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What it Takes to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience

September 02, 2014

For enterprises large and small around the world for the past several years “Improving the Customer Experience” has become a C-level priority. Some might even say customer experience (CX) has become a preoccupation. The challenge for everyone who is a stakeholder in developing ways to improve CX is in divining the answer to a straightforward but devilish question, “What does it take to deliver a superior customer experience?”

Interestingly, not only do those providing products and services to this market and their channel partners and customers want to understand how best to answer this question, but all of us who interact with “front line” people, especially contact center agents, have a horse in this race as well.

Along with matters relating to security there are few hotter topics these days. This is illustrated by the recent webinar, hosted by customer experience solutions provider Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert), What Does it Take to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience? The Two Top-Rated Online Retailers, B&H Photo and Crutchfield Electronics, Share Their Secrets.

The live event was viewing room only. Interactive Intelligence VP, solutions marketing, Tim Passios was joined by Megan Burns, Forrester (News - Alert) Research, VP, principal analyst serving customer experience professionals, and Moshe Leeds Sales Operations Manager from B&H Photo and Jordan Greenstone Senior Manager Sales Strategy from Crutchfield Electronics to review industry trends, and discuss best practices.

While it is impossible to encapsulate all of the great information imparted, including various examples of what success looks like and how it was achieved, a few tidbits should hopefully get you to set aside some time to watch and listen.

Getting CX grounded

Forrester’s Burns led off.  For no other reason than enabling your C-levels to their arms around CX you should take advantage of the ability to download the slides for the entire event. 

As Burns noted, the trick is in defining and measuring what CX quality is. What this enables is having a clear view of what success constitutes which can be used in implementing what she described as a “disciplined CX competence.” It is a competency everyone in an organization needs to understand and value so behaviors and all of the interactions an entity has with its customers, human and self-service, are delivering in a cohesive and consistent manner.

 Burns then outlined three core dimensions of CX quality which get weighted according to the dynamics of any given industry. They are: 

  • Effectiveness:  Customers get value from the experience
  • Ease: Customers get that value without difficulty.
  • Emotion: Customers feel good about the experience

What Burns also noted, not surprisingly, was that of 16 sectors looked in the U.S. (including the government sector) in 10 emotion played the biggest role. She then highlighted what she and Forrester see as, “The Six Disciplines of CX Maturity,” illustrated below.

Source (News - Alert): Forrester Research (click to enlarge)

Next up were the customer experience executives from Crutchfield and B&H.  

Crtuchfield’s Greenstone provided the following advice, “Feeling valued is about being deeply engaged. This means having a great omnichannel front end and back office.” He added that Crutchfield hire people, including techs and salespeople because they know customer service.”  He also noted since the company is selling technology products, that “speaking plainly is important” as are constant monitoring of interactions to find ways to improve the experience and standing behind the customer post-sale. 

B&H’s Leeds articulated the four pillars that huge electronics firm rests on: competitive pricing, product availability, knowledge and education (“we are not just product clerks but solutions providers), and customer service and courtesy. His message to participants, “Never take customer satisfaction for granted.” 

Attention to the technologies that are emerging as requisite from success was Passios’ part of the session where he outlined such tools that are either necessities or rapidly coming to be ones. These included: intelligent routing, highly leveraging social media, multi-channel workforce management so the right people are always available at the right times, speech analytics and giving agents performance feedback through dashboards and things like gamification. 

Passios also noted, and Leeds and Greenstone agreed, that real-time information including having the right context was a key.  After all, technology is an enabler and it still comes back to the right person, with the best information, tools and problem solving skills, being matched with a customer and challenge they can solve the first time and in hopefully a more than satisfactory manner.

Finally, when it comes to keeping customers satisfied Greenstone’s words should resonate, “Really listen, and find an alternative if needed.” 

Everyone in business knows the lessons of Retailing 101 or should. They are that it costs many times less to keep an old customer than obtain a new one, and word of mouth in the Internet age by a dissatisfied customers can create some times incalculable damage. 

So what does it take to deliver a superior customer experience?   It can be stated in an equation that has been true for decades:  people + products and services + process (aka technology) = performance.  Indeed, those six disciplines of Forrester a worth committing to memory and socializing.  Listening, measuring and creating a customer-centric culture and leveraging technology are the core elements for creating and sustaining a path to success. And as both Greenstone and Leeds both articulated, there is nothing easy about this and it needs to be seen as a journey and not a destination.    

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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