Customer Experience: Management and Technology – Multiple Trends and Multiple Opportunities

March 15, 2016 Ryan Williams

Customer Experience: Management and Technology

[The year of] 2014 ushered in the need to fully understand what customer experience management (CX) is all about for big and small companies across all types of industries on a global basis. CX management comes down to knowing all the customer touch points, their details and understanding each piece as part of the collective whole. Do you know, thoroughly and comprehensively what happens to your clients as they move through your processes? CX can be a sophisticated and expensive platform, or it can be as simple as being aware of what happens to your customers as they move through the purchasing and service process.

The following is a look at the multiple issues and multiple opportunities that are available by understanding what CX is and how it determines whether you get a new customer and keep an existing one.

We as customers just expect more

Various industry experts and my experiences, illustrate that our expectations from customer service have changed and continue to change drastically. We expect in some cases, depending on the business and product, to be able to conduct business on a 24/7 schedule. We hate scripted customer service that lacks the ability to allow creativity to solve problems, and you better have experience management across all customer touch points, and that’s just for a start. We will take our business elsewhere if you are not willing to value me as a customer. I have a hard and fast rule for bad customer experience – find a new solution. I find myself driving across town avoiding the Office Depot next door because of a few bad service encounters and a less organized store layout.

Companies will and must increase their investment in customer experience management

In a 2014 Gartner study, they discovered that top marketers focused on delivering – and investing in – a seamless customer experience. Additionally, they found digital marketers were spending almost as much to retain customers (45 percent) as they do to gain new ones (55 percent). This trend will most definitely continue in 2016 and well beyond with more of marketing budget allocations going to customer experience management. Whether you are a big or small company, you will no longer be able to ignore CX. Forrester’s Customer Index clearly demonstrates that “customer-centric companies gained 43 percent in performance compared to a 33.9 percent decrease for companies who have neglected customer experience.”

There is no arguing with the numbers, ever!

Carl Sewell and Sewell Cadillac pointed out decades ago that by providing a better in-store customer experience they will improve their customer satisfaction, increase loyalty and improve customer retention. In a recent discussion with an OEM, the 30-minute purchase cycle was being evaluated. Polk data puts the average OEM brand loyalty around 50 percent showing how fierce and competitive the market is. A Maritz survey shows that the sales and service experience is the key to repeat business. A recent F&I Magazine article illustrates that loyalty falls off a cliff from 82 percent in year three to a stomach-churning drop of 42 percent in year four of ownership. These eye-popping numbers confirm the need to implement CX and retention programs. Ironically the answer is not overly complex – provide value and convenience in an authentic and friendly atmosphere. With the right strategy, people and tools, CX goals can be achieved.

Never underestimate the value of customer retention

If you are still not convinced customer retention plays a relatively minor role in helping a company grow a healthy bottom line, here are a few statistics that will change your mind. According to Bain Consulting, a 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75 percent. Need some more? Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers. I know you’re convinced now, but one final statistic provided by Lee Resource should seal the deal: Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer.

Tracking and measurement are essential

Yes, you can measure and track customer experience programs. A wide variety of studies on the results of customer experience management strategies shows a high correlation between customer experience and loyalty factors. Thus, I encourage every dealer to measure customer retention by year, model and geography. Set retention goals and remember the golden rule that you cannot manage what you do not measure. Furthermore, re-purchasing, trying new offers, forgiving errors, and most importantly recommending a company to friends and family are proven to be influenced by the customer experience across all touch points.

Any plan to repurchase, upgrade or renew subscriptions is a key indicator of CX management success. The other critical metric, one that has a number of marketing technology companies providing platforms for, is “The New Promoter Score” (NPS). In order to set benchmarks, companies will use survey platforms as part of advocacy programs to gather this information. There is no mystery that we have seen growth in customer experience surveys. So much so that customers are over-surveyed. It is time to move to the single question Net Promoter Score and have science solve the rest.

CX tech integration with existing marketing technologies

The widespread adoption of marketing automation platforms by companies of all sizes means that CX technologies and tools will have seamless integration. A quick search on Google illustrates the numerous options available to the market. Any doubts about how CX is getting integrated into major company offerings can be seen in the M&A market. IBM’s recent purchase of Silverpop and Salesforce’s acquisition of Pardot illustrate the need to have integrated offerings with measurement tools built into them.

A one to one cross-channel experience

Cross-channel experience is simply the same quality of customer experience across whatever device the customer chooses to use to communicate with you. As it becomes easier to manipulate customer data at the corporate level, as an example, it will be easier to personalize the customer experience, making it much more efficient. A company like Domo and others have addressed the need to release data and make it usable to executives to help them understand what is happening with their operations. The personalization of communications has demonstrated that customer’s response to these communications is much higher than generic offers that may be inappropriate to a customer’s needs. You do not have to look any further than Amazon to understand the application of data-driven personalization to make appropriate offers to existing customers. They have combined every possible customer experience tool into a seamless platform that includes: relevant offers based on past purchases and behavior. Reviews to give manufacturers and potential buyers the information to fix problems or buy a product with confidence and you can do this no matter what device you are on. That is managing the customer experience across all customer facing touch points.

Companies are moving to a mobile-first CX

Again, no mystery here with nearly 80 percent of millennials using their phones to shop and get information – your company’s mobile experience had better be great. Google’s latest algorithms reward companies that have a responsive design for mobile users. Keep in mind that Google’s interest in self-interest with the growth in mobile advertising going nowhere but up.

This corresponds with the increase in texting as a primary option for customers to communicate with customer service operations. Technology is not driving these developments, but we are. This move to a mobile first approach places the customer at the center where he or she should be. Although most companies now have their websites and digital assets optimized for mobile devices, it’s still more or less an add-on feature. We’ve seen the progressive customer-centric companies moving toward a mobile first policy. So instead of thinking about the mobile experience as an add-on to the customer experience, think of it as the priority. Ask yourself as a customer service manager, what is always with you? Your phone is the answer, and it is the same situation for everyone else. If I want to talk to someone or set up a time to talk with someone, I often find myself texting them to call me. I do not have a desk phone, and I never leave voice mails. Mobile-first is real, and all service procedure and policies need to be established with this as a priority as the main means of service communications.

Mobile passes the desktop as device of choice

Comscore’s data shows the total number of website visitors from a mobile device overtook the number of visitors from a desktop in 2014. As customers, we choose how to access the Internet and thus our interactions with companies that we are doing business with or considering doing business with. We as consumers have drastically changed the rules and as a company, you need to understand this. The days where a company dictated the interaction rules are over and has been so for at least a decade. Immediacy is the rule now, we want to be notified quickly, give us the data on the device of our choice, and we will respond quickly. The longer it takes you as a company to solve my problem or send me the information I need to make a decision to help you solve my problem, the more risk you are creating for me to be dissatisfied and seek another solution.

You must include mobile as service channel

It is an absolute that your mobile customer experience needs to be just as good as or better than your desktop experience. Today, there is an unstated credibility test that we perform as consumers with every company we consider doing business with. The first is: do you provide me with the information, free of course, on your website like white papers, customer testimonials, free trials, product sheets to name a few, to let me begin a buying process with you. To make that a reality, you will need to take a mobile-first approach. You need to design websites with the mobile user as the priority and create marketing communications that target customers via mobile also need to include the option of allowing customers to text for resolving customer service issues. All of these are credibility qualifiers we use as customers to determine if we want to do business with you.

Mobile matters now!

You simply cannot neglect the mobile customer experience in 2016 or at any time moving forward. You will lose customers if you do. It is that simple. If a potential customer can’t quickly find your company, locate product information or buy a product they are looking for on their mobile device, they will leave your site and find a competitor that can help. As important as efficiency is on the purchasing side, it is becoming increasingly important on the service side as well. All it takes is a search of “texting as a service tool for customer support,” to understand how mainstream the text option is for customer service. If you are still using the phone and leaving voicemails for your customers, whether it is to get approvals for additional service or an update that the service is complete, you are behind your competitors that know the effectiveness of texting to get these tasks completed immediately. Remember, Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta does not have voice mail for their workers. No voice mail at Coca-Cola: Just a few years ago that would have been unthinkable. But not now, not where we are in a mobile and customer centric world.

Remember, as a client I set the rules for who I will do business with, I am the center, and I want options for how I interact with you for purchases and service. The polls have closed and the results are in: It is a mobile and customer experience centric world and to be in it and survive … well, you know the rest.

This article was originally published in Dealer Exec Magazine, 4th Quarter 2015, pp. 28-32

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