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The Importance of Customer Experience (Part 2)

Excellent Customer Experience is critical to every organization. Customers are a business’ livelihood and no matter how great the product is or how competitive the pricing, customers will leave when they feel frustrated or ignored. So, how do organizations ensure their Customer Experience is functioning seamlessly and efficiently? Who is responsible for delivering a great Customer Experience? The answer: everyone in the organization.

A few of The Northridge Group’s leaders sat down to give us the different perspectives on the topic of Customer Experience: Therese Fauerbach, CEO; Tamara Solarich, CMO; and Pam Plyler, Executive Practice Lead, Customer Experience. The following is the second excerpt in a two-part series of that discussion (slightly edited for length and clarity).

How can companies afford to provide a top-tier Customer Experience?

Therese FauerbachFauerbach: Companies that ask this question do not yet understand the power of being customer-centric because it will actually dramatically reduce, not increase, your cost structure.  For example, think about companies that provide fully integrated, seamless omni-channel experiences.  Each channel has a different cost structure and the old way of looking at things is to try to “push” customers to the least costly channel. However, the customer-centric approach is to fully develop all channels, make them easy to navigate to the information customers need on that channel and execute flawlessly. In our research study, Northridge found that 61 percent of consumers must interact with a company on more than one channel to resolve a customer service issue. Companies should leverage the available data on the number of times customers contact them on each channel and address the reasons they cannot get resolution on that channel to avoid customers having to navigate across channels for resolution. Not only is the customer more satisfied, but costs go down dramatically when eliminating those repeat interactions.

customer relationsPlyler: Right and you have to examine the drivers of breakage along that process to deliver best-in-class Customer Experience. In data analysis, use fact-based decision-making; understand the financial impact of those major pain points in the organization.  A customer journey map should document in a fact-based way, the end-to-end process and all critical touch points that make, or break, the experience. If done successfully, that data should highlight the breakage points and failure rates so your organization can continuously prioritize change that would improve the overall experience and resulting profitability. Any time you make a change to the process, you not only have to update your customer journey map but also check-in that the outcome realized is what you expect.

So, prioritization is the name of the game.  

tsolarich_bwSolarich: From a competitive differentiation perspective, you have to be sure you are taking care of the most critical breakages that will get you to your 80-20 rule. The problems that create the most pain for your customers are the ones you have to fix. First, make sure those interactions are seamless and consistent, so you can then build on new and innovative ideas that drive differentiation in Customer Experience.

Fauerbach: One of the critical components of a successful strategy is to continuously evaluate your scorecard to ensure it is clearly aligned with your business objectives and evolving to provide a clear, holistic view across the customer journey. A customer-centric scorecard will clearly identify the breakage points within and across businesses and functions in the customers’ terms. This would include customer lifetime value, churn and contact rate, along with the key operational data that drives operational effectiveness and efficiency.  Too many times, people try to solve the problem they can solve versus what they have to solve.

Plyler: Refining what you have versus building something new…

Fauerbach: Right, and what person wouldn’t say, “This is what I have that I can fix, so I’m going to do it.” Viewing the effectiveness across business silos, channels and functions is a challenge for leadership across a large organization but is well worth the focus.

How do you think social media, as a customer service channel, is throwing a wrench into the Customer Experience?

Fauerbach: In many large organizations, social media is often owned by Marketing or Communications. The channel has evolved into broader use for the organization. Executives are recognizing the importance of social media as a customer service channel, engagement, and marketing channel. They want to see it leveraged in the most effective way to build brand value, protect the company reputation and offer service solutions.

Plyler: I completely agree. The pendulum is shifting in that your brand image will be defined through the eyes of your customers, communicated through your customers, and people are relying on the feedback through their referral networks to make purchasing decisions more than ever. So, in conjunction with Marketing, customer service must be living and breathing your brand value on a day-to-day basis because any holes in execution will likely become highly visible on social media.

Solarich: Absolutely. Marketing was an early adopter of social media because it was a new customer communication channel that offered a great way to build brand, engagement, and community. Now it’s impacting the larger Customer Experience arena, so it’s important for businesses to leverage marketing and create effective partnerships across the organization to ensure consistency of the brand and Customer Experience across all channels and customer-facing touch points.

Fauerbach: In the early days of social media, CEO’s perceived this channel as something their kids were using, not something that would significantly impact their business. Marketing leveraged it because Marketing at least saw that it was a public channel that affected their brand.

Solarich: That’s right, and today it truly is a more holistic Customer Experience channel. In our recent report, 47 percent of consumers shared that they plan to use social media as a customer service channel the same or more than they currently do. Additionally, one-third of those consumers who contact a brand on social media for customer service, never get a response. That’s a large group of consumers that are seeking customer service on this channel and companies aren’t meeting their needs. This is one of many critical communication channels that customers rely on to interact with your brand and it needs to be done flawlessly.