Customer Experience As Differentiation
The most important question was and will remain: how does the customer feel when he interacts with your brand?
I talked to Anca Șerbănescu, trainer and advisor at the Marketing Institute about the ingredients of a successful customer experience. A discussion recorded in January that I think is useful even these days to understand how to better adapt to customer needs. Anca has over 15 years of experience and specializes in the banking, insurance, and IT & C markets. She has experience in market research, business development, team building and leadership, project management, marketing strategy, Customer Experience Management, customer analysis data, and the development of loyalty programs.
Oana Mudura: I am with Anca Șerbănescu, trainer and adviser at the Marketing Institute in Bucharest on Customer Experience Management. I said I would ask her questions to see what the magic solutions are for a perfect Customer Experience. But of course, we also find out that there are no magic solutions, there is no universal recipe but there are good practices. Anca, I would like to ask you to tell them in detail what are the good practices at the international level, what have you noticed that works in the field of Customer Experience Management.
Anca Șerbănescu: Indeed, Customer Experience and Customer Experience Management are not an area where there are magic solutions or recipes. Instead, it is an area that if you do well, you bring clear results in business, from projects that can bring results from thousands of euros to billions. Good practices come mainly from abroad, from Western Europe and the USA. Because in Romania, although declarative or as I said in the discussions earlier, Customer Experience is a buzzword, it is something that is very important, declarative. We have a lot to learn and a lot to do until we apply the Customer Experience.
To clarify the terms, Customer Experience would mean very simply that you, the company, control all the interactions in an intentional way, all the interaction with customers. You monitor, you see what the problems are, you improve, you monitor again just to create an experience that brings you closer to that company, that creates loyalty and makes it very difficult for you to leave and it is also very, very useful for employees because it makes you proud to work in a company like that. Turnover decreases, motivation is much higher. That’s just to say from the benefits of Customer Experience Management.
Speaking of how it is done, it is very easily assimilated with a marketing practice because here too you have to have strategic thinking, and here you have to actually start from the strategy and then make sure that in the implementation you tick some elements to ensure the success.
Oana Mudura: I know that there are no universal solutions because each experience of each company is different depending on the products and services and the typology and niche of customers. But for the elements of a successful strategy, what are the general pillars that every company must take into account when proposing a Customer Experience of excellence?
Anca Șerbănescu: That’s exactly what I wanted to start talking about best practices, it’s about setting the foundation well and embarking on a journey that ensures success. Specifically, you need to assess how prepared the organization you work for is to start this journey, to truly make the Customer Experience. In my experience, many companies put a plan on paper and it was not implemented because the organization was not ready.
So that would be the first step. The second step: you have to make sure that the people from relevant and cross-company positions and the top management, middle management, but also from the front line decision level know their clients, they know how they feel when they interact with that company, I know what are the steps you go through. That with KNOW THE CUSTOMER is often overlooked. Yes, we have research, let me read the report and that’s it. Not. It’s about WALK THE TALK, to experience what the customer is experiencing in the interaction with your company, and to understand how they feel.
It is much easier later to think about the strategy, it is much easier later to make sure that it is implemented successfully. So this would be a second step. Only after these two steps would the strategy area come. And we are talking about customer strategy which is often neglected because the business, the business, in general, make their business strategy, but then the customer strategy.
In marketing, we define the target, we communicate, and so on. No.
It’s about thinking the customer strategy, or the Customer Experience strategy, are interchangeable, in direct connection with the business strategy.
What are the business objectives? Let’s increase market share. Then what do I want to do? I want to win new customers and keep my existing customers. How does Customer Experience help, what do I do about it? And more than that, you have to define which are the pillars of the customer strategy, customer experience strategy. This intrinsic connection with business strategy is essential.
Then you have to choose, as in the business strategy, the target you want and to effectively define the experience you want to deliver to your customers. Let’s take an example. I’m a utility company. I want to make sure that my customers do not have supply interruptions, that they always have the necessary information at their disposal. An example doesn’t have to be Rocket Science, but it has to do with what you mean as a brand, with what you want to mean to your customers.
And only after this area of strategy do you start the Customer Experience Management part that helps you in an effective process of activities supported by people and systems. It helps you deliver this experience or at least, because it often happens, to reduce the difference, the distance between what you want to deliver and what customers experience.
Simply put, if you do not strategically define what you want to deliver to customers, the experience you want to offer, how can you make sure you deliver or not? There is also the firefighting version and probably as a customer, you have experienced it many times in Romania. You make a complaint, maybe with some luck, it will be solved. No, the idea is to be proactive and think ahead of the whole area of operations. It’s about how I said earlier about an integrated system, you have to make sure that you each have the necessary skills, capabilities, and internal support. I’m talking about the strategy area I already mentioned, I’m talking about the culture area.
Without a culture that understands the significance of the customer, understands what it means to do good for the customer, you fail to move things.
We get to the point where you have it on paper and you don’t implement it. So strategy, culture, you have the area of the customer’s voice and customer understanding. From there you start, from expectations, from needs. Measurement, Return of Investment. It is very important to be able to quantify what Customer Experience Management means for your company, what it brings you in terms of income, what it brings you in terms of retention, what it brings you in terms of a new acquisition. Effectively the important areas that you target.
So these four areas. And very importantly, one last area: to make sure things happen, that you make improvements. And here I am talking about the adoption of Customer Experience and Accountability actions. People need to be responsible, they need to know at every level what their role is in delivering the Customer Experience strategy and the whole area of Service Design and Customer Experience Improvement. That is, to do the actions. To give a more concrete example, that it may be difficult to understand, let’s say, an insurance company.
Within the Customer Experience Management program, she brought three improvements in the claims process, in the complaint process, when you have an incident and you have to report it to get the money for insurance. Customer Journey Mapping made them understand that it is an essential moment in the customer’s journey, that it is a moment when if you deliver a good experience, you can have very good results. And they worked here to improve some of the shortcomings that they found out by listening to the voice of their customers.
And then they introduced a notification area in their online application so that you can complete and report the incident by text. They added other channels and only by doing three small issues in this area of claims did they manage to reduce the Call Center costs by 170 thousand euros because you automatically called the Call Center and reported the respective things. What else would I mention about best practices? They are in the industry and again refer to the Western European market and from the USA suppliers of Customer Experience Management platforms.
In reality, we brought technology into the discussion only late because technology should be a facilitator, not a starting point for technology.
Oana Mudura: We have to start from the mindset to get to very practical issues later.
Anca Șerbănescu: Exactly, in terms of culture strategy. Returning to the discussion, you have these platforms that help you automate your entire area with the voice of the customer, the voice of employees and the voice of processes. There are three voices without which you can’t be very successful in the Customer Experience. Why? The customer’s voice you understand the needs, the expectations.
The voice of the employees, somehow the way the employees feel in the company is reflected in the experiences you transform, through them you improve things. And then the voice of the processes because you might have a very OK culture, people want to want to do things well, but not have the necessary support, defined processes, technology to support them. Returning to these platforms helps you automate your entire area and you can get real-time information from customers, what are the problems they experience.
You can have a 360-degree knowledge of the experiences you offer because many times again I make a comparison in Romania, there is a pain at some point, say in a telecom company, I know they have a problem, How do modems work, say. And they will measure that specific thing.
If you don’t know exactly what experiences you deliver, how important is the experience you have with the internet provided by you in the whole perception you have about the brand? And that’s why it’s very important, at least at the management level, when you make the strategy when you decide what the priorities are for action, to have this 360 understanding of customer needs and the experience you offer. These platforms can help you in this area, in the area of action through all the close-the-loop processes.
The moment I come across dissatisfied clients through an interview, I have to make sure that I solve their problem, that I solve them on the spot. Maybe it’s things like giving me a call and apologizing that the agency employee had a worse day and treated you badly. But there can be process improvements, lasting product improvements. The simple fact is, think of yourself as a customer. If you go to a bank and shortly after you had a nasty experience …
Oana Mudura: I had a bad experience at a hotel last night. I see how useful my feedback would be. If they listened to it, implement it, how much they would change the customer experience.
Anca Șerbănescu: That’s what I’m talking about. After you leave or even the day after that experience, you get a few questions. This is another important thing: don’t waste your client’s time! You have to make sure that collecting feedback is a touchpoint in itself of the interaction with that brand. You have to make sure that it is very relevant, very short, and very what interests you. Going back to the example with the hotel, imagine that you gave the feedback, and very soon after you gave this feedback, someone calls you and apologizes and communicates about what date or what is their plan to solve the problem. respectively.
And again, it’s not about doing good to customers by delivering positive experiences, it’s about doing good for the company. And here I would like to somehow anticipate that it was probably one of the questions. What are the advantages for the company, why invest in Customer Experience Management? And here things are very simple. There are three areas where concrete business results can be seen through well-done Customer Experience Management. That here is another discussion.
It’s about increasing revenue. Topline revenue.
Oana Mudura: And this is the most important aspect that encompasses them all.
Anca Șerbănescu: There are some simple levers: it decreases your turn, it increases your ability to keep customers who may at some point have had dissatisfaction because you anticipate them and solve their problems and then we are talking about saved income. If I lose 10 percent of customers and the average value of a customer is 20 euros, I automatically saved that amount multiplied by the number of customers. I speak very simply to understand what I mean.
Not only does it reduce your chances of losing customers, but it also increases your chances of making UPSELL and CROSS-SELL. The dissatisfied customers that you identify can be much more open if you provide them with the services they need at the right time. And we come back again, again we talk about the impact on revenue. This is another area: it helps you to increase your Market Share and here is the revenue impact, so that I can get out of that area a bit. By becoming differentiated by the experience you deliver, the world sets you apart from the competition and you can automatically win customers both from the natural growth of the market, but also to attract competition because in the end you do some things better and you are known.
Your brand is known for the experience that some who make it feel exactly.
We talk about feelings, about this how. How I feel as a customer. And another very important area, and often surprising for top management people, helps you lower operating costs. I was setting an example for you with the Call Center. There are multiple examples. Understanding what is important to the customer, helps you prioritize things and you can eliminate things that are not important to the customer. You can talk about the Call Center area, you can talk about the operational area, the distribution area.
You have a lot of areas in which, effectively understanding what the client needs concerning the employee experience, that here too is an important area of processes, to optimize your costs as a company. There are companies, their goal in the customer experience strategy aims to reduce certain costs, and if you do it wisely without affecting the experience you have a lot to gain.
Oana Mudura: Another very important and not very exploited advantage of improving the customer experience is that by having feedback from customers, you can not only improve the quality of products and services, but you can create new products and services. Collaborate. He becomes a business partner and then new business ideas are born.
Anca Șerbănescu: There are many Customer Experience programs in which it is brought to the client as part of the co-creation area, starting from their feedback. But they help in the area of Service Design, in the area of creating new products, new services. And in reality, a well-made Customer Experience can lead to the transformation of the organization into a company focused on learning, focused on coming up with new ideas, with innovations. The very term AGILE. They are related because you think that you have a continuous source of information there that feeds your ideas with which you can come up.
Oana Mudura: We stop here. Not before asking for a recommendation: is it the book that has impressed you, that has changed your perspective lately and that you want to recommend to us?
Anca Șerbănescu: It is difficult to choose just one but considering that we are at an event at the Marketing Institute. I would even name a book that I got through the course I did in Customer Experience, in marketing studies at CIM. This is the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EDGE by Reza Soudagar, which in addition to giving you many examples of success, one of the ideas that clicked on me was this very area that technology does not mean that if you implement a Customer platform Experience Management makes Customer Experience.
Technology should be just a facilitator. And there are many things you need to make sure you check before implementing the technology. Technology gives you an answer to what you want to do. In this book, you will even find practical tips on how to do it in reality, how to successfully implement Customer Experience programs. And I would mention another speaker. He doesn’t call himself an expert, he calls himself a specialist. Ian Golding is a promoter of Customer Experience Management in the UK but is internationally recognized. He has a very, very useful book. CUSTOMER WHAT? it’s called and it’s about step-by-step how to make Customer Experience.