The Internet and smartphone boom have made customers expect quick results from the companies with which they do business. And now CRM and voice of the customer solutions are coming together to allow businesses to not only be more responsive, but to be more proactive – and quicker – about it. This requires not only that organizations collect and analyze customer input quickly, but that they get that information to the right employees so they can immediately move to improve the customer experience.
Customer research traditionally has been about influencing strategy, a longer-term type of effort; meanwhile, CRM is typically more operational and tends to focus on serving specific customers, says Andrew McInnes, director of product marketing at Allegiance (News - Alert). Recognizing that customer research was not delivering the results it could, companies began working to provide businesses with tools that allow them to do some CRM-like activities and to quickly leverage data to do customer inventions when needed.
“This stuff is not just touchy feely, this stuff is operationally important,” adds Chris Cottle, CMO at voice of the customer solutions provider Allegiance.
Cottle says such solutions on this front can enable businesses to make a thousand decisions a day vs. one big decision a year. It’s early days for this kind of thing, he adds, but these solutions are in use by a couple dozen forward-thinking businesses.
Michelle de Haaff, vice president of marketing at Medallia, offers a great example of how this kind of thing has been put in practice.
Weight loss company Medifast earlier this year began leveraging real-time customer feedback so it can reach out to customers who have expressed they are less than satisfied with the company. This capability is powered by Medallia’s SaaS (News - Alert)-based, real-time customer feedback solution, which continuously asks for customer feedback via surveys sent to customers’ mobile phones, through QR code signs at retail locations, and other methods. If a customer expresses a negative response to Medifast survey questions, in either scorings or in text replies, the Medallia system sends an alert to the Medifast Customer Client Team, which contacts customers via the contact center or another channel to resolve the issue.
Medallia says that Medifast has already seen a return on the solution. For example, de Haaff notes, one unhappy customer was identified, so Medifast’s contact center called that customer to offer a solution. That customer just so happened to be a reporter at a major TV news outlet who said he was planning on writing a blog trashing Medifast, but as a result of the proactive outreach and offer to solve the problem, he became a Medifast brand advocate. This could have turned into a United-breaks-guitars kind of situation, says de Haaff, but instead it yielded positive results.
“The contact center [can] be a differentiator if armed with the right information, that’s information relevant to the people there, based on actions they can take to improve” the customer experience, says de Haaff of Medallia, whose solutions are also in use by such major brands as Four Seasons, Gold's Gym, Sephora, Sony, and Verizon (News - Alert).
But the call center doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the mix.
For example, a hotel using Medallia might receive customer input that the lobby is dirty, so the manager or head of housekeeping could deploy personnel to clean the lobby right away, de Haaff says. Medallia's system provides role-specific views so that the data that's analyzed always pertains to the viewer's domain. That way everyone from the vice president of customer service to the service agent has an informed view of the customer experience data.
Analytics has been a stronghold of IT and less available to other departments such as the contact center, marketing, or sales groups, says John Joseph, vice president of product marketing at Lavastorm Analytics. What we’re seeing now, however, is analytics getting pushed out to people in all parts of the business, he says, adding that new, easy to use tool are enabling that to happen.
Syed Hasan, president and CEO of ResponseTek (News - Alert), a customer experience management business, agrees. In fact, the company this spring unveiled ResponseTek Mobile, so that any user, from frontline employees to executives, can from their mobile devices access results dashboards, real-time survey results and key performance indicators relative to customer experience.
“We wanted to put the voice of the customer into the pocket of every employee,” says Hasan.
The solution, he adds, is “very Twitteresque” because every time a customer weighs in, employees get a buzz and have the ability to view the feedback. Employees also get details on customer feedback related to the specific transactions with which they were personally involved. Additionally, companies can leverage the overall ResponseTek solution to gather customer feedback and use that information to not only allow individual employees to respond but to help better understand training needs, store performance, and other metrics within an organization.
Esteban Kolsky, a former Gartner (News - Alert) analyst who now runs his own research firm called Thinkjar, says we’re experiencing a fundamental shift in how we do knowledge management. We’re moving away from knowledge in stores and toward putting that knowledge to use. That’s great news, he says, because once you store knowledge it decays almost immediately. However, getting information out quickly to the right communities can result in companies reacting in ways that are actually relevant to customer issues.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi