46 Customer Experience Pros Share the Biggest Mistakes Companies Make in Evaluating and Purchasing Customer Experience Software
Customer experience (CX) software helps companies gain valuable insight into their audience’s mindset to tailor products, services, and support to customers’ needs and expectations. CX software aids companies in offering more personalized experiences and more accessible customer service through self-service functionality and rich support portals that grow and evolve with the business to adapt readily to customers’ needs, helps to reduce lengthy wait times when customers contact call centers, and much more.
With myriad features and functionality, evaluating customer experience software isn’t a cut-and-dry process. In fact, sometimes it can seem
like comparing apples to oranges. Because a broad and somewhat diverse feature set makes the selection process complex, we reached out to a panel of customer experience and customer service pros and asked them to answer this question:
“What are the biggest mistakes companies make evaluating & purchasing customer experience software?”
If you’re considering customer experience software, avoid making these grave mistakes by reading what our experts had to say about the most common blunders companies make when purchasing CX software.
Meet Our Panel of Customer Experience and Customer Service Leaders:
Nicholas J. Webb is a certified management consultant who works with the top brands in the world. He’s also the CEO of Boomē, a management consulting firm that specializes in customer experience design and author of a new book, What Customers Cravve, which will be in bookstores worldwide this October.
“Organizations make many mistakes when selecting a customer relationship management solution. Without a doubt the biggest mistake is…”
Assuming that a CRM solution should be selected prior to building out a comprehensive customer experience strategy. The sad truth is most organizations are under the erroneous impression that they can solve many of their customer relationship issues by purchasing a software package. Without an integrated customer experience strategy you have not created a comprehensive procurement requirements list that you can contrast against your decision, and that will always result in failure.
They’ll be able to install it and it’ll work straight away. For the software to be adopted correctly, it requires training. When installation is complete, implementation is not. Training is fundamental to the success of the software purchased; without it, users won’t be clear on the value it should add and the benefits it will bring to their role, including streamlined processes and the removal of manual data entry. Without training, customer experience software will not be used properly.
Manick, a self-taught software engineer, manages all front-end, back-end, and mobile development for Rukkus. He also oversees its digital marketing and user acquisition strategies. Prior to Rukkus, Manick was a quantitative analyst at Goldman Sachs where he was a member of the advisory team for the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger as well as the Groupon IPO.
“One big mistake to avoid when evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is…”
Not consulting everyone on your team that will be interacting with it. Different roles have different needs, so it should not be an isolated decision. If everyone is not involved in the process then the adoption rate will also be low. Additionally, great support is crucial in evaluating any software yet it’s sometimes overlooked. When issues arise you want to be set up with the proper support to resolve them quickly.
Forgetting the customer!
Specifically, the biggest mistakes include:
- Not involving the people who will be using software.
- Failing to include a customer advisory group.
- Thinking through the lens of IT (Information Tech) not WE (how to enhance the partnership with the customer). IT is often biased toward all things logical and mechanical while customer experience is illogical and emotional.
Jack Barmby is founder and CEO of award winning tech start-up Gnatta and outsourcing solutions provider, FM Outsource. Both businesses were built as part of a university project that expanded with huge velocity. Jack lives and breathes his work, focusing on learning the keys to disruptive growth.
“Before we look at mistakes, it’s important to consider…”
What customer experience software provides for a business.Effectively, it’s the way in which you develop a relationship with your customers. Customer experience is the result of interactions between a business and its customer over the lifetime of their relationship. The difference between customer service and customer experience is explained in the latter phrases, ‘service’ and ‘experience.’ Experience focuses on aspects outside of the resolution of an issue, namely how the customer feels about the product. This, then, includes things such as tone of voice, other marketing messages, CSR, etc. CX is a mixture of customer services and marketing. A company looking for a CX software solution should look carefully at how the software helps develop a relationship with the customer.
One of the main reasons CX software systems don’t have the impact that was expected comes down to one aspect: its adoption (or lack or adoption) within the business. Adoption among the operators using the system is absolutely essential in making the software work for the business. Assuming the average employee will spend 37.5 hours every week looking at the system and having to deal with its functions, its UI, its support team, etc., then it needs to be universally accepted and understood by the teams.
It is often the case that a top-down mentality is taken by businesses looking to implement CX solutions, and that the operators have little say on the final decision. While a bottom-up approach is most certainly not the right way to approach this problem, there are two things that help mitigate a lack of adoption.
The first is strong communication about why the change is happening. Key employees, for the most part the longer standing employees in your team, will be used to the legacy system (if you have one in place) and will be hesitant to make a change. It’s important to tell everyone why you’re making a change, and why it will improve the experience for not only the customers you interact with, but the operators dealing with those customer queries, too.
This leads to the second major part, a strong support team from the CX solution’s side. It is inevitable that problems will occur, be that in the form of service issues, functionality gaps, general questions about function, feature requests, and so on, and in order ensure adoption, the operators need to feel like they have a voice and that if they have an issue, there will be someone that can look into it, and that ultimately the product may change in line with the operator’s needs.
The best way to articulate this is by referring back to the explanation about CX. CX focuses on the experience between the customer and the business. Your operators are the living, breathing voice of your business and they need to feel like they can connect with a customer in order to deliver to them a positive experience. CX software is that link, and if they believe in the system, they can deliver a great experience, almost inevitably ensuring success for the system.
Asaf Darash is the founder of Regpack, an online registration system used by more than 4,000 organizations worldwide including the NFL, Goodwill, and Stanford. Regpack’s technology is based on Asaf’s Ph.D. that dealt with computer data connections and networks and is the foundation for the flexibility of the Regpack system.
“I think the biggest mistake organizations make when purchasing ANY kind of management software is…”
Incorrectly evaluating the price of the system vs. the actual cost of the system. Additionally, many people get overwhelmed or dazzled by a long list of features that the software boasts, instead of first understanding what they need from a software solution and then looking at their options to determine which software offers the ability to meet those needs. To put it another way, any software should be a solution to problems you have (which is why you are seeking a software solution to begin with!).
First understanding what you need and then looking to software companies to show how they can act as a solution, instead of just selling you on their long list of features, is an important first step.
Regarding price vs. cost, it’s easy to see a low monthly fee for a software and think it’s a great deal compared to another software that has a higher price point. Sometimes it’s true that the lower rate is overall the more affordable option, but not always. Assume you have done what I suggest above, and make a list of your needs.
Now you have two options that meet them, but you want to see what will be the most affordable option. You must consider a number of factors when it comes to the actual cost of the software, including: setup fees, additional fees like payment processing, if applicable and those rates, the amount of time it will take you to learn the software (in admin hours, admin hours lost to actual work because of training), any hardware costs, any additional fees on top of a monthly fee, etc. Really understanding what you need to put out both in your own admin time as well as extra costs throughout the year will help to give a better picture of the true cost of the system. Looking at just one dollar amount won’t always tell you the whole story.
Matthew Mercuri is an SEO and SEM Specialist with 10 years of experience in Digital Marketing. Under his leadership at Dupray, he has managed to expand the brand to 6 countries and to increase website traffic by over 5000%. He has worked for brands such as the Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Impact.
“The biggest mistake companies make evaluating and purchasing customer care software is…”
Not utilizing the power of their CRM!
CRMs are under-utilized for customer retention. Unfortunately, this issue derives from the fact that CRMs are primarily marketed to sales teams and sales divisions instead of customer service and care teams.
That being said, the vast majority of CRMs are perfectly suited towards customer retention. CRMs traditionally utilized a “pipeline” method within their software. They have different steps that onboard a potential client from outside the business towards being a loyal customer.
Different CRMs and companies use different names for the pipeline, but all of the steps loosely follow the following pattern: INTRO – PITCH – FOLLOW UP – CLOSE. The pipe ends here, by choice. Very few companies actually extend the pipe to include critical customer care steps such as “CHECK-IN” or “ISSUE RESOLUTION”. Why does this happen? Because there is a disconnect between sales and customer service. The CRM’s account file is not adequately handed off to the people who need it. Account Managers and Sales Representatives have done their due diligence with the sale component, and most of them simply scramble inefficiently when problems arise.
CRMs can help retain customers simply by extending the natural “pipeline.” This is achieved by inserting new steps in the process, ones that pay particular attention to helping the customer after a sale occurs.
Matthew Morgan is a Customer Experience Strategist, CSO, Co-Founder, and Mobile Nerd. His current positions include Co-Founder at bownd,
Co-Founder + CEO at Cuplin, and Managing Director at makeminecount.com. Matt has over 15 years of experience in helping brands drive behavior change.
“I think that the biggest mistake that companies make when buying customer experience software is…”
The challenge of making changes to their business required to gain the advantages of buying such a system. In my experience evaluating and
implementing such systems, the system itself is only ever half of the solution. Time needs to be taken to help the key decision makers understand that just switching on a new (and usually expensive) system won’t solve the business need/issue overnight. Success is incumbent on individuals at all levels across a business need to be helped to understand the objectives, virtues and operations of the new system being introduced.
Kristin Shabi is the Customer Experience Director at BroadbandSearch.net. She loves reading, writing, taking walks, taking trips on trains, and spreadsheets. Her favorite quote is: “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day,” by James Joyce.
“I think the single, most important thing companies need to remember is…”
While CE software can be very helpful generating metrics, managing workflows and preventing tasks from being overlooked, it also relieves human involvement, which, depending on the type of people in your department, could be demotivating and result in systems that are not closely attuned to the specific needs and goals of your department. That said, I think a big mistake that companies make when evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is that they think the software will solve the problems they may have with their people.
In other words, it is important to remember, when shopping for software, that it is a tool to help employees manage their workflows more efficiently: the software should enhance the people, not replace them. Additionally, I believe that a great department is comprised of great people and great systems that motive those people.
Once again, CE software can be a great tool to manage your department more effectively and efficiently, but don’t let it take over your department by developing your systems to fit into the software’s framework; instead, ensure that your systems and workflows are tailored to meet the needs of the specific business and customer that it serves. Then, find a piece of software that supports those needs.
Lucjan Kierczak is an inbound marketer at Survicate, an app that makes collecting feedback from customers easy and quick. You can investigate customer experience by asking visitors questions using unobtrusive widgets on your website.
“Customer experience is a wide term. Researching and optimizing it might include…”
Collecting feedback from visitors on the website or via surveys sent to email, running real life tests, personalizing the website to meet needs of visitors, analyzing their behavior etc. This is why customer experience software packages tend to have multiple features.
Companies often make a mistake of choosing the product based on the number of features it offers. Instead, they should start with assessing their needs. Such attitude can lead to choosing much simpler (and usually cheaper) software that will still meet the needs of a company.
So what can a company do when it wants to choose customer experience software? As mentioned, starting with assessing needs is the first step. Then websites like G2Crowd or GetApp can be useful – they contain a list of software providers, reviews, and comparisons. Companies can use them to see their choice and what features each tool offers. Thanks to that companies can discover new tools that meet their needs better than widely-used suits and usually save money as well.
“The biggest mistake companies make when evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is, ironically…”
Ignoring the customer experience! That is, time and again when people review customer experience software, they almost always bring
up their experience with customer support. And yet no one thinks about a software vendor’s customer support when they are evaluating software.
The other big thing companies might overlook is how easy it’s going to be to act on the information customer experience software reveals. If your processes are not set up to incorporate that feedback, it’s not going to be valuable. One feature that can help companies act on surveys is integration with CMS or customer service software. Or, you can choose a customer service
software option with built-in customer experience functionality. Perhaps more importantly, it’s essential that the reports your software provides are readable and actionable.
- Blindly following other companies. Customer experience software is such a broad category of software, and it varies so much, that you can never be sure any software is right for you based on just a recommendation. I think it is a common mistake that many business owners make: They will get a recommendation from a colleague and they never bother to check the features of the software to make sure it fits their needs, and they will end up wasting time and money on something that doesn’t even meet their needs. Our recommendation: Identify your needs, and look for software that meets those needs.
- Choosing software that does not include analytics. Unfortunately, many programs today are disappointing in this respect. Again, we recommend reading about the software and performing your due diligence before making the purchase.
Theresa Gale is a recognized keynote speaker and a valued resource to organizational leaders who seek her advice and counsel on building thriving, productive, and collaborative workplaces. Theresa holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and is a Certified Business Manager, Certified Executive Coach and a Certified Enneagram Coach. Theresa and her business partner, Mary Anne Wampler, are authors of Wake Up and Sell and their weekly Monday Morning Tip which provides weekly content in the areas of leadership, sales and sales management, customer relationship management and organizational effectiveness.
“The biggest mistakes companies make evaluating and purchasing customer experience software include…”
- Not doing their homework. Not doing a thorough needs analysis of all potential users is a set up for a CRM’s failure. Many companies skip right through this step and start looking at software. A needs analysis puts down on paper the things you can’t live without and the features that would be nice to have that can be turned into an apples-to-apples comparison sheet when evaluating software.
- Not calling references. Current users are typically the best references but don’t always rely fully on the ones the vendor gives you – dig deeper for others. For the most part, vendors are going to give you satisfied clients to talk with. They can be helpful especially if you ask questions like:
- What surprises did you encounter during your implementation?
- What would you do differently now that you know what you know?
- What advice would you have for us as we look at this CRM solution?
Don’t just talk to the contact the vendor gives you. Ask if you can also speak with some users and the IT Department. These individuals are usually really honest about their experience in working with the software and the vendor. Lastly, go to the vendor’s Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and find users who are vocal about the software. Contact them and ask the tough questions.
- Believing what everyone tells you about the CRM program and what it will take to implement the program in your company. No two implementations are alike! A vendor can prepare you (or not) for what to expect and do to successfully implement your CRM and references can tell you what it was like for them but this is YOUR implementation and, while some of the input and direction you get will be helpful, always lengthen your implementation time frame by 6 months or more and get ready to have the ride of your life. Your experience will be unique and the best you can do is develop a good plan and continue to tweak it along the way.
Daniel Barnett has always had a passion for growing businesses; he started three companies before launching WORKetc. Now he’s helping small businesses grow with their all-in-one small business management solution that combines CRM, project management, billing, support, and more in one seamless system.
“The first mistake companies make in evaluating and purchasing customer experience software usually happens in the…”
Requirements checklist. It’s always either too short or too long. Every week, we receive the same basic “requirements list” from businesses evaluating CRM solutions. Unfortunately, a checklist with only ten or so items on it isn’t going to help you find the perfect CRM for your needs. It’s too basic, too vague, and doesn’t really give you a good overview of critical system features like navigation and customizability.
What businesses don’t realize until it’s too late is that it is the teeny, tiny details that will make or break your CRM implementation. It’s better to come up with a checklist / questionnaire with 20 to 25 detailed questions about specific features and processes. Like the saying goes, the devil really is in the details. Of course, the flip side of this is the insanely detailed, overly long checklist. No joke – we actually received one a couple of years ago that had 4,905 questions. Being detailed and meticulous is good, especially when you’re looking for a business-critical app, but this was just ridiculous. Who has time to answer 4,905 questions? Actually, who even has time to ask all those questions?
“In a previous life, I ran marketing departments for several large corporations and have firsthand experience with dealing with various customer experience software programs (usually a type of CRM like Salesforce). More often than not, the story went like this…”
- Company leadership gets excited about a new program or platform that will increase efficiency in customer record-keeping, sales staff communication, and assist in minimizing the various disconnects in the customer sales-active process.
- Training begins for the management staff, but mostly IT, on how to use the software.
- When it comes time to train employees, sales staff, receptionists, etc., there’s a breakdown. Either it’s too hard, or nobody has time to learn the new program.
- 6 months down the road, nobody is using the software anymore because half the staff didn’t do a great job of entering the data (usually, people wait to do it all at once, and it just gets put off) and IT can’t keep up with the training and help-desk requests for the software any more.
- Tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, sits on a shelf, collecting dust in an old IT closet somewhere.
The issue with evaluating new software is that management gets excited about the prospect of the new software without considering the practicality of getting the staff onboard with utilizing it fully. Regardless of how much more efficient it will make things, the momentary pain of training and implementation is where there’s a breakdown and everyone eventually gives up. I’ve seen this with a company using in-house programs as well as with a franchisor trying to get their franchisees to stay on top of their data and customer service software.
If you’re looking into new customer software, consider what it’s going to take to get the staff to utilize it fully, and the time and energy long-term. Often, the cost of a new package is much, much higher than the initial price tag.
Kevin Cochrane, Jahia’s Chief Marketing Officer, has 22 years’ experience in content management and digital marketing, working with such companies as Interwoven, Alfresco, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) and Day Software. He is excited to again be on the leading edge of Digital Experience Management (DXM) with Jahia.
“Digital enterprise has evolved; today’s savvy leaders know that effective customer experience is about managing…”
The entire set of interactions a customer has over the course of their lifespan with a brand. For example, focusing on acquisition is not enough because that is just the beginning of the relationship; it is what happens after acquisition that matters for long-term success. Technology considerations must take into account the entire customer lifecycle and brand experience.
Enterprises today must aggregate legacy applications, customer data and content, and break down organizational silos to innovate the digital customer experience to gain digital agility now and sustainable competitive advantage with one-to-one customer relationships. Many will (unfortunately) continue to invest in new technology systems that then need to be integrated (and maintained over time) with existing technology assets; this strategy only exacerbates what becomes an exponential (and unsolvable) problem as expenditures beget more expenditures of time, money and resources.
Given that enterprises must become customer-centric from the outside in, customer experience software must unify the customer journey and empower users – including non-technical personnel – to work effectively. Developers must have stable architecture, be able to deploy new solutions quickly and protect customer data and privacy, to name just a few priorities. Marketers must respond to dynamic customer conversations with, ideally, real-time data to create and manage marketing campaigns that deliver personalized experiences. This process often requires that an enterprise not only streamline their entire business ecosystem – from back-end operations to front-facing marketing content – into friction-free functionality but to also undergo a cultural paradigm shift.
If the culture does not support a customer-centric philosophy, and is unwilling or unable for some reason to break the cycle of continuous disparate technology investments or to disrupt the status quo, the customer experience (and overall brand) will suffer the consequences in time. Conversely, it also does not serve the organization to take a ‘Big Bang’ stance in trying to address all issues at the same time by making a technology investment and thinking that is enough to solve all problems.
Beyond that, what individuals do not know about future-proofing their technology can hurt the long-term organization. Customer experience software should be agile and scalable in order to accommodate the organization’s growth and new business requirements over time. The evaluators of significant technology investments need to understand not only the customer journey of today but to allow for the expansion that will meet the customer journey of tomorrow.
Dmitry Grenader leads Product at Luminoso, a natural language processing MIT Media Lab spinoff. Dmitry spent the last decade bringing game-changing products to market across a number of Boston startups – Sermo, Vlingo, NetProspex. A geek turned product manager, he holds Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Boston University.
“The biggest mistake companies make in evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is…”
Not to consider the qualitative aspects when selecting or even thinking about Customer Experience. Companies get too fixated on the quantitative side and forget that at the end of the day the experience as it is perceived and described by humans (and customers are humans, not just NPS-score carriers) is fluid and filled with shades of grey.
Buyers all too often equate Customer Experience with surveying customers asking them “please rate these questions” and therefore look for a strong survey engine. But they are missing on the unstructured text part which carries the emotion, the gestalt, the “how they really feel about your brand” – i.e., the true Voice of the Customer, in their words. I will give you a non-work related example to drive the point home. Imagine you only communicated with your spouse or a loved one via multiple-choice questionnaires, never really hearing how they feel or what they think. How long would that relationship last? Exactly.
Leaders in the space understand that a state-of-the-art Customer Experience Software must include or integrate with a Text Understanding component. And it is best to do that from the get go, rather than as an afterthought.
Mark Harrington is Vice President of Marketing for Clutch, a leading Consumer Management platform, delivering innovative marketing solutions to over 60 million customers of premier brands like Crabtree & Evelyn, Godiva, Meineke, and Rawlings. Previously he served strategic marketing roles for leading brands like eBay, Citi and Pearson and pioneering startups like Half.com, Ecount, and Infonautics.
“One of the most common mistakes companies make when selecting customer experience technology is…”
Focusing solely on today’s ‘hot’ topic. Too many brands take a myopic view of their customer experience, looking to solve for what’s pressing today rather than finding a solution that grows and evolves with the complex customer of tomorrow. For instance, while the mobile or social channel may be ‘hot,’ many brands look for one-dimensional ‘quick fix’ solutions that focus on this alone when the channel may not even widely relevant to your customers. Taking a data-driven approach to identify and understand customers before developing a strategy and designing a solution can pay massive dividends to your business and customers.
Those brands that adopt customer marketing technology that is genuinely cross-channel with both backend data synthesis and front-end customer engagement are able to identify and understand their customers like never before, while delivering exceptional ‘universal’ experiences that earn genuine customer loyalty.
Formerly a marketer for Fortune 10 companies, Ajay Prasad built GMR Web Team, a digital marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses maximize revenue from the internet, as well as a seven-figure web based business called GMR Transcription.
“The biggest mistakes that I’ve seen are businesses that buy customer experience software that only provide them with…”
A very impersonal connection to their customers. In order to properly assess and identify issues within your company, you need to connect with customers individually to understand their struggle, which you won’t receive with any typical survey-generating software.
Giving out anonymous surveys simply collects enough data to make a nice-looking graph; it tells you nothing about the experience that your customers are really having. When evaluating customer experience, you need to have a process where you’re consistently contacting recent customers to learn about the specifics of their experience in order rectify a negative experience or enhance a positive one.
Treat your customers like people, not data. Invest in customer experience software that will build stronger connections with your customer base.
Oren Greenberg is a digital marketing consultant based in London UK focused on helping high-growth startups and medium to large size businesses with their digital marketing efforts. Previously, he was head of search at Wonga.com and a digital marketing agency owner. Oren now days helps businesses with digital strategies as an out-sourced CMO through his consultancy, Kurve.
“There are two main mistakes companies make when evaluating a customer experience software…”
Not considering the most crucial features and not accounting for price and scalability. When it comes to features, companies should consider having an integrated CRM to support social linking, effective search, and filter, bucketing and funnel creating ability. It should also include an email solution to support importing email lists, the creation of periodic newsletters, and mass mailing abilities. Another important feature is messaging services customization capabilities and analytics. Often user data will live in different places, therefore, ensure that data from these services can be easily integrated into customer service software to better understand customer’s behaviors.
In addition, companies should ensure the software is responsive, offers live support and allows data migration. Besides features, scalability and pricing should also be on the watch out list. Always plan for scale and choose a platform that supports it. In regards to pricing, some services offer a data point-based pricing; others a customer number based price and a few more on one-time or flat subscription basis. Make sure you evaluate what kind of model would suit you the best. There is often no single solution that will combine all the features a company is hoping to get. Thus, it is important to flexible and distribute the budget in the most cost-effective and efficient manner between, perhaps among more than one service provider.
With more than 15 years’ experience merging marketing and technology, John blends technical acumen with form, function, and design. His expertise encompasses marketing strategy, brand planning, product development, user-centered design, and cross-platform mobile and web application development at Duffy.
“When evaluating and purchasing customer experience software, companies rarely plan for the…”
Branding and internal communications component of these products. Often, decisions are financial, and generally short-term. Planning for CX implementations from a brand perspective often times requires additional training in voice, follow-up procedures that are unique to the brand essence, and custom protocols for how things are handled. Planning for the internal communications component is making sure the monthly analysis takes place, change is handled, and the success of the program is oversold to all areas of the business. End of the day, these systems are often the main touchpoint for customers and a brand and overlooking these as just a tool can have very negative business results.
Elizabeth Venafro is a self-proclaimed high-heeled modern marketing technologist with a decade of experience in digital/print media, public relations, advertising, and corporate events for start-ups and multi-million dollar companies across diverse industries. She currently acts as the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Konvergent LLC.
“When evaluating, comparing, and purchasing customer experience software solutions, companies often…”
Put the cart before the horse when evaluating and purchasing customer experience software. The following steps need to be taken in this order: alignment of business strategy, standardization of processes, determination of requirements, and selection of the software tool.
Cassandra Schwartz is the Senior Manager, Product Marketing at Front Desk. Front Desk, the mobile-first client management system trusted by personal services businesses. Front Desk provides a complete software suite to help businesses easily manage client relationships, securely automate time-consuming administrative tasks and streamline marketing efforts.
“The biggest mistake businesses make when evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is…”
Not planning for their growth and change. Your product or service will adapt in time, and your client base is sure to grow. Will your software grow with your business? Most businesses are so focused on today’s problem, that they can’t foresee what will be around the corner. We recommend that companies map out their goals, and see what will need to happen to get there.
Tom Smith is a research analyst for Dzone, a respected industry veteran, and problem solver who has created and implemented successful integrated marketing programs for more than 50 clients in 18 vertical industries. Tom also leads Insights from Analytics, a consultancy for small and midsized businesses to help them get more from their marketing budget through strategic planning, quantitative and qualitative research.
“The biggest mistake I continue to see is the enterprise’s failure to…”
Have a real-time, 360-degree view of the customer via a CRM in which everyone in the company is fully invested.
It starts at the top. If the C-level executives aren’t using the CRM, neither are their managers on down the line. Without non-siloed CRM data, which drives the CX engine, it’s impossible to provide a fully informed, omni-channel customer experience.
Experienced in many verticals and across a range of marketing functions from digital and direct to planning, analytics and research, Steve Mintz is a marketing technology expert diagnosing ailments impacting your marketing technology and operations and prescribing solutions to drive growth in revenue and retention.
“The biggest mistake companies make evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is…”
Not defining, up front, the detailed requirements they need the tool to meet. Once you understand your objectives and goals with respect to customer experience, identify what you want to accomplish, and understand your high level business needs, you need to get to work listing the details. Something like, “When user searches for a product on our home page, the site should provide product recommendations, guided navigation and offers based on current browsing behavior and past purchases (by both the individual customer and other similar customers).” The technology you purchase should align with your detailed business requirements. Many fail to get into the details, risking misalignment and wasted expense/resources.
Brian Media works at PolyVista, specializing in transforming the way organizations are turning data into actionable intelligence. He likes to spend time outdoors, snowboarding in the winter and golfing in the non-snowy months.
“In my opinion, the biggest mistake companies are making is…”
Not trying before they buy, and getting sold by the vendor not by the software. Any vendor can make a slick demo that makes a tool look easy as pie, but the truth of the matter with CX tools is that they aren’t the easiest to get started with and use, and typically you won’t know that until you get started. If you do start with a project – make sure it’s as real as possible. The worst type of scenario I see is when a vendor sets up a slick pilot, and then when it wows the customer and they make the purchase, they receive what is close to an out-of-the-box tool, and have to start from scratch and throw more resources at the tool than was intended. My advice is to try before you buy so you know exactly what you’re getting into, and if the vendor won’t allow that, you should find one that will.
- Assuming that customer experience software is the complete solution to a customer experience problem. Providing a great customer experience is first a function of culture. A company that doesn’t have the foundation of a strong service quality culture will not succeed using software to fix their problem. When the culture supports providing a great customer experience, then the software is very helpful.
- Assuming the problem is all on the customer side of the equation. The truth is that happy employees = happy customers. If you have an employee morale problem or a dysfunctional culture that leaves most employees unhappy, you’ll never be able to provide a great customer experience. Focusing on the customer experience without first considering the employee experience is putting the cart before the horse.
I’m an advocate of technology to improve the customer experience. Customers and solution providers alike are best served when the customers understand they must have the right cultural underpinnings for providing a great customer experience. When they do, the software can really help measure and improve that experience.
Mark Reuter is a Senior Manager with Deloitte Digital and focuses on helping technology companies transform their digital landscape across sales, service, and marketing functions in order to build strong relationships with customers and partners.
“In my opinion, the biggest mistake that companies make in evaluating and purchasing customer software is…”
Not doing their due diligence on defining what the customer’s needs and expectations are when they are reaching out the company. Many companies have a customer lifecycle (something like investigate, research, purchase, support, etc.), but these are the companies’ versions of this lifecycle – they are outside, looking in. Companies need to take a reverse approach and ‘get outside of themselves’ – to put themselves in the customer’s (or prospect’s) shoes to understand the customer perspective, understanding where they are coming from, and what they are looking for. Activities like customer journey mapping and customer experience mapping are key to gaining insights into what the customer’s perspective is, and helping to craft a positive and engaging customer experience across all touchpoints.
Christiano Ferraro is an entrepreneur who currently runs his own management consultancy firm. Originally from Canada, he migrated to the US with the intent to become better connected with the entrepreneurial culture. He supports businesses by employing objective transparency to drive progressive change in sales, marketing and operations.
“We see companies look at software as the latest opportunity to scalably solve a problem. Sometimes software accomplishes exactly that. Other times, we see software…”
Complicate matters further.
How often do companies take the time to understand what drives the difference in outcome?
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, but only by checking their compass can companies avoid a journey in the wrong direction.
What intentions drive the pursuit of software?
Let’s consider the choice of a CRM solution – a very common software decision for companies. While the choice of a CRM lies in effective data centralization, the purpose of data centralization drives informed decision making.
What prerequisites must be satisfied? Data integrity is something the CRM has very little impact on. What impacts data integrity? Process. And process is the true secret ingredient that companies frequently overlook. Process drives successful implementation of the tool. You can have the best hammer in the world, but it doesn’t bang in the nail if you can’t swing it properly.
The best part about process? It provides us clarity on relevant functionality. If a company gets inbound inquiries online, integration between the CRM and website would make sense. If a company conducts business via a subscription model, email marketing automation triggered by purchasing would provide immense value.
Process the lost compass that helps you hit the nail on the head when it comes to software. How do you swing your decision hammer?
Ryan Carson is a Web Administrator for Refresh Cartridges, a Printer and Computer Consumables Supplier, based in Devon, UK. With 10+ years of professional experience in roles from Graphic Design to Bespoke Website Development.
“In my opinion, the biggest mistake a company could make in evaluating and purchasing customer experience software would be…”
Neglecting in-house teams’ abilities to create tailor-made software for how their company works. There are many solutions out there but a lot of companies would ideally like to have things set up in a certain way.
While the initial outlay would be more than many pieces of software, you often have the benefits of not being required to pay subscription fees and a greater degree of control over any features that may be needed if something changes within the business at a later date. This process may result in a retail-quality platform of your own somewhere along the line.
Since joining the Morehead State University staff in 1996, Jami Hornbuckle has served in a number of capacities including assistant director of alumni relations; Web marketing director; and director of marketing, before being named assistant vice president for communications and marketing in 2008. In this capacity, she oversees all of MSU’s marketing and advertising, including the website and assists with all official communications. She has presented at seminars and conferences on leadership, social and digital media, web marketing and branding.
“Without question, the biggest mistake companies and organizations make when evaluating customer experience software is…”
Considering the benefits from one side of the table – our side. Too often, we engage in conversations about what we think customers want or how we can make our processes easier when the discussion should really be focused on how this software will improve the experience from their side – the consumer.
You can read case studies and follow best practices, which I highly recommend, but your customers are YOUR customers, and you need to deliver a solution that will offer an experience tailored to them. At the end of the day, you need to ask THEM what they want before even considering bringing providers to the table.
Companies tend to build up their customer experience process one channel at a time, usually based on the preferences of what the company wants. This is backwards; companies need to start with the customer. We recommend opening up many channels at once to see what comes most naturally to the customer, and then building software/process on top of that.
- Do not evaluate software without a clear customer outcome in mind.
- Don’t buy software to automate a nascent trend.
- Don’t forget to check whether the software fulfills your company’s brand.
Software works best when it streamlines an existing process—it’s supposed to make our lives easier, not harder, right? But without an existing process and outcome in mind, you end up doing too many things without a clear way to measure success. We’ve see this play out for people looking to buy user onboarding software, to the point where we now turn people away if they don’t check those two boxes.
Assuming those two requirements are met, it’s worth double-checking that the software also aligns with your way of doing things. This is a customer we’re talking about, so the experience they receive from the software vendor should match your company’s brand.
Jessica Thiele is a creative and dedicated marketing strategist with a background in Anthropology. She currently works at Virtual Logistics Inc. as their Marketing Manager.
“One common mistake companies make in evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is failing to…”
Take their existing technology into account.
We see it repeatedly in our business: clients who acquire a piece of new software or cloud application because of the hype surrounding it. Then they realize they can’t easily integrate that new tech into their existing back-end technology stack – or worse, they tie it together haphazardly, and the entire stack of technology comes crashing down.
We’re a customized data integration company, and sometimes it feels like we’re the emergency hazmat team when it comes to helping businesses like this in their absolute dire moment of need. This scenario happens all the time: the panicked phone calls, the distress, the collapse of the back-end tech. All because of one back choice in adding a new application into the mix and trying to connect everything together using cheap and easy solutions that inevitably fall apart.
Customer experience software is no exception: many companies add this in to the mix as a new addition, and some are replacing old legacy software. Either way, about half of those companies acquiring new customer experience software don’t evaluate it based on the full scope of their existing technology stack, but instead usually make their final decision based on what’s cheap, and what’s being hyped up right now. Both of these lead to making a poor decision. Companies that approach new software in this manner definitely aren’t considering the items that are most important in tying this small part of technology into the existing suite of applications the business is already using, like: Does it have an API? How can I integrate this application into the existing system? How will everything work together? What’s the functionality within the system? And so on.
We absolutely encourage businesses looking into updating an application or acquiring a new one to really look into the details. Entertain a few options, compare what’s included line by line, and think about your business as a whole. Don’t look at your new customer experience software as an island of technology, because that’s not how it will work in your technology suite.
Jeff Eichel is the founder of three Internet companies and a private equity firm specializing in investing in late-stage, high-growth tech, and Internet companies with a focus on enterprise software, security, and SaaS companies. His latest venture FeaturedCustomers.com is the largest customer reference platform for researching and discovering business software and infrastructure through customer testimonials, success stories, case studies, and customer videos.
“Well, the first mistake in making customer experience software decisions–or really any software decision-making–is not…”
Considering your employees beforehand. You need to communicate ahead what you are doing and why, or else adopting and onboarding that software will be a painful experience. And then of course you need a plan of when you’re going to start using the software and how you will transfer from the previous workflow, who will be in charge of what, etcetera.
Of course in the customer experience software space, you also can’t forget another important decision maker, namely, the customer. Have your sales team or support folks ask your current customers what their pains are. What would ease their interaction with you? How would they like to communicate with you?
A lot of times, the IT department is in charge of making software decisions, but that doesn’t make sense, unless it’s for its own use. Of course IT should be consulted to answer the question of ‘Will this work with that’ or anything involving the technical implications of this software adoption, but clearly the customer-facing team members–sales, customer success, support–should be the ones deciding any tools that help enhance that customer experience.
Finally, in this interconnected world, don’t forget to make sure that the customer experience solution you decide on integrates easily into your workflow with all your other tools.
Pete Abilla is the Founder and CEO of Find Tutors Near Me. Pete has evaluated and bought three enterprise-grade customer experience software solutions.
“At my last company, we were looking for a solution that would allow us to conduct NPS surveys from customers filing an insurance claim. One very big mistake we made was that…”
We failed to consider the large majority of customers that started their claim, but chose not to finish their claim. Why did we miss this? Well, strategically, the company was afraid that if we surveyed filers that finish their claim, it would incent them to go ahead and finish their claim. That wouldn’t be good for the company’s bottom line. Yet, it goes against the spirit of what customer experience means.
My point is this: most customer experience software solutions are roughly the same – they allow you to conduct NPS, customer experience level of difficulty, etc. There’s very little in terms of differentiated software in the market. The key mistake most companies make is they fail to understand and have their internal customer experience process nailed down.
A useful process might include: NPS Customer Feedback Loop, sharing of verbatim to key groups for improvement, etc. If these processes don’t exist in a company, no software solution will help them all that much.
Monica Eaton-Cardone is the co-founder and COO of Chargebacks911, a risk mitigation and chargeback management firm that specializes in fighting friendly fraud.
“One of the most common and costly blunders companies make when evaluating customer experience software is…”
Over-reliance on automation itself.
Sure, automation has its place in the service chain. Using software to manage certain elements of the customer experience can streamline the process and actually provide your customers with an impression of your company as a professional, well-oiled operation. However, many businesses make the mistake of trying to automate as many steps in the process as possible. When you do this, you overlook the human element and end up undermining that vision of your business as a smoothly-operating machine.
For example, let’s assume you have a customer with a question about a product they recently ordered—they haven’t received an email response yet, and your phone line is an endless labyrinth of menus and voicemails. At a certain point, they will get frustrated and give up, meaning that you will either lose the sale, or worse, the customer might demand a chargeback in order to achieve satisfaction.
Cindy Whitlock is an ERP Consultant for DSD Business Systems. DSD Business Systems provides comprehensive accounting & business management software solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses. As a national award-winning Enterprise Software provider and developer of innovative custom solutions, we specialize in a consultative and service-oriented approach to integrating business management systems.
“I think one of the biggest mistakes clients make when evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is…”
Not seeking expertise from a firm or VAR (Value Added Reseller). Such an organization can execute a very thorough discovery of their business needs and make solid recommendations for solutions.
A well-implemented customer experience software will increase potency, productivity, and engagement.
Being clear concerning the requirements, specific concerning the deliverables, and centered on measuring what they get is the key to success with customer experience software.
I have been involved in several customer experience software implementations and typical themes emerge between firms.
On the face, firms fail to dive deep enough into the worker pool to totally explore the practicality of a system and capability of personnel. At installation, firms underestimate the experience, staffing, and coaching to maximize the implementation of a replacement system.
During implementation, firms enable some users to choose actively and passively, but 100 percent implementation compliance voids the sensible edges of this major investment.
After implementation, firms forget they need a replacement system! Continuous assessment permits the system to watch outcomes, improve performance, and become an integrated component. Over time, firms forget to act in line with the desired outcomes that led them to make the purchase in the first place. Keeping that goal front and center improves performance and justifies the investment.
The one solution that will do it all: from ticket management to in-app communication, user on-boarding or analytics. We have found that although employing a fragmented system may not seem desirable at first, using a set of different solutions will let you take advantage of the strengths of each solution while mitigating the weak points. For example, most ticketing solutions may feature an in-app communication module, but using a solution that’s built for that such as Intercom or Olark will have significant advantages such as proactive communication, analytics, AB testing, etc.
Also, although most companies will look for integrations between their different solutions, we have found that this is not a key requirement in many cases. Besides, email notifications and some simple automations that you can create through Zapier will do the trick.
John Dinsmore, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Wright State University where he teaches a variety of courses on Marketing and conducts research on mobile software applications (apps). Prior to joining Wright State, he held several senior marketing roles in the technology and telecommunications sectors.
“Generally, the most common error that companies make when selecting software with which their customers interact is…”
A lack of a real Beta test. Alpha tests—that is, use of the software in a controlled environment with a limited scope of uses-are commonly done. Alpha tests are an important first step but they typically only address the fraction of issues that the business can anticipate. The best, most conscientious businesses in the world cannot anticipate every contingency. For reference, see Windows launches, iPhone (and associated network) issues and the like.
A beta test where the software is put out in the field to a limited number of customers, is the best way of discovering the most pluses and minuses associated with the technology. Customers will have actions, thoughts and processes that will-without fail-surprise businesses and surprise the systems with which the consumers are interacting. Companies often resist doing thorough betas because they require additional time, money and energy. But it really is a case of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.
Ben Harris is CEO at Decibel Insight, an award-winning CX analytics platform that empowers the web optimization process, enabling digital marketers and web analysts to restore customers to the heart of their websites.
“We’ve found that the biggest mistake companies make when it comes to evaluating customer experience software is…”
Not considering the organizational shift required to make the most out of their investment. If a company’s culture does not allow for them to implement changes quickly, then they will not maximize their return on investment.
It’s all well and good utilizing new CX analytics software to identify the problems in the customer journey, but if it takes years to address those problems then little will improve.
If a business is to take customer experience seriously, then as well as investing in a technology that provides them with deep customer insights, they need to create an agile culture where they can action those insights quickly. If they don’t, they run the risk of the competition getting ahead by optimizing for the customer more efficiently and effectively.
Al Lalani is the founder and Chief Strategist of Social Annex, a customer loyalty and brand advocacy software solutions vendor. Social Annex connects all the steps of a buyer’s journey in order to deliver remarkable customer connections.
“The biggest mistake that companies make when researching and purchasing customer experience software is…”
Not considering the big picture. There are many useful, effective point solutions out there, but CMOs and CTOs must realize that these products may not fit together well. Even if an array of point solutions can be customized to create an apparently seamless customer experience, the backend is a whole other issue. Integrating all of these products, dealing with data silos, and managing it all from different dashboards can waste a lot of money and effort.
Consequently, companies need to approach customer experience software from a holistic point of view, both in terms of UX and logistics. They should seek out solutions that were built to fit together and come pre-integrated with major email service providers, e-commerce platforms, customer relationship management systems, point of sale systems, and so on. The software should be fully customizable and white-labeled, and it’s a major plus if it comes with managed services. When customer experience software comes with all of these features, it does what it’s supposed to do: connect all the steps of the customer’s journey and increase revenue, without causing the business a major headache.
Dan Grech is the VP of Marketing and PR at OfferCraft. He is a digital marketing, strategic communications, and storytelling specialist who works with startups, nonprofits, and universities to tell their story for maximum impact and effectiveness. He has worked as an award-winning print, radio and digital journalist, and university educator. He is a graduate of Princeton University and a dual citizen of the U.S. and Spain.
“Companies that purchase customer experience software often forget, well…”
The customer experience. Let me explain. Study after study has demonstrated that people who are presented information in a way that is interactive, engaging, and entertaining are more likely to remember what they’re being told and act on it. Still, companies forget this simple rule, and 99% of customer communications are simply ignored. Unfortunately, precious few customer experience software platforms take the principal to keep it fun into account. And so they make the customer experience easier for company insiders and more cumbersome for the customer.
When you’re evaluating a customer experience software, put yourself in the shoes of your customers and ask yourself, “Does this software make the customer experience unforgettable?” If the answer is yes, add it to your staff. If the answer is no, think twice.
- Assuming the software does the basics you are used to with your current platform.
- Getting swept away by your sales person and buying a bigger or more robust package than you actually need.
- Choosing a software system based on its potential, instead of based on what you need now and what the system can do now.
- Making assumptions on what is important to your customers (you really have to ask them).
They nit-pick over petty functionality instead of the looking at the real picture: great communication. Choose your software based on its ability to communicate because that is what customer service is all about. Triggered communication that is two-way, allowing the customer to communicate back (usually via web forms) is the most important functionality required.
Don’t choose your customer experience software based on which reports are prettier, or whether you like the drag and drop functionality to upload documents! Choose it based on what really matters, what communication will the customer experience?
An honorary mention should also go to integration which is becoming more and more important by the day. It is now absolutely critical that your software have a robust and highly efficient API.