Creating Your Branded Customer Experience
By Mariann McDonagh, Verint Systems,
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you are traveling far away
from your desk. Your to-do list is complete, your projects are current and
your calendar is clear for the week. You're on your way to the exclusive
Avocado Spa in Arizona.
Yesterday you packed your suitcase using the suggested packing list the
Avocado Spa sent, featuring customized suggestions based on the weather
forecast for the upcoming week and the specific activities you have
scheduled for your stay ' hiking, horseback riding and yoga. You head to the
airport with your luggage sporting the Avocado Spa logo tags that also
arrived in your pre-stay package.
When you arrive in Arizona, a limo driver with your name on an Avocado Spa
sign greets you and drives you to the resort, where you settle into your
suite for a relaxing week. The signature avocado appetizer is so delicious
that you request the recipe, and the avocado skin treatment leaves you
feeling refreshed. Your meals are all prepared with your favorite foods and
no worries about your allergies. Every staff member and instructor knows
your name and room number, and they are all courteous, helpful and genuinely
nice. The staff suggests new activities based on your personality, arranges
special luxuries and is truly concerned with your happiness.
After a blissful week, you return home to find a farewell package containing
fresh avocados and the recipes you requested. Each month, you receive an
e-mail newsletter suggesting healthy activities based on your preferences
during your stay and new recipes to try. You are already planning your visit
for next year, and the year after that.
Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?
It's obvious that the travel industry has made significant advances in the
development of the 'branded customer experience.' This is an environment
that is focused on gaining customer knowledge, fostering customer loyalty,
personalizing customer interactions, marketing to customers on a one-to-one
basis and improving the business process wherever it impacts and touches
customers. The most powerful impact of this experience is the feeling the
customer takes away ' absolute, unwavering commitment to maintaining his or
her relationship with a specific company.
The challenge is to carry the feel of this branded customer experience
throughout every part of your enterprise, no matter what product or service
you provide. The reality is that many areas of your organization cannot be
automated ' they require one-on-one communication with your most valuable
audience ' your customers. The key then is to use technology to enable the
people within an organization to provide this same type of experience when
they interact with your customers ' an experience that is personal,
customized, informed, intelligent, helpful and branded with your company's
So, how do you get there from here?
The keys to building a branded customer experience are as follows:
' Evaluate your current customer experience.
' First things first: make it predictable.
' Step it up: build momentum.
' It's all about the details: the branded customer experience.
Evaluate Your Current Customer Experience
The first step is to take a long, hard look at the current landscape through
which your customers now travel. This exercise will help you understand more
about your company and your customers, and it should clarify what your
customers value and what makes them feel valued when they interact with your
Ask yourself these questions about your company:
' What expectation does your brand set in terms of a service experience?
' What commitments does it make to customers?
' How important are these commitments to customers and how often do you meet
' Does your brand attract profitable customers?
' How often do you achieve customers' desired call or contact outcomes?
' How do you know?
Consider these questions about your customers:
' What do you know about your customers?
' Do you know what your customers value?
' How would they describe this?
' What characterizes your long-standing customers?
' What do they say?
' What attracted them to you?
' Do they believe you deliver on your promises?
' How do you know?
Next, evaluate your current customer experience to determine if your service
is random (the customer experience is left to chance) when it should be
intentional (customer experience is meticulously planned). You can gauge
your current experience and move your enterprise toward the branded customer
experience by focusing on five key elements: philosophy, people, process,
technology and measurement.
The type of customer experience you provide today will be most obvious in
the operational philosophy of your contact center. If the contact center
makes little or no effort to proactively determine the right customer
outcomes, then your customer experience is random. Are decisions based on
customers, call outcomes and adding value? Does management look at your
business from the top-down, or is the perspective from the outside in, as it
should be for a branded experience?
You'll find additional clues when you evaluate your people ' the structure
of your contact center staff and how they interact. In a random environment,
the contact center is based on a 'management and employees' culture, instead
of a 'coaching and teams' culture.
In a random environment, you'll find the processes of the contact center
focus on call handling, not customer handling. In addition, the design of
processes will be based on functional specialization, when they should be
based on customer demand, value and workflow.
Technology contributing to a random customer experience is disjointed or
inconsistent. Contact channels are not integrated, and as a result, vital
information flow is limited or nonexistent.
The final telling parameter can be found in the measurement metrics that
provide feedback on your current customer experiences. If your contact
center's measurement is based on budget, volumes and productivity, you'll
probably find there is limited information available on customer behavior
Many contact centers measure and monitor qualitative factors affecting their
performance, such as calls answered, calls abandoned, etc. However, none of
these measures matter to the customer. Measurement that supports a branded
customer experience should be related to call outcomes and adding value; in
other words, measurement metrics should be designed around the outcomes that
customers are trying to achieve when they contact your organization.
After reviewing the five key indicators, you should have a clear picture of
the customer experience your company is currently delivering. If you find
that you're providing your customers with a random experience, you are not
alone. Many companies are in the same position'their customers receive a
different experience every time they make contact. Acknowledging this is the
first step toward making a change.
First Things First: Make It Predictable
As you take steps to create a predictable experience, focus on facilitating
change using the five key elements identified above. Enable your center
management to develop a customer-centric philosophy and communicate a basic
strategy in terms of performance targets and quality standards. The same
team should focus on your people, developing performance objectives for
agents that broadly correlate to the outlined strategy. Make sure your
agents understand the new plan and are rewarded accordingly as they work for
the success of the enterprise.
It should now be possible to evolve your processes, because agent 'workload'
has been calculated, and schedules and forecasts reflect this. Emphasis on
queue and floor management techniques will support the agents in this
effort. This is also a good time to upgrade your technology. Your contact
center's key systems (including quality monitoring, customer experience and
performance management) should provide the contact center with powerful
analytics, easy-to-use management tools and accurate reporting.
The integration of technology is crucial at this point, because for too long
the contact center, its agents and management have been tasked with
improving interactions when, in fact, they have been powerless to resolve
many of the issues required for a successful call outcome. With integration
to other enterprise customer databases, departmental silos can be broken
down, so even a newly hired shipping clerk can get information that
identifies better ways to please customers.
Once this powerful technology is in place, it becomes possible to expand
your measurement metrics to provide true actionable intelligence based on
every customer interaction.
As these elements fall into place, your customers begin to feel they have
been serviced in the manner that meets their objectives.
Step It Up: Build Momentum
Now it's time to move into high gear and focus on fine-tuning your approach.
As you work to differentiate your organization's service, the customer
experience continues to change.
Your contact center managers, seeing the positive changes coming from their
efforts to stabilize customer outcomes, advance their philosophy by moving
beyond the basic strategy defined in step two and defining the desired
customer experience for your enterprise. This philosophy has been translated
into specific people deliverables: agents who are trained to have the
desired skills and behaviors.
Contact center processes can now focus on customer measures ' outcomes,
satisfaction and loyalty. Your technology is already in place, so now is the
time to be sure you are using it wisely to provide measurement tools for
analyzing customer behavior and the extent to which your organization is
meeting their needs.
Analysis of every customer contact creates alarms and alerts for red-flag
issues and provides vital new information about customers, their feelings
and intent. A powerful workflow engine should 'push' this valuable
information and trends to marketing, sales, service, product management,
finance, logistics or billing in a timely fashion. This actionable
intelligence can now drive enterprisewide, cross-functional process
improvement to facilitate an improved customer experience.
Now your customers recognize and enjoy the way in which service is
identify with it and feel confident in achieving their desired outcome.
It's All About The Details: The Branded Customer Experience
As you move into the final phase of developing a branded customer
experience, you'll realize it's all about the details. You now have all of
the elements in place to apply your corporate knowledge to every customer
interaction, letting your customers take away that feeling of familiarity
and contentment that the branded customer experience creates. Remember how
it felt to be an Avocado Spa customer?
Your contact center philosophy is now further extended to tailor service
propositions by individual or customer segments, and service is a brand
promise that you keep. Your people are brand managers, and you invest
significantly in training, coaching, performance management and
communications. These elements make motivation intrinsic within your
Your business processes are aligned cross-functionally so that service
delivery is consistent and intentional, almost always delivering on your
brand promise. On those rare occasions when your company fails to deliver
what the customer needs, you have an efficient system in place to handle
these issues and resolve them quickly.
Your company now relies on your technology to enable the branded customer
experience, because it is wholly designed around achieving customer outcomes
and provides the actionable intelligence to make a difference. You use this
intelligence to understand customer preferences and characteristics and
analyze them to anticipate future customer needs. You can foster continuous
improvement by using what you learn to customize products and services to
meet the ever-changing needs of your customers.
Now that have reached your goal, you track your success by measuring what
' Increase in valuable customer outcomes,
' Increase in customer satisfaction,
' Increase in customer retention,
' Increase in average revenue per customer,
' Improved and distinguished brand image, and
' Recognition of service excellence.
The end result of this effort is that you have transformed your company into
a customer-intelligent enterprise. You recognize that the value of your
company's present and future relationships with customers determines the
viability of the company. The real value of your company is reflected in the
loyalty of its customers, and your customers are now advocates who trust
your organization to deliver for them, every time.
Building a branded customer experience has become an enterprise initiative '
central to the core functions and success of your business. This revolution
fosters enterprisewide collaborative improvement fueled by actionable
intelligence that is driven by the voice of the customer. Truly listening to
what your customer interactions tell you enables your organization to use
technology and process to deliver better service, increase customer
satisfaction and loyalty, make better and faster decisions, and ultimately,
to enjoy increased revenues and profits.
Mariann McDonagh is vice president of global marketing for Verint Systems
(www.verint.com), a provider of analytic software solutions for
communications interception, digital video security and surveillance, and
enterprise business intelligence. Prior to joining the Verint team, McDonagh
was vice president of marketing at election.com, the world's leading
election technology and services provider.
For information and subscriptions, visit
www.TMCnet.com or call 203-852-6800.
[Return To The January 2004 Table Of Contents]