The Customer Experience
The concept of "continual alignment" is critical to Customer Experience Management because it allows the system to function as a practical, front-line business tool that effects change on a daily basis. A truly comprehensive CEM system deals with many interlocking points of alignment. Among the most important are:
- Company message with customer expectations
- Customer expectations with company standards
- Company standards with training content
- Training content with front-line execution
- Front-line execution with rewards and incentives
Company message - Customer expectations
The messages companies send through advertising, merchandising and public relations are typically intended to attract new customers and influence the purchasing decisions of existing customers. However, these messages often create expectations about service and support that the company cannot meet. Customers frequently complain about such "seduce and abandon" scenarios, in which the initial promises made (or inferred) fail to align with their experiences. To increase retention, particularly among new customers, it is essential for companies to repeatedly test the effect of their messages on customer expectations, as well as to ensure that operational staff fully understand and are equipped to handle the promises made to customers.
Customer expectations - Company standards
Even in the most sophisticated and progressive companies, standards of service delivery can be out of sync with customer needs and expectations. One reason is that customers are seldom involved in the writing of these standards. Rather, service standards tend to be the product of mid-management committees, resulting in a hodge-podge of ideas and opinions that are more a reflection of operational expediency than of customer expectations. Furthermore, service standards have a tendency to stay in place for years with no review or adjustment to account for changes in the competitive environment or in the capabilities of the company. Customer Experience Management initiatives periodically review and calibrate standards against customer needs, expectations and experiences.
Company standards - Training content
Training should arise from standards, not vice versa. Customer Experience Management initiatives bring training managers into the process from the beginning, ensuring that as standards are adjusted, training content will follow.
Training content - Front-line execution
The success of most training programs is measured in terms of the participants' ability to recall the content, rather than to apply the information on the job. CEM systems, on the other hand, identify specific deficiencies in service delivery and adjust training content to address those deficiencies. In some systems specific performance gaps can trigger appropriate training reinforcement in the form of short, targeted lessons delivered on-line. Thus, employees and managers are provided with precisely the information they need to improve their service execution.
Front-line execution - Rewards and incentives
The same mechanisms and decision rules that trigger knowledge reinforcement can also trigger incentives and rewards. At the managerial level Customer Experience Management incentives tend to be in the form of quarterly bonuses linked to metrics such as customer satisfaction and service execution scores. But Customer Experience Management goes farther: In some cases it can link day-to-day performance metrics to rewards at the individual employee level. For example, call centers agents can receive bonus points that are immediately redeemable at on-line redemption sites. Thus, employees receive quick, meaningful rewards that reinforce the specific skills that are needed to improve customer experiences.
Through these interlocking points of alignment, Customer Experience Management creates a system that is both flexible and enduring. Using constant review and recalibration, Customer Experience Management avoids the boom-or-bust cycles that are typical of so many quality improvement initiatives scenarios in which the entire organization becomes involved in a substantial outlay of effort and energy, only to see the initiative deteriorate into disjointed and ineffective programs in a year or two.
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