Winning the hearts and minds of your customers… one customer at a time

Customer Experience can be rocket science, but it doesn’t have to be…

Last week I flew from London to NYC to attend the Forrester Customer Experience Forum where over 1,200 professionals gathered to talk about the hot topic of customer experience.

In the “age of the customer,” it is refreshing to see companies that are truly committed to improving the customer experience. These days it is even common for a medium-size organization to have a cross-functional team of 150 employees fully dedicated to improving the customer experience.

Yet, results are poor.

While companies talk about sophisticated tools and models for analyzing customer data, many forget about the basics and neglect simple, yet effective, quick wins – like reaching out to customers that showed signs of dissatisfaction on their latest feedback response.

We see these types of customer experience misses everywhere. While $11 billion1 is spent on CRM annually, most companies still fail to successfully manage those “relationships” with their customers. Social media has become the new CRM.  Spend on social solutions has now passed the $6 billion2 mark. Most companies track social media information, but few really know what to do with it.  There’s a lot of talk around defining a seamless omni-channel strategy, but in my experience as a customer, you would be lucky to have a positive experience within one single interaction.

Companies segment customers by demographics, behaviour, attitude, value, lifecycle, etc. But few ask their customers how often they would like to hear from them, or try to understand what type of relationship each customer wishes to have with the brand. Another consideration is (as one of our customers puts it) the “gold mine” within verbatim comments left by customers. Sometimes it is the rich amount of actionable insight from this source that can offer the greatest value, versus looking purely at figures which often struggle to answer the key question of “How to improve?.

A Gartner report states that while 95% of companies solicit feedback, only 5% close the loop with the customer3 informing them that they have listened and learned (and consequently improved policies and processes). In my experience, the reality is even worse.  Over the past 10 years I have personally replied to an average of 10 feedback requests a month out of which half have been negative experiences.  I have been contacted with concern about my feedback only three times – this is a 0.5% re-contact rate (this 3/600 where 600 = 10 years*12 months*10 feedbacks a month*0.5 negative experiences). I realize this is a simplistic anecdote, but my gut tells me that the reality is probably closer to my experience than what companies claim they are doing.

During my travel for this trip my outbound flight was overbooked, there was a disastrous issue with the luggage handling that caused the flight to be delayed for over an hour, the aircraft was nearly as old as I am, and the food was even worse than expected (and my expectations weren’t high). A day later I received a long feedback request which I completed patiently. Yet, I did not hear back from anybody and had an almost identical experience on my return.

After two days at the Forrester Forum, I concluded that in the world of customer experience there’s a lot of “thinking and strategizing”, but very little “doing.”

My advice to Customer Experience Professionals: Walk before you run. Be more pragmatic. First aim for simple and quick wins before getting lost in the myriad of sophisticated solutions and models; then seek to mature in your customer experience journey one step at a time.

1 Market Share Analysis: Customer Relationship Management Software, Worldwide, 2013”, “The Gartner CRM Vendor Guide, 2014

2 “Big Data Drives Rapid Changes in Infrastructure and $232 Billion in IT Spending Through 2016”

3 Use the data, or don’t bother surveying the customer, Gartner, May 2009

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