A couple of books ago I wrote about customer loyalty and how to get and keep it. The book was slightly ahead of its time, mostly because it’s easier to write books than code but also because a fair amount of research needs to happen before you write the right code.
My research convincingly showed that a customer’s experience drives engagement which in turn drives loyalty. There were examples of companies and their executives who tried to shortcut the process but found they couldn’t do that and get the desired results. Their idea was to ask customers to prove their loyalty by endorsing a product or brand prematurely via the net promoter score (NPS). The obvious problem was that no one in their right mind would do that. Nevertheless, some people performed as asked but in such small numbers it didn’t matter. In the process they managed to trash the reputation of the NPS which helped exactly no one.
One of the findings that I am most fond of is that customers highly value good execution on the bread and butter, run-of-the-mill, quotidian tasks. The data blows away the myth that customer experience must be something that wows customers. In truth, they don’t often get wowed; your ability to hang on to them stems from not wasting their time.
A great takeaway from this finding is that if we can systematize and regularize our interactions with customers making them efficient and reliable that’s often all it takes. And loyalty? That’s demonstrated when customers say nice things about you in your community or elsewhere or help others with questions, not necessarily when they buy more stuff because of the points they get.
Remember I mentioned writing the right software? Armed with this knowledge we can make software that handles the efficiency and reliability and sure enough, customer interaction software is becoming the next battleground among CRM vendors.
Spoiler alert, customer interaction software won’t get you to nirvana because there are other niches opening like customer identity. I’m working on a white paper to address this but for now let’s take a look at interaction.
Regularizing the customer experience is a good place to start for without that nothing else makes sense. You couldn’t collect and analyze data on wildly different experiences hoping to glean anything predictive from it. Jobs number 2 and 3 involve bringing disparate things together. First you need to provide omni channel communication, being able to address customers on the channels they on which they approach and then you need to bring together data that might be siloed in different systems.
In many ways these are three things we’ve been striving for in CRM for about a decade the difference now is that each now connects for a higher purpose. With all of this it’s possible to track customers across channels and lifecycles and make on-target offers by relying on a better understanding of customer journeys.
I was briefed recently on Salesforce’s Interaction Studio which combines these capabilities and came away impressed with the centrality of Journey Builder in coordinating all of this. Defining customer journeys, whether for sales or service, is elemental to standardizing and regularizing customer experiences but it’s not enough. You still need to connect what you know about the customer (your data and information produced by analytics) with your communications channels so that you can address customers (saving wear and tear on the customer) in the channels they decide are best.
That’s what the product is designed for. Standardizing journeys across channels and delivering useful information. All of this combines to enable a business to make good on its bread and butter promises. In the process customers feel well served, not spammed. There’s also much greater likelihood that the positive experience engages customers as they wish to be and that completes the engagement cycle. If engagement drives loyalty, then the heavy lifting is over for now at least.
My two bits
It’s nice to see experience and engagement realized through CRM. A lot of credit goes to the analytics engine in the background that acts on customer data as well as the machine learning algorithms that enable correct next best recommendations. All of that wouldn’t be possible without journey mapping to standardize processes.
It has taken a while to get all these moving parts in synch, but we’re not done. Time to start looking into how to protect identity so that suggestions and offers only go to customers when they’re wanted. This will build on the not wasting time issue. For this we might need a third party to manage personal data. Historically we haven’t done much in identity but it’s time to reconsider.
We can’t really expect the individual social network vendors to do that because they’re closed systems and it would result in either massive redundancy or chaos from competing systems and possibly both. There are also bigger issues involved like who pays to maintain data and how do we keep it safe? That’s why interaction and identity are some of the leading issues of our time.