What ‘customer experience’ should mean to IT departments

Forrester Research analysts say technology teams, particularly in financial services and retail, need to better define what customer experience means and change their processes accordingly

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I can’t think of any business that sets out to provide a bad customer experience. But in the past couple of weeks, I can think of several times I’ve experienced bad customer service — in one case, so bad I decided to take my business elsewhere.

Most businesses realize the importance of their customers, but all too often they’re just paying lip service to the concept. This was the main message from Forrester research directors Harley Manning and Stephen Powers in a recently released set of podcasts on technology and the customer experience. It’s about changing the way customers interact with your brand and measuring the results.

“Nobody gets up in the morning and says, ‘I want to stick it to my customers.’ The problem is they don’t actually do anything,” says Manning.

The “customer experience” is a fluffy term, so businesses need to define it, says Manning. Is the experience meeting your customers’ needs, and are those interactions easy and enjoyable? Once you start breaking it down into specifics, then you can start measuring it, correlating it to loyalty metrics and even putting a dollar value on it.

Because most businesses don’t define their customer experience, they can’t measure the business benefits. And there are real benefits. Forrester’s research found that the customer experience is the greatest driver in three of the most commonly used loyalty metrics in business today: willingness to consider another purchase, likelihood to recommend and likelihood to switch business to a competitor.

This is even the case when it comes to price-value perception. Recent data from Forrester shows “conclusively” that customer experience is much more important for banks and retailers than price-value perception in driving loyalty metrics, “which I totally wouldn’t have guessed,” says Manning.

So if the benefits are real, why aren’t more businesses doing this? And why do so many customer experience initiatives fail?

It’s one thing to say customer service is a priority and issue a bunch of directives; it’s another to have a strategy in place that involves technology, people, processes and policies. Improving the customer experience means fixing what’s broken or fundamentally changing the way you do business.

That means the IT department needs to be involved in strategy with business leaders. CIOs, for example, often see conflicting requests across business departments. “Unless the customer journey is thought of as an end-to-end business process that crosses different business silos, it’s going to fail,” says Manning. “It’s not going to be optimized for any one silo.”

On the other hand, there’s a misperception that customer experience management can be equated to a set of technologies. As Manning says, you can’t buy a box of customer experience.

Technology is essential. But businesses also need to be strategic in using technology along with people, processes and policies — so they can stop paying lip service and actually see measurable results from improving the customer experience.

Ensure you’re working with a vendor that understands great customer experience by downloading the IP Network Buyer’s Checklist

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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