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Notes From The Gartner CRM Summit September 14, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Marketing.
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Last week, I attended my first-ever Gartner event – the Gartner CRM Summit. After five years as a Forrester analyst, it was nice to get exposure to how the other half lives. According to Gartner over 600 attendees representing 25 countries attended the event held at the National Harbor Resort (a surreal manufactured enclave just outside of DC). I don’t know how other attendees felt but, I have to say, the venue was a bit reminiscent of that Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show

My favorite Gartner speaker was Ed Thompson who presented the opening keynote entitled “Improving the Customer Experience.” Ed warned the audience that he would speak quickly and accelerate as he went on and, that, he did.

Ed’s opening one-liner: “Why should you care about customer experience? The boss says you have to…” That certainly jives with my experience that “customer experience” is a top initiative in most companies these days. But, as Ed aptly pointed out, few companies have a clear and consistent definition for what they mean by “customer experience” (CXP). Often, depending upon which group you talk to within an organization, you get several different definitions. Different groups also measure customer experience in different ways. For instance, customer service groups might measure customer satisfaction, while marketing measures retention, and engineering measures quality. All that’s ok – in fact it’s a good thing. The key point? Before embarking on a CXP initiative bring all of the diverse people together clearly define your objectives, the tactics for achieving those objectives, and how you will measure success.

In fact, Ed says “lots of companies give up before they see the improvement.” Many companies have applied the model developed by Professor Noriaki Kano to CXP projects.

Ed’s pointers:

  • Get the basics right.
  • Focus on moving above average before, during, and after the experience. Plan to move some investment to setting customer expectations, getting more customer feedback, and reacting to the feedback.
  • Stay on top and avoid the middle ground by excelling in one of three dimensions: 
    1. Product leadership (e.g., Apple)
    2. Customer intimacy (e.g., USAA)
    3. Operational efficiency (e.g., Southwest Airlines)

To the investment point above, I was disappointed, although not terribly surprised, to hear the results of a Gartner study revealing that while 95% of firms survey customers to get feedback, a paltry 10% do anything with that feedback.

Ed also talked about the large numbers of companies creating executive level positions focused on customer experience (e.g., VP of Customer Experience). Unlike some industry pundits who espouse Customer Experience Officer C-level positions, I was happy (because it aligns with my own view) to hear Ed indicate that, in his experience, he typically sees this position reporting to the CMO. Is the CXP executive a fad role? “No,” says Ed, “if European companies are adopting it, it couldn’t just be a fad started in California” (this elicited another chuckle from me).

Finally, I was happy to hear Ed fire a few bullets at NetPromoter (NPS) saying (as I have also said) that the metric isn’t a silver bullet, that more than one question is necessary, and NPS doesn’t help companies with causal analysis. He further indicated that NPS is useful in some industries some of the time, but not in all channels, and isn’t a great metric across all company types (e.g., B2B firms). The best use of NPV? Give to your board of directors, but don’t stop analyzing and measuring lots of other things.

Meet At The Gartner CRM Summit? September 6, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Marketing, Marketing Technology.
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I’m off tomorrow (Sunday, 9/7) to DC and the Gartner CRM Summit. I’m excited to attend my first Gartner event — understandably, I’ve been a Forrester bigot until now… — and to see how the other half lives. If you are planning to attend and want to connect, drop me a note and we can arrange to meet up. Also, please plan to drop by the Unica booth. I’ll probably be hanging close by during booth hours. Hope to see you there!

Walking In The Customer’s Shoes February 20, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Customer Experience Hall of Fame -- and Shame, Marketing.
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In 2004, a Forrester colleague (John Ragsdale) and I published a report which we notoriously titled, “Why Marketing Should Own The Contact Center.” Our chosen title was not aimed at changing reporting relationships. Rather, the emphasis and urgency we sought to establish was recognition of the fact that, for many companies, employees play an absolutely central and crucial role in establishing the customer’s perception of the business and the brand. Our position in the report (which is still absolutely valid today) was that the purely operational metrics – e.g., # calls handled, average call duration, etc. – by which many companies measure the performance on contact center personnel run counter to the objectives that many companies have established around improving customer experiences.

The report was focused on the contact center, but the concept extends easily to all employees that interact with a customer at any level. While books can (and have) been written on this subject, I want to focus on one element that I believe continues to be overlooked and underemphasized as the industry attempts to develop processes and technologies to facilitate customer interactions and improve customer experience. That is: empathy – specifically, encouraging and empowering employees to engage and relate with customers as people and fellow human beings.

Encourage Employees To Relate With Customers As Fellow Humans

While I firmly believe that no company can make every customer happy 100% of the time, the companies that have really made strides towards delivering differentiated customer experiences are taking steps to help employees better understand and relate to their customers. Some examples:

  • USAA makes customers personal for its employees. USAA, well known for its customer service leadership, caters to military families. To ensure employees empathize with its members, the company hires a high percentage of former military personnel, encourages employees to read personal letters from deployed service men and women, and incorporates aspects of military life into its new employee training program.
  • Cabela’s doesn’t draw a line between employees and customers. Cabela’s, a top direct marketer of specialty outdoor merchandise views it employees as be valued customers. The company encourages employees to take gear home and give it a try as long as they submit a review.
  • HP rewards employees that put customers first. In her recent article on CustomerThink, Liz Roche how HP encourages employees to participate in HP’s in store Demo Days. In addition, HP does a number of other things to help employees to better relate and empathize with customers. The company has established a formal customer experience training program to help employees experience interactions with HP from the customer perspective, it includes customer metrics in employee evaluations, it encourages employees to surface feedback from customers and provides tools to facilitate employee efforts to do so, and it awards employees that go above and beyond “customer hero” awards.
  • Four Seasons gives all employees a firsthand customer experience. Four Seasons, the luxury hotel and resort chain, provides all new employees – from chamber maid, to maintenance engineer, to kitchen staff – with an opportunity to stay at a property with a guest. This helps employees understand the customer experience from the customer’s point of view.
  • Fidelity Investments encourages all employees to interact with customers. My husband is a technology guy with Fidelity. All Fidelity employees are also customers. In addition, the company encourages employees, regardless of their role, to interact directly with customers. So, several times a year, my husband volunteers in the call center to take customer calls. These experiences help my husband take the customer into account when he and his team are designing products and interfaces that will eventually land in the customer’s hands.

Allocate Marketing Budget To Build Customer Empathy

Consider the billions of dollars that companies spend on marketing and advertising each year. Consider the number of scenarios when companies that you interact with as a customer don’t live up to the promise that the brand makes in its external messaging. If your company is not investing to help employees better relate to the customer, perhaps you should consider allocating some marketing budget to do so, eh?

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