by Dan Blacharski, Published on customerthink.com, Apr 10, 2016
The customer experience journey that companies must take to accommodate today’s more digitally-aware and engaged customers now goes beyond the traditional approach of satisfaction surveys, call center guidelines, and social media presence. Media-savvy customers with an extended digital reach and a need for immediate answers are expecting and demanding more, and those older methods will no longer give marketers the insight they need to compete.
Listening through multiple channels, uncovering insights as to what the customer wants, and then taking action on an individual level is the new normal – and in an enterprise that may encompass multiple customer-facing departments and multiple indirect sales channels, gaining this level of customer experience insight is almost like conducting a symphony orchestra.
From a single voice to a symphony
Customer Experience (CX) has become a huge focus across industries. On the technology side, there are more tools available to track all customer touch points and derive insights, and on the enterprise side, more companies are acknowledging the need to incorporate CX into their marketing strategies. “I don’t think it’s really anything new,” said Paul Cole, President, North America, at inQuba, provider of a world leading Customer Experience software platform. “A lot of the principles we espoused in the ‘90s still elude a lot of companies today, but it’s an irrefutable reality – economically and otherwise – that if you do a better job of managing a customer portfolio, you have more profitable growth.”
There has been an evolution though, and Cole notes that in those earlier days, being customer-centric revolved around the challenge of maintaining the integrity of customer data. “There were limitations in addressing the notion that all customers aren’t created equal, and while everyone deserves a great experience, you need to treat customers based on their individual needs, expectations, and value. That was difficult to execute in a time when it was understood intellectually, but we didn’t have quality data.”
The onset of ERP and CRM systems to identify customers and gather more data advanced the state of the art, but even then, the question remained – what do you do with that information to produce a better outcome? In a global economy, product differentiation and price can become a slippery slope, and the half-life of many products continues to shrink. The ability to differentiate and create a level of “stickiness” among a customer base grows more challenging, and when it becomes impossible to compete on price and product, what’s left is the customer experience.
“We can’t deliver a great experience with a bad product and an expensive solution,” said Cole. “But if we can deliver what they are asking for at a reasonable cost, the point of differentiation is going to be the experience. We need to have a better appreciation of the customer journey, how they interact with you and through which channel, and for what purpose. We have to start with better data, and that answers the question of how we can interact with the customer in a way that is responsive and creates a greater bond with them.”
The “Net Promoter Score” developed at Bain has long offered an empirical measure around a single question – how likely is a customer to recommend a company to a friend, colleague, or family member. That single KPI became a major predictor of loyalty and willingness to buy more from a given provider, and was able to show a company which customers were promoters, which were detractors, and which were passive – “But the way you move somebody from passive to promoter, or detractor to promoter is by delivering a better experience at every moment of truth you have with a customer,” said Cole. “What has given rise to CX has a lot to do with the fact that now, we have better enablement. CX was limited to change management, people, and governance, but now, it has been baked into the enterprise with software platforms that allow you to orchestrate a more efficient and effective customer experience, by being able to listen to them, capture the voice of the customer, across all channels and gather both unstructured and structured data into a single data model. That is what allows you to learn what they have been trying to tell you.”
The democratization of data
That multi-channel data – together with analytics – tells you what precisely will move the dial. And once you learn what customers are trying to tell you, then you share that with all stakeholders and democratize the data so it’s no longer isolated in one place. This requires going beyond the traditional turf wars and embracing what Cole calls an “orchestration” approach to the Customer Experience.
An orchestration approach to Customer Experience means that all stakeholders, whether internal or part of the indirect sales channel, get to see the customer dashboard, which informs them what the customer perception is of their particular function as the customers go through their journey. “The inQuba platform allows you to engage directly with that customer, so you can for example, identify a disgruntled customer and then close the loop much closer to the point of getting feedback,” said Cole. “The CX platform world now allows the company to sense what’s going on with the customer more quickly, and more in the context of what they are experiencing, and with less latency in terms of acting on it.”
Much of the CX movement is driven by the existence of so much more data than was previously available. The simple equation is that with more customer data, you can learn more about customers and better serve them on a more customized and personalized basis.
On the corporate side, the democratization of this data is an essential component of success – that is, the ability to provide all stakeholders with an understanding of customer perception. “We see ourselves as the ERP of customer experience,” said Cole. “It used to be that the market research department held the data at a very aggregate level, and now we’re talking about using that customer data to improve the operations. It’s all part of the continued evolution of customer analytics. The plus is the ability to interact with your customer at the key moment of truth, to understand the context of how they are interacting with you, and to intelligently respond.”
With that data, it becomes possible for any customer-facing employee in any department to make a quick and appropriate decision on how to triage a problem and engender greater loyalty. “We see that customer experience management, managing the voice of the customer, as a way for companies to home in on their processes, and understand where they are losing ground with customers. Often, that is difficult to pinpoint. This allows you to understand, in the context of what’s happening, what you need to do to deliver a better outcome.”
Orchestrating the insurance industry’s journey
It’s a product that everybody needs, but nobody wants. The industry has resorted to clever advertising campaigns in an attempt to counter a perception of an unwieldy bureaucracy and long hold times on the phone, and Madison Avenue-generated icons from Progressive Insurance’s friendly-faced Flo, to the khaki-wearing “Jake from State Farm” illustrate that the industry is at least aware of the problem.
Capgemini’s “World Insurance Report 2016” goes a step further to illustrate exactly what insurance customers, specifically those in the Generation Y demographic, really want – and how insurers must change their approach to capture and keep this audience. The report shows that this younger and more tech-savvy audience wants to connect with their insurers through multiple channels, including mobile, and are less likely to want to interact with a live agent than are other age groups.
And while the Capgemini report shows that CX scores have gone up in general within the industry, within the Generation Y demographic, CX scores have gone down, and expectations are higher. “In North America, Generation Y customers report 24 percent less positive experiences than other customers, clearly demonstrating that Insurers have their work cut out for them. They interact twice as frequently, ask more questions, and they are being disappointed,” said Ian Campos, Senior Vice President and Global Insurance Services Leader for Capgemini. “And yet, this represents the future revenue stream for the majority of these companies. The notion of being able to address the customer on the channel they want, when they want it, with contextualized information specific to their needs, is challenging the major carriers. Those who are getting their heads around it will be the winners, and the next generation of insurance is going to be one with more interaction, more planning, and preventative interchanges between policy holder and carrier. That means you have to do a better job at every moment of truth.” Furthermore, said Campos, “Insurers need to relentlessly gather and make sense of the feedback from customers, which can come from a multitude of sources. This is where platforms like inQuba help in orchestrating the sourcing, analysis and synthesis of the voice of customer and converting that into actionable insight.”
With a majority of policy holders having little to no interaction with the carrier after purchase, insurers need to take a more proactive stance if they want to sell a broader set of services. “They need to do a better job in those key moments of truth to build trust, and strengthen that relationship,” said Cole.
The customer journey
The customer journey, or a sequence of events that outlines the entire relationship, is consequential but can get confusing, especially in an environment where there are many stakeholders as is the case in a company with an indirect and extended sales channel with potentially hundreds of channel partners selling to thousands of retailers. “Journey mapping” is a strategy that looks through the lens of the customer experience as they interact with your company from the point of researching suppliers, to deciding to renew or re-subscribe, and every step in between. “The new mantra is to map that journey from the outside in, then to identify what the critical motivators and dissatisfiers are for each step in that journey, as perceived by the customer, an then to connect that to the internal stakeholders who run the processes to deliver that,” said Cole.
It’s challenging to overcome the territorialism that has always been so common with attitudes about who owns the data and who gets to see it. But those companies who are more forward thinking about customer experience are buying into the democratization of customer data, mapping the customer journey, and transforming all those single and disconnected voices into a symphony of customer experience.