Tag: cx

09 Aug 2017
best customer service tips for wow cx

6 Customer Service Tips and Best Practices for a Superior Customer Experience

62% of organizations predict that millennials will only get increasingly demanding when it comes to customer service, and 67% believe that strategic partnerships with better digital technology could help them improve their CX to get ready for this.

But when it comes to an investment into the future of your business, digital marketers and business strategists need to be sure that these steps will have an impact. When it comes to a digital strategy, here’s how you continue to beat the competition and impress your customers where it matters.

Customer Service Tips for Consistency Across Channels

Did you know that a study by Macy’s found that customers who use more than one channel to shop are 8 times more valuable than those who don’t? This means that omnichannel consistency is no longer a choice. You want to encourage your customers to find you on all platforms available, and ensure that your message and branding is seamless throughout.

Customer Service Tip and Best Practices

As the amount of time that people spend using mobile devices continues to take the lead against those simply making purchases in-store or on a computer, many customer service tips will now prioritize changing communication right alongside it. Hackermoon describes it simply. “It’s the duty of your business to communicate through social media and mobile messaging as well, because you need to meet consumers where they already spend their time.”

Creating a strategy where you can have a seamless conversation with your customer on the channels which they frequent, and moving holistically from one to the other, is now essential.

Best Practices for Dealing with Customers’ Problems

Take this customer success story from J Crew. A customer used the website to buy an item of clothing with a coupon, and then accidentally cancelled the order. Thinking the coupon lost, they emailed support for guidance. Support replied, happy to honor the coupon price and requested that the customer call to confirm, due to low stock. When the customer was unable to call that day, a separate customer service rep phoned him the following day, talked him through similar options on the website which suited his initial purchase, and then applied a coupon discount at checkout over the phone.

The consumer was not only delighted with the ease of this journey across multiple channels, but was also experiencing an example of a fail turned into a customer service win.

Problems and mistakes are a certainty of life, but it’s how you deal with these errors or challenges which separates a powerful customer service story from churn. One of the most effective practices to keep to is owning your limitations.

Forbes recognizes this when they discuss this year’s CX trends, and the growth of AI within them, pointing out that “The best chatbots are able to not only respond to requests and questions, but also recognize when the customer is confused and seamlessly hand off the conversation to a live customer support rep.”

Being able to combine technology, self-service, and human support gives a far richer experience than any one of these could create alone. And customer service best practice now demands it.

Quick Response Time Importance

It’s also important not to underestimate the value of speed in your customer relationships. CX and customer service guru Shep Hyken discusses how technology creates opportunities for speed. Hyken calls speed “a value added advantage that customers are willing to pay for.” Whether it’s saving on hold times on the telephone by moving to live chat, or saving on time waiting in line in-store thanks to self-service kiosks, the latest digital commerce options are making interactions quicker and simpler.

Time is money, and customers will often choose speed over cost savings. Just as someone might pay more for overnight delivery of an item, they will also be loyal to a business that values their time.

Installing a conversational widget on your website can give your customers the autonomy to find the answers they need when they need them, without being presented with long hold times or the limitations of business opening hours.

The FedEx chat widget is a great example. It’s totally unobtrusive as it isn’t a popup, able to be summoned from the sidebar when it’s needed. The text makes it clear what it’s there for, and explains to customers in a transparent way that they are not talking to a human agent. This is just one example of a modern conversational interface that’s user-friendly and supports the needs of the business while supporting the customer.

Fedex customer service solution

Make the Customers’ Job Easy

The less your customer has to do, and the easier their journey, the better. For example, signing up to a company newsletter or rewards scheme. Even in person, if you’re presented with a lengthy questionnaire to fill in before you can become a member or receive a store points card, you’re likely to give up midway through, feeling that the reward isn’t worth the hassle. Online is no different.

The HuffPost claims that “for each piece of additional information you ask for, your adoption rates are going to decrease.”
Hipmunk are a great example of a website which does it right. Signing up can be done with one click through Facebook or Google+, or by entering just your email address and choosing a password.

hipmunk-signup

Anticipating Needs is a Customer Service Best Practice

Other ways to simplify the customer journey is with anticipatory customer service. Broadly speaking this means working out what your customer wants before they do. Sounds like science fiction? Tell that to Amazon, who have a patent for anticipatory shipping where they can ship items out before they even have a destination in mind. Using their algorithms, they can work out what locations are likely to need certain items ahead of the orders, giving a final address at the last leg of the journey rather than the first.

While you might want to leave this kind of large scale gesture to ecommerce giants, there are still plenty of ways to anticipate what your customers want on the smaller scale.

Take language. If you are using AI on your website, this is the face of your company and should be as helpful as a manager in-store. Create algorithms which can continue conversations in a smart way, just like a human would.

Let’s say your customer asks for flights to London on a given date, and there are none available. Bots often just give the negative response, the equivalent of a customer service rep simply walking away once a question has been answered. Alternatively, your chatbot could offer available dates in the same week instead- giving your customer more options, and keeping the conversation open.

Listening to the Customer

Personalization and going the extra mile is not a new idea in customer service practices. But integrating this with the latest technology might be. While many could argue that technology can never show empathy, others might say that you can’t improve customer experience without it. In fact, Gartner predict that by 2020, businesses which use empathy in their technology are three times as likely to succeed.

In-built into your AI needs to be the ultimate goal of helping your customers, and understanding their needs. Gartner believe that the VOC (Voice of the Customer) initiative is essential to this.

Automation could be used to monitor your customer behavior, and uncover the times where they show frustration. This could be the language they use when talking to virtual assistants, or even the speed with which they end a session when they can’t find what they need, or something specific such as episodes of rage clicking. All of these can be used as literally as direct feedback to create AI which responds more empathetically and proactively to support your customers.

In a Word- Customer Service Best Practices? Simplicity

All of these customer service tips come down to one clear bottom line: making the customers life easier. From anticipating their needs to finding them on the channels they use, listening to their frustrations, or streamlining their customer journey. These customer service best practices can help you get the most of out of your digital self-service and delight customers with a simple and effective strategy for success.

02 Dec 2016
46 Customer Experience Pros Share The Biggest Mistakes Companies Make In Evaluating And Purchasing Customer Experience Software

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. WebbNicholas J. Webb

@nickwebbcom

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.

Anna MorrishAnna Morrish

@annamorrish
Anna Morrish is a freelance writer and marketing consultant specializing in business software and IT.

“When companies purchase customer experience software, one of the biggest mistakes they make is believing that…”

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 BhanManick Bhan

@JoinTheRukkus

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.

Chip BellChip Bell

@ChipRBell

Chip Bell is a customer loyalty expert and author.

“The biggest mistake companies make when getting customer experience software is…”

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 BarmbyJack Barmby

@FMoutsource

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 DarashAsaf Darash

@Regpack

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 MercuriMatthew Mercuri

@Dupraysteam

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 MorganMatthew Morgan

@formatt

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 ShabiKristin Shabi

@KristinLeeShabi

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 KierczakLucjan Kierczak

@lucjankierczak

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.

Cathy ReisenwitzCathy Reisenwitz

@CapterraLegal

Cathy Reisenwitz is the editor of Capterra’s Customer Service Blog. Her writing has appeared in The Week, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo, and other publications.

“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.

Jesse HarrisonJesse Harrison

@sbnevel

Jesse Harrison is the founder and CEO of Zeus Legal Funding, a funding company based in Los Angeles which helps plaintiffs who are going through a lawsuit.

“There are two mistakes I see companies commonly make in evaluating and purchasing customer experience software…”

  1. 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.
  2. 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 GaleTheresa Gale

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…”

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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 BarnettDaniel Barnett

@WORKetc

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?

Josh RubinJosh Rubin

@creativecalif

Josh Rubin is the owner of Creative California, in Sacramento CA. With a focus on digital marketing, he is passionate about helping small businesses grow and achieve a positive ROI from all their marketing efforts using common-sense marketing and modern tools.

“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 CochraneKevin Cochrane

@kevinc2003

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 GrenaderDmitry Grenader

@dgrenader

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 HarringtonMark Harrington

@ClutchSuccess

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.

Ajay PrasadAjay Prasad

@gmrtranscripts

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 GreenbergOren Greenberg

@kurve_digital

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.

John GeletkaJohn Geletka

@duffydesignx

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 VenafroElizabeth Venafro

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 SchwartzCassandra Schwartz

@frontdeskhq

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 SmithTom Smith

@ctsmithiii

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.

Steven MintzSteven Mintz

@CLMPrescript

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 MediaBrian Media

@ItsBMedia

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.

Jerry RackleyJerry Rackley

@DemandMetric

Jerry Rackley is the Chief Analyst at Demand Metric Research Corp.

“The biggest mistakes companies make when purchasing Customer Experience software are…”

  1. 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.
  2. 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 ReuterMark Reuter

@DeloitteDIGI_US

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 FerraroChristiano Ferraro

@ChristianoAFerr

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 CarsonRyan Carson

@Refreshcarts

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.

Jami HornbuckleJami Hornbuckle

@News_MSU

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.

Erol TokerErol Toker

@TrulyWireless

Erol Toker is the Founder and CEO of Truly Wireless.

“The most critical mistake companies make in evaluating and purchasing customer experience software is…”

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.

Jonathan KimJonathan Kim

@hijonathan

Jonathan Kim is the Co-Founder & CEO at Appcues, a champion for customers and better user onboarding.

“Here are three big don’ts to avoid in the evaluation and buying journey…”

  1. Do not evaluate software without a clear customer outcome in mind.
  2. Don’t buy software to automate a nascent trend.
  3. 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 ThieleJessica Thiele

@VirtualLogistic

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 EichelJeff Eichel

@featurecustomer

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 AbillaPete Abilla

@shmula

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-CardoneMonica Eaton-Cardone

@Monica_Eaton

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 WhitlockCindy Whitlock

@DSDcustomERP

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.

Tahir MarfaniTahir Marfani

@MeraCRM

Tahir Marfani works for MeraCRM, a single platform that addresses customer-driven activities and tasks for a business.

“There are many areas within which firms will improve once considering the acquisition of customer experience software…”

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.

Dimitris VerdelisDimitris Verdelis

@megaventory

Dimitris Verdelis is the Support and Testing Engineer at Megaventory, the leading cloud-based inventory management system.

“A common mistake in evaluating CX software is that many companies try to find…”

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 DinsmoreJohn Dinsmore

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 HarrisBen Harris

@DecibelInsight

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 LalaniAl Lalani

@SocialAnnex

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 GrechDan Grech

@OfferCraft

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.

Angie StocklinAngie Stocklin

Angie Stocklin is the COO and Co-Founder of One Click Ventures.

“The biggest mistakes companies make when evaluating and purchasing customer experience software include…”

  1. Assuming the software does the basics you are used to with your current platform.
  2. Getting swept away by your sales person and buying a bigger or more robust package than you actually need.
  3. Choosing a software system based on its potential, instead of based on what you need now and what the system can do now.
  4. Making assumptions on what is important to your customers (you really have to ask them).

Scott CundillScott Cundill

@ScottCundill

Scott Cundill is the CEO of Majestic3.com and ScottCundill.com.

“The primary mistake that customers make when choosing customer service or customer experience software is…”

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.

21 Nov 2016
cx-lessons-blog-post

CX Lessons from 2016: 31 Customer Experience Pros Share Their Plans for 2017

In 2016, the customer experience became the focal point of marketing, acquisition, onboarding, UX design, and many other core business functions. Dubbed “The Year of the Customer” by thought leaders and analysts back in Q1, 2016 is the year in which businesses are learning valuable lessons about the importance of placing the customer at the center of marketing, onboarding, and ongoing customer support processes.

What exactly are the takeaways making the biggest impact on customer experience initiatives as companies look to 2017, and how can CX pros and business leaders move their companies forward in the digital, always-on, always-connected, omni-channel landscape? To gain some insight into the key lessons emerging from 2016 and what’s ahead for 2017, we asked a panel of 31 customer-focused marketers and CX pros to answer this question:

“When it comes to customer experience: now that we’re nearing the end of 2016, what have you learned and what will you do differently in preparing for 2017?”

Read on to learn how today’s customer experience professionals are planning to position their companies for CX success as we move into 2017.

Meet Our Panel of Customer Experience Pros:

Daisy JingDaisy Jing

@banishacnescars

Daisy Jing, 27 years old, founded and bootstrapped a now multi-million beauty product line called Banish. Five years ago, she started her business from just her laptop! She had bad acne and tried everything to help clear it up. She tried hundreds of different beauty products and decided to review beauty products to help others suffering with the same problem. In turn, she developed a following of over 50M views in YouTube and became a trusted source of information in the realm of skin problems. During that time, she launched her natural skin care line focused on combating skin blemishes. Now, the company is a team of 14+ women, inspiring confidence in others.

“I have learned in 2016 that our customers (aged 18-24 years old or the millennials) spend most of their time…”

On their mobile devices. They tend to ask for an immediate response. Since our customers are mainly millennials, they communicate more through our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) than by email or phone. They love to ask questions whenever and wherever, and we learned to deal with them in a friendly and casual way, as long as we give them the answers they need and in a timely manner. We make it a priority to respond to our customers as quickly as possible. We value the urgency of responding to customers in all aspects, by all means.
In 2017, we expect more curious customers; more chances for us to reach out to different kinds of people of all ages. It entices me to imagine what awaits us in 2017 for customer service. At the end of the day, the only way to prepare for customer service is to have the heart and the passion to take care of them and always be willing to see what technology offers.

Sasha TenodiSasha Tenodi

Sasha Tenodi is speaker and trainer dedicated to and passionate about helping people to take control of their lives. With a Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences degree from the University of Zagreb and many years working as an expert in the field of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Sasha is able to draw on his own diverse background – rich with experience and hard won lessons – in order to provide strategies and inspire others to become better, more successful versions of themselves. He believes that we all have the ability to become exactly who we’ve always wanted to be, no matter what conditions or failures we have gone through in life. He shares his knowledge by offering a hands-on approach to learning the basics and complexities behind life design.

“Two years ago I formed a club for my existing clients to enhance costumer experience…”

My Club organizes secret, often stressful and somewhat scary experiences for its 100+ members, but only for the 20 members with the quickest response.

The club has firm rules:

1. Only the organizer knows what they are about to experience.

2. Anyone can organize a secret experience.

3. Once you receive an invitation, you do not ask any questions.

Some of the experiences were: wakeboarding, room escape, beatbox worksh?op, zipline, climbing, bubble football, snakes, and shooting experiences. Each experience aims to (re)move participants from their comfort zone and shake their model of the world. Members are applying not knowing what to expect and the application must be sent within 24 hours. If they are late, they cannot participate in the experience. Reebok found this concept interesting and gave their support to our Club.

Wendy GalvinWendy Glavin

@wendyglavin

Wendy Glavin is Founder and CEO of a NYC-based marketing communications, public relations, social and digital media agency, WendyGlavin.com. Over 20 years she worked for: a Fortune 500 company, Fortune 100 marketing communications agency, public relations, advertising and publishing firms. She is experienced with companies in the B2B and B2C industry sectors.

“While a customer-centric culture is the new standard, according to Gallup…”

71% of B2B customers are not engaged across all industries and are at risk of being replaced; not because of products and services, but rather failing their customers.

Success with customer experience is higher: for B2C, averaging between 65-85% satisfaction, while B2B companies maintain less than 50 percent. Optimized and digitized technology processes, online and mobile apps, speed, metrics and personalization are what today’s customers demand.

The banking and financial industries are impacted because of more and more regulatory and compliance issues that affect all business processes and customer satisfaction. As a solution, many large banks are collaborating with FinTech firms.

IBM reported in its Commerce blog: It’s hard to find a company these days that’s not feeling the impact of “Digital Transformation.” Even if you aren’t yet experiencing it on the job, you certainly are as a consumer – as you’re a key driver behind this transformation. So how does B2B integration come into play?

In a big way. For example, when you place an online order from your mobile device or other means, you start a chain reaction where numerous business documents get exchanged up and down that retailer’s supply chain. Your demands as a consumer for next-day delivery triggers even more complexity behind the scenes. This means overnight processing of the documents and their data is no longer an option if you want to stay competitive.

In marketing, the biggest factor in the success success of their efforts is customer satisfaction, followed by revenue growth, and customer acquisition.

Salesforce recently released the 2016 edition of the State of Marketing report. The report was built after surveying about 4,000 marketers across the globe, shedding light on areas where high-performing marketing teams are focusing and excelling. (The participants of the survey include 26% marketers in B2C, 29% in B2B, and 45% in B2CB2B.)

Gartner reported in June 2016, “B2B organic growth remains elusive.” Customer centricity involves a clear and sustained focus on the customer, but this can’t happen in a vacuum. Gallup views the customer as one part of the customer-centric model. The other components of the model are the B2B company itself and its suppliers. Companies must work on all three components together while understanding that a customer-centric focus is never really done. Instead, this evolutionary process deepens customer relationships, which, in turn, can create organic growth.

From small to large businesses, across all industries, developing a culture of customer-centricity provides a competitive advantage. Companies that do not have a strategy are destined for failure.

Randy HernandezRandy Hernandez

@jet_capital

RandyHernandez is CMO of Jet Capital, an online financial services provider offering small business funding solutions to firms across the U.S. He’s a marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in brand, direct, customer loyalty, digital and database marketing for leading Fortune 500 companies and high growth entrepreneurial firms.

“We launched Jet Capital in late December 2015 with what we thought was a very streamlined and intuitive online application…”

After reviewing Google Analytics conversion data, talking with multiple customers, and listening to customer service calls, we quickly learned that wasn’t the case. We steamlined the application into three pages with progress markers at each stage and also added apply by phone capabilities – because what do you know, business owners are really busy and sometimes would rather apply by talking to a real person than enter data in an application on their phone or desktop computer. Those changes were huge for us – improved submitted application throughput by 40%. Looking to 2017, we’re looking at additional product introductions, so focus will be on optimizing our site and customer experience to match the customer with the best possible product for their particular business needs. Overall lesson is that whether you’re an online business, brick & mortar, or a home-based consultant – you really need to listen and observe your customers and modify your user experience to match their preferences/needs. And continue to optimize – always. Fortunately for marketers, your work is never done.

Jess TiffanyJess Tiffany

@tiffanyintl

Jess Tiffany is the President of the Marketing and Networking University. M.N.U. is an online e-learning platform for entrepreneurs, managers, and business-minded people. M.N.U. combines business education with digital marketing tools to help you get done what you have learned. In short, M.N.U. is helping businesses get educated and get executing.

“Operating our business now for half of 2016, there is one thing that I will definitely want to change going into 2017…”

That change is to increase current customer connections and gain feedback directly from our customers. As a business owner, it is easy to get caught up in doing the things I think my clients want, but many times I find it is just a cool thing I have added with very little enthusiasm from current customers. By spending time getting to know their needs we can build things that appeal to the needs they actually have.

Casey TibbsCasey Tibbs

@imagesquared

Casey Tibbs is the owner and founder of image squared marketing, a boutique marketing agency in Central Illinois that creates hybrid, social/traditional media campaigns. Father of two young boys, one with
Fragile X Syndrome, Mr. Tibbs stays busy balancing work and family time.

“The impact of social media on customer experience continues to intrigue in 2016, and I’ve personally experienced some remarkable interactions this year…”

The big winner for me was once again Hyatt Regency Hotels. Checking into a stellar hotel in an exciting city like New Orleans or Chicago gives me a great feeling that I always want to share, and like most of us do, I share that feeling with a photo and quick blurb that I blast out to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s not uncommon to receive a like or generic comment from a brand in these scenarios anymore, but Hyatt Regency makes the experience personal, helpful, and memorable by asking if there’s anything you need for your stay, if there’s anything you’re planning to see in the city, and so forth. This time around, they complimented my selection of items I’d picked up at an industry tradeshow, asked how my stay was going, and continued the conversation like we were old friends. This eventually led a Facebook friend to point out that she had never seen a brand interact with a consumer like that, leading me to then sing the praises of this hotel chain. Hyatt Regency for the win!

The flip side of the social media impact on customer experience, however, seems to be the increasingly poor experience had in many retail locations and restaurants. This may have less to do with social media and more to do with our culture as a whole, but it’s hard to deny the cultural impact of social media in the first place. Although I’ve had my fair share of wonderful experiences as a local consumer in 2016, my experiences dining out continue to leave a lot to be desired. When a server doesn’t look a guest in the eye and recites the stock script in a voice that says the last thing I want to do is be here, right now, it doesn’t say nearly as much about that server as it does the business structure and culture beyond her singular role. With so many brands getting customer experience right and recognizing how much is at stake, it’s simply a shame to see lost opportunities like this happening so often. I’d love to see brands putting the same level of energy and focus into caring for their front line people in a way that boosts them up and encourages them to pay it forward to both the customer and the brand.

The lesson from all this? I’m going to encourage my clients to approach caring for their employees in 2017 with the same all-in focus and determination that they approached social media with in 2016! As a marketer, I plan on doing my best to help my clients reach the same level of customer experience I received from Hyatt Regency by driving honest, helpful interactions.

Alex Reichmann iTestCashAlex Reichmann

@iTestCash

Alex Reichmann is the CEO of iTestCash and supplies businesses all around the blog with money handling machines including counterfeit detectors and money counters.

“Moving forward we are utilizing…”

The chat system on our website and working on improving over time. We eventually would like to have customer service reps that can chat 24/7 to provide fast service for our overseas customers. I think with how the internet is evolving, people really appreciate fast and effecient customer service.

Qiaoli Wang StyleWeQiaoli Wang

@StyleWe

Qiaoli Wang works for StyleWe, an online fashion shopping platform featuring independent fashion designers.

“We are stepping into an era in which manufacturing products is never a problem. With a plenty of excellent companies worldwide, customers are more than information-overwhelmed…”

What they need to do is to search the internet and find the most suitable companies, products, or services for their needs. From the company’s perspective, they are the ones who will be chosen. However, with Big Data today, companies are able to track down their potential customers’ life trajectory and seize the chance to advertise their product at the right time. Customers then spend less time searching and choosing. That’s why this trend is called the information revolution.

Jake RheudeJake Rheude

@RedStagFulfill

Jake Rheude is the Director of Business Development for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment house designed to provide eCommerce businesses with rapid fulfillment capabilities.

“The customer experience, particularly for online retailers, is one that will be ever-increasing towards…”

Advancements in new technologies and processes in order to achieve a higher level of value for the consumer. The most significant changes will likely come in the way products are delivered to customers after the “buy” button is clicked. In the past five years, we’ve seen advancements in technology and distribution capabilities that have lead to consumers to expect – as standard – that online orders be delivered to their doorstep in 48 hours or less, in the exact specified condition, without an additional up-charge for shipping. This was an unheard-of service level just five years ago but has primarily been established due to the success of Amazon Prime. As these consumer expectations continue to increase, our distribution systems will not only become more complex, but it will also ned to become more efficient both from a time and cost perspective. The use of autonomous trucks, and drone delivery for densely populated areas is not longer a picture reserved for sci-fi movies, but it’s is an inevitable reality of the consumer experience in the years to come.

Bryan ClaytonBryan Clayton

@YourGreenPal

Bryan Clayton is the CEO of GreenPal, which is best described as Uber for Lawn Care.

“Our company now has over 20,000 customers in seven different states and as we grow and enter 2017 we are realizing…”

That we have to figure out ways to deliver personalized customer care at large scale.

These days, customers expect contextual personal care no matter what their unique situation is. They don’t want to wait on hold, they do not want to be directed to a frequently-asked questions page, and they do not want to leave a voicemail; they want an answer or a resolution to their problem now.

The way we are handling this and plan on scaling is with intercom.I/O and integrating contextual messages throughout our product experience. This is a long-term, iterative labor of love to make sure our customers get personalized care at large scale.

Terence ChannonTerence Channon

@TerrenceChannon

Terence Channon is Managing Director of SaltMines Group, a Start-Up Studio & Professional Services firm. SaltMines provides technology, capital and advisory support to early stage start-ups and innovation consulting and development services to established enterprises.

“Conversations and user experiences are becoming more…”

1-on-1 type dialogues rather than mass marketing. Conversations with customers will take place more on messenger platforms, such as Facebook or WhatsApp, rather than email. We will be focusing our efforts on creating personalized experiences and intelligent platforms that can communicate with users in a very emotive way. Animations, visuals, and other rich media that connects with a user in a more human way will start to replace traditional, rigid conversations.

Stacey NevelStacey Nevel

@sbnevel

Stacey Nevel is a seasoned Customer Experience (CX) professional with over 20 years of experience designing and managing customer and employee feedback programs. She has a background in CX feedback measurement and management within client-side financial services and insurance companies and, for last 14 years, with vendor-side CX technology and consulting providers. Her current role as the VoC Consulting Director at Confirmit involves championing industry best practices among current clients, helping new clients define or re-define their VoC program strategy and helping to shape Confirmit’s VoC methodology and services offerings.

“After years of focusing on hard metrics, processes and performance data, the role of…”

Emotion in the buying cycle is moving to the forefront. Taking emotion into account can help you to breathe new life into your Voice of the Customer program, and to understand the value of collecting unsolicited feedback to measure both customer and the broader market’s emotions surrounding your business. As CX practitioners, we need to understand how to: design feedback systems, leverage mobile technology, implement and analyze the right metrics, and take effective action on emotional feedback.

Brock MurrayBrock Murray

@SEOBrock

Brock Murray is the Co-Founder and COO at seoplus+, an international digital marketing agency providing SEO, PPC, social media marketing, content marketing, and web design/development services to clients around the world in a variety of verticals.

“Responsiveness has always been a priority, but going forward into the second half of 2016 and beyond…”

Even more so. We’re actually building a ticket portal to make sure nothing gets lost and every client need, no matter how small, is directed to the right person and attended to immediately. The customer doesn’t have to worry about who on the team to call/email – the request is sorted and the most appropriate team member will be able to handle it swiftly. As a B2B service, we’re here to enhance the business processes of our clients, and the last thing we want is a miscommunication or a lag in response to affect our clients. Clients should be focusing on what they do best, not trying to chase around an agency or service provider for a solution.

Kate ChanKate Chan

@HelloKateChan

Kate Chan is a full-stack marketer at Rabbut, an email collecting tool for Medium and LinkedIn.

“As a Sass company, most of the customer experience comes from how we handle…”

Customer support. One thing that I’ve learned is that people get frustrated, antsy even if we don’t respond to them within an hour. One
small adjustment that we made recently in our customer support team is that we will respond to tickets within a one-hour period. This change alone has resulted in a much higher customer retention rate than before.

From this experience, we know that people want to be heard and acknowledge immediately. One thing that we are planning to try out in 2017 is to have our founder and co-founder personally handle some of our customer tickets. That way the problem is directly delivered to the founder and co-founder, so they have a better sense of what the customers are are saying about the product without the risk of the message being diluted.

Nathan BarberNathan Barber

@Barber_Nathan1

Nathan Barber is a digital marketer at a digital marketing agency called digitaladvertisngWorks. When is he not working, he likes to keep fit on the soccer field playing pickup ball.

“From a digital marketing perspective, coming through 2016, we have learned and told our clients that…”

Offering a reward system for customers to review their positive experience with the company has had a two-fold positive effect. For one, it offers current and past customers incentive to come back when they are offered something of value in return, increasing our customer retention rate.

Secondly, the positive reviews shown on search results and home page have had a positive impact of attaining new customers who are looking to enjoy their user experience. The better the reviews, the more impact is portrayed that he or she is about to deal with a trustworthy and competent business as they embark on their purchase experience.

Sasha VassilevaSasha Vassileva

@topvisor

Sasha Vassileva has been working in Customer Support all her life, since age 17. She used to work for well-known companies like JTI or Nokia. Finally, she settled down at Topvisor, Co. Ltd., a small company in Thailand that makes SaaS for SEO. She works as the Head of the Customer Care for Topvisor.

“As I’m responsible for customer support in my company, I try to keep up with the latest trends. In 2016 I’ve learned three important things…”

The first thing is that we need to automate the process. It can be painful, yet it’s a must. The reasons are simple: First, it frees your hands. Secondly, just based on my own experience, staff turnover in most Customer Support departments is a headache. A bot won’t get a nervous breakdown and quit. And last but not least, bots can be extremely powerful and handy for customer education.

I advise companies to automate, but to automate in a clever way. Automation can include some other things aside from bots. For example, we have integrated all social media and connected it to the ticket system. This allowed us to aggregate all feedback in one central location. And, there still should be a human being that can help where a bot cannot.

The second thing is that customers now prefer writing to talking. The call rate has dropped, whereas email and ticket-flow has increased. That’s good news for supporters, as emails and requests are in most cases easier to handle.

And the third thing is that education is everything. Half of all requests are those ‘how-to’ requests. If we teach our clients how to use our product, we’ll have more time to teach our staff how to make those clients happy.

What do I think will happen in the near future? I believe that automation will pick up speed. Managers who will continue working in support departments will most likely be the experienced multi-taskers; they will be able to complete complicated tasks that a bot cannot resolve. For example, they will be able to test a product or write scripts, etc.

John TurnerJohn Turner

@UsabilityGuyPGH

John Turner is CEO/Founder of UsersThink, a tool that delivers user feedback on demand for website landing pages, helping to increase conversions and improve usability and UX.

“The biggest thing I learned so far in 2016 about customer experience is to…”

Do everything you can to help your users and customers solve their own problems.

Early signs of a bad customer experience started to show up this year, with a slowly growing increase of potential customer emails around problems or questions they had about UsersThink. While the rate of questions started to increase, patterns began to emerge, and it seemed like the questions centered around the same dozen issues.

At first, there was hesitation from me to do anything, because I felt that these questions were well answered on the website, and these individual users were the outliers who were unable to find them. But after more emails came in, I finally realized that while the answers were on the site, they were scattered and often hard to find if you had a specific question.

So we built a FAQ page – which, in retrospect, we should have had from the start, and as questions came in with enough frequency, we would add the question and answer to that page. Over time, the number of customer service emails has fallen sharply and sales have increased.

All this happened by listening to customers, hearing their questions and concerns, and answering them in a direct and public way, in a format that made it easy for them to find their own solutions. Doing more of this will lead to a much better customer experience, less customer support, and greater sales.

Dean HecklerDean Heckler

@hecklerdesign

Dean Heckler is the founder and CEO of Heckler Design and serves as the company’s design guy. He’s obsessed with simplicity, and the happiness of the company’s end-customers – those who actually use their products on a daily basis. Like many industrial designers, he’s demanding, stubborn, and generally dissatisfied with the status quo and works day and night to improve things.

“We’ve learned that today’s customers are very comfortable interacting with companies through…”

Web interfaces, apps, and chat bots to check order statuses, inquiry about product specifications, address minor concerns, etc. People are learning that, more often than not, calling a company on the phone only connects them to someone who ultimately won’t be able to help
them – the web-based systems are more effective.

As far as predictions for 2017, now that we know how comfortable customers are with web-based interactions, companies will leverage that more and more traditional customer services arenas (we’re already seeing it airports and movie theaters). We’ll see more screens popping up with humans used to be – and it will continue to mobile. Tablets will be mounted to walls, into countertops, and on kiosk stands to streamline customer service processes.

Brett Arrington Customer EmotionBrett Arrington

@brett_arrington

Brett Arrington is the founder of Customer Emotion. He has helped companies all over North and South America create great customer experiences. He also speaks on the subject. He has worked with brands such as Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, Rolls Royce, Lexus and in leading retail companies in Chile, Panama, Mexico and Argentina.

“Customers are always evolving. If we briefly look at the progression that got us here we can shed a lot of light on the subject…”

For many years (centuries) customers looked for products. In the last few decades, service started becoming important. Now these two focuses have become the base from which to start. Customer experiences have become more and more important, yet many companies still ignore this fact. All of these changes happen because of the customer. Organizations like to think we drive change. In reality, its the customers’ increasing level of want (and need) that drive the markets.

Many experts are starting to talk about the connection economy without really explaining what it is. To compete at the highest level, organizations must connect at a base level. For years organizations have spoken to customers as if they are adults speaking to children. Mass marketing, features appealing to majorities, etc. Now these adult companies need to understand that these customers are grown up. In many ways, customers are more sofisticated than ever before, more so than most marketing departments. Customers want to be included in the conversation. They want to be able to trust what is coming down the line, and frankly most companies aren’t trusted. How many times do you go to a YouTube video review from a video blogger to get info about a product instead of the company’s website? Why? We trust that YouTuber more than we trust the company. We aren’t masses anymore. Customers want customization to fit our lifestyle. What was the edge is now the mainstream. This makes it difficult for companies because it’s a whole new playing field…and many haven’t even made it to the experience playing field yet.

Going forward, companies need to produce this trust by being more transparent and helping the world community in ways that are important to them. TOMS shoes is a great example of a company that has earned the trust of their customers. They give a great product and experience while at the same time connecting with a cause that is important to a lot of us. This has earned them the trust of their community.

Companies need to reach out more and talk to customers. On a project for a supermarket chain in Mexico my team and I spoke to over 1,000 customers in 45 days. We learned what really matters to them, not what the company thought mattered. Surprisingly for the customer, it wasn’t prices that mattered (in a depressed economy) but the social work they do and the way they are greeted when coming in.

2017 is going to be a hard time for companies that don’t start competing on the new battle field with a customer experience base and by gaining trust now. When we changed from a product to a service economy and then from a service to experience economy, it was because of market saturation in products and then services. Companies had to evolve to break free. We are now transitioning, but under different circumstances. There is no saturation of great customer experiences. They are still few and far between, but now customers want to connect. So the customer is, for many companies, two steps ahead. Customer experiences are still differentiators, but to be at the top you have to connect.

Tim DoddTim Dodd

@MrTimDodd

Tim Dodd is the co-founder and CEO of the Miami web design and SEO company TEV Marketing. He is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for internet marketing, business development, and networking.

“Something we really want to start doing heavily in 2017 is increase…”

Positive customer touch points. Our clients are on monthly retainers, and we’ve found that the more touch-points we have throughout the month, the higher the customer satisfaction is. It lets them know that we are constantly working for them and keeps us front of mind. One thing we’ve started doing for this with a positive response is engaging them in the press opportunities we run into for their companies.

Saqib ZahidSaqib Zahid

@saqzahid

Saqib Zahid is a Senior Brand Strategist at PureVPN. An entrepreneur at heart
and a Digital Security and Privacy Enthusiast, he looks to help millennials to make the best out of their resources and have a secured digital life.

“Working as a Brand Strategist provides me an in-depth view about what matters to today’s netizens. The one biggest thing 2016 has taught me til now is…”

Customer experience is now mobile. Millennials, now 25 percent of the U.S. population, commanding ever increasing purchase power, highly
influence the buying decisions and customer experience expectations of everyone. This highly influential cohort is driven by mobile. As much as the omni-channel experience is important, it will always be dominated by mobile.

In 2017, the focus is going to be on Non-Human Digital Assistants. Providing uninterrupted, highly intelligent, evolving, seamless two-way engagement to customers mimicking human conversations via text, across multiple platforms, in multiple languages will prove to be the ultimate customer experience game-changer. The limelight is here is on evolving. It is crucial for bot technology and platforms to be highly reactive and rely on neural networking to cope with complex human conversations. What the future bots would need to provide the best customer experience is a strong, unique personality.

Mike BucknerMike Buckner

Mike Buckner works for Sears Home Service, the nation’s largest product repair service provider, a key element in Sears Holdings active relationship providing more than 52 million solutions for homeowners annually. This business delivers a broad range of retail-related residential and commercial services across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Sears Home Services also includes HVAC services and home improvement services (primarily siding, windows, cabinet refacing, kitchen remodeling, roofing, carpet and upholstery cleaning, air duct cleaning, and garage door installation and repair).

“In 2017, we want to…”

Expose the internal reviews on our website. We want the customer to visit our website and be able to read reviews from past customers, both negative and positive, so they know what to expect when they schedule a service with us.

Chip BellChip Bell

@ChipRBell

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books. Global Gurus ranked him both in 2014 and 2015 as the #1 keynote speaker in the world on customer service. He has appeared live on CNN, CNBC, ABC, Fox Business, Network, Bloomberg TV, NPR and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine and Businessweek.

“In 2016, there are a few lessons to learn…”

That great service recovery that focuses on relationship repair can turn an oops into a powerful opportunity to grow customer advocacy. That the most under-utilized customer intelligence tool is the wisdom and insight of the frontline service people. That service teams that demonstrate great collaboration and effective partnership can always trump the best solo service person. That service leadership excellence is about mentoring and supporting, not metrics and control.

Plans for 2017:

Devote more resources to getting better real-time customer insight. Figure out the service implications of Pokemon Go. Craft service training that actively incorporates the customer (live). Build tools for service teamwork renewal and updating.

Ray McKenzieRay McKenzie

@RayMc209

Ray McKenzie is the founder of Red Beach Advisors based in Los Angeles, CA. He is a management consultant specializing in implementing solutions for startups and small- to medium-sized innovative businesses through strategy, process, systems, and people.

“Customer experience has transformed from high engagement to…”

Self-service and back to high engagement. Initially customers wanted to talk, see, and meet who was providing a service. Then customers wanted the ability for self-service and interface on their own terms. Now the customer experience is a combination of two, but service and support must include high engagement in the form of account management, customer and client retention, and communication e-mails and calls.

As I prepare to continue growing my firm in helping clients with customer success and experience strategies, along with my own clients, I plan to increase engagement. I will also engage clients with several mediums including social media and marketing automation tools. The development of tools to measure effectiveness, customer engagement, and client satisfaction are to be used by all organizations to reduce customer churn and increase client satisfaction.

Nicholas WebbNicholas Webb

@nickwebbcom

Nicholas Webb is a well-known innovation thought leader, author and keynote
speaker. His upcoming book What Customers Crave speaks to the New Science of Customer Experience Design and is available in bookstores worldwide this October.

“The overwhelming majority of businesses fail at delivering customer experience that will…”

Ultimately keep them competitive. After three years of research of looking at thousands of companies, I’ve found that there are
three things that the best organizations around the world do. First, they make an absolute commitment to becoming a customer-centric business. Simply put, they actually put their customer first and they commit the necessary resources to gain the right insights and to deliver the best experiences. Secondly, they break their customers into customer types rather than using old-fashioned market segmentation to identify the range of customers they serve. Instead of looking at their customers’ demographics; age, race, gender, income, etc., they look at their customers based on what they hate and what they love. By identifying their customers this way, they are able to create relevant experiences across a range of customer types, and this significantly improves customer satisfaction. Last but certainly not least, these organizations look at customer experience as a design activity and they design exceptional customer experiences across the five key touch points of their customers’ journey. So if we now have the science to architect perfect human experiences, the question then is why are we not doing it? Our research shows that most organizations erroneously believe that they’re delivering far better experiences than they actually are. In other words, if they don’t recognize the problem, they will never deploy the resources to fix it.

Kevin LeiferKevin Leifer

@StellaService

Kevin Leifer and his team at StellaService help their clients define/design the expected customer experience, create programs to monitor and measure the experience both objectively and subjectively and determine the opportunities to improve it. Their focus is on using the data, not just collecting it.

“For the first time, the customer experience has been announced as…”

The focus or priority in 2016. We have seen this followed up by action in many, but not all, of those cases. For the balance, is this a PR message or a true shift in organizational direction that they are not yet ready to commit to?

The practice of looking at the entire customer journey as well as the experience arch within the individual channels (on-line, in-store, mobile, etc.) has allowed companies to begin to truly understand and appreciate the entire spectrum of intersections between their brand and its customers. In doing so, they can begin to not only hone individual channels, but begin to create a far more seamless journey for their customers.

Convenience and personalization are emerging as customers’ #1 priority. Organizations that can provide their goods and services while highlighting these features will certainly prevail.

Kean GrahamKean Graham

@monetizemore

Kean Graham is the CEO of MonetizeMore, a leading ad tech firm that is a Google Certified Partner. In short, they increase ad revenues for large publishers via tech and ad optimization teams. MonetizeMore is a location independent business with over 60 team members and has been running for 6.5 years.

“I have learned that customers expect value from a company…”

They have heard of before. This is the company’s chance to prove itself a worthwhile and trustworthy company. For that reason, most customers will not drop a dime until they’ve seen this initial value.

We have taken this to heart and plan to offer the below in 2017:

  • Free trial: We will offer our product MonetizeMore Demand for a 7-day free trial. That is the amount of time the customer would need to see before they notice that their ad revenues have taken a major spike.
  • Free Features: Our platform called PubGuru will have a free signup that will have several free useful features like malware detection, a report ads widget, and an Ad Block tracker.

Greg DewaldGreg Dewald

@BrightTax

Greg Dewald founded Bright!Tax in 2012 to provide tax filing services and
help for Americans living abroad. The company’s ethos is to provide a first-rate client experience at an affordable price. Just four years later, Bright!Tax has clients in over 150 countries, and is growing at a rate of over 50% a year.

“Bright!Tax is an online provider of tax service for Americans living abroad. We have clients in over 150 countries, and customer experience is our overriding focus. As such, we’ve had to develop ways to create a superlative customer experience that works long-range…”

The key for us has been offering our customers ways to keep in contact with us that suit them rather than us. This may mean by Skype, phone, email, online chat, Google messenger, Facetime – however they like. Skype, Facetime, and phone calls are arranged by email, and we respond to emails as quickly as possible, normally straight away, rather than just within 24 or 48 hours, for example.

For the new wave of international online businesses like ours, allowing customers to feel connected to rather than removed from the company, despite being physically distant, is imperative.

Ben ThompsonBen Thompson

@GitPrime

Ben Thompson is co-founder GitPrime where he leads design, marketing, and customer experience. He in a Y Combinator alumni, and an expert in product design, branding, and UX design.

“With all the consumer applications in daily use today, even business-centric apps need to think about…”

Design. People expect more more. Today’s user wants the consumer experience, even in their enterprise applications. Someone using Instagram in their personal time doesn’t want to come to work and deal with an ugly enterprise UI – modern users expect a higher standard of care. Our focus in 2017 is focusing on clean workflows and elegant design in order to bring consumer-level. It’s not okay to drop someone into a heavy, confusing experience. Customers expect to be guided through the application, and to have the question, “What can I do with this?” answered intuitively at every step. In 2017, any applications that burden users with outmoded design or confusing UI will see their user base move to the competition.

Chloe ThomasChloe Thomas

@eComMasterPlan

Chloe is author of the bestselling Customer Manipulation: How to Influence
Your Customers to buy more and Why and Ethical Approach will Always Win.
She’s also host of the eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast, and an international
keynote speaker.

“It’s clear that the businesses who are going to be most successful during 2016 and into the future are those who are…”

Focused on building a stronger relationship with their customers. That means listening to what the customer wants and providing them with it. In terms of systems learning where they want to interact with you, and enablling them to do so – so if they want to contact customer service via Facebook messenger – then you need to set up your team to do that. Likewise for other social media channels, webchat or even the humble telephone!

It also means encouraging a conversation with your customers. Create interesting content they want to consum and talk about, create forums and Facebook groups where they can interact with each other, and your team to help you push your business forwards.

Alexander KonanykhinAlexander Konanykhin

@YandikiCloud

Alex Konanykhin is an entrepreneur and former banker who founded a private bank in Russia towards the end of communist rule Earlier this year, Citigroup designated his company, Yandiki, as the “Top People Management Solution” of 2016. Alex is the founder of TransparentBusiness.com, Yandiki.com, and Stock4Services.com, a platform that allows people to trade their services for equity stakes in a company. He’s forged major business partnerships with companies like ADP and Facebook, and his business acumen has landed him contracts with the Saudi Arabian and Ukrainian governments.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned about the customer experience in 2016 is…”

That it pays to empower your team to engage with customers. Customer experience is no longer just a matter of providing good support. Customers these days are in the driver’s seat, and they expect a multi-channel customer experience. Looking forward, successful organizations will implement collaborative and impactful customer service solutions that include employees at all levels.

16 Nov 2016
Customer Service Bots- 6 Months Later

Customer Service Bots- 6 Months Later

Facebook made big news around six months ago with the release of their chat-bot feature and their agreement to let companies and brands build their own within the platform. Living inside their Messenger platform, M (Facebook Messenger’s virtual assistant) was billed as the next generation of how people connect and interact with the internet. Over 18,000 companies have created their own branded chat bots with the help of Facebook’s platform in the last six months and according to estimates, there are over 10,000 more currently in development. Brands as diverse as American Express to 1800-Flowers to Domino’s Pizza have all deployed their own bots, showing just how versatile bots can be when done right.

Chat bots fit in perfectly with today’s “on demand” consumer. Also called “support bots” when used in customer service, they offer instant answers and intuitive connectivity. Bots help customers move seamlessly from point A on their journey to point B, while providing easy ways to escalate to humans if need be and the best among them remember and “understand” interactions, to create a truly customized experience. Another major perk; they allow brands to field many more requests for information than they ever could via traditional means of customer service.

But more than a few of the early players in the bot space wound up failing, casualties of too little planning and too much excitement. The weather-bot Hello Poncho, for example, provided users with incoherent and incomplete answers. Others were slow to respond and didn’t interact in the casual conversational manner in which they were built to interact. It’s not hard to see why experiences such as these might dissuade users from embracing the bot-olution.

But when done right, customer service bots have the ability to become an integrated key player in your customer experience strategy. Let’s look at the characteristics that make a great bot so when you do decide to join the bot revolution, you’ll know exactly how to start.

Tips to Creating Service Bots Your Customers Will Love:

Determine if you really do need a service bot:

It’s time to take a long, hard look at your business model and processes, and see if it would better served with a bot than it’s being served now by your app. In some cases, like when it comes to ordering pizza, building a bot will create a more streamlined and more intuitive customer experience, one in which the user doesn’t need to leave the platform he or she is already in. No logging in and no learning the interface equals much less friction for the end user.

But as Sar Haribhakti points out in Venturebeat “From a customer’s perspective, it only makes sense to adopt a new solution if it is significantly better than the alternatives — it’s not enough that it’s a trendy thing to do.’’ In other words, if you have an app that works well and is loved by your users, to pull any traction, your bot will have to be a whole lot better than that app. The take home here? If you’re going to build a bot, make sure there is a need for it, and make sure it’s going to be a lot better than your app already is.

Involve humans in the process:

Bots have a lot to learn from their human counterparts — and the cool part is that as continuously-learning AI, they really do learn, thanks to some really amazing computer magic called deep learning. The more service bots “learn”, the more they are able to provide quality experiences. Here are some things that upon deployment, bots need a human role model for:

Accuracy – Bots will ace most of the questions customers are looking for answers to most of the time. But there is still room for error. Humans need to be readily-available as backups whenever feasible to keep frustration levels hovering around zero.

Understanding user language – Bots were built to work with natural language processing, but that doesn’t mean that they will grasp the meaning of all the nuanced things customers might say. Think about how immensely deep a chat bots’ knowledge must be in order to perceive the meaning behind “Hey weatherbot, would I be better off with a coat or a jacket today?” But as we mentioned above, because they are built with the capability for deep learning, by watching their human counterparts, they begin to understand the way we people-folk talk.

Create with customer experience in mind:

When it comes to building your bot, follow the “design thinking” rule – that is to create the bot with the design, and ergo, your users in mind. From the first moment your brand begins to contemplate deploying a bot, you’ll need to consider every possible interaction your customers might have with it and make sure your bot has a learned answer for each scenario. Yes, it’s true that it would be completely impossible to account for each and every scenario, but do your best to look at your bot from the user’s point of view to cover as much ground as you can.

And while you’re at it, why not infuse your support bot with some brand personality to tie the experience in with your greater customer experience strategy? For example, if your business centers around selling fresh roasted gourmet coffee beans, adding a bit of a “hipster” flair to your bots’ answers essentially ties it in as another branded touch point, enhancing your customer’s experience. Whatever your vertical, determine your voice and brand your bot to your voice.

Here are some extras, to make sure your support bot becomes a valued element in your customer experience strategy:

Embrace simplicity when it comes to customer service bots -

Follow the famed KISS (keep it simple, stupid) rule of thumb. Don’t try to get your bot to do too much at first; if it’s overwhelming, your users will drop it like a two week old burrito that’s been left out on a hot day. Try to use simple, concise language and stay far, far away from jargon wherever possible. Strip away any and all extras to deliver a straightforward experience.

Iterate, iterate, iterate! -

Nothing in life, especially not bots, should ever stop evolving or become too complacent with status quo. Make sure to keep testing and retesting your ideas. Don’t be afraid to tweak a good thing in search of a great thing!

Bringing it all together

Your goal for building your customer service bot should be all about solving users’ problems in a straightforward and engaging way. If your bot can do this, it will be well on its way to becoming a valued key player in your customer experience strategy.