October 10, 2018
By Serenity Gibbons
For all the buzz surrounding customer experience (CX), few CX leaders think their work is wowing customers.
Although 81% of CX leaders surveyed by Gartner this past July believe CX will soon be the basis on which their companies compete, only 22% say their efforts are exceeding customersí expectations. If leaders understand the importance of CX programs, why are they struggling so mightily to deliver the experiences their customers want?
Much of the challenge has to do with what CX programs encompass. The customerís experience extends from the first word he hears about a company to his last interaction with itóand it can play a major role in extending that interaction by influencing whether a customer decides to renew or continue working with a business.
That leaves plenty of space for website glitches, pushy sales reps, shipping delays, product malfunctions, inept customer service, and more to get in the way. And because people remember negative events with more emotional weight and in greater detail than positive ones, a single hiccup is sometimes all it takes to ruin a customerís experience.
Canít customer service fix it?
Enterprises employ flocks of people to fix and profusely apologize to the customer for those hiccups. Too often, however, they wait for customers to pick up the phone. By the time a customer calls in with a problem, heís already had the same kind of experience that sends nine in 10 customers to a competitorís door.
In the era of experiences, reactive customer service or customer support programs alone canít cut it. Customer service lumps together sales, product support, and general inquiries. Customer support tends to be focused primarily or exclusively on product questions. Neither can prevent problems before they happen; more often than not, neither is actually in the customerís corner.
Is it any wonder why companies are struggling with their current arenít CX programs? Too-little-too-late customer service blows a big hole in the broader experience. The solution? A modern, proactive method for better serving the customer: customer success.
Customer success for serious CX
While marketing leaders like HubSpot have called customer success the ďthird growth engine of business,Ē customer success has grown beyond the marketing department. With companies like Microsoft announcing the formation of dedicated customer success teams and Walmart bringing on a dedicated chief customer officer, companies are recognizing the importance of having resources dedicated to ensuring that customers achieve their desired outcomes. Hereís how customer success teams work differently:
- They start with a strategy.
- They use intelligent software.
- They offer cross-departmental support.
Until recently, the strategy of most customer service departments was no more nuanced than ďsolve the customersí problems and hope they donít leave.Ē Customer success teams, meanwhile, seek to understand and accommodate customersí preferences across their interactions with the company.
If youíre not sure what your strategy should look like, customer success company Gainsight suggests creating a customer success map. To build it, ask: What does our current customer experience look like? What can customer success do to improve that experience? How do customers prefer to be contacted, and what content do they read? How regularly should we reach out to customers about their experience? Then, adopt an organizational model in line with your responses and company resources.
Most customer service software isnít exactly state-of-the-art. Phone systems with an automated attendant to greet and route calls have been used by banks since the 1970s. Relational databases, where many customer service people enter call information specific to a certain customer, were invented that same decade. Typically, that critical customer information sits unused in the database until another representative or salesperson decides to search for it.
Customer success software, however, is integrative and predictive. Best-in-class solutions connect with both the companyís customer relationship management software and its digital products. They monitor user activity and sentiment, map trends, report statistics, and more while giving frontline staff the opportunity to add context from customer interactions.
To choose between customer success software options, consider your companyís circumstances. Early startup options include ClientSuccess and FullStory, while fast-growth startups and mid-sized to enterprise businesses may prefer Gainsight or ChurnZero.
Speaking to a traditional customer service representative is like playing a game of telephone. Who knows whether the product team will even hear about a reported glitch? Without the full details of a customerís positive feedback, sales leaders might not know whose tactics are actually winning consumers over.
The job of a customer success team, however, is to reach across the entire organization to ensure each customer gets what he or she wants out of the product or service. The Customer Success Association describes it as ďan integration of functions and activities of Marketing, Sales, Professional Services, Training and Support into a new profession.Ē While strategy and software are important to a customer success initiative, multitalented team members are the ones who ultimately deliver the best customer experience.
Without the right strategy, software, and staff, leaders face a reckoning ahead. The fact is that nearly eight in 10 customers say poor customer service detracts from their quality of life.
It may be tempting to say those customers are hyperbolizing or to point out the tens of thousands of dollars per year saved through chatbots and call centers. But no matter how perfect the product or how charitable the company, consumers simply arenít going to do business with brands that lessen their quality of life. Those are the stakes, and customer success is the only solution.
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