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Let's Talk About CX

Back in the days when a ‘tweet’ was the sound a bird made and a ‘post’ took between 3-5 days to arrive, customer relationships were often governed by strict processes and even stricter systems.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) projects were signified by spending 'transformational' amounts of money through re-engineering of processes and systems to be 'customer-centric' and to 'break down silos' across business units all with the aim of better serving the customer.

The ultimate goal being to improve customer loyalty, streamline costs and improve business profitability. However these traditional CRM projects often missed the mark simply by being too internally focused.

For example, improving customer service systems meant increasing automation through IVR systems that were difficult to navigate,  or by directing customers to static online customer portals – often leading to frustrating customer experiences

Improving sales and order management meant forcing sales staff to wade through complicated processes and systems that aimed to streamline processes across silos but that often simply created additional silos to deal with the complexity.

The drive to cut cost was at the heart of many CRM system implementation projects and quite often the resulting complexity drove customers away and left companies wondering 'what went wrong'?

Fortunately that has now changed.  CRM now has a smarter more social cousin, CX that has learnt the lessons of its Gen X elder to change how organisations think and behave about its Customers

CX (Customer Experience) is often defined as..

'.. the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier.'

It is not a new buzzword/phrase, acronym nor is it simply a new revenue stream for IT vendors or consultants, it is a new way of thinking for organisations that differs from older CRM-style mindsets in 3 key ways:

1. CX is about a customer’s journey. Leading CX organisations (LCXO) recognise the importance of understanding the how and why a customer may choose to do business with them and invest in tailoring the entire lifecycle for a customer. For example, many hardware brands sell through leading hardware chains but leading CX brands provide rich post-sales support to help customers understand and use the tools they bought. Customers of these brands trust them as a hardware partner continuing to buy their brand as their needs evolve

2. CX is socially aware. Many organisations struggle to understand how social networks can help them make money. LCXO’s already understand and maximise the role these networks play in helping attract, convert and retain customers.

A happy and engaged online customer may not result in instant sales but they are less likely to move to a competing brand and can help attract new customers much more cheaply than aggressive (and expensive) marketing.

In fact, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations whilst only 14% trust ads. Conversely, an unhappy online customer will not only take their business elsewhere but can take a good few existing customers with them (and dissuade prospects) costing you significantly more to bring them back.

3. CX is adaptive. LCXO’s do not rest on their laurels but continually strive to do better for their customers. From leveraging the latest technologies in predictive self-service to providing flexible options for multi-channel interactions, CX means not just meeting customer expectations but continually setting the bar higher

One thing worth noting (maybe a “point 4”) is that increasingly, customers will pay more for a better customer experience. CX is a valuable lever by which organisations can improve revenue and profitability simply through making customers happy.

In an ever commoditised world, lowering costs and prices will never be a sustainable business strategy. As geographic and regulatory barriers come down, there will always be someone, somewhere who can offer a cheaper product. Only a few can offer a valued product.

So what does great CX actually mean?

In order to deliver great CX without deeply upsetting the CFO there are a few guiding principles for those embarking on CX initiatives:

Focus on service and communities to drive acquisition and loyalty

Whilst it used to be the case that service and support was only accessed once a purchase was made and, quite often, only used to fix problems, Customer Service functions today drive the majority of a customer’s experience with a company.

From prospective customers researching which products best suit their needs, to existing customers looking for the best way to maximise the potential of their products, conventional service functions have become ‘customer engagement centers’ that attract, answer and advise all manner of customer queries.

Get this right and you have the basis for great CX

The rise of ‘forums’ and ‘communities’ is a great example of this. In a company sponsored forum, new and existing customers can get the low down on new products, resolve questions and queries on how to use their products and share real life experiences with other customers without the ‘editing’.

Fostering this level of interaction helps an organisation build trust and a sense of community that will attract and retain customers way beyond an initial purchase.

Map the moments that matter

Conventional CRM systems tended to rely on business process re-engineering to design how an organisation would market, sell and provide service to a customer. However, as I noted previously, this was often done from an internal perspective and not from the viewpoint of the customer. Therefore whilst CRM systems and processes may have improved efficiency and cost, it was often at the expense of customer experience

Customer journey mapping techniques address this by looking at all interactions and touchpoints an organisation has with a customer focussing on key moments that matter. This focus can be in the form of fixing broken steps that create customer frustration or by optimising those that create opportunities. The aim is not to focus on what happens in the process but on what a customer may feel and to then optimise the experience accordingly.

Personalise the Customer Lifecycle

Not all customers will experience products and services in the same way. Many organisations use segmentation to identify groups of similar customers and then attempt to ‘personalise’ by treating all customers in these segments the same way

This is not necessarily a sound strategy as customers may fall into different segments at different times across their own journey.

Customer experience strategies can certainly help you map and automate a customer lifecycle in order to provide the right messages and content at the right time. However they also need to be adaptive, learning from customer events, behaviours and triggers so that each experience is personal and individual

Be Agile

What needs to be understood is that deploying CX initiatives can be quick and agile rather than long and expensive. As long as the customer experience is understood and the CX vision is in place, modern CX solutions and technologies can be deployed quickly and easily to make great CX a reality.

In a matter of weeks, agile self service portals or marketing automation solutions can be deployed to help organisations target, acquire and retain customers without the customer feeling they are just a number or an email address.

It really can be that simple

Hopefully this short intro to CX has demonstrated how organisations need to break free from the internal focus that many CRM projects have held in the past. CX is not just re-badged CRM but is the only way organisations can expect to attract and retain loyal customers in an ever commoditised world.


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A look at how modern CX tools, techniques and strategies can help organisations add value to their brand and improve customer acquisition and loyalty in the face of a commodotised online world


« October 2015