Customer Experience Management's Effect On Your Business' Top-Line And Bottom-Line Growth.
What is CEM?
If you ask 10 different people "What is CEM?," you will probably get 10 different answers. Some may talk about how easy a product is to use or how easy it is to navigate a website and make a purchase. Others may talk about phone interactions with customer service reps or how quickly a sales person came to help them in a store.
The definition of CEM or Customer Experience Management is actually all of these things and more. It’s the sum total of all experiences you have with a company from the very first moment you learn about them, through all of your interactions, product or service purchases, product use, customer service and support calls, etc. It includes every stage in the customer journey whether online, offline, on the phone or in a store.
What's your customer experience strategy?
Even if you don’t have a formal company policy and a dedicated, cross-functional team responsible for implementation, your company delivers customer experiences, intentional or not, every day. Every interaction is consciously or unconsciously determined to be exceptional, awful or just plain average by your customers. The collection of their individual experiences determines how your brand is perceived in the market.
Remember, you can position your company by how you differentiate it from competitors but it’s your customers who will ultimately establish your brand and determine your success. (We’ll talk more about positioning vs. branding in a future blog post.) This is true for every business, even yours – whether you like it or not.
So you may be saying, “There’s no way we can control absolutely every interaction our customers have with us. Each customer is an individual with unique opinions, insights and feelings and there’s no guarantee that they’ll perceive every experience in the way it was intended by us, so why bother?”
But that question is looking at customer experience management from the wrong way round. The real question should be, “How can we inspire our employees, whether they have direct customer contact or not, to think like our customers, exceed their expectations and achieve our financial goals?”
How can I build a great customer experience environment?
Here are 11 ways you can build a great customer experience environment, no matter the size of your organization.
1. Get your employees on board early. Employees are much more agreeable to change when they’re asked to participate from the beginning. Getting them on board early ensures that they feel part of the process and are being heard. It also helps ensure that every component of your business is being taken into consideration from the beginning rather than trying to add components half way through.
2. Don’t hide company details. All employees want to feel they have a stake in the outcome of your company and want to help make it a success. Make sure they know what your company and individual team goals are. They should understand the financials and know what role they play in achieving and exceeding those goals.
In both good times and bad be open and honest about the health of the company, what its goals are and how you can all work together to get there.
3. Give customers the same great experience every time. Your customers like to know where they stand, what they’re going to get and what to expect from your company. That’s consistency.
Establishing a set of requirements on which each department operates, similar to a playbook, will enable employees to provide the same great service every time. For example, creating a customer checklist or script will ensure that nothing is forgotten or overlooked. No matter who your customer is speaking with, their experience will be consistent over time.
4. Front line employees need more in-depth training. It may seem obvious but customer-facing employees like customer service reps and technical support specialists should receive more in-depth, customer focused training.
Role playing possible customer/employee interactions to see how the staff handles challenging customers or difficult situations will make employees more comfortable, better able to understand the needs of your customers and able to stay calm and professional when real-life situations present themselves.
5. Move from B2B and B2C to H2H. The terms B2B and B2C that we’ve used for so long to talk about our businesses and customers are going away. We’re replacing them with H2H – human to human. Every customer is a unique individual and wants to be treated that way. It’s not difficult to make connections with customers. It doesn’t require a lot of bells and whistles. Just a willingness to do it.
Things that may seem so small on the surface can have a huge impact on customer loyalty, increased revenue and customer advocacy. Here are just a few:
- Maintain a history of customer purchases and preferences. What and how much have they purchased? Over what period of time? Do they prefer that you refer to them by their nickname? Do they consistently purchase products in a specific color?
- Attach all customer comments, surveys, referrals and testimonials to their records for quick and easy reference in the future.
- Are there any personal connections between the customer and your company? Maybe employees they know outside of the office? A spouse who also works for the company? What are some of the reasons they may be loyal to you over a competitor?
- Include in their file any personal information including the name of their spouse, children, favorite vacation spot, birthdays and any other information which could be brought up in future interactions.
6. Get a true 360 degree view. Data on customer experiences isn’t just collected by conducting a survey or calculating your company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Social media has enabled you to go to your customer communities, listen to what’s being said, engage in conversations and build relationships with customers who could become vocal and valuable brand advocates. Using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Instagram and other social media hubs where your customers congregate, you can uncover trends and sentiments that you may not have otherwise discovered.
7. Respond to the good, the bad and the ugly. Quickly respond to comments, suggestions, recommendations and issues. No matter what the source.
Social media has enabled both happy and disgruntled customers to shout their feelings to a worldwide audience. How you respond to them in this public forum will send a loud message to everyone about how you treat your customers. People understand that issues will occasionally arise and will excuse the problem if they see that you are trying to be helpful and resolve the situation quickly.
8. Understand the voice of your customer. It’s important to understand where your customer is coming from. What are their needs, challenges, goals, etc.? Employees often view their company’s products and operations through a narrow lens focused internally rather than externally. Help them step into the shoes of your customers and empower them to make on the spot decisions that solve problems immediately rather than pushing the customer onto someone else or waiting days or weeks for a resolution.
9. Take a company-wide team approach. Customer Experience Management should be a company-wide initiative lead by the executive team and managed by a cross-functional group from different departments and areas of expertise. The group may include representatives from legal, accounting, marketing, product development, sales, operations and HR and should include both senior and junior level individuals.
10. Customer Experience Management starts with the buyer’s journey. The most effective way to build your CEM plan is to begin with your buyer’s journey. Understand the path they take from awareness, through all of their pre-sales engagements with you, to purchase and post-sales interactions. This will enable you to establish a consistency across all touch points with smooth transitions between departments and a uniform quality of service.
11. Modify operational metrics to support customer centricity. Successfully executing your customer experience management plan will require a change in departmental metrics. Standard business metrics are focused on the successful operations of each individual department. A CEM strategy requires that some of these metrics be changed or additional metrics added to exceed customer expectations and drive top and bottom-line growth.
Top U.S. companies with the best customer experience.
Each year Forrester Research releases its Customer Experience Index which identifies and measures the top brands across 14 industries and how they are perceived by their customers.
The Forrester Customer Experience Index for the United States included the following brands as best-in-class based on how enjoyable they are to do business with, how easy they are to do business with and how effective they are at meeting customers’ needs.
- Airlines: Southwest Airlines
- Banks: USAA
- Consumer Electronics Manufacturers: Amazon (Kindle)
- Credit Card Providers: USAA
- Health Insurance Providers: Kaiser
- Hotels: Courtyard by Marriott
- Insurance Providers: USAA
- Internet service providers: AOL
- Investment firms: Ameriprise Financial
- Package delivery services: UPS
- Rental car providers: National Car Rental
- Retailers: Old Navy
- TV service providers: Dish Network / EchoStar
- Wireless service providers: Verizon Wireless and Boost Mobile
Customer experience management and your business' top-line and bottom-line growth.
Remarkable customer experiences, raving fans and a sustainable increase in revenue can be achieved by any company, large or small. Why then do we hear of so few companies who deliver truly exceptional customer experiences and become the most powerful brands in the market? Because it takes a constant commitment to customers, an internal shift in how companies think and operate and, most importantly, a lot of hard work.
Delighting customers isn't just about feeling warm and fuzzy all over. At the end of the day, it’s about additional revenue. It is critical that customer experiences and metrics be connected to drive growth. You may want to start with these metrics as a baseline and add additional metrics specific to your company or industry:
- Increase in issue resolution per customer service representative.
- Increase in issue resolution during first call.
- Increase in ARPU.
- Increase in number of customer referrals.
- Decrease in churn at every stage in the customer journey.
- Decrease in customer calls to help center, billing or technical support.
- Decrease in product returns.
Your ultimate goal is fourfold:
- To increase revenue from current customers
- To increase the number of new customers
- To decrease customer loss/churn
- To decrease operating expenses
It’s important to realize that delivering great customer experiences and your business’ financial goals are not mutually exclusive nor can the later be fully achieved by ignoring former.
The key takeaway.
Companies are always looking to establish their brands, increase revenue, decrease expenses and secure a market leadership position. What most of them fail to realize is that these things aren't achieved by internal dictates, flashy advertising or a large influx of cash. They’re each driven by your customers based on the collection of experiences that they've had with your organization.
Customer experience management is a marathon not a sprint. Change will not come overnight but it will come. With leadership and direction from senior management, a sense of empowerment and a common purpose from every employee, customer-centric metrics tied to corporate revenue goals and customers who feel they are heard and appreciated, your business can achieve both customer and financial objectives.
About the Author
Lisa Masiello is an award winning tech industry marketing strategist, start-up advisor and founder of TECHmarc Labs. She writes on B2B growth, channel management, marketing strategy, customer experience, and CMO success. Chat with Lisa by email at Lisa.Masiello@TECHmarcLabs.com. Connect with her on LinkedIn.