Customer experience has become a catchphrase in recent years, as businesses recognize the growing importance of more effectively catering to clients and prospects, who now have more power to do comparison shopping and complain in giant online forums due to the widespread use of the Internet and connected devices.
But while most of us are aware of all this, the extent to which businesses are effectively delivering on the promise of a better customer experience is questionable.
Analyst and author Denise Lee Yohn in a recent posting for the Harvard Business Review shares her experience of meeting with representatives at major company. During the meeting, she says, nobody had any new ideas to offer that applied to their own parts of the business contributing to customer experience. What’s more, she writes, all of them tended to position the customer experience discussion as something exclusive to marketing.
“If such confusion can exist at a high-growth, $2.5 billion public company, how many other organizations could be struggling to understand and manage customer experience appropriately?” she writes. “I’ve discovered that most companies are using an incomplete definition of customer experience, and have incomplete tools and approaches to design and manage it.”
Customer experience is not just a function of how an organization markets itself. It involves every aspect of the customer journey – from initial outreach, to the sale and product turn up, to how the product looks and functions, to ongoing customer support (online, over the phone, via mobile apps, or in store), to upgrades and new offers, and even during an organization’s interaction with customers that want to discontinue their business (do it well, and they may return).
That said, every group in an organization from sales to operations, customer service/contact center, product design, and marketing should be involved in the effort to improve customer experience.
While most of us are already aware of the creation of chief customer officers at many organizations (see CUSTOMER magazine’s September 2013 cover story on this topic), a new study by Act-On Software and advisory firm Gleanster Research reports that in most companies no department is accountable for the stewardship of the entire customer relationship. That’s a real problem.
Despite the challenges of creating and executing on a successful and broad-ranging customer experience strategy, however, the good news is these tasks are on the drawing boards and in the works at many companies, and that there is an ever-expanding set of tools and technologies to help organizations address customer experience. That includes everything from omnichannel contact centers, so customers and prospects can communicate with companies via the devices and media types of their choice; to automated and personalized marketing tools that enable organizations to reach out to prospects with more timely and targeted offers; to big data solutions that enable businesses to leverage information to better cater to customers through new product design and messaging; to the ability to instantly launch voice or video communications between customer and business in an effort to reach people where they are and understand where they are in the customer journey. And that’s just a small sampling of the many customer experience tools available.
But although there is a wealth of tools and services, and an understanding at most companies that customer experience is more important than ever, organizations need to be sure to have the correct people in place to create and shepherd their customer experience efforts so they permeate the entire enterprise, and so these efforts continue to be recalibrated over time as conditions change.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino