Customer Experience is the next competitive battleground
Gary Schwartz, senior vice-president of marketing at Confirmit, highlights the benefit of using customer feedback management software to drive the level of loyalty. He argues that you can best enhance customer experience, loyalty and advocacy by measuring it and then showing customers that their opinions count.
More and more companies are offering their products and services via multiple channels – in store, online, call centres, via catalogues – but as consumers decide which technology is most appropriate to their needs, companies are having to work hard to maintain their brand promise and create a coherent customer experience, irrespective of the channel that individual customers choose to use when they make their purchases.
Loyalty and repeat purchases increasingly depend on the quality of service provided, the speed of response, and whether a customer feels that his/her opinions, desires and attitudes are taken seriously.
CRM technology promised to give companies a holistic view of customers in order to improve customer satisfaction and build loyalty, business silos proved impenetrable, the technology proved to be somewhat less robust than advertised, and the goal of communicating with customers over all channels, with each channel having access to the same information about the customer, was never realised.
Customer retention was rightly cited as one of the key areas of focus at CEO level at the 2008 Gartner CRM Summit, with many senior managers looking to reduce attrition rates and compete effectively in a world where switching to a competitor’s products is increasingly commonplace and building a direct relationship with customers is harder to achieve.
But whilst the number of customer experience departments might be on the increase in Global 1000 companies, and significant budgets are being set aside for CRM software, it’s worth remembering that you can best enhance customer experience, loyalty and advocacy by measuring it and then showing customers that their opinions count and that the quality of each interaction with the company is top of the agenda.
Research carried out by the Strativity Group corroborates this assumption, finding that 95% of executives think that customer experience is the next competitive battleground. Developing an effective Customer Strategy that allows an organisation to build long term relationships with customers in order to counteract the ‘switch culture’ will be essential going forward.
Most senior managers run their business by tracking metrics that relate to three key business performance criteria: acquisition of new customers, retention of existing customers, and growth in business from existing customers. Most KPIs relate (or can be related) to one of these imperatives.
In call centres it’s typical to measure performance of the call centre from the point of view of operational efficiencies (i.e., cost). Key metrics include length of call, call abandonment rate, and agent utilisation.
First call resolution is a metric that call centre management measures to infer customer satisfaction.
But isn’t asking agents to measure their own performance something of a self fulfilling prophecy?
Isn’t it better to ask customers themselves whether their problem was solved on the first call?
It’s no surprise then that more and more businesses are investing in feedback and analytics software in a bid to better understand their most valuable asset – their customers. The latest DMG Consulting ‘2008 Contact Center Surveying/Feedback and Analytics Market Report’ highlighted a 21.3% growth in this sector. It’s worth remembering, however, that merely gathering facts and figures about customers is not enough to engender loyalty.
Feedback management initiatives that enable companies to create a two way dialogue with customers to find out how they ‘feel’ about a product or service and what factors impact their decision making process, either positively or negatively, are a vital component of any successful Customer Experience strategy. Only by tracking individual ‘pain points’, or Key Attitudinal Indicators (KAIs) can you change business processes to improve customer experience or enhance a product offering or provide a personalised service that differentiates you from your competitors.
The good news is that technology has evolved to the point where companies can now communicate with their customers both ‘how they want it’ and ‘when they want it’, whether in-store, online, via IVR or the contact center. And they can leverage the feedback collected across a range of channels into an enterprise-wide program that directly impacts business results.
Customer feedback management software enables companies to turn the multi-channel environment into a highly effective communication and marketing mechanism. More than just market research, which is done when the company wants to know the answer to a specific question, feedback management software monitors customer experience and is part of an ongoing process.
Driving action through the business upon receipt of the feedback, whether through alerts based on responses to specific questions, or through trending attitude over time, gives companies the ability to integrate the voice of the customer into every facet of the business.
The raft of tools and functionality now incorporated into sophisticated customer feedback management software means that event-driven, contextually-rich surveys can be initiated at ‘key moments of truth’ for individual customers after each interaction with a company. The feedback provided can provide actionable insight about the sales process, product selection, pricing or service provision, with real time ‘alerts’ enabling an organisation to respond most appropriately in real-time – from proactively managing customer complaints to leveraging cross and up selling opportunities.
By combining real time understanding of customer attitude with key business performance metrics, companies will be in a much better position to differentiate themselves on the basis of customer experience and quality of service.