by January 4, 2012 0 comments

Technology is changing the customer, and customers are changing products and products are in turn transforming businesses. In other words, demand is morphing supply. Today, products and customer experience are no longer something that businesses offer and customers buy. They are instead forging a link between the two and facilitating a two way interaction, thanks to Customer Experience Management strategies embraced by businesses.

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A few years ago, a global FMCG major launched a project in which a sensor was embedded in its soap to monitor the hygiene practices of end customers. The soap, launched as part of the company’s hygiene campaign in various markets, helped it gather data on end customer behaviour while meeting its publicly stated CSR goals. While one might call this a branding activity, the takeaways are more than that. The FMCG major has been able to gather data aplenty from this exercise and can use it to fine tune its products and diversify its customer engagement strategy.

An important component of an institutional Customer Experience Management or CEM involves determining how products change customer perceptions or reinforce them. Companies that have invested in CEM know that a brand promise needs to be delivered across customer touchpoints, transactions and products. Technology is enabling this wish for businesses. Today, there are applications that can delve deeper into the customer’s decision making processes and bring up insights that can help businesses align products and services with a customer’s unique needs. For example, if a prospective customer is looking for holiday options and posts a comment on an online forum soliciting response from participants, a travel website should be able to offer a timely response with the right options.

Understanding Customer Experience Management

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The importance of customer relationship lies in maturation and analysing the stages it goes through. CEM focuses on building an emotional connect with a brand and making businesses break internal and external siloes and create processes and programs that bring businesses close to their customers. It’s not just about listening to customers; but about showing them that listening leads to action that brings about a perceivable difference within the organization that creates better products and services and promotes valuable brand experiences and ultimately foster strong relationships with customers. It’s also about empowering employees to enrich such experiences and relationships in the front line and reward their contribution to building a whole new era of customer engagement through mutually rewarding collaboration. It is all about building a customer centric responsive culture that is transformative in approach and agile and scalable in action.

Tools of the trade

Customers are today being exposed to a range of positive and engaging experiences, thanks to various applications. Advanced business intelligence applications working in tandem with CRM applications are analysing every customer transaction and providing interesting insights in real-time to service providers. For example, a delay in server-level authentication or rapid timeouts may lead to a rejected online transaction forcing the customer to either approach another service provider or use an offline option. Transactional analysis keeps the guesswork away and allows businesses to improve service levels and streamline delivery channels to deliver more timely services that are better aligned to customer expectations.

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Customer centric organizations have evolved ways to measure customer engagement at various levels and stages –right from the moment a customer walks into a brand store to the time she posts a comment on a product in an online forum. Once a sale happens, companies switch gears to understand how the user uses a product and whether it lives up to the brand promise or expectation one has from it. The FMCG example mentioned earlier is a step in that direction.

With the emergence of smartphones, customers are often able to review products on the move. Unless your organization is ready to listen at all times, you might simply lose out on that information. Businesses are nowadays attaching monetary value to each communication. This means that if a phone conversation with a customer is more expensive than an email interaction, it makes sense to interact with customers via email. But the flipside is that you need go that extra mile to make sure the conversations on email are more personalized and do not sound mechanical or generated by a bot.

Ultimately a CEM is all about collaboration, engaging with insights and keeping the customer profitably engaged. Unless organizations are prepared to break silos and unlock the true value of their customers by listening to them, competition will seem more intense than it actually is. Great customer relationships is all about what you offer — wonderful products, well crafted service and personalized attention and what you receive – timely feedback and suggestions on what is doing well and what needs change.

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