2015 is the Year of the Customer’s Choice: Customer Experience Engagement

This post is about five ways to deliver exceptional customer care in 2015.

Customer service and support is shifting to a customer success management model. This is the ability to deliver great, consistent customer experiences across all channels that drive retention, revenue and margins. Without this, customer experiences will not meet expectations and customers will go elsewhere, resulting in decreased retention and, in return, revenue. As part of a trusted group of advisors that helps Customer Service Professionals, as well as people in other parts of the organization – like Marketing, Sales, CXOs- CEOs, CIOs, CTOs to CMOs- we help people understand what digital transformation and disruption really means for their business and their future. And there’s a lot of hype around digital disruption. But let’s but some of that to bed.

Because 2015 is the year of the customer’s choice – companies will need to pay attention to the following:

2015 is the Year of the Customers Choice

We are in an opt-in economy, where customers can easily find information about a company, its reputation, their products, their reputation online and they can find all this from sources other than a brands marketing and advertising. It’s not that those disciplines are not important, but we want to look and see if the brand is fracturing it’s brand promise, it’s reputation… by not delivering on the brand’s promise somewhere in the customer’s journey–i.e., within their interactions and engagement with the their customers. Is the brand delivering the products and services it’s marketing and advertising? Actually the sources most people trust the most are people like the themselves, which is providing a great challenge to those in marketing and advertising. Why spend the money there when you can develop online advocates? We’re not saying that advertising and marketing will ever go away, but this is something brands need to pay attention to, because there is a huge cost savings if brand advocacy is done well.

You’ll want to ask yourself, “Where are our customer talking about our products?”  Where are our customer sharing their thoughts and experiences?

Take this product for example:

Fitdesk example

This bike has 457 reviews:

  • 62% are 5 star
  • 24% are 4 star

(62 + 24 = 86% give it a 4 or 5 star) So what does that tell other customers? Most people think it’s a pretty good product! Those online comments leave an impression for other customers to see – and the content is permanent like cave paintings, there for millions of people to see. And in social media – because there is the 1-9-90 rule ~1% post, 9% respond and 90% read without posting, think of the number of people who looked at this review and never post. Most of the potential customers never post. But they do make buying decisions based on what is posted.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what people are thinking about your company. They could visit the site, and if the reviews were bad, they could get bad impression and leave and you’d never even know it. How many times a day does this happen to the millions of companies online today? A lot.

And this company actually answers customers questions. They have answered 141. And this tells you they are listening and responding to customer feedback. And customers actually vote on what the company said, i.e., on whether they think the answer the company gave was honest and truthful and helpful… So what the digital disruption means is that there’s no where to hide… We are truly in an opt-in economy, where customers can easily choose to either opt-in or just as easily opt-out of doing business with you.  Customers can more easily decide to buy from a competitor than ever before, especially if you loose their trust. Much of this change is due to software being delivered as a service (SaaS) where if the brand doesn’t like the service its easier to get out of the contract than it was in the days of on premise software and hardware. But also in the B2C world, customers can easily find information about a company, its reputation, their products, their reputation online and from sources other than a brands marketing and advertising.

bye shopping bags

 

Its time to rethink everything

It’s time to rethink everything and understand what the digital disruption means to your business.

The digital disruption means you have to be: Transparent — Authentic — Genuine — Honest — Respectful — Helpful — Kind — Trustworthy…. The digital disruption is changing business, especially because of CoIT = Consumerization of IT. That means that customers want it to be frictionless, easy and fun to deal with your company. They have grown accustom to wonderful user interfaces like Google and Facebook.  User interface design is extremely important. It is difficult or easy to do business with your company? Do you know? Have you shopped at your own store – on and offline?

Digital disruption means being customer-centric.

This means you need the strategy to change how the company approaches its customers: a customer-centric strategy, customer-centric processes, customer-centric technology and customer-centric people (employees, partners, stakeholders…) For many companies to get to a customer-centric place, it may require organizational change management.

A big part of the digital disruption? Mobile!

Mobile has changed the game. Mobile sales accounted for nearly a quarter of all online sales during the 2014 holiday season (November 1 – December 31), up 27.2% year-over-year. Mobile web visits were also at an all time high, with 45% of all online traffic stemming from mobile devices, up 25.5% from the 2013 holiday season. Some companies saw even higher mobile traffic during the busy shopping season, with Fanatics and Amazon reporting 55% and 60%, respectively.  And these numbers are only going to increase as mobile devices continue to dominate time spent online. People admit to sleeping with their phones at their bedside. Mobile is key to your business. Here’s an example of a business case for mobile: mobile traffic to the 26 retail clients for 1 month generated $180 million in web revenue in August 2014; 27.3% from smartphones and tablets. (sources: comscore, Internet Retailer, 2015, Internet Retailer, 2014)

Digital disruption means delivering ubiquitous customer care. What’s the difference?

  • Multichannel:–Is an operational view of how customer interact within each channel
  • Omnichannel:–It implies it’s the customer’s view of their interactions with the company,–Orchestrated across all channels in a seamless, integrated and consistent context- there’s a lot of hype about this – most companies may want to do this, but are they? Many software companies say they can provide all of this, but do they really?
  • Ubiquitous channels–Means providing support when and where ever customers are, 24/7 and customer’s obsession with mobile devices is driving what we calling the need for ubiquitous channel capabilities.

Another point around ubiquitous channels and devices is that there is little to no premeditation on the part of a customer about which channel or device they use when interacting with a brand and where a purchase is made. But there must be hyper-premeditation on the part of the brand to create ubiquitous channel loyalty with their customers. This is why it is so important that brands understand where their customers are – online and offline – and then make sure that the brand’s ubiquitous channel and devices activities are customer-centric.  This means that organizations need to be in the channel their customers are in, regardless of the customer’s age and digital proficiency . The company should cater to the customer’s choices of channels. Start there. And know that a customer may prefer to speak to an agent because they want to talk to a human. But because the phone experience is so frustrating, they may want to avoid the phone. That’s why something like chat is a good option! (If the chat actually is a great customer experience!)

So we’ve learned that customers have more choices than ever before. They also have specific preferences, needs, expectations, wants …with unboundless options; will they pick your company? They will if you recognize Customer Service as Customer Success Management. Don’t just care about the customer as a lead; Don’t just care about the customer as a sale; Don’t just care about the customer in service; Care about the customer in every interaction. And create great, continuous, consistent experiences. Why? It will drive retention and revenue and that equates to an increase customer lifetime value. Bad experiences: lost customers. No Customers, No Business™. It’s that simple. Customer success management is about customer lifetime value: i.e., How long a customer buys from you? How much do they buy each time? How much does their purchase amount goes up over time? You will want to continuously increase all of these for each and every customer and continuously, gain more customers and higher customer lifetime values.

Where is your company on the digital transformation of next generation customer service? Market Leaders will grow their revenue and reduce costs faster than any other segment.  Are you a fast followers? Or a Cautious Adopter? You can begin to tell by reading the questions in the boxes:

quadrant for fast followers So how does this change the way we work? As Ray Wang, Principal Analyst & CEO of Constellation Research would say, “We first we have to think about what’s changed. The old world was a world of CRUD – Systems of Record. We moved to a collaborative and social world – Systems of Engagement. But digital is causing us to shift to Systems of Experience. We’re ultimately moving to mass personalization at scale. In each phase we have to work differently to make it pay off in the end.”

What should you do next?

1. Understand what digital transformation entails:

Most companies are confused about what the digital disruption means to their business, both from an economic and operational standpoint. If businesses don’t understand the digital disruption, they will find it difficult to prepare for it. If we look back for a reference point, we can see the authors of the book “The ClueTrain Manifesto” predicted back in 1999 that there would be a point in time when customers, using the Internet, would be able to talk to each other freely, without the interference of a company. This would lead to a more transparent representation of a company’s products and services. Instead of being disguised in advertising and marketing messages, products and services from companies would be openly and honestly discussed by current, potential and past users. That prediction has come true. It’s happening right now.

2. Decide to deliver great digital customer experiences:

If a company decides it wants to deliver great digital customer experiences, then it must be prepared for the work. And in most cases, it is a tremendous amount of work. Many will think of it as putting more functionality into the website or adding a social network or adding mobile. However, it is more about understanding your customers and their needs and desires. The second part of the digital disruption is that we have more data than ever before to make better, more informed decisions about our business and about how we treat our customers. This idea to use customer and employee feedback and data is not new. It comes from Edward Deming, who wrote over 50 years ago about the necessity of listening to all your sources, especially those closest to your customer, and to incorporate that data into your products and services. If a company actually does this, its products and services will no doubt improve. Now consider other companies that don’t bother to listen and make changes. Customers are noticing and naturally gravitating to companies that are changing with the help of customer input. At the end of a couple of years, consider who you would like to do business with? The answer is obvious – companies who care enough to listen and change. And companies have never had this type of transparent representation of their reputation. Now they must be what they say they are – or they will be exposed.

3. Gain buy-in and support from all levels in the organization – top to bottom:

Everything that happens in a company at some point affects customers and their experiences with that company. So providing great digital customer experiences means that not only do senior executives have to support the goal with time, budget, resources and input, but so does every single person in the organization – in both the front and back offices. What digital transformation requires is that the customer experience be examined – and often redesigned. While digital transformation is made possible by the right technologies, digital transformation goes far beyond just technology, but instead extends into infrastructure, organizational structure, culture, and service-oriented leadership. A commitment from CxOs is needed along with internal change agents; it’s a change in the corporate DNA. Create customer journey maps and use the data from them to show how a customer-centric and digital-first approach is needed. With data projections of what could be accomplished, an organization will want to set goals and put a measurement system in place. A measurement system will show how the digital transformation produced results like increases in lead conversion rates, traffic, leads, engagement, first contact resolution and use of self-service. When executives see real business results, they are more likely to continue to support the initiative.

4. Evaluate where you with respect to providing ubiquitous channel and device experiences:

You’ll want to benchmark where you are with respect to 3 top competitors. Then see where your gaps are. It is also about understanding how your competitors deliver those products and services online and offline compared to your company. Once you have mapped out your customer journey (from the customer’s point of view – not the company’s), compare it to your top three competitors. Take screenshots of your competitors and put them in a powerpoint presentation and give it to someone in the company who has positional power to make change happen. Then redesign your customer engagement and digital strategy with the input from your customers and understanding what your competitors are doing better than you.

5. Once you know your gaps, create a roadmap to create next generation, ubiquitous channel and device, customer-centric experiences:

The gaps show you what’s missing and what you need to do next. It might be strategy; it might be technology; it might process and it might be people- who you have hired, their training, their attitude… And understand it’s all got to to be there to make customer service turn into customer success management.

Savvy Customer Service Professionals are leading their companies, not only to advance customer service, but they are leading  the whole company to new heights, by turning customer service into customer success management. Will you be the next hero?

@drnatalie

VP And Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer-Centric Experiences That Engage Customers and Retain them Through Ubiquitous Channel and Device Capabilities

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