Customer experience (CE) and its management (customer experience management CEM) is a highly volatile and subjective concept that is extremely difficult to define, let alone monitor and measure. Part of this difficulty is rooted in the fact that a customer experience relies heavily on interpreting and evaluating responses that are internal and extremely subjective. Consequently, the process of gathering and analyzing the data is far from scientific and presents a problem when interpreting this data with objectivity and clarity.
However, despite these challenges, many CEOs are convinced of the importance and necessity of implementing a CEM strategy in order to track, and organize all interactions between a customer and the organization throughout the customer lifecycle. The business case for implementing a CEM strategy is not new, after all maximizing customer satisfaction is unquestionably a good strategy for growing the company’s bottom line. Customer satisfaction is the culmination of a series of customer experiences. A positive experience results when a customer’s expectations align with their subsequent experiences.
Perhaps the most difficult hurdle to overcome when attempting to ‘control’ customer experience is the large number of variables that are involved in this process. As discussed, these variables are not only plentiful but highly subjective and difficult to assess. Much of what will ultimately color the customer experience is the indirect contact that clients have with a company. In other words, direct contact occurs in the course of a purchase, use, or service of a product and is far easier to exercise some control over that transaction. But an indirect contact is, more often than not, unplanned and involves encounters with representations of a company’s products, services, and brands and takes many varied forms. For example, some contact can be word-of-mouth recommendations or criticisms, advertising, news reports, reviews, and more and more, social media. It’s clear to see how little control a company has over these contacts. Consequently, a plan to implement a successful CEM strategy must cover a wide range of factors that considers every aspect of a client’s experience.
A Look at Some of These Factors
A multi-faceted CEM strategy takes investment, strong leadership, persistence, courage, transparency, and open-mindedness. Many of these concepts can be quite vague and difficult to translate into actionable processes, but the following are some ideas on how to accomplish that task:
- The task of managing customer experience is the responsibility of the entire company; it does not rest in the hands exclusively of the sales, marketing, or customer service departments. Unless management accepts that the responsibility for customer experience rests with the entire company, customers’ needs will not be handled with the depth and seriousness required to be successful.
- The data collected may present some potentially controversial or contradictory information; in such an event, a CEO must have the courage and the business will to follow through and investigate negative customer assessments.
- The importance of gathering and valuing the input and buy-in from all employees in the company. Working with employees on an alignment program that promotes and takes into account the employee’s perspective is not only good for the employees but critical for business success. Management must pay attention to an employee’s discomfort, fears, or misunderstandings of programs, like a CEM program. Information and sharing of that information and company goals would do much to allay some of these fears. At the same time, an internal initiative to include all employees input regarding the broad concept of customer experience is very important. Looking at issues like: why customer experience is important, what is the company’s strategy for managing and improving customer experience and whether employees buy into that strategy, and how employees’ roles impact customer experience and what internal procedures, technology or even individuals help or prevent them from delivering exceptional customer service.
There is significant industry research and analysis that concurs with the theory that excluding the the very critical employee input and perspective is counterproductive to the business goals and corporate reputation of all companies. Employee alignment is a very powerful business tool as it can reach and speak to employee concerns and ideas in a direct and non-threatening manner. Such actions, when carried out in a sincere fashion, can result in raising employee motivation and empowering them to make customer service a top priority. Employees function at their best when they believe that both customer-facing and back-office functions are aligned to support a positive customer experience.
It is a very human response to seek confirmation for one’s emotional, intellectual and physical investment in both personal and business relationships. For most people, work is a dominant presence in their lives and, therefore, business relationships matter and have a great influence in the overall quality of people’s’ lives. Recently, more attention has been paid to this important issue – the health and well-being of individuals in their places of business.
This move within corporate business environments to turn their attention to employee concerns and employee satisfaction is not necessarily a strictly selfless gesture. There has been plenty of research that confirms the benefits to companies of employees who are ‘happy’ or at least ‘satisfied’ with their work. A rise in productivity among workers is only one of the many benefits. Research has found a rise in workplace creativity, better in situations of adversity, better quality of service, and tend to stay on the job for longer periods.
There is probably another important factor that has contributed greatly to this change in corporate cultural attitudes, and that is the very important input of the consumer. In a positive turn, today’s consumer has put financial pressure on companies to work towards a fairer and more sustainable society. There is a growing trend among consumers to consider a company’s role with issues of social and ethical responsibility as critical. This change, that directly impacts a company’s bottom line, has contributed in great part to the changes that are now very much a reality in corporate businesses. This is the same attitude change that has ushered in the notion that all employees are an integral part of a successful and beneficial business relationship. This is still early times for this cultural change. But continued pressure by consumers and continued awareness in the public sector at large will necessarily contribute to a better outcome for society at large.
What successes has your company had in managing the customer experience? Leave a comment and let us know.
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