customer experience budgetCustomer experience management on a tight budget can still achieve great progress. You can make a vital impact even when customers are experiencing difficulties and use of technologies must be scaled back.

Proven winners both during and after a down cycle are those that embrace a slowdown as an opportunity to strengthen innovation and business processes. This strengthening better aligns offerings and ways of doing business in ways that matter to customers and are hard for competitors to copy.

Voice-of-Customer Almost-Free

Objective: provide non-customer-facing groups with relevant insights to guide their strategies, policies, processes and hand-offs. Consider the customer data residing in survey reports, complaint logs, service and sales call reports, CRM databases, win-loss analyses, the Internet, and so forth. If they are pieced together, a broader and deeper picture of the customer experience emerges.

Circumstance-based personaValuable new customer experience insights can extend the typical persona definition from role-based toward a panoramic view of the full customer experience spectrum. This spectrum should typically begins with the customer’s awareness of a need or desire for a solution and extends through the customer’s full use of the purchased product or service, including use after new models have been released as well as eventual downgrade, upgrade or disposal.

Customers have built-in measures of goodness, both conscious and subconscious, and both functional and emotional. Look for those in your integrated view of customer intelligence. Find the realities/expectations patterns overall, without applying any of your categorizations. Traditional segmentation labels have merit, but not in the initial definition of customers’ expectations — which actually cross-over our relatively arbitrary labels. Making customers’ realities (including perceptions) match their expectations better than your competitors do is what grows business. So focus on clearly identifying natural patterns in expectation first.

This adaptation of personas uses natural patterns in customers’ circumstances — rather than their roles — to simplify non-customer-facing groups’ understanding of gaps between customers’ realities and expectations. You can find 2-3 circumstances-based patterns among your core-growth customers. Characterizing these patterns by the moments of truth and associated consequences of these customers is powerful in establishing your intended customer experience as north star for everyone’s strategic and tactical decisions and hand-offs.

Compelling Action

Objective: identify the highest-ROI opportunities, and to motivate sustained focus. Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the cumulative profit stream over the duration of a customer’s interest in a brand category. But don’t worry about being able to calculate CLV so completely. The points of lifetime value in everyday use are to 1) prioritize what’s most pressing, 2) compel action by showing mangers how much business is at-risk, and 3) right-size the action.

You can do this even with simple estimates of revenue represented by the percentage of customers that are unhappy versus happy with a key driver of loyalty. Alternatively, use estimates of any aspect of costs represented by the percentage of unhappy versus happy customers.

CLV may be revised to sharpen prioritization of the panoramic customer experience persona segments. Prioritization can aid executives’ strategic decisions and customer-facing employees’ tactical decisions. To enable CLV-based decision-making, provide executives and customer-facing employees with ticklers that keep CLV policies top-of-mind. CLV prioritization also aids customer listening strategies and experience improvement initiatives.

Customer Listening

Objective: assist the whole business in using CX insights to guide their strategic and daily decision-making. Actionability is more important than scores, to keep your company in-sync with customers’ shifting needs. What worked well a year ago may be quite different from what will work best now.

Interestingly, companies like Procter & Gamble get their most useful customer insights through in-depth conversations with a small number of customers. They do this by encouraging the customer to use metaphors to describe their goals, circumstances, expectations, and experiences around your type of solution. Referring to the customer experience personas and CLV findings (above), evaluate customer sentiment monitoring methods:

  • Is the customer’s full experience reflected?
  • Are CLV-prioritized segments represented accordingly?
  • Is there adequate representation of customer sentiment influencers across the customer experience spectrum?
  • Does it incorporate the typically latent data listed above to provide a panoramic view?
  • Are employees at various levels personally involved in formal customer listening?

Your answers to these questions indicate whether your data collection needs to be adjusted for higher return on investment regarding its use for innovation, internal branding, and affinity development. Think outside the box: use customer inputs already on-hand, such as contact center voice-to-text, executives’ and employees’ informal conversations with customers, impressions captured from your customer-facing teams, etc.

Internal Branding

Objective: engage employees enterprise-wide in making a difference for customers. Internal branding of customer experience isn’t as much about a logo or tagline, but rather, wall-papering employees’ world with customers’ realities and expectations. Ideally, these insights are woven into all existing customer information sources. Weaving-in means things are seen from a customer experience context or lens. It means customer experience is not viewed as something separate (siloed), but rather, as the basis for your business’ existence — and the existence of salaries, budgets and dividends.

Customer data streams. To be customer-centric rather than ethnocentric, employees throughout the organization need to be plugged into customer sentiment data streams. Through meaningful dispositioning of the latent data sources listed above, each department can receive data that is pertinent to their stewardship. This sharpens understanding of their impact on the customer experience spectrum. Adoption of a mantra such as “Good news is no news, no news is bad news, bad news is good news”1 can make it easier for employees to accept customers’ constructive feedback. Treat customers’ complaints and negative ratings in a concerted manner similar to an RMA (returned materials authorization) process. Help departments take ownership for their specific impact on the customer experience by providing worksheets and reporting forms they can use to create and monitor action plans. Motivate follow-through and ongoing momentum through management visibility, recognition programs, and incentives criteria.

Snowball effect. A typical business process is deployed by several departments, creating a value chain of internal customers. Timeliness and quality of hand-offs throughout this internal value chain snowball exponentially toward revenue-generating customers. After characterizing each department’s ultimate objectives by their impact on the external customer experience spectrum, customer-centricity can be further improved by emphasizing internal customer satisfaction and internal supplier quality. For internal supplier quality, a process owner can communicate proactively with those who provide inputs to their process. It’s surprising how often this seemingly simple step is not enacted. Effective hand-offs typically result in smoother processes and fewer customer hassles.

CultureWeave customer experience improvement objectives into existing business practices such as staff meetings, operations reviews, the annual operating plan, performance reviews and internal communications. Include customer-centric messages prominently in intranet pages, internal newsletters, war rooms, break rooms, bulletin boards, cafeteria, and lobbies. Be creative and thorough. Consistent emphasis in simple ways is a defining factor in nurturing a customer-centric culture.

Rewards. “You get what you measure” and “you get what you reward” are watchwords for customer experience improvement. Scrutinize employees’ perceived weightings of performance metrics. It may be that the behaviors elicited by these perceptions are not the behaviors that management intended to motivate. Avoid sub-optimization by balancing metrics and incentives, and by double-checking alignment with intended outcomes.

These internal branding initiatives can pay excellent dividends in customer experience improvement through prevention of customer hassles and heightened customer-centricity.

Build these capabilities among your CX, CS & Marketing teams!

Customer Value Exchange

Customer Value Innovation

Objective: accelerate revenue growth through new value rather than raising prices.  Expand innovation horizons to include the end-to-end customer experience journey. Inspire development teams by streaming customer listening data, CLV, and customer experience personas to them. Involve representatives from manufacturing, customer service, support functions and channel partners along with the development teams in improving products, services, and customer touch-points, especially moments-of-truth. These include packaging, billing, information and communications throughout the customer experience spectrum. A broader viewpoint, supported by streaming fresh customer inputs, can propel innovation well beyond competitors’ offerings. Customer experience innovation is bolstered by effective internal branding.

Customer Engagement

Objective: appropriate outreach and engagement with customers. Customer experience personas and CLV are important reality-checks in developing marketing campaigns. Simple tools can keep CLV policies top-of-mind and stream relevant customer sentiment data to marketing and sales departments. With this guidance in creating ads, promotions, and sales presentations, stronger results can be achieved in customer affinity for the brand, spurring positive word of mouth, engaging customers, and further increasing market share and CLV.

New customer acquisition is always important, but a greater balance should be placed on strengthening your relationship with existing customers, especially during tough times.

Customer Experience Management on a Shoestring

Be creative and thorough in maximizing customer data usage. This is actually a wonderful realization: always reserve about half of your customer experience budget for driving cross-organizational ownership of performance. Over-investment in customer experience technologies is definitely bad for thriving in customer experience growth. Revive latent information, send relevant streams throughout the organization, and emphasize the customer experience spectrum in innovation, internal branding and engagement. By using existing data and processes in new ways, great strides can be made in customer experience growth.

Customer Experience Strategy Quiz

[HDquiz quiz = “8679”]

1James C. Morgan, Chairman of Applied Materials Inc.

Image licensed to ClearAction Continuum by Shutterstock.  

First published in OgilvyOne’s Customer Futures publication: The Importance of Customer Experience in a Down Economy.