Want Real Success? Destroy the Company-Centric Customer Experience

(cross-posted at Callidus blog)

Earlier this year I presented at C3 in Las Vegas.  The topic of my presentation was Customer Experience for Executives.  It was very well received, if I say so myself – since no one else was in the room… Kidding! I was asked to post a brief summary of the talk here.

I have summarized the main points (and placed a link at the bottom to the slideshare version of my deck) below – but more importantly, I welcome your contributions. What have your executives asked/demanded to know about customer experience? What did I miss in my presentation? What would convince your executive team to give CX a whirl? Let me know in the comments below, or contact me via Twitter and let me know – or just let me know any way you can.

Let’s start with the basics – do you need to embrace Customer Experience? Yes.

In recent surveys compiled by the Office of Consumer Affairs (an entity working with the U.S. Government and reporting within the White House hierarchy) shows that 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience.  “Guaranteed” is the key here – customers are not satisfied with just having or being promised one.  A recent survey in the U.K. shows up to 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for an upgraded experience.  This is what customers want: better experiences – and when more than half of your customers want something, shouldn’t you be willing to give it to them?

I wrote some time ago about the shift from a traditional customer lifecycle (where the company decides what type of interaction – and therefore experience – the customer is exposed to based on its internal recognition of the current state of the customer in the lifecycle) to a continuum (where the customer decides at the moment of the interaction what he needs to get form the company and how, therefore building experiences personalized and customized to his current needs and status).

I advocated then as I do now that company-centric behavior, where results, benefits, and value are measured by the company based on its internal benchmarks and standards, are quickly disappearing.  This come thanks to the emergence of online communities – where each dissatisfied voice can be augmented thousands of times instantly – and the rise of the customer era.  Not only has this trend continued to evolve, but the shift to customer-centricity and the empowerment of the customer is gaining traction in corporate America at previously unheard-of rates.  Indeed, in my last research report I found that 84 percent of organizations are now embracing the customer experience model – even if they are not very sure what they are doing yet (72 percent are still strategizing and discussing).

In executive suites, the most common questions I get asked are, what should be the difference between today’s customer experience efforts and those in the recent past, which in most cases failed – and should we even try to create customer experiences now. The distinction is simple. By enforcing a designed experience created by the company, you are still steeped in company-centric behavior that focuses mostly on – figuratively speaking – using a sledgehammer to make customers stay in their place.  This is not very attractive – especially when these customers can complain in their communities and degrade the value of the brand.  A customer-experience based world, where you provide the basic infrastructure and let customers personalize and customize their experiences each and every time, is the way to go.  Its like using a magnet to attract customers versus the sledgehammer mentioned before.

Your job is not to learn (or infer, or deduce, or think you know, or know you know – but don’t really know but assume… and you know what they say about assuming) what customers want. Your job is to figure out how to build the best possible multi-channel, dynamic, flexible, and responsive infrastructure in your organization, leveraging the technologies and tools provided, so you can let customers build their own personalized, optimized experience for each interaction based on their needs and wants for that specific moment.  Whether they need a quick, single-word answer or a lengthy explanation as a result of the same question asked in two different contexts and situations, your infrastructure musty be able to figure that out and provide both – and learn from that interaction so it can improve the next one.

This is not an avant-garde movement in customer strategies – we’ve been talking about this since the term “customer-centricity” was introduced in the mid-1990s. We now, finally, have the right environment, tools, people, and ability to deliver on that – in real time.

That’s what you need to know for Customer Experience at the executive level.  The link below will take you to a deck that will explain it in more detail and give you some numbers and data to write it more eloquently.

http://www.slideshare.net/ekolsky/cx-for-executives

What do you think?

Embeddable Functions Are (Finally) Coming to Customer Service

In December of 2014 something weird began to happen: we were introduced (or rather, re-introduced since the concept has been around for some time) to embeddable apps and uses.

Zendesk announced their embeddable API as a way to bring specific components from the application (like tickets and channel management) via  widget into other applications.

At the same time, Actuate introduced a platform for embeddable analytics, providing a similar approach – you can bring analytics and visualization in real-time into any other app or application via their API and widgets.

There were others, still under development, that are going in the same direction and I cannot disclose – yet.

Mind you, embedded value inserted in other apps or applications is not new.  It has been at least 15 years since we started promoting the value of in-app knowledge bases for field service and remote workers (can you imagine an airline technician trying to fix and engine that has to go back to a desktop computer to look at pictures and instructions? used to be that way).

But this is different.  This is not about just one function (highly customized and heavily bloated to be honest – that is what we used to have) being created specifically to be used independently.  This time we are talking about leveraging the power of the cloud – not just technology.

You likely heard me before talk about the ability of cloud-based platforms (middle layer in a proper three-tier open cloud architecture) to deliver value anywhere.  Leveraging the services made available by the platform the SaaS layer (the interface, also the software layer proper) can deliver anything that is entitled to access.

This is what is making apps and applications far more flexible (and way smaller) than ever.  If i can just bring the small functionality i need to complete my job into my screen easy and effortless then I (the individual user) can build apps that fit my need for that specific model (not to mention IT can do whatever they want as well).  This takes the burden of developing away from IT and away from complex sessions of requirements and so forth and gives the citizen programmer access to more power and flexibility.

It seems that December of 2014 was not that long ago – yet we are starting to see the second generation of embedded technology emerge already.  Indeed, the newer vendors (more cloud savvy, more flexible and dynamic, smaller and more nimble) are starting to offer what they call in-app functionality.

Whether its HelpShift (one of the early vendors to offer in-app support for gaming platforms), or SparkCentral (who just released their in-app messaging for customer service last week – and what prompted me to write this) we are seeing far smaller, more powerful, and easier to use in-app functionality that allows any user (still today being used via IT – but the product can easily allow any user to embed the functionality in their own-grown apps) to use what they need where they need.

 

The next step is to take IT out of the equation (sorry, like you guys – but you have too much going on to deliver apps quickly and effectively… need to let the citizen programmer take over) and where we are seeing Salesforce start down that road with the Lighting set of tools they announced last year at Dreamforce and greatly expanded two weeks ago with the introduction of The Lighting Experience (or whatever marketing deemed it to be – I am sorry, I am not that good at slogans).

There is an immense amount of value in creating small (atomized, applications as I used to call them 10 years ago — simply apps as they are called today) apps that perform very specific functionality.  In addition to delivering on the true value of cloud computing (yeah, who needs a browser? we just leverage the internet as a transport network and be done with it!) it also empowers the user to be more mobile, connected, and effective.

I expect to see the next generation of in-app empowered apps and applications begin to hit contact centers in the next few months and better adoption over the next 18-24 months until we reach mainstream adoption sometime in the 2017-2018 timeframe.  Although I always say my timeframes are short (and optimistic) and you should always add something to them – i am starting to get the feeling that this time is different… this time, I think i am long.

What do you think?

Planning to use in-app functionality in your apps and applications? Have already something under way? let me know below in the comments… would love to know more about what’s happening.

disclaimer: where to start? let’s see… Salesforce is a client (and, btw, I am presenting the latest and greatest Evolution of Customer Service at Dreamforce next week – come see me!).  SparkCentral was a client (inactive now) and likely going to be a client again – yeah, they like me that much.  HelpShift was a client and I sit on their board of advisors and I hold equity (should go without saying, but — i am nothing if not honest).  Moxie was a client (inactive now, but likely going back to active).  Actuate (acquired by OpenText) was a client (inactive right now, but we are working on something soon) and a good friend of mine Allen Bonde is there.  Zendesk is not a client per-se, but I have some involvement with them in Latin America via one of the many commercials endeavors I have in Latin America (read it with an accent, sounds much better).  There are many more clients (both active and inactive) and I pretty certain that I could’ve used (and missed) others that are doing things around this area.  I am not using vendor names as a way of endorsement but as examples. If I missed you, feel free to drop the info in the comments – only time I won’t delete your spammy comment :).  Otherwise, as you likely know, I am all about trends and not about endorsing vendors or technologies.  I am highlighting a trend and not promoting a vendor.  If any of the vendors mentioned here expected or would like preferential treatment because of their mention — ha! yeah, right… reputation above compensation, my friends.