Gimme More, says the Customer

IT Next, 9th September 2013 - The true CEM strategy can be portrayed if enterprises deliver positive and meaningful customer interactions

Why CEM?

CEM and CRM are fundamentally different from each other. CRM is a concept that brings different elements together such as business strategy, technology and customer relationships. Traditionally, CRM systems have helped firms understand customers. They have also helped unify customer information and offer an overarching view. CRM is mostly about transactions and is operationally focused on profiling the customer and collecting data for cross-sell. More often than not, CRM is aligned with the companys objectives and not necessarily to customer preferences. On the other hand, CEM is all about the customer and by using the right balance of systems, processes and infrastructure, it seeks to improve the customers experience with the company as an entity.

CEM is a two-way process that provides customers a clear understanding of a companys offerings and helps executives and managers understand how rapidly customers can form an opinion about the company and act appropriately to either leverage an opportunity or address a grievance.

Steps to Treat it differently

The differential treatment of CEM can be reflected if customers share their feedback on every interaction, if possible with their service providers. The feedback neednt be restricted to instances of bad or unacceptable customer service but should also cover every facet of the interaction. By providing feedback, customers can put the onus of change on the service provider and also expect better service that is in line with their expectation. It is not advisable for customers to switch service providers without giving them a chance to address their grievances.

Processes that impact CEM

It is important for corporations to empower customer experience management (CEM) to the customers in achieving complete front-back office integration to gain a unified customer view. The CEM approach enables our customers to leverage our domain strengths--strategy and consultancy, vertical-specific best practices and ready-to-deploy software along with implementation services to seamlessly transition to a comprehensive CEM regime.

To develop a CEM strategy, institutions need to work towards modifying interaction deliverables which is meaningful in the operational context of the customer, hard to replicate and distinct from the competition.

CEM places emphasis on increasing customer participation by giving the customer more incentives to provide feedback. Customer feedback has to be collected at the most micro level possible and offer management a clear understanding of the drivers for customer experience and act on them immediately to bring forth perceivable change. CEM offers what CRM was originally intended to offer: positive returns by measuring customer experience through a combination of finely calibrated analytics and decision metrics.

Approach to Reality

There are two basic approaches that one can adopt. One starts from within and one from outside. In the former, everything including people, products, processes, transactions, QA and interactions leading up to the customer touch point is reviewed and reoriented with the end customer in mind. In the latter, an outside-in approach is adopted where the starting point is the customer and the end point is the last post in the organisation. Irrespective of where you start, your end goal still is to engage your customers at various levels and connect emotionally with them.

Emotions constitute the bulk of any experience. By running proactive customer connect programs, customer perceptions can be collated, measured, analysed and addressed. Embedded business analytics tools can help institutions look at transactional behaviour, purchase cycles, scope for reference and service expectations. Broadly, two approaches can be adopted.

Create Benchmarks

Establish performance indices to study progress towards CEM. Select key indicators to study the impact that a CEM programme is having on your customers, specifically if it has a tangible impact on the relationship. By implementing a best-practices driven CEM framework and incorporating customer feedback, institutions can establish baseline customer satisfaction levels and work towards raising them at periodic intervals.

Target Multiple Channels

The more channels you target, the more the chances that you will hear from your customers. Any forum, social media site, event, newsletter or any medium that allows or even incentivises feedback should be on your radar. As mentioned earlier, the focus should be on gaining a single view of the customer across channels and transactions. Business analytics can again help here.

Collate Best Practices and Knowledge

Employing best practices ensures a consistent customer experience and helps build a support framework in the organisation. The data collected should be used to measure the impact various decisions are having on customer satisfaction and whether the institution is now in a position to leverage cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

Any changes in customer behaviour, buying preferences or even lack of interaction must be studied and analysed to gain actionable insights that feed into the decision-making framework to carry the customer experience forward.

Incentivise CEM among Employees

Connect employee incentives to customer satisfaction. Employee training programmes are an integral part of a CEM initiative.

Segment customers based on common characteristics and beyond. Once a CEM maturity level is attained, institutions should focus on delivering personalised experiences to customers based on demographics, buying preferences, delivery channel and, most importantly, profitability.

Quantifiable Benefits

Metrics can be put in place to measure the effectiveness of CEM initiatives. Even a robust voice of customer initiative can deliver much needed insights and offer scope of evaluating brand health. In addition, engagement measurement programs can be implemented at various customer touch points to measure the depth of engagement. It may be remembered that a key outcome of any CEM program is greater accountability and transparency across the organisation. To facilitate this, institutions need to put in place a simple framework that measures the CEM orientation of various individuals and groups who are connected with customer facing processes directly or indirectly. Online feedback and sentiment analysis on social media can also reveal a lot.

Todays rapidly changing business landscape demands enhanced, integrated solutions that employ new and emerging technologies and simplify the process of managing customer experience across the enterprise. Organisations are seeking cost effective ways to turn customer experience management into a competitive differentiator. They are also looking for organised and automated business processes that enable reduced workflows and increased marketing, sales and service activities with a personal touch resulting in reduced operating costs and higher revenues.

How do Business Functions Perceive CEM?

In a world driven by ever changing market and customer priorities, acquisition, retention, loyalty and satisfaction are keywords for a customer management strategy.Though CEM initiatives can be owned by a single group, the programme has multiple stakeholders within (lines of business) and outside the organization (vendors). Organisations that are driven by a clear and well defined vision are the ones that steal a march over their counterparts who are process and transaction driven. In addition to a vision, organisations need to put in place ideal customer engagement scenarios and grading that provide scope for improvement and reward internal stakeholders who have worked successfully towards enabling a benchmark customer experience.

Raj Mruthyunjayappa, Managing Director APAC & EMEA, Talisma Corporation

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