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photo credit: Phil Dowsing Creative via photopin cc

Everyone knows that keeping your customers happy is key. “How customers perceive their interactions have been will drive whether they will buy more from your company or go to a competitor,” is how Forrester analyst Moira Dorsey phrased it during a webinar on Thursday.
Despite that recognition, most companies still put way more effort into wooing new customers rather than keeping existing ones happy – this despite the widespread recognition that retaining customers is far less expensive than acquiring new ones. And also the noted correlation between companies that invest in customer experience and stock price:
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One reason may be a seeming dearth of effective and practical tactics for keeping customers. At Thursday’s webinar (sponsored by Avaya), five methods were presented by the panelists, who included tech journalist and host Ellis Booker; Dorsey, a vice-president for customer experience management research at Forrester Research; Raymond Pettitt, a managing director for telephony at Barclays bank, overseeing a 3,500-strong team in the UK and India, and leading a transformation within Barclays from a traditional contact center organization into a more customer-centric one; and Avaya senior vice-president and CTO, Brett Shockley, who boasts 25 years of experience as an executive in the contact center industry.
While the panelists generally endorsed the methods offered, they also offered nuance and sounded cautionary notes.
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1) Make Customer Experience Management a project, with a budget, a plan, a business case – because customer experience happens by design, not chance!
2) Make someone, at the executive level in the organization, accountable for the Customer Experience – empower them with the right authority, level and support
These two methods are closely related, due to the fact that it is usually a change-agent type of executive that is hired or elevated and empowered with a budget, plan and authority to re-imagine how a company manages its customer experience.
This executive, often called a Customer eXperience Officer (CXO), needs to be strong enough to smash through the existing silos typical in most companies, says Pettitt, including at Barclays. “The only way for companies to get the initial momentum” for creating an end-to-end customer experience strategy is to empower a change-agent type of executive.
That means having the CXO report all the way to the top. “A CXO should report straight to the CEO to make things happen, otherwise you’ll reinforce existing siloes,” Shockley says.
One way for the CXO to gain internal support, said panelists, is to overcome the perception that handling customers is a cost without a benefit. To gain support inside the company, CEM projects need to be designed that not only cut costs, but also create incremental revenue.
3) Know your customers really well – Use every source of data you have in the organization to know your customers better – know what they want, where they transact, how and when they communicate.
All of the panelists endorsed the better use of customer data to glean actionable insight. Plenty is out there: Avaya’s Shockley said that one of the vendor’s largest customers generates 1 billion events every day – all of which could be analyzed (but as of today, aren’t).
Analyzing big data includes more than just the usual collection of quantitative KPIs. It also includes the analysis of qualitative data, says Pettitt, who said Barclays is one of the biggest users of speech analytics in the UK.
For instance, it will look for specific positive or negative keywords like “ridiculous,” for example, and then correlate that with a follow-up action or outcome with the customer, says Pettitt. That’s more effective than doing simple sentiment analysis of customer phone logs to confirm existing impressions.
“If the data tells you what you already know, what’s the point?” he said.
Forrester’s Dorsey endorses that more subtle approach. “You really need to use qualitative information to build a map of the customer journey,” she said.
4) Invest in the contact center as the Customer Experience Management nerve center of your Customer Experience strategy
As contact centers go multi-channel by adding mediums such as social, Web and video, it makes even more sense to make it the place from which to manage all of your CEM activity, said the panelists. For instance, having your social media customer service managed by a “bunch of 25 year olds in the marketing department,” as Shockley put it, is not a fruitful long-term strategy.
5) Change what you monitor and measure to ensure continuous focus and improvement and think through the implications on the customer when making those changes
Besides adding speech analytics to the mix, panelists argued that companies should consider having executives listen in on recordings of customer calls or live calls. “It’s an excellent practice,” Dorsey says. “While some companies have been doing this for a long time, let’s be honest – if this were widespread, our customer experiences would already be better.”
All told, there were more than 900 registrants for the webinar. All attendees will receive a hard copy of the book: “Managing the Customer Experience: How to Maximize the Lifetime Value of your Most Precious Asset. The e-book can also be viewed and downloaded here, or on iPads and iPhones using Apple’s newsstand.