In an earlier post on “customer intimacy” we presented how it was a more effective organizational strategy (versus price or product leadership) for leveraging the assets and brand power of a typical association. Customer intimacy drives value creation based on what the customer wants and then operations, customer management and product and service development delivers on these requirements.
The goal is to become known for providing better more customized product and service experiences that meet the needs of the customer. This becomes the prime differentiator of the brand. It might cost more than the low cost provider but it delivers more completely. It might not be cutting edge like product leaders, but they are more affordable and focused on the end users (e.g. not chasing the next big thing).
But having the right organizational strategy isnt enough especially when you are to be known for delivering a personalized product. So you need a process for managing it.
The graphic above shows a view we might typically see from the perspective of any association manager. This is the “plumbing” for distributing the customer experience: the distribution channels, the association management software or customer relationship management systems (housing your user profiles), and finally the business units who work to deploy appropriate customer content.
More Than Technology
We can get caught up in our own silos with perspectives that do not match what the customer sees. We should remember that the customer doesn’t distinguish you by department or by delivery channel. They expect a seamless experience no matter when, where or with whom they interact.
Managing individual customer experiences effectively often requires organizations to achieve new levels of collaboration among various departments. Marketing, sales and service must be integrated to provide superior customer experiences from product awareness to consideration, from product purchase to service and hopefully repeat purchase. By providing value to the customer at each interaction, such as never asking for contact information twice, customer satisfaction can go up.
Managing What the Customer Sees
Just as we have seen in previous posts about the importance of applying a product development process across all business units for developing better products and services, so too is there a need to employ a system for managing customer experience. This is even more important with the greater complexity of new media and social networking tools which extend beyond simple content management systems or print or face to face events.
The above diagram from Peer Insight, LLC maps an Amtrak experience from the customer point of view. Riding the train consists of ten separate steps, each critical for a satisfied customer experience.
Imagine the diagram above was your membership join/renewal experience. How many unique points are there along the experience? Do you have a clear customer experience desired, designed and ready to measure at each point? If not, you risk losing sales all along the process.
In the Amtrak example, they found that the least managed part of the experience was once the customer disembarked. From Amtrak’s point of view you might consider the service concluded, but the customer felt differently. If the destination has fewer means of continuing their journey (such as a car rental location), the opportunities for future sales was less likely for serving that destination. If the location is a profitable one, finding customer assistance to continue their journey WAS important to Amtrak.
Most Organizations Fail to Deliver Good Experiences
Research shows that most companies fail to pass even 80% of the customer experience criteria: Presentation, Consistency, Trust, Value, Choice and Continuity. Web sites are particularly bad with only 10% achieving a passing score.
Good products often get killed from bad service experiences. Delighted customers are six times more likely to repurchase than merely satisfied customers (Xerox study). A five percent decrease in customer attrition can increase profits by more than 25% (HBR study). Eighty five percent of dissatisfied customers will tell ten people how dissatisfied they were while delighted customers tell only eight people and satisfied customers tell only five (Fortune magazine).
Once again, do you have a system for managing a customer experience across your organization’s business units and their products and services? Check your web analytics software to see how many people quit before they finish a purchase process and you might be incented to deploy a customer experience management process.
Customer Experience as an Integrated Process
Gary and Blane Millet of Customer Experiences Inc. have developed an interesting approach to help solve this challenge.
They began with asking how they could help clients “significantly reduce random acts by employees to help make customer behavior more consistent, predictable and repetitive.”
Their research suggested that a quantitative “engineered” customer experience will ensure fewer dislocations and direct customers and employees to the desired response. The process used to accomplish this “engineering” is called Customer Experience Mapping.
Customer Experience Mapping is both a strategic and tactical tool.
Millet and Millet explain CEM as follows:
Its primary objective is to protect the organization from random acts of excellence and chaos that cause customer confusion. Customer confusion clouds the understanding and true motives of the organization and prevents the formation of loyalty. This confusion often results in perceptions of “commoditization,” the belief that the organizations’ products and services are just the same as any other organizations’ products and services-leaving price as the only true differentiator.
Customer Experience Mapping performs three critical functions:
- Builds effective Customer Experience Maps that employees can easily learn and follow-and management can easily measure.
- Links all the individual maps together into a seamless experience, designed to achieve the desired customer response.
- Documents the maps, linkage and entire experience, so it can be continually improved while maintaining its consistency.
CEM has the greatest impact on customer behavior in the areas of customer acquisition, retention, revenue, loyalty, risk, and profitability. In upcoming posts we will explore how CEM supports these key success factors.