The name of the customer service game used to be efficiency and costcutting. Not anymore. Today’s companies increasingly recognize that the chances they have to interact with and impress their customers are finite – and hence, must be maximized.

“You may only call us when you have a question or a renewal,” said Jim Warren, a manager at Progressive Insurance, said during a webinar on Tuesday. “Or you may file an insurance claim once every 5-10 years. We need to be at the top of our game so that we can answer your question the first time you ask us.”

Other experts during the (full disclosure: Avaya-sponsored) webinar, ‘Is Your Customer Experience Strategy Wasting Your Money?” (watch it on-demand here) agreed that times had changed.

The Internet has transformed the customer journey, allowing them to do copious homework.

That creates a “hidden sales cycle,” says Aberdeen Group analyst Omer Minkara. He estimates that 60% of a buyer’s research and decisions are made before he or she ever makes steps foot into a retail store or starts filling their digital shopping cart. That means companies “need to be on top of their game to address customers’ precise needs,” he says.

That need to manage the customer experience doesn’t end once a purchase is made. The first 90 days can make or break a customer relationship. 

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And leaving your customers disgruntled can be dangerous. Social media gives customers “their own megaphone,” as moderator and customer care guru Jeanne Bliss, put it.

Bliss, who has been a chief customer officer at Land’s End, Microsoft, and three other large U.S. firms, recalls training call center operators in the mid-1980s, before there was software widely available to measure the average talk time per customer call and other efficiency statistics. “Back then, it was more about leaving customers with the memory that they had been taken care of,” she said.

After the introduction of software for tracking efficiency metrics, companies naturally focused on costcutting for many years. But the pendulum is swinging back in the direction of providing great customer care. Today, companies armed with business intelligence and analytical software can measure how better customer care can translate into more revenue.

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>Sometimes this revenue increase can occur in the short-run through cross-sells or upsells, says Minkara.

According to Aberdeen’s research, companies judged to be best-in-class in terms of their CEM programs reap $300 million MORE in annual sales than laggard firms.

Sometimes, revenue boosts occur in the medium-term, the result of growth in the number of insurance policies that households have with Progressive or longer customer retention, says Warren. For other companies, revenue boosts are the longer-term, inevitable result of investment in creating Customer Lifetime Value.

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