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.

Offering a great customer experience has always been a foundation of business. However, it's apparent that in the digital age, the concept is undergoing a rapid, radical transformation. Connecting all the pieces, channels and digital dots is increasingly difficult, yet it's critical.

Introducing a uniform, consistent and satisfying experience for customers is paramount. "Consumer desires and expectations are extremely demanding," says Antonella Mei-Pochtler, senior partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group. "The level of data and knowledge required to interact with customers is enormous."

Success in this new frontier requires more than an effective customer relationship management (CRM) strategy. It also involves more than a well-designed contact center and effective customer service.

"A business must have longitudinal data that provides an information advantage," Mei-Pochtler adds, "but it's also essential to have the ability to analyze and interpret data, so that you can put it in context and act on it in the most effective manner possible." Among other things, this means breaking down data silos, deploying technology that delivers a 360-degree view of the customer, and building consumer-facing tools that bridge channels and devices seamlessly.

Interacting effectively in an omnichannel world is essential, says Kim Smith, vice president at business and IT consulting firm Capgemini. "There is a great deal of disruption and innovation associated with successful customer interactions," she states. "Companies need to think about creating a seamless experience across different devices and technologies, and how to deliver the best experience possible on specific devices and form factors."

Smith notes that a tablet is not a phablet and a smartphone is not a personal computer. "You want to make the path to information and resolution as direct and simple as possible," she says.

Although there are many facets to the customer experience equation, Boston Consulting's Mei-Pochtler says that context and personalization rule in today's business economy. CRM, beacons, social media, RFID and big data all play key roles in determining who a customer is and what he or she desires.

Marketing, sales and support representatives must understand where a customer is in the buying cycle or the support cycle, and then have the information and tools to complete the necessary tasks quickly and efficiently. In many cases, she notes, the companies that provide the best customer experience are also "hyper-local on a global scale."

Mei-Pochtler says that it's critical to provide "the best service and highest consumer value on a local basis, even if you're a global player. We're living in an era where consumers have enormous expectations."

Responding Quickly to Customer Needs

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is aware of the challenges. "It is really important for us to be where our customers are and respond to their needs quickly and efficiently," says Gert Wim ter Haar, the airline's social media hub manager.

As a result, the company began using social media to interact with customers in 2010. Then it gained attention for its progressive approach during the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which interrupted air traffic in Northern Europe for several days.

Since then, KLM has taken its initiative to new heights by using Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and Chatter. The airline taps into nearly a dozen social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, along with services such as VKontakte in Russia and WeChat and Sina Weibo in China

Agents have a single view of customers and social media streams within Salesforce, and they are able to manage exchanges in 14 languages. More than 60,000 messages stream in via social media each week.

"We are seeing a huge shift to social media for customer interactions," ter Haar says. Agents assist customers in rebooking flights, tracking baggage and even addressing problems with meals and other issues.

"We take a one-stop and first-contact resolution approach," he adds. "We don't want to send people to the Website for an answer, and we don't want to redirect them to a phone number."

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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