Business' Holy Grail: A Great Customer Experience

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Customer Experience

The concept of customer experience is undergoing a rapid, radical transformation, and providing a consistent, satisfying experience for customers is paramount.

In fact, KLM has equipped flight crews with iPads so the social media team can contact a crew member when needed. This makes it possible, for instance, to notify the crew if a passenger had a problem with a meal on a previous flight. A flight attendant can then offer that customer first choice of a meal on the current flight.

The Salesforce system routes incoming posts and messages to dedicated social media specialists based on language, subject and other criteria. The agent has the ability to view past and current exchanges. "We add as much relevant data as possible, so that they can have a short conversation without asking unnecessary questions," ter Haar explains.

KLM is moving toward a 360-degree customer view by integrating all aspects of customer support. It also is using data generated by the social media interactions to improve various aspects of the business.

"Analytics is extremely important," he explains. "We have a huge amount of customer feedback, and our goal is to put it to work to improve aircraft, on-board service, our Website and our other tools."

What Creates a Competitive Advantage?

A starting point for building a better customer experience strategy, according to Boston Consulting's Mei-Pochtler, is to identify what creates a competitive advantage, and what types of systems and integration are required to support the business. For a high-end retailer, this may mean knowing details about customers and providing highly personalized in-store or phone service.

For a hotel chain or car rental firm, it may be delivering reservations data that can be easily viewed in Apple Passbook or Android apps, along with a link to dial a toll-free number or obtain immediate chat support. The ability to simplify manual steps and create wormholes through cumbersome tasks boosts usage and loyalty, she says.

Achieving optimal results requires the business and IT sides to work together in far closer ways. "IT must serve as a real business partner that brings tech inspiration, along with an understanding of when technology and tools are mature enough to be embedded in processes," Mei-Pochtler says.

Capgemini's Smith points out that enterprise IT systems must function synergistically at a macro level, but adds that companies also must pay close attention to the details, including how mobile apps work and the type of form and functionality built into them. This means understanding how consumers use different devices, apps and tools, while taking design and bandwidth issues into account.

However, it also means paying attention to the tried-and-true basics: understanding what delivers a great customer experience, including engagement, relevance and an ability to address a person's needs throughout the product life cycle. In today's business environment, all roads ultimately lead to value, trust and brand image.

In the end, IT systems simply serve as the wiring that lights up the customer pathways. "There's a need for a digital game plan that takes a very consumer-centric view," concludes Boston Consulting's Mei-Pochtler. "You have to understand how to build a value chain that creates a competitive advantage."

This article was originally published on 2015-08-20
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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