CUSTOMER Takes Center Stage


CUSTOMER Takes Center Stage

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  October 01, 2012

This article originally apppeared in the Sept. issue of CUSTOMER magazine.

In last month’s edition of her Logout (in the final issue of Customer Interaction Solutions), Paula Bernier (News - Alert) concluded that, above all, “customer experience needs to be front and center,” when it comes to building a successful business. It’s not a new notion, but it is one that has never held more truth.

That brings us to CUSTOMER and the new look for our 30-year-old publication. Indeed, the customer has always been the lynchpin of success. The difference, today, is that the customer has a louder, more far-reaching voice than ever, thanks to the marvelous technology that enables him to voice his opinions in a global forum. Wherever he may be, he can interact with his own social communities, but the global social forum as well.

Businesses have those same tools, including a more complex toolset to help them track, analyze, and react to customer actions, feedback, and commentary. One of the wonders of social media – which can benefit both business and customer – is the visibility into conversations and trends in the social environment.

But more importantly, with the social world still being rather cloudy (pardon the pun) in terms of where it truly fits into the business paradigm, businesses also have at their disposal tools that will allow them to enhance the value of every customer interaction, regardless of the channel. 

While businesses study social to find its role in their environments, they also have to consider how they can leverage technology to create better experiences across all interaction channels – particularly in ways that will help influence the tone of social interactions.

That means looking at all the different situations in which customers interact with your business, including in-person, which often seems to have become an afterthought in many organizations. Whether e-mail, IM, phone, web, social, or in-person, every interaction presents an opportunity to positively influence the customer relationship.

It’s how businesses react to different interactions and resolve situations that set their experiences apart from others. For the aggressive and forward-thinking business, technology provides much more than the ability to do traditional jobs more efficiently – it allows for the creation of new communications strategies, for connecting business processes and departments in ways that have never been possible.

Different business units have different skill sets and information, all of which can be assets. That includes knowledge workers, customer support, IT, field personnel/techs, sales, and even management. The power of technology is in its ability to connect internal constituencies with each other, as well as with customers, allowing goals to be achieved more efficiently.

In order to make use of technology – indeed, in order to choose the right technology – it’s critical to look at your organization to see how to optimize communication. And it goes well beyond the concept of moving account information from one agent to another (though that, unfortunately, ranks high on the list of customer requests from their vendors, despite the technology being available from most every vendor today).

It might be about using two-way video between a field tech and supervisor to help understand what’s wrong with a cable modem. Or it might be setting up a system to track how many orders of chicken wings have been ordered, which then automatically places an order for not only the meat, but hot sauce and blue cheese dressing as well, to ensure supply is available when customers place orders. Or, it might be the ability to IM an account rep to determine if a customer is eligible for a product discount, regardless of where the sales rep happens to be at the time.

The point is, there are departments within organizations that have never had to interact (in a business sense), but have information and resources that are invaluable to more effective and efficient customer engagement. Too often, when we think about communications technology, we limit the conversation to internal communications, overlooking the most important constituency – the CUSTOMER, and the one part of the operational process over whom you have next to no control. The key is to leverage all of your internal resources to serve your customers.

If this all sounds a lot like a discussion on unified communications, it should. While many limit UC to specific features or communications modalities, I maintain it encompasses all modalities and capabilities, both internal and external relationships, as well as process automation, all in the interest of serving the customer. And that’s what CUSTOMER will bring to you each month: an exciting discussion around the ever-evolving relationship between customers and vendors and how that evolution changes the way businesses must handle customer relationships.

Welcome to TMC’s (News - Alert) new CUSTOMER magazine. May these pages be a constant reminder of Henry Ford’s words: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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