Applying 2010 Lessons To Influence The Customer Experience Of 2011

Paul Stockford, president of Saddletree Research, and I recently conversed on the changing face of customer experience management. This is what we learned:

DZ: The "customer experience" significantly evolved in 2010 as companies placed a stronger emphasis on the following themes spanning global customer service and marketing organizations:

  • The new "social customer" has emerged, along with a phenomenon we called "The Customer Tsunami" -- where even a singular customer experience can go viral and influence millions.
  • Powerful brands help consumers weed through the exponential choices they face, but at the same time even the most established brands are extremely vulnerable today.
  • Forward-thinking organizations are starting to integrate the voice of the customer into their CRM strategy and solutions.
  • C-level roles have begun to manage the customer experience, creating new and effective relationships between internal customer service and marketing organizations.
  • A new ROI has evolved -- Return on (Customer) Interaction -- to help measure the value created during a conversation with the customer.
  • The emergence of Customer Interaction Analytics technologies can mine the voice of the customer across multiple channels, serving as the largest focus group ever assembled.

Whether or not your organization is actively participating, mining or even just thinking about social media, chances are your customers are already heavily invested and involved in social channels. An overwhelming shift in thinking occurred in 2010, enabling companies to start digesting this new reality within marketing and customer service organizations.

In a 2010 survey, Saddletree Research found that close to 40% of contact centers were actively using or planning to use social media information in their customer service operations within the year. This is compared with Saddletree's 2009 survey, which identified that only 13% of contact centers were simply thinking about leveraging social media in their operations.

Given the rapid rate of change, it will be interesting to see what the next few years bring to the industry. With that said, I would like to pass the torch to Paul Stockford, president of Saddletree Research. He offers unique perspective regarding the year in review, and provides a glimpse on what we can expect with trends, innovations and customer relationship management in 2011.

PS: As part of the analyst community, I agree that with 2010 came significant advancements to customer relationship management. As Daniel noted, the most noteworthy transformation was the mindset among the customer service and marketing organizations that social media has changed everything. Consumers now have access to peer-to-peer discussions regarding products and services. This public view of information has created new channels for interacting with customers. In 2008, Saddletree Research surveyed members of the National Association of Call Centers -- a not-for-profit contact center industry membership organization based at The University of Southern Mississippi -- who told us that social media wasn't even on the radar. Not a single respondent shared they were thinking about using social media for customer service. For the survey in 2009, the results were not much better. Earlier, Daniel cited that a mere 13% of respondents shared they were just starting to think about social media for customer service. The same survey identified that 50% of respondents thought social media would make no difference in customer service at all. In 2010, that number dropped to 37% and, in fact, nearly 20% reported actively using social media-related strategies in their organization.

While customer service organizations are clearly seeing the value of social media, our research shows that the shift is also very contingent on the generations. We believe that the early adoption and pace was driven by the millennial generation, but our survey revealed that 83% of the respondents currently have a Facebook presence and use the social channel for business, pleasure or both. A similar phenomenon is happening within customer service organizations, where the younger generation is leading the adoption of new technologies. In 2011, we expect this trend to continue accelerating, driving greater use of tools for both listening to the conversations customers have about their brands with friends and family and opening up new channels of communication, such as social networks and mobile devices.

Another key trend is how the rest of the organization views the customer service department and how it works in collaboration with marketing, sales and R&D to create a better experience for customers. Traditionally, customer service organizations were considered cost centers in the enterprise, whereas marketing departments were considered profit centers that drive sales. This cultural conflict needs to achieve resolution within the enterprise. With the advent of social media, customer service requires a more coordinated, data-driven approach. The wealth of customer information available both on and offline can enable the contact center to truly enhance its value by delivering customer intelligence that is deeper and more insightful than ever before. This is one of the reasons that enterprises have made an investment in or are exploring customer interaction analytics, which is comprised of speech, text and data analytics. Companies are recognizing that marketing, customer service, sales and workforce management efforts need greater integration. Customer Interaction Analytics software not only allows organizations to fine-tune business processes and practices, but also helps build better customer relationships.

DZ: The world is getting more complex -- for both consumers and organizations. In order to manage the customer experience effectively, we really can't rely on spreadsheets anymore. Like Paul, industry analysts are predicting the pull that analytics technology will have in mining both structured and unstructured data -- moving it to the top of the shopping list for many in 2011. When wrapped around customer service and marketing efforts, the impact can be significant in growing and maintaining a loyal fan base. Perhaps it's worth considering such a theme for your New Year's resolution in the coming month -- the power of a loyal customer following is what will set global organizations apart.

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