that focus on sentiment analysis or text analytics are also gaining traction.
Leslie Ament, senior analyst and vice president of research at Hypatia, stated that analyzing customer behaviors and preferences is fundamental to successful customer experience management.
“The key is having enough decision support information to know how to change those customer management business processes [that] are expensive and have a low return on investment [ROI]. [Then companies can focus] on others that are easy to do and have a high ROI in terms of customer retention, lifetime value or annual profitability,” Ament said.
Optimize resources for CEM
Map out customer processes across departments and systems and identify ways for making customer transactions and hand-offs take place more efficiently and effectively, said Art Hall, a director and customer management consultant at Alvarez & Marsal.
“Do a top-down and bottom-up reconciliation of customer processes,” advised Hall. “Optimize the value of internal costs and free up resources that could be put toward innovation and improving customer service.”
Integrate channels to pool customer experience data
As new channels for engaging customers emerge, it is a challenge to make sure they can share data and processes, allowing customers to move easily from one channel to another. Experts say that customers often find their experiences obtaining information or support frustrating because the channels of communication are not integrated.
For example, if a customer wants help with an e-commerce purchase, the customer may wind up talking to a call center rep who cannot see what the problem is because the call center software is not integrated with the e-commerce application. The same can happen with customers moving from a social media site, such as Facebook, to email or call center channels. Organizations need to break down these silos and share customer data and integrate processes across channels, experts say.
Evaluate customer experience metrics
Many organizations are updating the metrics they use to judge website performance to focus more on customer satisfaction. Combining operational metrics, such as call handling time, with customer satisfaction indicators, such as the number of problems resolved on the first call, provides a better view on the customer experience.
Develop a customer-centric culture
The main processes necessary to develop a customer-centric culture involve training and role creation. It is becoming more common to see chief customer experience officers in organizations, noted Strativity Group’s Mandel. Sometimes that person may have a staff of a dozen or more customer experience employees, along with collaboration with other departments such as call center, customer support and e-commerce.
"In the past there has been a turf battle over who owns the customer. But in a customer-centric company, it is a shared asset. You have to merge ownership of the customer," he said.
Investing in more staff training and altering the incentive structure to reward good customer experience outcomes is also key, Mandel and Hall said.
"CEM requires making a larger investment in people and processes as well as technology," Hall said. "It has to be a fundamental change in thinking."