By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated September 11, 2013.
Today's marketing gurus keep telling sales and service managers they have to manage the customer experience -- not just the customer relationship. But how much control do companies really have over the customer experience? How can they ensure that their customers always or almost always have outstanding experiences dealing with their products and their reps?
It's not easy -- that's for sure. But keeping your eye on the goal of customer satisfaction and using analytics to monitor results can be your keys to successful customer experience management.
It seems that there is a long way to go. Consider these statistics from Oracle's recent Global CX Study: 91 percent of 1,300 senior-level executives surveyed wish to be considered customer experience (CX) leaders in their industries, yet 37 percent are just getting started with formal customer experience initiatives.
On average, these business leaders estimate an 18 percent increase in spending on customer experience technology over the next two years -- and improving the cross-channel experience and customer analytics are top priorities.
But, again, how much control do companies really have over the customer experience? In fact, a lot. And, any business, whether large or small, can improve results by taking a top-down management approach to customer satisfaction. From the boardroom to the contact center, from design to distribution -- success is all about the customer.
The Fundamental Step
The problem is that, although many departments and functions have systems to track customer data, and measure customer satisfaction, few organizations have holistic, enterprise-wide views of the customer experience. So says professional-services firm KPMG.
Their analysis offer some valuable points. For example, Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs often focus on achieving certain scores but are typically not action-oriented. Business Intelligence (BI) tools can often provide useful insights on the dynamic nature of customer behavior, but not without IT support and interpretation from statisticians.
In a white paper titled, "Seven Steps to Better Customer Experience Management," KPMG says that the first step is fundamental to the entire concept: Understand the needs, wants and preferences of your target audience.
"Preference research, consisting of both qualitative and quantitative studies, can help organizations gain insights on customer shopping, pricing, product usage, and service support preferences," KPMG suggests.
"This critical first step is not about creating a new segmentation scheme." Instead, the focus needs to be on a number of of customer-centric variables, such as gaining insights regarding:
(1) how prospects hear about new products
(2) the factors that influence where they shop and for what
(3) onboarding needs and expectations for new customers
(4) how customers and prospects like to get help when issues arise; and
(5) the perceived value at specific price points, and how these relate to market trends and competitive offerings.
What's Your Secret Sauce?
In terms of understanding the needs and preferences of their target audience, McDonald's seems to be doing all of these things and maybe more, says John Balla, a senior marketing specialist in Customer Intelligence at data-management software-maker SAS.
Balla points to McDonald's customer experience management as a good example of what companies can strive to do. He says the burger-maker offers a consistently positive customer experience in its restaurants. But how?
Balla says McDonald's special sauce, so to speak, is that the customer experience is at the center of its business, and the company keeps it there using an analytically-driven optimization process.
Mike Cramer, director of Operations Research in the Innovations Group at McDonald's, says the company simultaneously manages factors in the three categories that affect the customer experience: design, information, and people.
Certainly the factors will vary from business to business and each company's management team needs to find its own formula for optimizing customer experience.
So, here's the take-away, to share with your team:
"Ask yourselves, what is your company's special sauce? How can you keep the customer at the center of your business? There's no doubt it's a matter of deliberate effort -- and it's easier said than done," Balla says.
Keep in mind also that as your operations grow, analytics will become increasingly important for managing customer experience and ensuring customer satisfaction at every step along the way.