Advice for 2015: Think journey, not process
This article originally appeared in CRM Magazine (January 2015).
Access the issue by clicking the cover image or link above.
The smartest companies this year will put customer-centric talk into action. Tremendous momentum has been building on this topic and now it’s time to implement. 2015 will be the year of markedly improving customer experience.
How will the most efficient companies do this? By truly understanding the customer journey, they can leverage CRM and its add-on applications to drive and support positive interactions from the first impression through repeat sales and services.
It seems a bit outrageous that recent industry articles and conference discussions have proposed the “death of CRM” and questioned whether CRM technology has evolved sufficiently in the past couple of years to support today’s instant-service business environments. We can’t see anything further from the truth.
Those who claim that CRM software has failed will likely point to examples where it was implemented at the departmental level only. These are perhaps lost battles in a larger war, but not full-scale failures. Perhaps if these same companies had embraced CRM as an organization-wide solution meant to support the whole customer relationship, the outcomes could have been celebrated.
Develop an Outside-In Perspective
Delivering the sort of experience that wins, satisfies, and retains chosen customers better than the competition cannot be left to chance; it has to be the result of purposeful design. Companies need to turn themselves inside out with everything starting from the customer perspective. It’s a difficult but exceedingly worthy exercise. Understand the customer journey first. And then, put processes and people in place to support it.
2015 New Year’s Resolutions to improve customer experience:
- We will centralize all things customer in CRM. To build the elusive “single view of the customer,” there needs to be a hub for customer data. CRM is the best candidate for the job. It must become the system of record for anything relating to the customer with other systems acting merely as feeds or carrying out specialist functions. For example, surveys at key points in the journey will help you see more clearly through your customers’ eyes to continually improve performance. But again, those survey responses must integrate back to CRM to enrich the single view of the customer.
- We will honor the customer journey, not the CRM process. Many organizations still take a process-driven approach to CRM, but this may not be the best experience for your customers. Insist that the customer journey shapes how CRM is implemented and what processes are developed. Define all customer-facing interaction points and strive to improve them by envisaging them from the buyer’s perspective. Be able to answer tough questions such as, “What matters most to the customer at this particular touchpoint?”
- Customer experience is our strategy to beat the competition. The growth of customer experience initiatives across industries is forcing companies to act outside-in. If your competition is doing it and you’re not, expect a rough road ahead. However, if you commit to these resolutions now, you’ll be well positioned to continue to attract and retain the right customers (i.e., those who will buy not just once but on multiple occasions and promote you via social media).
We wish you the best of luck this year taking an outside-in approach to customer experience. Keep in mind that a winning experience goes beyond just helping you earn and retain customers; it will also have a massive impact on keeping employees happy. Carefully designed customer journeys (and CRM processes to support them) make it easier for both parties to play nicely. With all customer information and feedback in CRM, your business becomes a well-oiled machine for generating loyal, long-term customers.