Julie L. Mohr
Customer experience management (CEM) is a strategy that focuses the business on managing all interactions with a customer throughout his or her entire experience with a product or service. The ideal customer experience is one in which the business communicates its vision, distinguishes its services from its competition, and creates loyal customer advocates that tell potential customers how great the business’s services are. Only by combining the methods and processes associated with CEM and ITSM, focusing on value creation and the lifecycle approach, can your business can ascend to this higher plane of customer satisfaction.
Service Strategy: Define the Experience
From the ITSM perspective, service strategy involves understanding an organization’s services, support needs, and standards for gauging end-user satisfaction. An organization must understand these factors before it can set a long-term service and support strategy. Likewise, customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and customer effectiveness are important components of any long-term CEM strategy. To define the customer experience, an organization must have a thorough understanding of what’s important to the business, what’s important to its customers, and how both parties define success.
The first step is conducting a strategy review. The best way to establish a customer experience strategy—based on what the customer expects and what the business needs—is to conduct an annual benchmark survey. This type of formal survey, developed by the service provider, is used to collect feedback about the customer: general information, communication, satisfaction, demographics, support needs, etc. Next, conduct a cost analysis to gain a better understanding of the actual costs and value of the services you currently provide. Finally, sit down with key stakeholders and solicit their feedback on the constraints, risks, goals, objectives, and key drivers for change. Taken together, the results of the survey, the cost analysis, and the stakeholder interviews should help you identify ways IT can provide greater value.
A word of caution: Make sure you clearly communicate the purpose of the survey. These results are used as inputs for defining customer experience gaps, so you want to make sure your sample is large enough to generate statistically valid data. And don’t forget to close the loop with your customers by sharing the results!
Service Design: Design the Experience
To design an effective customer experience, we have to understand how our processes need to change, how we can better engage our customers, and how we can create a more valuable service for our customers. So, the next step is conducting a complete gap analysis—what customers need vs. what’s currently being delivered—and identifying areas for improvement. This requires a close examination of all customer touchpoints (e.g., web, email, phone, marketing materials, scripts, voicemail) and processes. One of the tools you can use to perform this analysis is a customer experience map, which identifies all of the positive influencers that can improve the customer experience as well as all of the negative impacts that can cause the customer experience to be less than positive.
Basically, we want to provide a better customer experience (i.e., higher levels of customer satisfaction) by design. If the objective of the design is to create a customer experience that aligns with the business’s objectives, it’s important to use the requirements, constraints, drivers, and risks identified in the strategy phase. The outcome will be a service improvement plan that complements the customer experience map, with identified and designed critical success factors, support processes, transactional surveys, support tools, communication, satisfaction, and marketing plans, and customer service training.
As an example, let’s consider transactional surveys. How do we know our transactions with customers are meeting their needs? We ask, with the understanding that complaints are just as important as compliments when it comes to survey feedback. Transactional surveys provide organizations with ongoing input into the continuous improvement of services and support and help the organization track its progress toward its goals. These surveys typically include five questions and use a satisfaction scale of 1–5, where 1 indicates low satisfaction and 5 indicates high satisfaction.
Service Transition: Validate the Experience
In the service transition phase, the organization realizes service improvement by building, testing and implementing the service improvement plan developed in the service design phase. Once the organization knows the improvements are working, they’re handed over to operations for ongoing management and delivery.
In terms of a dynamic customer experience, this involves implementing structure and consistency across all types of customer interaction and all channels (e.g., in-person, virtual, telephone, email). To do this, the organization needs to focus on its newly defined processes, tools, and feedback mechanisms (i.e., communication plans, satisfaction measurement plans, and marketing plans). The result will be a differentiated experience that consistently provides value across all service and support processes.
Service Operation: Deliver the Experience
In this stage of the lifecycle, the customer actually begins to see the value of the redesigned customer experience because it’s in the operational environment, where the organization is working toward meeting the customer’s service and support needs and building customer service, customer satisfaction, and customer advocacy into the culture of the support organization. This is where an organization’s staff can make or break the experience. Does the new customer experience deliver on the organization’s promises? Does it create and provide value? Are the customers satisfied?
If the main objective of service operation is to manage and deliver an enhanced customer experience, then organizations need the right people with the right skills to be customer advocates. After all, it’s ultimately people who create the ideal customer experience, so it’s important for IT organizations to have highly trained technical and customer service experts who are empowered to create memorable experiences.
Empowerment is about having the authority to make choices that can change or influence the customer experience: suggesting alternative solutions to problems, replacing products, crediting accounts, training customers, or communicating proactively with customers. But this kind of empowerment requires the support of strong leaders.
IT leaders wear many hats. They’re responsible for recruiting and hiring the right people (customer advocates), managing processes, soliciting feedback and resolving complaints, and identifying improvements. But they’re also responsible for keeping the customer experience aligned with the business’s needs, which entails garnering support for the customer experience model from the executive level, creating and maintaining enthusiasm for the model, changing/managing the culture that supports the model, and training employees (based on customer feedback and performance metrics) to continually improve the quality of the customer experience. Finally, in addition to overseeing the implementation of the customer experience model, leaders must be able to quantify the success of the model and market that success internally and externally.
Continual Service Improvement: Confirm the Experience
In the final stage of the service lifecycle, the service provider strives to keep the goals of IT and the business in alignment. This entails taking measurements, identifying improvements, improving service levels, managing customer expectations, and making sure IT’s services align with the business’s needs. Whatever metrics the organization uses to measure performance (transactional or otherwise), they need to be linked with the organization’s goals and objectives and tied to overall customer satisfaction and business value creation. The customer advocacy team should not accept less than perfect experiences, and any negative transactions should be reviewed for possible improvements to the customer experience.
The Road Map
Customer experience management focuses on the total customer experience, over every touchpoint. In so doing, it improves customer satisfaction, which can, in turn, improve the value proposition of ITSM. Taken together, CEM and ITSM are powerful change agents that make the customer the focus of value.
Julie L. Mohr is a dynamic, engaging change agent who brings integrity and passion to everything she does. Through her writing, speaking, consulting, and teaching, her purpose is to change the world using thought-provoking dialogue and interaction. Julie is currently the president of Mind the IT Gap. She received her BS in computer science from The Ohio State University and her MEd from the University of Phoenix.