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May 28, 2015 | 6 minute read

You Have to Lose to Win at Customer Experience Management

written by Linda Bustos

customer-experienceIt’s Partner Thursday! Today’s post is contributed by ICF Interactive. Adobe’s 2014 North American Partner of the Year, ICF Interactive is a full-service interactive marketing agency that guides brands through informed strategy, inspired design, and technical know-how.

Managing the customer experience has become quite the digital affair – it’s not simply a call center with phone lines open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm central standard time, a P.O. box for “questions, comments, concerns” or that UPC and rebate form. It’s all of these things, plus a brand’s eCommerce store, email offers, social media properties, real-time product information, tech support, and more.

Customer experience management should now be defined as “efficiently directing the ways in which brands either respond to or facilitate customer interactions across every touchpoint, both off and online.” A proactive evolution of customer service, the delivery of an experience requires technology, strategy, and organizational considerations that enable a brand to seamlessly engage across channels.

According to the March, 2015 Forrester Report The CIO Mandate: Engaging Customers with Business Technology, 79% of global business budget makers surveyed indicated that improving the customer experience is a top priority. As organizations have worked to catch up with consumer demands for personalized, relevant interactions and self-service functions driven by the digital transformation, they have invariably continued to make additions and improvements to the systems and solutions that facilitate their efforts.

And while launching innovative programs and investing in technology will be key components to succeeding in customer experience management, there are a few things a brand needs to lose as well.

Lose Your Silos

ideaDespite our ability to be constantly connected, it seems to have only really significantly affected our personal lives. How often do we find our professional selves searching for a template, a record, a version, or an email? How much time do we spend attempting to determine who we need to contact in a particular department, or collaborating with groups on projects where processes and procedures differ across the organization?

The seamless experience brands strive to deliver both off and online can require a number of digital applications — consider email and marketing automation tools, content and campaign management systems, eCommerce platforms, loyalty and reward solutions, referral plug-ins and social components. If these aren’t integrated both with respect to how each internal use case is defined as well as within a holistic environment, you’re likely to fall short of the goals and expectations of both your teams and your customers. Think of how often you come across product offerings that perhaps you have already purchased, or services that you no longer need.

In addition to system and process governance, a brand will need to evaluate and perhaps restructure its teams to allow for interdisciplinary collaboration. Teams with limited interaction tend to have a different perspective on approach and brand goals. When siloed, this can negatively affect productivity, flexibility, and in some cases morale. Internal discord can take valuable attention away from the greater goals of the organization. Moreover, the lines between digital marketers, eCommerce, customer service and sales professionals’ roles and responsibilities continue to blur. To successfully manage the customer experience, brands will need to centralize both technology and operational efforts.

Lose Your Aversion to Change

lightbulb-momentIn the unlikely scenario that your brand relies heavily on traditional customer experience management techniques, with little to no regard for the new ways in which mobily-enabled users seek information and channels of interaction, then perhaps preparing for and reacting to change hasn’t been high on your list of to-dos.

Conversely, if members of your organization have acknowledged that your business units and the strategies that support them are due for a major overhaul, but has been apprehensive to take action due to size, structure, or the “that’s the way we’ve always done things” sentiment, there are steps your brand can take that require minimal investments but can net invaluable returns.

Listen Like Never Before

Pay very close attention to what your customers, competitors, and employees are saying about your brand and the experience it’s delivering. Listening can be conducted by everyone and anyone within a company, and can focus on social media and engagement platforms, customer service reviews, and even by following up on competitive news and announcements.

Listening to what people are saying about your brand outside of your organization is just as important as taking employee views and ideas into consideration. Inspiration and innovation can come from the most unlikely sources – don’t simply encourage transparency, but demonstrate commitment to your teams and your brand by providing big thinkers and contributors with the opportunity to positively influence customers’ perceptions.

Take a Risk

Not every new solution, strategy, or tactic needs to be revolutionary. Significant improvements to managing the customer experience can be made by simply testing existing programs. Email and social media communications can be tested on content, frequency, audience segments, and more.

Channels can also be extended to incorporate new techniques, such as customer service via Twitter. Your brand may also consider modifying a previous campaign, or leveraging a new design on a landing page to gage efficiency. Not every change needs to be the next Woo Woo.

Trust Your Data

For many brands, systems of record – your customer relationship manager (CRM), enterprise resource planner (ERP), your eCommerce solution, and your analytics tools allow for the storage and evaluation of massive amounts of data. Leverage dedicated resources to see what, exactly, your data says about your brand.

Perhaps customers are very satisfied with products, but your follow-up communication falls short. Or, an organization may find that self-service functions are highly preferable to other methods of interaction. Establish key performance indicators and measure the effectiveness of current activities versus future initiatives; with tangible evidence in-hand, potential changes may occur faster, and with full organizational support.

Lose Your Annoying Marketing Tactics

moodAnnoying might be thought of as overly-frequent communication, irrelevant content, retargeting ads, automated responses, or pop-ups. Daily or more than daily emails can become frustrating, potentially resulting in the customer ignoring it in the best case and unsubscribing in the worst. If a customer is searching for information and can’t easily find what he or she is looking for, a brand is setting itself up for failure.

As for retargeting ads – gentle reminders, such as discounts or offers of assistance may be viewed as helpful. But bombarding users with a product or service displayed on every web page he or she views is not only unnecessary, but as PageFair and Adobe pointed out in a 2014 report, “there were approximately 144 million monthly active AdBlock users globally”.

Outreach and engagement, when personalized, can build trust and brand awareness. Managing the customer experience with marketing tactics can be effective when the customer is shown that he or she is appreciated by respecting and valuing not only his or her business, but time as well.

By losing outdated and displeasing methods of managing the customer experience, your brand will be primed for future wins.

The New Customer Journey: A Convergence of Content, Context, Channels and Commerce, the first in a series of ebooks discussing customer experience across touchpoints. Download it for free today.