Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What Does the Future of #CX Look Like?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I'm already seeing it: people are starting to talk and write about customer experience trends for 2019. 

It's only the start of Q4! We haven't even made it through 2018 yet! Still lots of time to make things happen. (Right?!)

Regardless, I'm not big on talking about customer experience trends for the new year any more. I have in the past, but I gave up a couple years ago.

Why?

Because I'm finding that a lot of companies are still trying to figure out the basics. Sadly.

They can't begin to focus on omnichannel, digital, personalization, AI, AR, and VR, oh my, when they can't even get their executives to commit to putting customers at the top of the priority list (right after employees, of course).

So, when I'm asked about customer experience trends for the next year and what customer experience strategies will look like, I say it's a bit like this:


You know that episode! Lucy and Ethel struggled to keep up with the chocolates on the conveyor belt and ended up using whatever was at their disposal to catch the chocolates and keep them from over-running the conveyor.

Unfortunately, that's where a lot of brands sit today: trying to keep up - if they're even focusing on the chocolates, er, customer experience. Innovation isn't even in their vocabulary.

In a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized, customer experience is the only true differentiator. That means that brands need to fight to stay relevant yet  truly struggle to not get Blockbuster'd. It means that brands need to shift the focus onto the customer - and on keeping the customer.

So the trends I'm focusing on for next year are really the same as this year (and last year, and the year before that, and... ): ensuring that companies successfully design and deliver a better customer experience by first having several foundational elements in place.

First and foremost, there must be CEO and executive commitment for the work that lies ahead; without that, the transformation journey ends pretty quickly. Beyond that, there must be a well-defined customer experience vision and strategy, a governance structure to provide guidelines and oversight for the work ahead, a focus on improving the employee experience along with recognition that employees drive the customer experience, and a people-first culture. And finally, companies must take the time to understand both employees and customers, act on what they learn and embrace outside-in thinking, weaving the customer and her perspective into all they do.

Where to begin? With customer understanding.
  • It feeds the customer experience strategy
  • It is the cornerstone of customer-centricity, and 
  • Quite simply, without it, you cannot put the "customer" into customer experience.
Without doing the work to understand your customers, your customer experience strategy will fall flat and fail to outline a plan to deliver an experience that not only meets your customers’ needs but may also delight them.

What does the future of customer experience look like? Good question. No one really knows. What we do know is that companies have their work cut out for them. And until then... customer experience professionals must continue to fight the good fight, helping executives understand the importance of putting customers at the center of all they do.

As I mentioned a couple years ago, going forward, let's not make predictions; let's make resolutions. And stick to them!

The trend that should definitely die is following trends. -Kemp Muhl

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Customer Experience and Customer Success: What's the Difference?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Time to tackle another differentiation!

Last week, I once again tackled the topic of the differences between customer experience and customer service. This week, I'm going to see if I can do justice to the differences between customer experience and customer success.

Controversial? Yes. I think there's controversy when trying to delineate customer experience with customer service, but the conversations become a bit more heated when it comes to customer experience and customer success.

Regardless, let me preface this post by saying: as long as we all work toward a common goal, as long as we all try to do what's right for the customer, it's all good!

So, let's start with defining customer experience again:

Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions.

What is customer success?

I have always defined it as ensuring that customers get the value they expected out of the products they purchased, that they achieve their desired outcomes. The business outcome is retention. I have typically associated customer success as a B2B endeavor, specifically B2B technology customers.

I did a little homework and came up with the following definitions from the customer success experts.

Lincoln Murphy, who wrote Customer Success: The Definitive Guide, defines it as follows: Customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company.

I wasn't too far off, but I wanted to keep looking.

Gainsight defines it as: The business methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product or service. Customer Success is relationship-focused client management, that aligns client and vendor goals for mutually beneficial outcomes. Effective Customer Success strategy typically results in decreased customer churn and increased upsell opportunities.

I found this on Wikipedia: Customer success is the function at a company responsible for managing the relationship between a vendor and its customers. The goal of customer success is to make the customer as successful as possible, which in turn, improves customer lifetime value (CLTV) for the company.

Todd Eby of SuccessHacker says: At its heart, customer success is about understanding why your customer hired you, what are they attempting to achieve and then doing all that you can to help them achieve that.

Mindtouch says customer success encompasses the ongoing efforts of an organization to continue delivering value to its customers. A good customer success program aims to deliver value throughout every step of the customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-sale and beyond. This can include (but isn’t limited to) onboarding, product training, customer service and support.

Starting to see a pattern? Yes. Customer success is rooted in companies delivering value and customers achieving their desired outcomes. Guess what? So is customer experience. One more...

The Customer Success Association defines customer success as: a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven value.

Um...

So, I then took a look at some of the ways people differentiated customer experience and customer success.

Helpshift noted that customer success is just one part of customer experience, and includes a longer description of the differentiation, which you can find here, but the key part is summarized at the end of their article: The real key to a phenomenal customer experience is a company-wide, top-down philosophy on what the result of the customer journey should be. It’s not enough to just have good CSAT; you want your customers to have an overall positive association with your brand as a whole. Customer success is just one part of this macro vision of the customer.

Sue Duris of M4 believes that the two will converge, but until then notes that customer experience is strategic, while customer success is transactional and product-centric.

This one is interesting. The Future of CIO blog differentiated between customer experience, customer service, and customer success as follows: Customer service is reactive, available when customers need it, in the channel when customers want it. Customer experience needs to be interactive, to delight customers in every touch point. Customer success is proactive, identifying ways to help customers gain value from the product or service you provide. Customer Experience is the broad umbrella that you deliver from purchase throughout the full "journey." Customers need all of these areas to be a focus of the business if you want them to continue to buy and recommend your products/services to others.

ChurnZero differentiates the two by saying that customer experience is focused on the overall impression a customer has, while customer success is focused on the end results (or lack thereof) of those interactions.

***

I've read a lot of articles about customer success in the last few days, and the lines between customer success and customer experience are blurred by many; some don't even come close. There are differences, but it seems fuzzy, for sure. Here's how I've boiled it down.

Customer success is:
  • B2B
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Account focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Retention/repurchase focused
  • Tactical in the scheme of things, but strategic as it relates to the account
  • One part of the equation, a subset of customer experience
Customer experience is:
  • B2B and B2C
  • People focused: employees and customers
  • Culture based/driven
  • Design focused - design products that deliver value, help customers achieve their desired outcomes
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Business outcomes focused
  • Emotions, feelings, perceptions
  • Strategic, enterprise-wide
Makes me question if the customer success role/discipline is really necessary. What do you think? Customer experience is the umbrella. Get the experience right - listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, innovate, and design and deliver a better experience - and customer success management becomes obsolete, no? After all... it's all about the customer.

Make everyone think about things from the customer’s perspective. -Mike Grafham


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Customer Experience and Customer Service: What's the Difference?

Image courtesy of CXPA
It's that time of year again...

This week, we are celebrating CX Day and Customer Service Week. I love that they land on the calendar at the same time, and yet, let's just keep adding to the confusion!

I've written about the differences before:

Customer Experience is More Than Just Customer Service
Customer Service or Customer Experience
Customer Experience Isn't Just about Customer Service

Looks like I need to get more creative with my blog post titles!

Anyway, here's how I define them.

Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions.

Customer service is one of those interactions or a type of interaction.

And most of you probably already know how I like to differentiate, thanks to Chris Zane of Zane’s Cycles: Customer service is what happens when the customer experience breaks down.

(Am I the only one who sees the irony in the fact that customer experience has one day in the midst of a week of customer service celebrations. By definition, it should be the other way around!)

I thought I'd scour the web to see how others have defined the differences. Here's what I found.

In her recent blog post, Debbie Laskey asked Bill Quiseng to differentiate the two. Bill's response: 
Customer service is all about what you do for a customer. But, customer experience is all about how the customer feels about your company. It’s not only how the customer feels about your service, but also how he feels about every aspect of your company, from the ease of navigation on your website to the simplicity of understanding the final invoice, and literally every sensory touchpoint in between. In today’s very competitive marketplace, great customer service merely gets you into the game. Great customer experience makes you a winner.

In an HBR article, Disney Institute differentiated the two as follows: Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company. This can include everything from a customer’s initial awareness or discovery of a company, product, or service and progressing through the purchase and use of those products or services. Together these all add up to the critical moments - the touch points - that create an organization’s overall customer experience. Customer experience moves us beyond the traditional definition of customer service - those individual moments when employees are providing direct service to customers. It is also about the bigger picture of what happens before and after these service interactions.

Ameyo provided this differentiation in an article from last year: Customer service and customer experience are not that far apart. In fact, customer service is only one part of the overall experience. Customer service is reactive - it only comes into play when a dissatisfied customer contacts the company. The business can only take action once something goes wrong, and not beforehand. Customer experience, on the other hand, is proactive - a business can take action to optimize the customer journey before the customer becomes dissatisfied. Customer experience is a holistic approach that goes beyond customer service and takes into account the overall customer journey by building long term relationships with customers.

Gartner noted that customer service can significantly impact the customer’s perspective of overall experience but added that they both have a shared outcome: customer loyalty. To differentiate, they added: Customer service works to make it easy for customers to resolve specific issues. The challenge of customer experience is to inject that same ease across all the cumulative interactions the customer has with the organization over time.

Maximizer differentiated the two as follows: Put simply, customer service is assisting customers and meeting their needs. It helps to shape the overall customer experience but doesn’t fully define it. Customer experience includes a customer’s perception of a company, a customer’s interactions with a company and a customer’s recollection of that entire process, from start to finish, at all touch points.

In a nutshell, HelpScout defined each as follows: Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed. Customer experience, or CX, refers to the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business.

In their article outlining the difference between the two, Genesys writes that customer service will continue to be an integral part of a much broader and strategic practice of customer experience. In its simplest terms, customer experience is strategic - a holistic view that connects all the dots of each event. It dives deeply into solving the root cause of an issue, bridges organizational silos, and helps to drive clearer business strategies. Look across the customer experience from the customer’s perspective and across all touchpoints. It’s a smarter way to do business.

I could go on and on. The interesting thing is that there have now been a ton of articles written about the differences - and yet, people still use the terms interchangeably.

Why is it important to differentiate? Think about "potato" and "tomato?" Sound similar. Look similar. But they are very different, right? You wouldn't want to use them interchangeably in a recipe, would you?

Yea, I didn't think so.

Well, the same goes for customer experience and customer service. One is proactive; one is reactive. One is about the entire relationship, while the other is a point in time.

They have distinct meanings. They require different skills. They are not one and the same.

Spread the word.

I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap. -Ani DiFranco