Five levels of customer experience maturity

Here's a lovely article by Jessica on how customer experience is set to become the cornerstone for successful companies of tomorrow. According to me, the actionable items - going beyond lofty beliefs and intention, that need to be taken have been summarized very well in this article. The questions companies need to ask themselves are simple and easy to get answers for, in terms of how well they do on these parameters.

The key point is companies need to answer these questions from a customers' point of view rather than from their point of view:

  1. Did the interactions meet your needs?
  2. How easy is the company to work with?
  3. How enjoyable are these firms to work with?

Key strategies( according to Bruce Temkin,  vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research), for building long lasting customer experience are:

  • Obsess about customer needs, not product features: Adding this gadget or that widget may look cool, but if the "innovation" confuses the customer, the entire purpose is lost. Temkin encouraged the audience to engage in a "LIRM"-ing process: listen, interpret, react, and monitor. These elements, he said, are critical to developing a program to capture the Voice of the Customer.
  • Reinforce the brand with every interaction, not just communication: Every employee in the company needs to understand the brand message and the brand promise. Every interaction should be based on this promise, a promise that must be insulated from damage when times get tough and cuts need to be made.
  • Treat customer experience as a competence, not a function: Customer service is everyone's priority, not just that of the contact center. Call it "customer experience," "customer advocacy," "customer insight—anything, Temkin pleaded, that avoids dumping it into a siloed department. "The customer experience team cannot be another ‘function,' " Temkin said. "The group has to remain as a support to other parts of the organization." The leader of this group, he added, can be anyone — the CIO, the CMO, the COO — but the person cannot be more than two levels under the CEO. More important, whoever leads the group must possess enthusiasm about the cause — and be a champion for it.

To truly evaluate where your company's initiatives stand today, here's a scale to measure and improve your customer experience plans:

  • Level 1: Interested (19 percent) - customer experience is important, but funding and upper-level support is minimal.
  • Level 2: Invested (22 percent) - customer experience is important and initial programs are being put in place -- but the effort is still not connected with profitability for the organization.
  • Level 3: Committed (11 percent) - customer experience is critical to the company and executives understand how it's connected to fundamental results: It's not customer experience for customer experience's sake.
  • Level 4: Engaged (8 percent) - customer experience is a core part of the company's strategy and objectives.
  • Level 5: Embedded (4 percent) - it's in the company's DNA, the essence of everything and anything the company does.

Getting IT to become customer-centric - Here's a 11 point plan to get started

Vince Kellen, a senior consultant with Cutter Consortium, a leading IT Advisory firm's 11 point plan to focus IT on customers resonated with me. I have been over the last couple of months writing about the need for IT to become customer-centric. In fact Forrester has been evangelizing the need for IT-marketing partnership. Here's his plan and they seem extremely perfect to me:

According to Kellen, once CIOs get their "trains running on time," they should build a multifaceted plan to reorient their IT shops around the real customer, the one that gives the firm money. The multifaceted plan can involve the following:

1.Establish a culture of customer service within IT.

2.Within IT, build intellectual capital of deeper customer issues, not just intellectual capital into technology architectures.

3.Bring this intellectual capital as a value-add service to the other parts of the firm, including marketing, sales, logistics, and service.

4.Start fostering innovation. Contribute to, if not lead, R&D in customer-centric IT.

5.Prioritize improvements in parts of the IT infrastructure that can address the technology or business process shortcomings, especially customer data quality and data integration.

6.Revamp IT processes that support the real customers and improve IT support service levels.

7.Help the firm identify gaps in the customer's experience and how IT can assist in closing those gaps.

8.Build an IT organization that is quick, flexible, adaptable, and reconfigurable so it can move fast on topical customer-facing initiatives.

9.Invest in the personnel and organizational development needed to make this happen.

10.Put into place strong usability and customer experience analysis methodologies that can uncover real issues with the customer experience and can develop real solutions.

11.Work with the other executives and ensure the IT plan is not only aligned with the business and customer strategies, but that the IT plan is actually challenging these plans and improving them.

 I have seen the benefits multiply with clients whom we work with in the last few years. It's time to get started now.

Planning for Enterprise Marketing Platform - Forrester's prescription

Suresh Vittal of Forrester released a report on successful implementation of Enterprise Marketing Platform couple of months ago. It had some interesting learnings for any enterprise planning to get this going in their organization. Here are some highlights:

  • Pre-implementation planning should include a full data profiling exercise. Many marketers stop after a cursory audit of their potential data sources. But a basic data audit misses most of the data issues that marketers will encounter during the implementation. Profiling data early helps identify key data inconsistencies with sufficient time to solve them without any delays to subsequent phases. These inconsistencies stem from issues associated with data cleanliness, rapid acquisition of multiple data sources, and data-software incompatibilities. A leading retailer told us, "Our campaign management system likes data to be set up in a certain way. We spent one year structuring the tool to fit our data mart and then switched to organizing our data mart to fit the tool.
  • "Major process and workflow revisions are par for the course. By their very nature, marketing automation tools make some processes obsolete and require the creation of others. As one large bank told us, "Marketers must realize that with automation they are capable of planning and executing 50 campaigns instead of three. This means that they will need to pay attention to workflow and analytics."
  • Increased demand for analytical skills after rollout requires upfront planning. Traditional marketing practices place little emphasis on deeply understanding one's data — a required skill for using an enterprise marketing platform. As a result, the skills mix of most teams shifts after implementation, and on some occasions teams even undergo a complete reorganization. One large financial services institution found that, "The bulk of requests moved downstream. Marketers who originally dealt with campaign execution are now requesting campaigns and defining segmentation and offer requirements, with the production happening in the background."
  • Technology support organizations are essential. Enterprise marketing platforms are complicated enterprise software, which require a technical background to install, configure, and maintain. Marketers should secure advice and assistance from their technology support teams for planning and defining requirements and dealing with integration issues and software upgrades post-implementation. One large insurance organization had its IT department write a portion of its request for proposal (RFP), while a large high-tech firm found great success in partnering with both finance and IT. In both cases, marketing retained ownership of the final decision, but it brought in experts for advice as needed.
  • Change management and on-boarding takes longer than anticipated. With changes to process, technology, and skills, most marketing teams need time and resources to adjust. One enterprise-level, high-tech firm told us, "Don't try to shortchange the effort. Refresh it and keep it moving by focusing on process, culture, rewards, and behavior management." A large brand manufacturer told us "Scoping support was a challenge. We were taking a core tool used daily and completely replacing it with a new one. The team was busy just keeping up with campaigns, and now they have to make time to sit with the project team and learn the new tool."