Optimizing the Customer Experience

Sep 25, 2007 7:28 PM  By

A recent survey published in USA Today, indicates that 45% of customers identify customer service as the biggest influence on remaining loyal to a company. Clearly customers will stop doing business with companies due to the quality of the experience. In the same survey, only 2% of customers rely on brand name and reputation to remain loyal. Yet companies today seem to pour more budget dollars into traditional brand management than into “branding” and subsequently “optimizing” the customer’s experience.

Optimizing the experience means fortifying the brand “internally,” from operational excellence to leadership and individual performance across all functional areas. It is about the manner in which we evaluate and execute initiatives. Within the Contact Center environment, the customer experience is so visible and so critical that it warrants a complete analysis within its own Customer Experience Optimization Program (CEOP)™. This is not simply yesterday’s “process analysis.” It is an analysis that begins at the top and translates the strategy and drivers that emerge from the executive office to each and every level of the enterprise.

Only then can initiatives be truly transformational and assure consistent, aligned execution that yields a customer experience and a market advantage that price, product, and traditional “brand” cannot touch. Imagine if every proposed initiative included an exercise on evaluating the customer experience – How is what we want to do going to improve our customer’s experience? How is it going to generate revenue or cut cost? How well aligned is it with our value proposition? How does it deepen the brand in the market and in the company? These kinds of exercises force discussion and unearth obstacles. And by the way, this is not necessarily an “executive “task.” Leaders at all levels have a responsibility to place themselves in the starring role of “brand energy enabler.” They must understand strategy, communicate vision, and adopt business drivers to ongoing and proposed initiatives.

Creating internal brand energy is an integral part of the customer experience Optimization because a key component in optimization is a having the whole team excited by the same “playbook.” That means working together to provide an experience driven by pride and caring, and supported by cross-functional operations.

Today’s markets are transforming at a pace we could not have imagined even 10 years ago. But there is one truth that remains in spite of all the whiz-bang technology advances and millions of management books written: Customers are people. People like to feel good, be appreciated, and simply be taken care of in a timely fashion using a channel of their preference. Embracing that fact at every level of the organization builds the brand energy to optimize, to work together to iron out the wrinkles, correct the problems, fix the systems, and improve the processes.

Any successful program requires a strong stomach for facing realities, and some of them will be harsh. One of those realities may be celebrating the achievement of high scores in “customer satisfaction,” which does not necessarily provide a competitive advantage. The fact that a customer is “satisfied” with having to contact you to straighten out a bill, track a missing package, or try to make whatever you sold them work – does not help achieve excellence at the experience level. You must be realistic and honest to truly assess obstacles in the way of delivering that differentiating customer experience – one driven by your company’s vision, strategy, and brand energy power.

Brand energy power will be generated when communication from the top is clear, budgets are allocated around improving the customer experience, and optimization at the operational level is cross-functionally inspired. Take action every day to evaluate and deepen brand energy and customer experience optimization in your operation. The ROI – Return on Information – will be key to long term growth, and success.

Kathleen Peterson is president of Bedford, NH-based contact center consultancy PowerHouse Consulting