Tag Archives: Customer Management

Customer Experience Conversations: Len Ferman

Welcome to our brand new Customers 1st blog series entitled, ‘Customer Experience Conversations.’ This series will highlight customer experience leadership ideas and insights from the experts who will be speaking at the 2014 Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit (TCEL) in April.
This year, TCEL will explore the new realities of building brands and relationships in today’s socially driven and data abundant world. The event will shine an important lens on the power of insights and the critical need for marketers to focus on factoring emotion into the bigger equation to get a return on customer relationships.
With the onset of the New Year, I wanted to get an in-depth look at the ever-changing customer experience landscape from an expert’s point of view. I was fortunate to sit down with Len Ferman, managing director, Ferman Innovation, to discuss the importance of empathy when it comes to customer experience leadership.
Here is what Ferman had to say:
IIR: Describe your best customer experience.
Ferman: When I think about great customer experiences I like to focus on the intentional experience rather than the typical story of a “lone wolf” hero acting on their own and bending the rules. I absolutely applaud those who go above and beyond the call of duty and shows true empathy for a customer. However, from a corporate point of view we should be creating intentional customer experiences that demonstrate empathy for our customers. 
In this light, my best customer experience involved my teenage son losing his iPhone. Verizon delighted me with their process of transferring the account to a new phone two times in the same day at no charge and without having to visit the store. First, my son transferred his account to an old droid phone I was no longer using. He needed a phone immediately because he was driving back to college. Then when he got back to school he found a friend who had an extra iPhone.  He then contacted Verizon and transferred his account a second time. Each time the transfer was handled remotely in a couple of minutes and at no charge. This was a huge improvement over several years ago when you would have needed to bring the phone in and might be charged a transfer fee.
IIR: Why are empathy and emotion so important in when it comes to customer experience?
Ferman: Corporations often lose sight of customer needs in the perpetual quest to meet next quarter’s earnings. What’s good in the short term for the stock price is usually at conflict with long term customer satisfaction and shareholder value. Corporate leaders need to spend more time attending traditional face to face focus groups and watching their customers talk about their pain points and challenges in everyday life and in interactions with the company. 
When you see customers face to face you pick up the body language and expressions that you cannot discern in the most disciplined reading of a market research report. And, only when you have seen your customers talking about your company can you truly empathize with their needs.  This is what is required for companies to develop the stimulus to identify the improvements they need to make to their products and services.
IIR: What are the key traits of a great customer experience leader?
Ferman: Great customer experience leaders ensure that the customer comes first, always, period. What’s good for the customer will ultimately be good for the shareholders and stakeholders of the company. This doesn’t mean you give away your products for free. This means you design your products and services in a way that they create value and intentional “wow” experiences for your customers every day. By creating value for your customers you create customer advocates, and you spawn a willingness to pay that will generate superior returns for the shareholders. 
IIR: If your customers have a bad customer experience, how do you reconnect with them moving forward?
Ferman: The most important thing you must do immediately following a bad customer experience is to acknowledge and apologize for the bad customer experience. You must empathize with the customer and show you are on their side. Customers want to know that you are a partner, not an adversary. But, just a simple show of empathy is not enough. There must be a short and long term strategy to reconnect with the customer. 
In the short term, you can actually leverage a bad customer experience as a way to create a valuable customer advocate.  I have seen repeatedly that an individual customer’s bad experience can be turned into a unique opportunity to delight that customer when the solution is handled properly. Often these customers report higher satisfaction scores after the remedy that prior to the problem. Long term, you need to incorporate the bad experience into the process you need to have for continuously evaluating and improving your overall intentional customer experience for your products and services. 
IIR: How has the digital revolution changed the overall customer experience?
Ferman: The digital revolution has changed the game in terms of the expectations of customers and has provided an expansive array of new opportunities to delight customers. In the digital age customers expect change to happen fast.  Customers expect that your systems all “talk” to each other and that they should not have to explain their problem more than once. Customers want instant gratification, so you must be prepared to solve their problems quickly on the first call.  
From a corporate point of view the digital revolution has created fantastic new opportunities to create intentional great customer experiences. Forward thinking companies are finding ways to use the web and mobile platforms to deliver their products and services in a way we couldn’t dream about 20 years ago. The possibilities are limitless and simply require a commitment to constantly understand customer needs and generate new solutions. 
IIR: Employee recognition can positively influence employee behaviors and cultivate a customer-centric culture. How do you recognize and motivate your employees?
Ferman: I have found the best way to motivate employees is to include them in the process of developing customer solutions. When you ask an employee to participate in a brainstorming session to determine how to improve the customer experience you create a “wow” experience for the employee. Instead of showering employees with costly incentives in an effort to buy positive behavior it is much better to partner with your employees and make them feel like they are a valuable part of the equation to create a customer centric culture. In addition, you will find that your employees are the best source of great new ideas.
IIR: How do you strategize and innovate on your company’s customer experience to continuously improve it as the marketplace grows increasingly competitive?
Ferman: The key is to have a standing process in place of continuous customer innovation. It can’t be something you do once in a while. You have to have a team in place that is constantly gathering and synthesizing information about your customer’s experience. This includes primary market research with your customers as well as a disciplined approach to capturing and evaluating customer problems. Then you have to have a process that looks at all the data and identifies and evaluates potential new customer solutions. When you do this continually you create the ability to identify and respond to your most pressing customer experience issues.
Want to hear more from Len Ferman on customer experience? Join me at Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit 2014in Miami in April. To learn more about the event and register, click here: http://bit.ly/1dton09

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc

4 Things that are Killing Your Customer Experience

As the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded with products, it is becoming tougher for companies to stand out amidst the noise and clutter. In the past, product packaging and messaging were the most important aspects. Now, those elements are still critical, but in addition, you need to offer your customer a unique experience they won’t get anywhere else.
The customer experience (CX) is a blend of a company’s physical performance and the emotions evoked, intuitively measured against customer expectations across all touch-points. This means that every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company that will either strengthen or weaken the future relationship – and with that – the customer’s desire to return and recommend. Excellent customer experiences are still so novel that, when we have one, we talk about it. 
The CX is all about doing things that will be memorable and of value to the customer. Start with the basics and fundamentals. Once you’ve gotten them right, you will have earned the customer’s trust and repeat business. There are plenty of companies offering what you offer, so be decidedly different. With that being said, according to Business2Community, here are four things you must stop doing if you want a stand-out CX.
  1. Stop asking the customer to repeat information. This includes asking them to repeat identifying information already keyed in while listening to prompts.
  2. Stop having all employees greet the customer when entering a store. Let one do it and then stop.
  3. Stop being oblivious. Get your team to recognize current customers. Encourage them to check the database and acknowledge the customer specifically.
  4. Stop being scripted. Customers want a real person delivering sincere service. Allow your team to build a relationship and use judgment.  

There are an array of things organizations need to start doing but get started by stopping certain irritating behaviors – it gives the customer a chance to think about taking their business to the competition.
Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmanadCicc.

Official Call for Presenters Now Open: Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit

The Institute for International Research (IIR) presents
Due to the high volume of submissions, we suggest you submit your proposal early and no later than Thursday, August 29, 2013 to Rachel McDonald, Senior Conference Producer at rmcdonald@iirusa.com or 646.895.7405.

The Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit is an event that showcases B2B and B2C trends, insights and best practices for designing, measuring, aligning and communicating your customer experience strategy to ensure business relevance.

A Three Day Conference Experience Featuring NEW Topics:

Customer Experience Design & Measurement
  • User Experience Design
  • Design Research & Methods
  • Redesigning a Program
  • Analyzing VOC
  • Design Thinking
  • Loyalty Measurement
  • Data-Rich Insights & Analytics 
  • Big Data Initiatives 
  • Social Media Engagement & Feedback
  • Customer Insights 
  • New Technologies & Methodologies
  • Internal Customer Index Scoring vs. NPS
  • Enterprise Feedback Management

Strategy & Alignment
  • Using VOC to Take Actionable Insights
  • Engagement Learnings
  • Monetizing Your Customer Experience
  • Recovery Strategy
  • Linkage to ROI
  • Customer Service Strategies
  • Aligning Customer Touchpoints
  • Combating Survey Fatigue 
  • Linking Data Sources
  • Personalization & Customization 
  • Driving a Customer Centric-Culture

High Level Keynote Sessions that Focus On:
  • Innovation & Creativity
  • Operational Perspective
  • Chief Listener 
  • Customer Before Profit
  • Culture & Change Management
  • The Role of Emotions 
  • Developing Relationships
  • Digital Customer Experience
  • Customer Behavior / Generational Nuances 
  • Leadership
  • Global Perspectives

We are also happy to consider topics not listed here that you feel would add value and be appropriate.

Speakers receive FREE admission to the conference. PLUS! Idea gathering forums following each session topic.

The Audience

Individuals within the company responsible for customer experience, voice of customer, customer research
Individuals with direct experience for the customer experience and/or voice of customer collection, dissemination, interpretation and results
Individuals seeking to enhance their own company’s capabilities in these areas (become more customer-centric and drive business results through improved customer experience), and willing to help others advance through sharing of best practices and experiences
Sponsorship & Exhibition Opportunities
If you are interested in sponsorship or exhibit opportunities please contact Jon Saxe, Business Development Manager at jsaxe@iirusa.com or 646.895.7467.

Interested in Becoming a Media Partner or Featured Event Blogger?
Contact Maria Orlova, Marketing Manager, at morlova@iirusa.com.

Call for Presenters:

  • For consideration, please email rmcdonald@iirusa.com with the following information by Thursday, August 29, 2013.
  • Proposed speaker name(s), job title(s), and company name(s)
  • Contact information including address, telephone and fax numbers and e-mail
  • Talk title
  • The main theme you plan to address
  • Summary of the presentation (3-5 sentences)
  • Please indicate what is NEW about the presentation
  • What the audience will gain from your presentation (please list 3-5 key “take-aways”) 
  • Previous conference experience
  • Short bio

Due to the high volume of responses, we are unable to respond to each submission. All those selected to participate as speakers will be notified shortly after the deadline.
Thank you for your interest in the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit. We look forward to receiving your proposal!
The Total Customer Experience Leaders Team


Treat Your Customer Like Your Date

Today, businesses spend a ton of resources attracting new customers without an understanding of what it takes to sustain a positive customer experience (CX). In fact, surveys reveal 80 percent of companies believe they deliver superior CX, yet only eight percent of their customers agree. If you take your significant other out on a date, do you dress like a slob and ignore them? Not if you want the relationship to continue ‘ just as you do with your customer.
According to Daryl Travis, author, “How Does It Make You Feel?” and CEO, Brandtrust, in order to create a great CX it’s essential to have an understanding of experiences that trigger the emotions that drive your customer’s brand preference. Travis recently shared some tips with Retail Customer Experience on how business can use emotion to create a better CX.
How Your Customers Feel
According to psychologists, what people remember about a CX is determined by the intensity of emotions created in specific moments’not the overall experience. ‘This is true for most experiences throughout our lives. Our non-conscious mind categorizes and catalogues experiences according to the nature and intensity of emotions,’ writes Travis.
When processing new stimuli, the non-conscious mind associates past memories and responds emotionally before rational thought occurs. When neurologists discovered that 95 percent of thought, emotion and learning occur this way, behavioral economists realized non-consious emotional responses shaped by past memories determine customer attitudes and behavior’not conscious, rational decisions.
Leverage Emotional Insights to Build Trust
Travis says that when considering CX, it’s important to be mindful that trust and faith are essential emotions. When customers perceive your company as trustworthy, they buy your products. Demonstrating trustworthiness can be done when a situation is negative as well.  Trustworthiness is demonstrated by being reliable and concerned for your customer’s needs. The company must demonstrate that it will always act in a caring way toward the customer, no matter the circumstances.
Build empathy
Even though budgets are limited, it’s important to invest in a deep understanding of your customer. With this clarity, teams are able to focus, certain that what they are doing matters to their customers. This is where empathy building can help. It’s also important for senior leadership to understand what customers experience throughout their daily lives. This often shifts how they look at their business, sparking fresh thinking in an empathetic understanding of customers.
Internalize the CX
For an initiative to succeed in improving the CX, senior leadership needs to ‘live’ the brand. This involves articulating the brand promise internally so that people understand what is expected. Each aspect of delivering a positive CX needs to be ‘caught, not taught,’ according to Travis. Leaders intent on changing employee behavior must do so by exemplifying the vision for how the brand is to be experienced. By sharing an understanding of the emotional drivers for a positive CX, it’s possible to refocus employees around what works. Applied social science research has demonstrated that emphasizing the positive rather than trying to eliminate the negative is effective in improving an organization’s capacity for change.
Implement a Plan
Finally, it’s necessary for a work plan to be undertaken to facilitate acceptance and adoption of the behaviors necessary to bring the vision and values of the new CX to life throughout the organization. This process will help to transcend ambiguities and inspire colleagues to internalize and live the new experience promise.
Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 

Welcome to the World of the Ever-Connected Customer

Today’s customer understands they now have power. They now expect more than just a product or a service from you. They expect a relationship that is on equal term and they expect to be at the center of your world. And your company needs to put them there.
As the marketplace becomes more crowded with products and services, it is becoming much more difficult for companies to stand out amidst the clutter. In the past, how you packaged your product was extremely important, as well as the messaging around it. These elements are still critical, but now you also need to offer the customer a positive, unique experience.
The customer experience is a blend of a company’s physical performance and the emotions evoked, intuitively measured against customer expectations across all touch-points. This means that every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company that will strengthen or weaken the future relationship – and with that – the customer’s desire to return, spend and recommend.

Check out this cool video by Salesforce.com about how in this day in age, your company needs to become a ‘customer company’ to be successful.

Maritz Research Helps American Family Insurance Create a Customer Experience Action Plan

It’s a question that so many people in the customer experience measurement business are asking:  They are collecting feedback from their customers, but what’s next?
Action planning is part of the evolution of how American Family Insurance does business when it comes to customer experience. The insurer isn’t just there for their customers during accidents and catastrophes, they’re listening to the voice of their customer every day.
Maritz Research recently partnered with American Family to help them take their customer satisfaction data to the next level. Brian O’Connor of Maritz Research and Katie Churches of American Family Insurance shared their success story at the Total Customer Experience Leader’s (TCEL) Summit. The goal was to provide agents and other employees at American Family Insurance with information to help them proactively notify customers about rate changes to their premiums.

Check out the full videobelow to see highlights from the TCEL presentation and hear more about how action planning is making a difference.

Trends in Customer Experience Management

Customer Experience Management (CEM) is all about bringing the customer into the center of the organization. A big challenge operators will have is to break down the silos inside the organization. How you integrate different departments into the single view of the customer is very important.

Check out this insightful video featuring Julio Puschel, Principal Analyst, Head of Operator Strategy, Informa Telecoms & Media. 

How to Calculate CX: Hypothesize, Test, Measure and Adjust

Investing to improve your business’s customer experience (CX) can determine its success or failure. When companies take time to plan their CX, it pays. In fact, according to Forrester Research, there was $1.3 billion in additional revenue for companies that improved CX. The ROI that comes from improved CX is related to increased customer loyalty ‘ each customer buys more, fewer customers are lost, and customers are willing to spread good news about your business.
The benefits that come from improved CX depends on your ability to measure your investments in CX, otherwise you won’t know which are working. Measuring CX will cause your investments produce a return because they generate new business, larger sales and even save money. When you start to measure CX, you need to take a step back from traditional product-centric measures of performance and focus on the basic functions of your business.
Image via blog.vitria.com
Everage Insights shares four steps you need to take if you want to be able to measure your CX.
Step 1 – Get into Your Customer’s Brain
First, get to know  your customer. This helps you set aside your beliefs about your product and move towards understanding their perspective. I’m sure you already know your customers – you have demographic information on what they like to read. But many businesses still fail to understand them.
Ask questions including:
  • Since I know what they read, why do they choose to read those blog posts or ebooks?
  • What problems are my customers trying to solve?
  • What questions do they need answered?
  • What kind of information did they need, but were unable to find?
  • Are my customers and their behaviors changing?

Step 2 – Identify Points of Contact
Measuring CX depends on identifying each point of contact your customer has with your business. A touchpoint can occur virtually or in the real world. Each contact your customers make with your product will determine how long someone sticks around.
Touchpoint metrics are specific to CX – they are developed to measure the attributes of each point of contact someone makes with your brand and how they relate to your businesses goals. By monitoring how well you meet customers’ expectations and how effectively you are achieving business goals at each touchpoint, you will know if and how you are impressing customers.
Step 3 – Develop Solutions
Now it’s time to develop solutions that can address these problem areas. If you measure touchpoint metrics for customer or technical support, you can theorize potential solutions to those problems. Until you measure these ideas, they are only theories -possible solutions to the problems plaguing your CX.              
Step 4 – Measure Metrics
Solution metrics, qualitative and quantitative metrics that measure the effectiveness of your solutions complement touchpoint metrics. Solution metrics can narrow your focus to the problem areas identified with touchpoint metrics. I ask myself one question: Are the problem areas improving or worsening after I implemented my solution?

Using solution metrics, you can test your ideas to see which effectively address the problems you identified and which fail to do so. Once you know which solutions are effective, you’ll know where to focus your business’s resources so you can see the biggest improvement in customer experience.  

How to Recover from a Bad Customer Experience

Every business would like for every one of its customers to have consistently great experiences, but that’s not always the case. Even the best businesses have customers who have a less-than-positive experience. Luckily, ReadLocalhas seven tips for how to recover when a customer has a bad experience.
1) Quickly Take Action
A customer may complain at the time of service or wait to contact the business. However a customer contacts you about a negative customer experience, it’s important to resolve their issue as quickly as possible. You want the customer to know you care about their business , so quickly resolving their problems helps them feel more positive about your company.  
2) Identify the Cause
When a customer complains about a bad experience, they may mention many issues when they speak with you. It’s important to listen to what they have to say, paying attention to the specifics they mention pertaining to your business. There are potential issues that can arise, but it’s important to identify the root of the problem so you can respond to their specific issue.
3) Offer an Immediate Resolution
If a customer is unhappy with your products, solve their problem as soon as you hear about it. The longer it takes for their issue to be resolved, the more upset they are likely to become. To make sure you can consistently offer immediate resolutions to customer complaints, create a system, procedure, or policy for each of the bad customer experiences your business has faced so that you’ll have a way to handle issues as they arise.
4) Take Responsibility
Is every customer complaint your fault? Not necessarily, but it is important to take responsibility for the contribution you have had in the issue. Don’t blame the customer, because that is only going to make them more upset. Identify the parts of the issue that your business played a part in, and let the customer know you are aware of your responsibility. 
5) Apologize
Make sure to apologize for the customer’s bad experience. Be sincere in your response. Let the customer know you appreciate their business and are sorry for any inconvenience. Don’t be frustrated in your conversation with the customer. Instead, put yourself in their shoes and let them know you care.
6) Provide a Tangible Solution
In most cases, an apology alone is not enough to recover from a bad customer experience. In order to resolve the issue with the customer, offer a resolution. For example, many businesses offer a discount, refund, or complimentary service package, depending on the severity of the issue.
7) Empower Your Team

‘May I speak with a manager’? This is one of the questions that a customer has a complaint about your business. But, authority and approvals to get customer complaints resolved can make the process take more time and make the customer feel frustrated. So, empower your team to be a part of the resolution process so that issues are handled at the front line. 

8 Ways to Create a Competitive Customer Experience

In today’s connected world, customers have more choices than ever before. So, they have fewer reasons than to do business with brands that don’t provide exceptional experiences. After all, customer experience is the total of all interactions that customers have with a brand, and their perception is the end result.
Interactions offer opportunities for companies to learn more about the customer’s needs and to strengthen the relationship. In fact, customer experience is one of the few remaining sources of competitive advantage. If you want a competitive advantage, follow these eight steps to great customer experience from a new book, ‘Attack of the Customers,’ by Greg Gianforte, founder of RightNow Technologies, Inc. and Paul Gillin.
1. Establish a Knowledge Foundation
The first step in delivering an exceptional customer experience is establishing a knowledge foundation that should contain knowledge about your products and company and your customers. Employees can rely on the knowledge foundation to enhance customer interactions, while customers can use it for self-service. Gianforte suggest that once it’s running, determine where the knowledge gaps are by capturing customer questions and business responses. Then, organize the information in the knowledge base for easy access and provide a way for customers to use it to answer their questions.
2. Empower Customers with Self-Service
Provide customers access to the knowledge foundation created in step one so they can find the information they need whenever they want it. According to Gianforte, self-service options benefit both customers and your company – providing speed, round-the-clock service, and effectiveness, load-balancing and first-contact resolution.
3. Empower Frontline Staff
When creating a great customer experience, you also have to empower front line staff who interact with customers to exceed expectations. By giving frontline employees the means to go beyond the basics of customer support, you can create raving fans. You can start by making sure that frontline employees have all the information they need about customer’s previous interactions so that employees can personalize the conversation.
4. Offer Multichannel Support
Multi-channel options aren’t a choice for organizations, they’re a requirement for business, according to Gianforte. To deliver consistently excellent customer experiences while offering customers a choice of channels, all customer interactions must be unified. Everyone interacting with customers should be able to see all relevant previous exchanges, regardless of the channels. A knowledge foundation  not only helps enable this, it also makes reporting a lot easier. If customers have trouble finding what they need via one channel, they should be able to quickly switch to another, otherwise they may become disinclined to use self-service again.
5. Listen to Your Customers
Delivering an excellent customer experience is impossible if you don’t have a systematic way to listen. Effective listening sharpens focus and enables you to correct problems before they escalate. Start by have a person who understands social networks listen for your products trademarks, as well as those of your competitors, market categories, and related issues of interest. In addition, instead of waiting months for the results of a formal customer survey, ask customers for feedback at the time of interaction.
6. Design Seamless Experiences
In many organizations, multiple teams interact with customers, yet they don’t work with one another. To break down walls, consider your organization from the customer’s perspective. Evaluate cross-departmental processes and how they might be automated with software to provide a seamless customer experience. According to Gianforte , Build rich customer profiles that show front line employees all the customer attributes they need; use customer information to drive specialized attention; make workflow rules flexible and give managers the ability to implement workflow rules without technical staff; move support online; give nontechnical staff tools that allow them to post Web content; and automate certain customer communications.
7. Engage Proactively with Customers
‘Many companies take the ‘emergency room’ approach to dealing with customers. They wait until the ‘patient’ is brought in on a stretcher and then practice triage,’ explained Gianforte. Little consideration is given to what caused the problem. Instead, organizations should be focused on addressing the factors that erode customer satisfaction. By understanding your customers and their history, you can move your customer experience from the emergency room to the fitness center.
8. Measure and Improve Continually
Keep in mind that success is a process, not an event, said Gianforte. Even if you do the first seven steps perfectly, you need to continually measure your performance and foster a culture that drives improvement. One way to do this is by paying attention to competitors that are recognized for service. It’s also helpful to network with peers, via conferences, or sponsored events. Keep measuring performance, via metrics like customer satisfaction, and conversion rates.
The above steps provide a starting place for organizations to transform customer experience. While it makes most sense to implement them in the order described, you can apply them differently depending on your situation. Gianforte  notes that what is most important is that they help you make customer experience the top priority.