Increased complexity, less control over the customer experience
As a business, you want to manage the interactions, the touchpoints, that shape the customer experience. There are more and more touchpoints, and they are becoming more and more complex. This means you need more and more systems and processes to manage them all. This in turn increases the risk of separated systems and silos of data. The impact on the customer experience is fragmentation and incoherence.
Connecting systems and processes can improve the customer experience. To decide on what processes and systems to connect first, look at things from the outside in.
Three major components of the customer experience
The three elements that contribute to the quality of a customer experience are:
- How easy it is to get something done
- Does the customer feel understood?
- The occasional, delightful moment
Find the opportunities to help get things done
Companies may think that many of their interactions run flawlessly. They may even have metrics to prove it. "How satisfied are you with the customer service answer?" may be getting an average 4,5 stars out of 5.
Yet even when processes seem to run well, interacting with a company can be very frustrating. Customers roll their eyes when a support agent asks for information the company already has on them. "When did you buy the suitcase, sir?" "What model is it, madam?" "
"But you should know", the customer is thinking, "You sold me the suitcase in the first place!"
It is still very common for businesses to ask for information they already own. Customers detest having to give the same information again and again. It is a major source of friction and frustration.
Improving the customer experience by connecting systems and processes begins here. To overcome siloed processes and the resulting fragmented experience, use the "ask-only-once"-principle.
For every interaction where you need customer information, ask yourself: is this information we already have? If so, how can we connect systems to provide that information ourselves instead of asking the customer for it again?
Adhering to the "ask-only-once"-principle will dramatically improve the customer experience by reducing friction and frustration.
Empathize with the customer
A second major component of any customer experience is the feeling of being understood. A customer likes to feel as if the company he is interacting with "gets him". Catering to a customer's unspoken needs improves the customer experience.
Imagine a particularly clumsy customer. He signals the issues he is having through different channels. He tags you in an Instagram post with a photo of the wheels that have come off his suitcase. He browses the support section of the website looking for how to set the code to lock his suitcase. He calls support because he lost his invoice and needs a duplicate.
Let's imagine each issue was resolved satisfactorily. You sent the man a new set of wheels, he found how to set the code and the finance department sent him a duplicate invoice.
Judged in separation, three jobs well done. Yet, connecting the data can help improve that customer's experience even more.
This customer's behavior tells us that this is a clumsy customer. Why not be pro-active, and already send the man help on issues he has not encountered yet, but most probably will? The first mail that comes to mind is an explanation on what he should do if he forgets the code to his suitcase.
Chances are the email with instructions on how to reset the suitcase code is very timely. In any case, the customer will feel as if your company gets him. Like with good friends, he did not have to be explicit to be understood.
Connected data and systems delivers better insights. These insights into your customers can help you better meet their unspoken needs.
The occasional dash of delight
Although sometimes overemphasized in discussions on customer experience, unexpected, positive surprises are a core element of any good customer experience.
Again, coherent systems processes increase a company's ability to stage delightful moments. That is not only because you know more about your customers. Linked systems and processes also increase efficiency. Just think of the time spent manually importing and exporting data between systems. Eliminating the manual work frees up space for your teams to deliver more value to your customers.
Going back to the clumsy customer, let's suppose he is on holiday, forgot the code to his suitcase and did not read your mail.
Your marketing is following the customer on Instagram ever since he posted the pictures of the loose suitcase wheels. They see he is posting pictures of himself wearing the same clothes every day on holiday (because he forgot the code to his suitcase and can't open it).
His posts start to go viral. Your marketing team decides to grab this opportunity. They will have someone deliver a complete suit to the customer when he returns from holiday and lands at the airport.
The customer is of course happily surprised. He finishes his viral series of posts thanking your company with a picture of him, the delivery man and the suit. The post attracts major attention.
Connect systems and processes to better connect with customers
Connecting siloed systems and islands of data dramatically improves the customer experience.
To start, look at where you can reduce friction and frustration. The "ask-only-once"-principle is a good guide to detect points of improvement.
Secondly, use the data to empathize with the customer. Try and infer the customer's unspoken needs and wants. Make the customer feel understood by proactively answering these needs and wants.