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What Makes a Customer Centric Experience?

What Makes a Customer Centric Experience?

Buzzwords abound in the contact center industry. Among the more popular customer-oriented terms these days are customer relationship management (CRM), customer experience management (CEM) and, increasingly, customer centricity (which does not have an acronym).

CRM concentrates on helping enterprises optimize their company’s profits from each customer. (The term is also used to describe an application or suite.) This enterprise business strategy achieved wide acceptance in the mid-1990’s. The critical flaw of CRM is its enterprise-focused perspective; the emphasis is on managing the customer experience, not satisfying the customer. Despite its weaknesses, CRM has been successful in generating investment in customer-oriented initiatives. Sure, many of these initiatives were misguided, but others were very effective and helped companies increase revenue while improving customer perception. The definition of CRM has continued to evolve with the market, and many companies are still investing in this strategy.

CEM was introduced to the market in the late 1990s. It did not begin to catch on until the mid 2000’s, as it was originally dismissed as just another buzzword. CEM is a strategy intended to help companies place a greater emphasis on their customers. The goal of CEM is to make sure that all customers have a great experience every time they interact with an organization. CEM is complementary to CRM; CRM concentrates on optimizing revenue from every customer, while CEM aims to provide customers with an outstanding experience in each and every transaction.

Building a customer-centric organization takes these strategies to a new level, one that is challenging for most companies to achieve. Customer-centric organizations put the customer first during every interaction. These organizations are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to ensure that their customers’ needs are addressed. The theory behind this strategy is simple: happy customers have no reason to go elsewhere. It’s a good concept, but very challenging to execute. Many of the issues that cause customer frustration and unhappiness are not under a company’s control. For example, in a commoditized world, if a competitor decreases their price, it is likely that even your previously satisfied customers will be tempted by the lower cost alternative.

It’s clear that customer centricity cannot ensure that every single customer will remain satisfied and loyal. Obviously, there must be more to this strategy. And there is. Customer-centric organizations are dedicated to their customers and really do put customers’ needs ahead of organizational issues. This does not mean that the company always satisfies its customers, but it does mean that staff members are trained to listen to customers, do what they can to satisfy them, and are evaluated and measured based on customer satisfaction and retention levels.

Too many companies today claim to put their customers first, yet tie the hands of their customer-facing staff by limiting the actions they can take on the customers’ behalf. Simply put, customer-centric organizations try to eliminate counterproductive restrictions and reward their staff for taking the extra step to satisfy their customers. They expect all departments – customer-facing ones like customer service, sales and marketing, as well as traditionally back-office groups like operations, R&D, finance, compliance, etc. – to change the way they think about customers, how they deliver products and provide them with service.

Everyone agrees that customer centricity is a great concept. The ongoing struggle for many organizations is how to cost justify the investments and incremental expenses. It remains to be seen which companies will go beyond the “buzz” and actually deliver on the promise of customer centricity.

Ask the Experts

Question:

How do I reduce absenteeism in my contact center?

Answer:If you are experiencing high absenteeism, there is probably a motivation problem in your contact center. But the only way to find out for sure is to ask your agents. I suggest that you include a review of absence and tardiness incidents as a standard part of the monthly or quarterly one-on-one session with each employee. The discussion should focus on trying to uncover if the underlying reason for an agent’s excessive absence is due to a serious or chronic health issue or if other problems, e.g., unreliable child care arrangements, a schedule mismatch, transportation, etc., are contributing factors.  

You should emphasize that reliability – showing up for work when scheduled and on time – is an important component of job performance.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.