Posts Tagged ‘Customer Experience’

Rethinking the Customer Journey

Funny thing about customers, they do not seem to follow a Map.

In the good old days, if you wanted to plot a course, you needed a map; a physical piece of paper with roads, highways, streets and avenues written in different colors, big fonts and a picture of a compass near the corner. Unfolding a map was easy, closing it back up the same way was really hard.

When you traveled to a new city, you needed a new map. When you visited that same city again four years later, you needed a new map again (because the previous map was carefully put in a spot you would not lose it — it is still there).

When traveling with the family, the course was carefully plotted; stop here, visit there, spend the night … right about … here! Somehow it became a journey an adventure, more than just a trip.

If you commute to work every morning, you do not need a map, well, not usually. The route is the same each day, unless there is traffic, then the commute becomes an adventure, with plan B and C close at hand. There are highs — a hidden restaurant or rainbow out the window, and lows — traffic, construction, a snowstorm. Some things can be predicted, some cannot.

Customer Journeys are not Static

A funny thing about customers, they do not often follow a map. The customer relationship with their vendor or service provider, from first touch, to purchase and support is a journey. Some portions can be predicted, some are hard to predict. Even if you had all the correct data, personal information and preferences, what would you do? Is it possible to manage the customer journey?

Each customer has a unique channel preference, web search, community, social media, talking to friends, talking on the phone, sending an email or browsing through the store. Some like one of the above, some like all of the above. Do you plot their course, push them in a certain direction? It might be easier for you, but is it easier for them?

We as individuals like to be treated as, well, individuals! Today, we live our lives in a high gear, always running and fighting against the clock, time never seems to be our friend. We hate to read long emails, but we like blogs (why is that?). Listening to telemarketing calls is annoying and we skip commercial ads by time shifting. When we go out to the store talking with shop staff is not a priority.

So, if we feel that way as individuals, why do we assume in our professional role that things will be different? Why don’t we follow the basic “don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you”?

Planning the Journey Versus Adapting to Course Correction?

With volumes of data available to you, telling you and your team exactly where customers went, how long they stayed on a page, what they searched for, giving insights into likes and dislikes, the question should be, “what are you planning to do?” [with all this data]. The information collected through all the touch-points with all the customers and all the transactions that they have with you must be leveraged to get into one point of personalizing the experience and get the most out of the relationship. This, however, is not managing the journey, nor the experience.

This is simply trying to make each journey, each experience along the way better and more meaningful.

In the past and unfortunately in the present the CMO and CIO do not quite understand each other. It is a bit like the CIO is building the roads and the CMO are building the attractions. What good is one without the other?

CMO and CIO should be close partners, friends, allies and peers. They should both work together to get the personalization of brands and the to leverage the experience of their customers. They can only achieve that by combining the communication channels with the right information at the right point in time — this is called context integration. The communication should be tailored to each customer, based on all the information that the brand collected about each customer. And the information should be stored and worked in every experience that the brand has with its customer.

It is not about managing the experience or controlling the journey. It is about understanding your customers and the roads they like to travel. Brands can only be successful in the future if they adopt new strategies to provide value along the journey at each step and enhance the experience for their customers and they can only achieved that, by listening, learning, engaging and understanding.

This post was written with the help of Jorge Teixeira da Silva, Head of BI at DRI, has over 20 years of experience working in CRM and BI. Jorge spent time at TMN, Portugal’s largest mobile operator. Jorge adds a layer of analytics to several projects, directly via BI and also embedded in CRM and BPM based projects. It is reposted from a submission to CMSWire

The Evolution of Customer Community

Community: a group of people sharing common characteristics, common history or common social, economic, or political interests, often located in close physical proximity to other members; interactions are usually face-to-face. 1

Online Community: Same as above, with two big caveats, the proximity is virtual and interactions are digital. The small caveat is that online the commonality among members might not be as significant, but are just as real (like shared product, service or technical interest).

It is not New, but it is Different

What should be evident is that the idea of a community is not a new concept. What is new, however, is the transition from physical proximity to virtual proximity. In the purest of context, virtual communities began about as quickly as the Internet itself, predating the Web or fancy graphical interfaces. Virtual communities progressed from bulletin boards to forums and now we have something even better. What we have now are enhanced graphical capabilities and multiple device support; the user experience is better. One problem remains; integrating communities with the rest of the business. Too often, communities are sets of isolated conversations lost in the vastness of the web.

           Communities should be used to bridge the gap from social media conversation to digital interactions with a purpose? Today many organization are trying to figure out how to leverage social conversations and these new connections to deliver a better customer experience. Customer communities are great way to accomplish this goal. As much as we would like to do it, taking  the online conversations people are having about your company in Facebook and Twitter and dumping them into a CRM system just does not provide a whole lot of value. As you have learned with forums, your customers really do want to connect with you and while the basics have not changed, customers expect more as does your business.

But. In order to really leverage the benefits from social, you have to bring together people, processes, and technology necessary to listen, guide, and engage your customers in the digital world. That means paying attention, understanding who your customers are, and providing them with relevant information for the appropriate stage in the customer lifecycle. In that way, you can truly leverage the capabilities of social media to deliver the kinds of customer experiences that will keep them bringing their business back again and again.

Communities provide a smart way to build engagement in a way that provides your customers with navigable issue resolution, as well as to provide feedback and insights to you and your team.

A customer community allows you to collect and analyze data, derive insights about your customers that will then allow you to provide them with relevant, appropriate information at key points along the journey. Today’s forums, or customer communities, can be strongly linked to social networks in order to maximize insight, streamline campaigns, and drive organizational shift to bring your company into the social age. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

(This post is written as we announce our recent work in building a bridge between SugarCRM and Get Satisfaction)

Experience Innovation

March 11, 2013 5 comments

Moore observed, nearly a half century ago, that the power of computational devices would double every 18 months (based on how many components could be squeezed onto an integrated circuit). Therefore, it is not much of a leap to suggest that the functional capabilities and ability to advance productivity based upon these devices would follow suit. For the most part, this has been the case. Now 50 years in, the simple question is: ‘is innovation still about squeezing more components into a device, or capabilities into a piece of software?’ Or, is it time to refocus? Maybe we need to think about making the devices and systems we have work better and more strongly consider the experience of the person using it.

I am completely willing to be wrong here, but I would need some convincing. I am not so bold as to suggest something at the level of Clay Christensen’s disruptive innovation. I am not talking about new markets. What I am suggesting is something more along the lines of rethinking sustainable innovation; the ability to evolve what we have already. To accomplish this, I am of the opinion that it is time to start focusing on experience innovation, and take a step back from the sole focus on product innovation. It is no longer about how much computational power we can squeeze into a device, or how many widgets we can display on a screen. This type of innovation will continue, but there is more.

“The experience space is conceptually distinct from that of the product space, which is the conventional focus of innovation. In the experience space, the individual consumer is central, and an event triggers a co-creation experience. The events have a context in space and time, and the involvement of the individual influences that experience. The personal meaning derived from the co-creation experience is what determines the value to the individual.”

C.K. Prahalad & Venkatram Ramaswamy, MIT Sloan Management Review, SUMMER 2003 VOL.44 NO.4 The New Frontier of Experience Innovation

I am not sure what is more interesting, the content itself or the fact that it was written nearly 10 years ago.  It might suggest that I am on to something, or simply that I found a few bits to support my thinking. The concepts are extremely relevant, even more at this point in time as companies struggle to differentiate themselves on increasingly commoditized products and dare I say services as well. In fairness, differentiation on services still has some legs and is more closely aligned to experience innovation.

The way I see it, is that the objective is to create what Prahalad and Ramaswamy refer to as an experience environment. Though it is still important to differentiate between the digital interaction experiences and the much more vast customer experience. This is especially true in instances where the greater experience contains elements that are far removed from communications, think heli-skiing or windsurfing, versus checking-in via Foursquare.

It is Time to Mature from Just Product Innovation

If one follows the breadcrumbs a bit, there is a fun example that can be found from a 2008 InfoWorld article. It simply highlights that too often software – the front end of the user experience – simply works to leverage hardware advances in a way that is often lazy and unfortunate:

“[Microsoft] Vista and Office 2007 on today’s [2008] state-of-the-art hardware delivers throughput that’s still only 22 percent slower than Windows XP and Office 2003 on the previous generation of state-of-the-art hardware. In other words, the hardware gets faster, the code base gets fatter, and the user experience, as measured in terms of application response times and overall execution throughput, remains relatively intact.”

Many of us have spent time reading, writing or analyzing product roadmaps. These directory type documents or PowerPoint presentations are filled with features and functions. Sometimes, the ones that are well written will include a section on exactly why a feature is included, beyond simply that a Magic Quadrant requires it. For those who have been lucky enough to write these documents, we all know the debates between internal factions of what needs to be built first and why. These debates will continue to happen, but I would ask that the conversation mature a bit.

As Prahalad & Ramaswamy so eloquently state it:

The ability to imagine and combine technological capabilities to facilitate experiences will be a key success factor in experience innovation, regardless of industry.

In order to make progress, what is needed are programs that focus on the customer perspective. We need to consider the user experience as we build devices and design software systems. We need to focus on their experience, not just our profits. We need an environment that includes both organizational capabilities in technology and communications driving the capability to interact collaboratively internally as well as with customers, partners through community. These interactions, in order to be meaningful, need to have proper context.  When we have this in place, then we will better be able to understand what customers want and need and deliver products and experiences that do make a difference.

Your thoughts?

Enterprise Customer Experience, A Convergence

January 22, 2013 5 comments

Customer Experience is the superset of sensations, emotions and perceptions felt by your customers before, during and after product or service use. Enterprise Customer Experience represents the people, internal processes and technology required to listen, guide and engage your customers in the digital world; all towards creating better and enhanced experiences. Designing positive experiences begins with understanding needs and wants. Seems logical right? How else can you understand what your customer’s wants and needs, if you do not listen first?

The very next part is to prove that you are listening, if actions do not result, then it is not really listening at all. Yes, in this day and age, you do need to provide proof. For, example, if you do not plan to take any actions based on what you hear, are you really listening? That said, there are many ways to show that you are listening. The first is transparency, allowing people to see inside the organization where they can witness what you are doing, often at their bequest. The second, more interesting way is to specifically give people what they are looking for, as in information, service or a product enhancement.

To customers, being open means more than simply looking through the window, but being able to walk through the front door and participate. An engaging conversation is one where all voices are heard and respected and no one is simply listening, waiting to talk. In order to improve customer experience, you, your team and the whole organization needs to convert the listening to information that can be used to collaborate, co-create and engage at a personal level with your customers. This will take analyzing the data, providing relevant, consistent content, where and when your customers want it, need it and are expecting it.

It is time to move beyond what needs to be done and why it needs to be done.  Some parts of your organization are more advanced than others, some are ready and some are not.  The starting point should be clear. What is less clear is exactly HOW to progress in a uniform fashion from understanding what needs to be done, to actually doing it.  It is time to progress from departmental Social Media initiatives to organizational digital communication programs. These programs should have defined and coordinated objectives. As the team and understanding of the technology mature, Social CRM is next logical step, with both business and technical integration and a digitally aware customer data model.  Internally, CRM will have certain objectives, but it is time to add customer centricity, directed individual engagement and customer collaboration to those objectives. Finally, the end-game, Enterprise Customer Experience. Just my name for it, I suppose, but it seems to fit.

I put together a few slides where I tried to visualize some of my thoughts. The copy is taken from a white paper we just released as well. If you would like a copy of the white paper, please just send me an email mitch.lieberman – at – and I am happy to forward it along.

Social Media Initiatives are too often:

  • Departmental and Uncoordinated,
  • Loosely defined and with soft qualitative objectives,
  • Lacking strong guidance that aligns with corporate vision
  • Have little or no Governance or Oversight
  • Driven by metrics with unproven value (like, follow, +)

Now to progress from disjointed efforts to coordinated and structured efforts,

Social Communication Programs that are characterized by:

  • Multiple, linked digital initiatives,
  • Defined and Coordinated goals (across departments),
  • Agreed to processes for Content,
  • Modestly Mature Governance,
  • Data Capture and Burgeoning Analytics,
  • Tighter agility to act upon lessons learned.

It takes maturation of the organization to make this progression. It is important to not that up until now the discussion is much less about technology than it is about people and process.  Once the organization has matured, it is then possible to reach enhanced customer experience through Social CRM by further integrating more baseline technology, carefully and methodically.

Social CRM sets the course for creating better Customer Experiences, through:

  • Coordinated Customer Facing Communication Programs,
  • Both Technical and Business Level Integration,
  • Advanced Analytics that Improve Customer Insights,
  • Mature, Modern, Customer Data Model,
  • Personal, Customer level Interactions and Engagement.

Now things start to get very interesting. Just when everyone was comfortable with the buzzwords, we are now ready to dump the term ‘Social’. The team realizes that social is a characteristic of people. The term is dispensed with and for the purposes of Customer Experience, the CRM platform is now in charge of the digital data and used for specific purposes.

It is time to execute CRM, across the Enterprise:

  • Data, information and knowledge is universally accessible,
  • Content and digital assets are consistent and shared,
  • Back-office to front-office Collaboration creates efficiency,
  • Customer facing processes are repeatable and embedded,
  • Community and Customer Collaboration are part of the platform.

Finally, it is time to complete the

Enterprise Customer Experience vision:

  • Customer centricity is a reality,
  • Directed engagement at the level of the individual
  • Analytics are predictive,
  • Customer expectations are understood and met,
  • Communications are conversational and collaborative,
  • The organization is highly collaborative,
  • Organizational culture is mature and ready.

The Space Between

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Graphic credit to the excellent designers at DRI

In reviewing the Gartner Magic Quadrant a few weeks ago (A review I would not call ‘positive’), I started thinking about the ‘hard to articulate’ components of Social CRM. In techno-speak, we would call this integration, but, integration of what exactly? Many of you might know that I am a bit of an academic, so I dug a bit deeper to see how I might make some sense of where the CRM space is going. What I am getting at is that the hard part, the part in need of evaluation and work is the people and process part. Tell someone to “engage” and what exactly do you mean? It is the part of the process that happens in between the technology, the decision to engage and the conversation. In the real world, we have all spoken first and did the thinking second. With technology, we can do the same, only faster and more efficiently.

Every good space must be filled

As humans, we hate to think of a void, or a vacuum, there must be something there, right? When there is silence, we must talk (anyone with kids understands this!!). Artists absolutely know the value of white space, most of the rest of us do not. In technology, the cool thing about ‘the space between’ is that this is where innovation happens.  We do not consider a process to be cumbersome until it takes a lot of energy and effort to get it done. It does not take a lot of energy and effort to get it done until there are lots of steps and manual processes. Techies then try to create an application or a process to make the manual steps easier, automation, efficiency and process control. The problem is that certain things still take a human to do.

Not sure what you think, but I think it is really cool that Google is trying to figure out how to automate driving a car. I would like to see that in New York City, maybe a Yellow Cab, yeah, right, not so fast (I will choose to skip the early adoption phase for that one). OK, how about something simpler, like responding to a person who has a question? A couple weeks ago I went through the help system for a major service provider and I could just tell when the chat responses were canned, it was really annoying. They were not bad responses, nor wrong either, they just felt awkward. In the end, my problem was solved and I did not spend a lot of time on hold. I suppose I should be happy, but I am writing about the awkwardness of the experience, so the jury is still out.

OK, what is the point?

Customer experience is the space between the process you designed and the use of the product or the interactions with the system. Internally, the space between is the efficiency, coordination, collaboration; interactions within the system. Externally, the space between is hard, near impossible to control. It can be guided, lead, but not controlled. The space between is an area of uncertainty, doubt and likely internal arguments. When you begin to measure it, to try to understand it, then it is no longer the space between, it is the end-point, an interaction and something is lost. To understand more about what I am doing these days, please check out DRI.

(No need to cue the Dave Mathews Band)

The Social CRM Non-Revolution

October 29, 2012 1 comment

Organizations big and small are feeling pressure to get everything “right.” Social interactions are public, tweets are scrutinized, Facebook posts are challenged, networks like Pinterest Google + are growing rapidly, evolving daily. In this environment of open and public communications transparency is not really an option, it just is – get used to it. Social CRM is an opportunity, scary and daunting. Social CRM is a bridge to the connected customer.   It is part strategy, part process and yes, technology; all in support of an organizations goals and objectives. Social CRM is an enabler an extension of CRM. it allows companies to truly engage customers, resolve problems, recognize new revenue streams and gather detailed customer behavioral data. Social CRM, as an initiative will fail if it is considered revolutionary. It is transformative, an evolutionary step towards customer centricity. The complexities should not be taken lightly, as joining social media and CRM, is more nuanced than simply more channels, more rules and random best practices.

Part of the confusion comes from looking at social as a new phenomenon, as opposed to what it really is – a way to extend customer communications and interactions across new and diverse channels. Being social is as old as civilization itself. What is really new is that in the information age, in a services based economy, companies now need to listen and pay attention. The consequences to ignoring (ignorance?) will be harsh. The good news is that companies should be able predict how their social media activities will work by looking at how well they incorporated earlier technologies into their CRM discipline. For example, how well a company integrated email into its CRM and marketing channels will provide an indication of how easily Twitter, Chat and other programs will be incorporated. One of the bigger challenges will be who (which department) will “own” the social channels. Here is the answer; IT owns the infrastructure, the process is shared across the company.

What Now?

Looking at social media channels as an extension of existing CRM makes some sense; but it is not the way that many companies are incorporating social media into their daily routines.  More than half of all organizations have adopted the use of some form of social media, intending to use it in some sort of social CRM practice (Customer Service for example): >50% adopted Twitter and nearly 60% adopted Facebook. The success of Social CRM has less to do with the size of the company than with how seasoned the CRM and marketing teams are at extending their processes with newer technologies. Social CRM is about being human and scaling the company personality. Social is different when it is applied to Sales versus Customer Service or Marketing, it has to be different. This is why there is no need for a Social CRM Magic Quadrant!

Recent data suggests that larger companies (more than 1000 employees) have been using social CRM for 2+ years, but smaller companies are quickly catching up. What is really interesting is the finding that there is no “standard” method for social CRM and social CRM lead generation success. Companies with comfort and practice in integrating new media to traditional channels are the most successful, but how to turn a Tweet into a sale varies extensively by company, with other factors, such as target buyer demographics coming into play.

What is clear is that the companies who can successfully extend their CRM practices to include social media channels (in process and execution) will be at the forefront of truly leveraging ‘social’ for business benefit. Being able to tap into user behavior and communicating with them in a smart way, such as offering targeted services or information relating to a customer’s usage patterns, is the end goal of forward looking CRM. However, customers are not expecting this level of service. Customers don’t always expect an answer to their Tweet are leery of  an offer related to their customer profile (or worse, their Facebook profile), so caution is advised. Consumers and buyers will be expecting a high level of service in the coming hours, days, weeks, months and years; now is the time to get the channels ready.

This is my goal with launching DRI US – the execution, getting it right and helping others figure out how to do it also.

Regardless of how companies merge social media into CRM and other channels, one point is clear: social media gives customers a stronger voice and way to engage. Companies now have a way to leverage social channels, but they can also make social channels a powerful way for customers, advocates, investors and others to interact with their brand and become ambassadors. The emergence of Google+, Pinterest and others provide an almost hybrid combination of social media and brand visibility that can allow a powerful channel for awareness. Companies should look for ways to include these channels into their marketing, advertising and CRM programs, approaching them from the angle of how customers would first enter and engage. Those companies that are among the first to do this will be innovators in the continued emergence of social channels.

The Next Chapter Begins

October 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Every once in a while you meet a person, or a group of people who have an idea or an approach that just causes a subconscious head-nod. As you watch and observe, they carry themselves with confidence, approach work and life with energy and passion.  Problems are analyzed, dissected, solutions designed and then the real work begins. This is DRI: a team, group of people a family really, with a big heart, big ideas, more importantly, the ability and know-how to execute.

I could introduce the cast of characters, professionals, humans, friends and peers. That, however, would be self-serving and will happen organically over time. Members of the team cut their teeth in the open source ecosystem, but there is more (much more) to it than that. The shared passion is problem solving, affection for technology and innovation; creative ways to solve the hard problems. Providing value at each stage, to every client, every day is critical. The focus moves beyond what needs to be done and why, to how to execute the vision. It is about goals, objectives, experience, strategy and our customer’s, customers.

What Part Will I Play

I will be building and leading the US team. I will do my best not to break what is already working. I am not here to change anything; I am here to show the US market what we can do. The work was started in Portugal and we realized this is only the beginning. DRI is now a Global organization; DRI Global. I am part of a team, we live, learn, share and collaborate. The countries served now number 5 and it will grow beyond, carefully, measured, with caution and a deliberate approach. We are small, execute with precision and make decisions quickly.

To put a label on what we do is important, but I do so with caution.  It will include solutions labeled CEM, CRM, SFA and CMS. Further, it would be great to simply add prefixes like Social, Mobile and a suffix or two like Platform and Intelligence. Sorry that it feels like buzzword bingo; something I am trying very hard to avoid. What if the approach was bottom up; design and build a platform that solved for the specific goals and objectives required by a business? What if the focus was helping businesses to understand what jobs their customers want to do with their products and how technology can help?

We are not going to build everything from scratch, quite the opposite really. We will build on top of solid products, supported by great companies like SugarCRM, IBM, Acquia, Knime and Talend, just to name a few. In the world where outcome driven innovation is the powerful model moving forward, it is the space between the applications that is the hard part. The space between engineering and support, the space between sales and marketing or the space between the organization and the customer, these are the challenges. You may know this space by other names; social CRM, collaboration, workflow, integration or business process.

I am looking forward to this chapter with excitement – feel free to give me a call, send me a note or reach out on your favorite social network to see how we can help! Yes, we are hiring. (If you made it this far, here is the press release)

Mitch Lieberman – Managing Partner DRI US