How to Keep a Customer for LifeBy Samuel Greengard
By Samuel Greengard
The road to customer satisfaction has gotten a lot bumpier during the last decade. A pile of new technologies and a growing array of channels have added complexities that would have once been inconceivable. But somewhere between marketing, sales and support, technology automation, and a focus on metrics and key performance indicators, there is the very real world of managing customer expectations and creating lasting relationships.
Customer experience management (CEM) attempts to address these challenges. It is based on a simple enough premise: when an organization takes an end-to-end life-cycle approach to customers and focuses on customer interactions rather than individual transactions, the result is typically stronger brand identification, greater loyalty, improved sales and lower overall costs. "Customers wind up more engaged with a company and more likely to remain a customer," says Glen Hartman, global managing director of digital information at consulting firm Accenture.
While CEM may seem straightforward, its execution isn't simple. "Today, loyalty is tied to an overall experience across multiple channels and formats," says Brian Girouard, a vice president in the retail and distribution practice at Capgemini. At the center of effective CEM, Girouard says, is an understanding of "who shoppers are, where they are within their journey, where they have been, and what their preferences and intentions are." This approach enables a business to interact with customers and potential customers in a more relevant and personalized way.
Bridging the CIO-CMO Divide
Too often, there's a huge divide between CIOs and CMOs, says Girouard. Marketing departments want to move fast and embrace leading-edge digital tools, including social tools and cloud analytics. CIOs prefer to exercise a little more caution. The result? Marketing executives increasingly bypass the CIO and engage with ad agencies, cloud service providers and other boutique solutions firms on an on-demand, ad hoc basis. "This frequently leads to a proliferation of mobile apps and in-store technologies that aren't supported by IT," Girouard explains. The result is an inconsistent experience for the customer, as well as business systems that are more costly to operate and maintain.
Instead, a CIO must work with the CMO and others to create an "all channel experience" that puts the shopper or customer at the center of the business, Girouard says. "This involves defining the shopping journey for multiple customer segments. Once this journey is understood, you must build the business and technology-centric capabilities relating to customer, content, commerce, service, and operations management." Ultimately, it's vital to achieve a single view of customer data and build an integrated and flexible IT platform that taps into a diverse array of tools including cloud computing, mobile apps and services, social media, crowdsourcing and data analytics.
However, today's environment also requires a different mindset about customers. They increasingly demand tools that allow them to address concerns and problems easily and seamlessly across multiple channels, devices and situations. As a result, CIOs must work with CMOs to continuously engage, educate and inform customers about a brand and build a deeper relationship. Every interaction is another proof point in a continuous engagement model, says Accenture's Hartman.
Peter Krasilovsky, a vice president at retail consulting firm BIA/Kelsey, says CIOs and other executives must think about how to make things easier and better for customers. CEM is not about using any particular technology effectively and it's not about an individual vendor or product, Krasilovsky notes. It's all about combining IT systems and business processes in a way that creates seamless interactions and unlocks greater value for the customer and the business.
"As we wade deeper into digital systems and connection points, consumers expect greater relevance and greater responsiveness," says Hartman. "Businesses must understand where a consumer is in the buying cycle at any given moment and how to better address their needs at any point along the way."
About the Author
Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Crowdsourcing Gets Real for CIOs," click here.