That ROI-driven process just cost you a customer

Focusing on ROI exclusively works against you, not for you. Are you giving customers the experience they want, or the experience you think they want? In the short term, your approach can cost you customer engagement. In the long term, it can erode your customer base.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

Hey y'all. I have a guest post again today as I head out on another of my endless but interesting journeys. This post will blow you away.

I've known Adam Golden more than 15 years - long before he or I had anything to do with CRM or customer journeys. He has been one of these people who succeeds at whatever he puts his mind to and retains his good nature and humility throughout his successes. In 2004, he and a partner founded Major Oak Consulting, a company that was devoted to the strategies, programs and successful execution of customer journey management. Guess what? He succeeded wildly. As a result, at the end of 2013, Verint, a CRM Watchlist winner this year, acquired Major Oak.

Adam is a true expert in this area, so pay close attention to what you have here. It's golden.

Take it away, Adam.

I'm a process geek at heart (and so proud of it) who has developed a deep passion for the Customer Experience. Now don't get me wrong: I'm not going to stand up and scream that you need to exceed your customer's expectations every time, although that never hurts. Or that every business should adopt a model that delights customers, although it is a wonderful concept for some businesses -- like Ritz Carlton.

The simple concept I'm going to discuss here is this: Not enough companies are giving customers the simple, straightforward, easy to do business with Customer Experience they want. They are giving them the experience they think they want. And in the short term it is costing them customer engagement. In the long term it's going to drive an erosion of the customer base, especially in markets with low barriers to entry.

So what happens when a devoted process geek starts telling his peers that a process improvement with a positive ROI and VoC input will drive away their customers? I get some confused looks that lead to an interesting discussion about the limitations in the process improvement approach we've been taught. And that approach is how many of us have driven success in our careers, including me. But what if the techniques we learned to capture Voice of the Customer are inadequate? What if that ROI driven decision isn't as clear cut as we were taught in our Process and Six Sigma training? Is that heresy? Maybe, but let's still consider it.

Voice of the Customer

Let's start with Voice of the Customer (VOC). There is some great research from IQPC's PEX Network that shows that more than 70 percent of executives feel VOC information is inadequate for decision making. If you have inadequate data, what happens next can take you down a dangerous path - you'll be tempted to:

  • Use the ROI to drive the decision without VOC perspective
  • Leverage available VOC input that was captured by another group for a different purpose using a different question that is not the same question you really want to ask
  • Repurpose the customer as an internal stakeholder because it is easier to get that perspective

Anything wrong with those approaches? J.

So how do you start to look through a customer lens versus a tradition Six Sigma process lens, and how are they different?

Traditional Process Thinking But Your Customer Might Be Thinking....
1 I can drive the last 10% of productivity out of your contact center with additional process or technology investment and generate a strong ROI, that will provide a more efficient customer interaction You force me to your call center, but don't offer the channels I really want like self-service, mobile, web and more...but your competitors do
2 Taking 20 seconds off call handle time can drive millions of dollars in workforce management savings through reduced staffing needs I wish you'd spend a little more time with me, and show me how I can do some of these things on my own in the future (and by the way, that means many calls avoided in the future)
3 Let's move customer training to web-based training and user guided offerings I never got trained upfront. Maybe I should have, but I'm frustrated now with your product. You don't really have my attention now, and I only know how to do the basics with your product, so I might buy your competitors product down the road
4 We can make our customer onboarding more efficient and improve productivity with standard contract terms that make it easier for us to manage internally Your process created a lot internal challenges for me, and really got the relationship off to a rough start. Your product works well, but for my senior team, their only interaction with you was during negotiation and onboarding and they still remind me of it. They compare you to other, more flexible vendors. It makes my job harder.

What are some specific actions you can take that support a more Customer Engaged approach?

In example #1 above, opening a new channel that is in line with your customer's needs would increase engagement with customers and also drive a lower effort interaction that will increase loyalty. So if you know your customer demographics skew younger, opening a chat channel will likely do the trick. For example, in #3 above there is a huge opportunity to enhance training to better enable the customer in the early stages of the relationship and help use advanced functionality of your products. The cost of the advanced training will be small compared to the cost of acquiring a new customer.

How do you validate these actions, and understand what the customer really wants?

Too many decisions are made without getting external customer input. In today's business world, whether you are B2C or B2B, there is a tendency to work strictly from an "Inside - Out" viewpoint where you focus on views around efficiency, internal effectiveness and productivity.

Does your customer ask you for internal productivity metrics? Not likely. They care about a few simple things - price, quality, timeliness and ease of doing business. Do you understand how engaged your customers are with your organization? You need to, because it's no longer acceptable to defer that responsibility to Corporate Marketing. As an operations or technology leader, you need direct customer input to develop the right process and systems infrastructure. That's why you see more and more Customer Experience programs being launched, with a focus on better delivering the experience the customer wants.

Take a look at what you are monitoring

Are you focused on CX at specific interactions at the point of purchase and/or customer service transactions? That's what most companies that start a CX program do first. It's a start, but you'll have trouble getting to the root cause without a broader approach. Analysis built around the obvious customer touchpoints will focus on how you did at a specific touchpoint, but not drive the organizational understanding to determine if that's the right touchpoint to analyze.

Sales and Customer Service are critical, of course, but you've also got to move beyond those obvious areas and understand everyone in the company that interacts with the customer. Your customers deal with delivery, training, legal, procurement, scheduling, technicians, partners, billing, renewals, disposals, etc. and those interactions may be the most important to a positive customer experience and a long term relationship.

There is so much work happening now around journey mapping and creating customer personas, and that's a great thing to begin to understand your customer's perspective. Be careful not to do these in a vacuum. If you are sitting in a room with a bunch of smart internal people and projecting your viewpoints and perception to a persona to develop a customer's perspective based on the data you currently collect, I'm nervous for you. How do you know the data you are collecting is adequate to do root cause analysis? Do you understand the holistic customer journey, or just what happens at the transactional touchpoints?

So how do you know what they want? You can start by asking them - in a coordinated, thoughtful and systemic way. You can also study the journey you take your customer on. There are significant studies, including a compelling read from the Harvard Business Review ("The Truth About Customer Experience, September 2013), that discusses why managing the holistic customer journey is the key to long term customer success.

There is too much being invested in time, technology and research to not take one more step and actually talk to your customers. They will tell you exactly what they want, and how they want it. Then you can invest your valuable capital (human and $$) in improvements that are meaningful to your customers. And you can avoid investing in processes that don't deliver long term value to the customer's experience.

That should get you started. Okay, get started!

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