pattern discoveryBrilliance is the product of pattern discovery. And likewise, business growth from customer experience management is the product of discovering patterns. Think of advances made in biology, psychology, physics, and other sciences: our wisdom stems from noticing that Y follows X, and A is connected to B, and whenever C and D are combined there’s a certain reaction. Most things in life are not linear, but more of a maze.

Customer experience excellence in the future will be led by companies that see patterns and use those insights to leapfrog the norms.

When I tell my auto mechanic that the dials on my dashboard indicate a problem, he looks under the hood to see what’s worn-out, what’s disconnected and what needs to be fine-tuned. His explanation is impressive: the X cable impacted the Y hose, which wore out and caused the Z to limp along. There’s no way I could have known that just by studying my dashboard.

Step back to see the patterns, and you’ll see brilliant truths, options, and solutions. In customer experience, there are data patterns, people patterns, process patterns, and more.

Data Patterns

Natural breakouts of customer data can be your best revelation yet. Especially when they explain customers’ expectations. Expectations are the name of the game. Customers expand share of wallet when their expectations are met or exceeded. Customers’ comments from any source are important sources of pattern analysis. Beyond word clouds and sentiment quantification, the themes and connections of comments to perception ratings, behavioral data, and operational incidents can be the most powerful combination of any. Segmentation and personas by expectation-sets is highly recommended for cross-functional actionability, more accurate understanding of customers, and more simple management of performance to expectations.

Trends (line charts) create context: how is the current situation better or worse than previous periods, and what is the expected trajectory? Percentages are almost always more compelling than averages. Comparisons over time are more fair and revealing than comparisons across products or regions or organizations. Overlays show different trend charts on the same page so that related incidents and patterns can be explained. Is there a time lag between one trend-line pattern and another? You can enrich the data’s story and find important connections by overlaying various customer data sources, both internal (operational data, employee perceptions, costs and revenue) and external (perception/behavior data, competitor actions, etc.).

Cross-tabs can reveal groups of customers with unique characterizations . . . which can lead to further pattern discoveries. Correlations can go beyond identifying key drivers of loyalty; when anything is closely correlated with something else it’s important for managers to be aware of that. Lack of that awareness can create a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” situation; knowing that a change in one thing is related to similar change in another is necessary managerial wisdom.

Customer lifetime value is a powerful way to compel action. When managers see how much of their future revenue is at stake, pending certain actions, what needs to be done can become crystal clear. It can take years to perfect customer lifetime value calculations; most companies start with cumulative revenue over the expected duration of customer relationship with the company. Then fixed costs are allocated across customers, and over time, variable costs become better understood for assignment to customers with increasing fairness or accuracy in successive revisions. The characterization of customers within lifetime value groupings requires synthesis of various data sources and yields powerful insights.

A single view of any customer, as well as a 360-degree views of the customer life cycle and customer experience journey typically require melding data from a variety of sources. There are always important insights to be gained when combining data sources. And the holistic viewpoint afforded to managers of all kinds can certainly catapult service and company-wide customer-focus.

People Patterns

Customer experience management is about people — both outside the company and inside the company. It’s a two-sided coin. What goes on among people internally has a ripple effect to people externally, and vice versa. Internal patterns among people go well beyond employee surveys. Find some good change management templates and evaluate attitudes and contributions of people across the company. This can help you to develop a multi-year organizational adoption and accountability roadmap for customer experience excellence. And that’s key toward nurturing a customer-centric culture.

People patterns to study include “what’s in it for me” for each employee group, what’s needed from each group, and how synergies can be achieved through collaboration. Start with the people who facilitate various facets of customer experience management: analytics, CRM, loyalty, references, service, user experience, voice-of-the-customer, and so forth. Coordinate their efforts, help them see their collective efforts holistically, and build on one another’s work.

Customer-facing employees are an obvious focus, yet their success is limited or enabled by non-customer-facing employees and suppliers. Keep in mind your alliance and channel partners, too. Explore what makes all these people tick: what drives attitudes, behaviors, and habits? What are the sources of these patterns, and how can you influence positive trends among all of these people? Companies that figure these things out will be clear winners in customer experience in the future.

Process Patterns

A holistic view of processes’ impacts on other processes is essential for customer-centered cost savings and correcting chronic dis-satisfiers for customers and employees alike. Bottleneck analysis (PERT charts), failure analysis (FMEA), process flow diagrams, Pareto analysis, 5-S, 8-D, and process maturity assessments can propel customer experience transformation.

The customer experience journey is horizontal, not vertical or confined to a single touchpoint. Therefore, winning customer experience strategies embrace cross-functional management of processes. Sometimes that means incremental improvement, and other times that means transformation of processes, as well as policies and sometimes organizational structure. Since the company exists to meet customers’ expectations, we should embrace insights that compel us to continually align with the evolution of customer expectations.

Other Patterns

Data, people, and process patterns do not exist in a vacuum. They are intertwined. Seeing the connections and causations and other patterns across the whole enchilada is called “systems thinking”. This phrase has nothing to do with information technology. Systems thinking is simply a holistic view of interactions and effects. Reframing, perspective-shifting, inter-relationship diagraphs, analogies, and the pattern discovery ideas described above are methods for understanding the larger system at-play in the science of business management. Like all sciences, brilliance in customer experience management is the product of discovering patterns. Become a master of pattern discovery to be among the customer experience elite of the future.

This article is the fourth in a series of articles about Customer Experience for the Future.

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