Competition for customers is more intense today than ever before, and companies struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition. Our research repeatedly finds that customer experience is a key differentiator. Our research into next-generation customer engagement said the impetus for improving vr_NGCE_Research_01_impetus_for_improving_engagementengagement is to improve the customer experience in almost three quarters (74%) of participants. One increasingly popular way to do this is to use customer journey maps, which show how companies plan to engage with customers: at what times, through which channels, at which touch points and with which business units or using which self-service technologies. Our benchmark research into customer relationship maturity shows that two-thirds (67%) of very customer-focused companies use customer journey maps. The top four uses are to develop more customer-focused employee training (by 78%), personalize customer experiences (76%), enhance customer experience processes (73%) and drill down on customer experience processes to the customer segment level (73%). Typically producing these maps has been a manual process, perhaps using process mapping tools; in these cases few companies were able to capture and visualize actual journeys. However, as more business units engage with customers and companies deploy multiple channels of engagement – including self-service – improving the customer experience and mapping the customer journey become more complex, and to keep up companies have to invest in processes and tools that help them automate the process of producing maps and capture data about and visualize actual customer journeys.

I covered details of this complexity in my review of lessons learned during 2014. I recommend thinking of the customer journey in four dimensions:

  1. Customer business journey. Customers go through a series of steps in evaluating and using new products and services. It begins with learning about them (often by perusing marketing campaigns, searching the Internet and getting word-of-mouth recommendations), then purchasing those they select, beginning to use them, which might require some initial support, and accessing ongoing customer service. Satisfied customers are likely to repeat the process and provide opportunities for upselling and further purchases. Our benchmark research into recurring revenue shows that this journey has become more complex as more companies move from one-off sales to providing ongoing, Internet-based services – for example, software vendors providing cloud-based rental of applications rather than licensing on-premises products. The customer business journey thus complicates the relationship between marketing, sales, customer service, finance and HR departments and requires processes that flow across business unit boundaries, sharing of customer data, information and metrics, and collaboration between everyone involved.
  2. Customer engagement journey. This often is what is called “the customer journey”; it seeks to map the channels and touch points that prospects and customers use to engage with companies. To do this companies need to understand every point of engagement, how people travel across channels to achieve their objectives, and the outcomes of interactions. To understand them requires capturing every interaction on every channel, business outcomes (Did the customer make a purchase?) and the customer’s emotional state during and after each interaction.
  3. Internal business journey. Most companies are organized into separate business units. These often have their own processes, systems and metrics, and typically each deals with prospects and customers at different points in the customer business journey – in isolation from the other business units. To ensure consistency of the customer experience, companies should develop and share a single view of customers and ensure that decisions and actions are based on that common view; they also should take into account the likely impacts of those decisions and actions on other points in the business journey.
  4. Product and service journey. Most companies have multiple products and services; some are simple and some complex. Prospects and customers therefore engage with companies in different ways and channels, depending on the product or service. Companies therefore have to consider all the above journeys for each product or service.

Managing the complexity of the customer journey in all its facets vr_Customer_Analytics_02_drivers_for_new_customer_analyticsrequires specialist tools. Our research into next-generation customer analytics shows that to manage this complexity a majority are turning to customer analytics to improve the customer experience (63%), their customer service strategy (57%) and the outcomes of interactions (51%). Analytics requires data, and the research finds difficulty here; nearly two-thirds (63%) said that the data they require is not readily available, and almost half spend most of their time preparing data (47%) and  reviewing data for quality (43%). This is a serious impediment to mapping the customer engagement journey, which requires capturing data from multiple communication systems (including the telephone, email and Web servers, mobile phones and social media), having processes and systems that can link transactions from one communication system to the others, and visualizing the outputs in graphic forms that are easy to understand. The outputs should clearly show the business outcomes of journeys, such as whether a customer renewed a contract. Indeed outcomes enable organizations to identify weaknesses in existing journey processes and guide them to improve future interactions.

Data also plays a key role in the customer and internal business journeys. Typically it is captured and stored in a variety of business applications such as CRM, ERP, customer feedback, billing and others. To produce a complete view of the customer, including the individual’s emotional state and likely next actions requires the use of systems that can extract data from all these systems, rationalize it and produce analysis and dashboards in forms suitable for different users.

The ultimate goal should be to combine all these sets of data into a single view of the customer. Where possible the systems should work in real or near real time so all users make decisions based on the most up-to-date information as when vr_Customer_Analytics_03_key_benefits_of_customer_analyticsa contact center agent is asked for the status of a promised delivery. Furthermore the systems should support access to information on mobile devices to enable employees away from their desks to be notified of issues needing immediate action. Our research shows that getting it right can deliver real benefits; chief among them are improved customer experiences (55%), better analysis of the business (52%) and better alignment across the organization (51%). Companies long have talked about having a “360-degree of the customer,” and new systems that can process structured and unstructured data now make it possible to produce such a view. Some of these tools use speech and text analytics to better understand the customers’ emotional states and anticipate their next actions. New systems that can capture all interaction data and combine this with business data make it possible to map actual rather than hypothetical customer journeys and provide analysis that guides companies to improve processes and training and through it future experiences. Tools that manage customer experience and journey maps are available from a variety of vendors. I recommend comparing these systems and choosing the one that best enables your organization to start mapping its customers’ journeys.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Verint entered the enterprise market for customer feedback management when it acquired Vovici in August 2011. Since then the Vovici products have been integrated into Verint’s Customer Engagement Optimization suite, which includes products originally developed by Verint and Kana, which it also acquired. The current suite supports a range of capabilities that Verint groups into three categories: customer analytics (various types of analytics and Enterprise Feedback Management), customer engagement (which is largely the Kana products that support the agent desktop, email, chat and co-browsing, knowledge and case management, and Web-based self-service) and workforce optimization (quality monitoring, workforce management, desktop and process analytics, performance management and e-learning and coaching). Having this broad array of capabilities allows Verint to support a closed-loop approach to customer feedback and connect it to the processes with which to identify issues raised through feedback and take action to improve (through process change, training and coaching, for example).

Verint Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) supports the end-to-end feedback process and includes:

  • Multichannel surveying for capturing customer input across telephone, email, Web and mobile channels.
  • Panel management for organizing groups of customers to actively participate in surveys.
  • Built-in case management to open cases automatically based on survey responses, speeding action to help resolve customer issues.
  • Real-time analytics, dashboards and reporting to help users quickly understand customer sentiment, detect trends and rising issues, and share information across the enterprise.

The latest release of this product enhances many of these areas. Enhancements to the design tools make it easier for users to design customer-friendly surveys and enable designers to build surveys using corporate branding styles and content. Others reflect the trend for mobile surveys, making it easier to vr_cfm_who_takes_action_on_customer_feedbackdesign SMS-based surveys suited to delivery on smartphones; advanced capabilities help set up and run SMS campaigns to selected groups of customers, and specific analysis and dashboards can assess the success of such campaigns. Richer analysis and reporting capabilities are linked with case management to help drive actions based on surveys, and other features make it easier to distribute reports and analysis to relevant users, thus ensuring they have consistent information available in formats that meet their needs. To enable this, EFM includes capabilities to build a model of the organizational hierarchy, along with rules that define who gets what reports and analysis. Our benchmark research into customer feedback management suggests that these two capabilities will be of interest to companies, since the most popular option (selected by 38% of participants) to ensure that action is taken on feedback is to distribute responsibility across the organization. Verint EFM allows organizations to automate more of this process and help facilitate that appropriate action is taken by the most qualified group.

vr_cfm_benefits_of_capturing_customer_feedbackOur customer-related research shows that managing the customer experience is now the top priority for many companies. It goes without saying that if you don’t understand the experiences customers have during interactions, it will be impossible to take action to improve them; thus collecting customer feedback through multiple channels is the foundation for improving the customer experience. Our feedback management research shows that companies that collect and analyze feedback realize a range of benefits that impact the whole organization, most prominently improving customer satisfaction and loyalty (cited by 65%), being able to improve products and services (45%) and institute more focused training and coaching (44%). To achieve such benefits, we advise companies to take an enterprise-wide approach so that decisions and actions are not taken in isolation; doing so with incomplete knowledge can have negative effects on customer satisfaction and the customer experience. The Verint Customer Engagement Optimization suite supports such an approach, and I believe the new enterprise hierarchy capabilities will make it easier for companies to share information across the organization and make sure the most appropriate person takes action. I recommend that companies seeking to improve the customer experience examine how these capabilities can support such efforts.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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