Many clients ask me how to stay relevant and win in the ever-changing landscape of the digital economy. How do you not only keep up but – more importantly – how do you keep navigating these waters constantly in motion? Those are the questions I hear from many business professionals I meet. Experience management programs are certainly a key factor to succeed – that cannot be stressed enough.
Many of my clients are growing companies focused on strengthening their network and expanding their presence who often believe they’re providing a superior experience since they are putting so much effort into their growth. The reality is their customers and employees may disagree. This “experience gap” is a known fact: according to Salary.com, 81% of executives believe their employees would recommend their company as a great place to work, but only 38% of employees agree. Bain & Co. found out in 2005 that 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8% of customers agree. This disconnect has far-reaching consequences – companies can lose customer and employee loyalty because they don’t know how their key stakeholders are truly feeling.
Experience management is a new area of focus that provides the missing link: understanding the experience gap between companies and employees/customers and using that knowledge to excel.
What if your customers had to keep describing their issues repeatedly because your service agents didn’t know the customers’ purchase history? What if you kept receiving negative feedback about a newly launched product, without ever knowing what motivates such feedback? If you don’t know what is happening within your business and why, you will not be able to improve your business outcomes.
In my 20 years as a consulting professional, I occasionally see a customer who has purchased a license but doesn’t know what to do with it. My role is to help that customer build a program using their new license without suggesting more technical purchases. I suggest starting by defining a solid strategy for their business, discovering a pragmatic middle ground where the customer can capture a sizable portion of their business within one journey and address their challenges with their new program.
To keep being relevant in the experience economy, start by listening to your customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders… then act to fundamentally improve those key experiences that drive their loyalty and ultimately your business growth. In order to do that, you need to find innovative solutions that allow you to continuously collect the feedback, or as we call it “the experience data,” or X-data. Your ideal technology will then automatically integrate this X-data with the operational data (or O-data) that is otherwise available in your business systems. O-data alone only indicates where companies are falling short, such as overly long sales cycles or shrinking deal close rates. However, diagnosing the root cause of these problems is typically a time-consuming, manual process, making it nearly impossible to analyze why something happened. Combining feedback from O-data and X-data in real time will provide accurate insights into key drivers that can differentiate your company from the competition.
Technology helps companies retain customers, improve products, increase the quality of their services, and otherwise enrich the customer experience. This happens with timely and accurate collections of statistics, data analysis and reporting, and display mechanisms such as dashboards. There are services that can assist you in each phase of the experience management lifecycle. You can find a preconfigured package that includes best practices, business process support, a proven technology foundation, and new integration with experience management solutions. A package like this can reduce the time and cost of typical deployments by as much as 70%.
Once you find a solution that works for you, you may want help with your experience management initiative to deliver quick results. There won’t be much time for a long pilot project, so consider finding a service that helps you deliver fast results by getting your program up and running. The key is to build a phased approach. I stress this to my customers: they will not be able to implement a complex program at once, rather in carefully planned phases.
For such an experience management program to be successful, it must give dedicated resources the authority to coordinate transformative actions based on the insights the program is generating. My clients often plan to let their marketing team absorb the new experience management program. I would argue that it’s a bit more complex than that. It does not necessarily mean that companies need to hire more employees; rather, their existing people need to be allowed to embody the critical skills for experience management. Organizational change is challenging, and you need people championing it, leading it, and analyzing it.
My customers often ask why their company is not “immediately” growing their sales after implementing the new program. My experience proves that success over the mid to long term is driven by your ability to build your program into your business processes every day. With this newly added layer of consumer data, where are the points where I will either impress my customer or disappoint them? How do I act on that feedback? How will I involve my business processes to address this feedback and move in the right direction?
Experience management has an immediate “inner loop” and a strategic “outer loop.” If a customer gives negative feedback to you, the inner loop prioritizes contacting them right away and apologizing, addressing concerns, and trying to win the customer back. The outer loop prioritizes strategy. This is where you look at data like demographics – is this the only person who complained? Are these complaints only from something specific? We look for trends and then adjust our training or schedules or design of the company. We make long-based systematic improvements based on the data received from the experience management program.
Your experience management initiative will change and expand to address new business problems and take advantage of emerging opportunities. You will be challenged to continually rethink your strategy and your day-to-day approach. Throughout the integration, building, and deployment of the solution, you will discover and enable innovative and effective ways to optimize and expand the return on investment from your initiative.
If you’re interested in learning more about how experience management can help your business inspire your customers and employees, please reach out to me at XM_CX_Services@sap.com.