Creating an Authentic Customer Journey
Consumer centric, authentic, relevant, present, proactive, creepy…these are the buzzwords and concepts shared at the Argyle Customer Care Executive Forum in Chicago on May 7, 2015. I’ll get to creepy in a minute, but first let me share some viewpoints.
It’s no surprise to anyone, particularly to contact center experts, that our role in the customer journey is transforming, a truly exciting time but a bit uncharted and undiscovered. The advancement of technology and access for consumers to have a direct line of communication both at and to brands means we must fit into the lives of our consumer, not the other way around. Gone are the days when brands can dictate where, how, and when they want to speak to the consumer. The proverbial talking stick has been passed, or perhaps taken by the consumer. This shift is great as long as we in consumer engagement understand the rules. Don’t be fooled though, the rulebook changes every day and we must be ready to adapt.
At the forum, James Mylett from Comfort Systems USA stated, “Customers buy for THEIR reasons, not mine.” This perspective speaks to the consumer shift of power and the ways brands must be able to walk in the shoes (or heels) of the consumer. We need to understand what she wants, what she thinks, and why she wants to spend her time with us. This is a relationship with the consumer and one where loyalty is earned based on how we treat our partner.
Mike Glazik of Wilton Brands reminded us “loyalty shows not because you don’t have problems, but it’s how you handle those problems.” Let’s face it, the consumer journey isn’t all rainbows and butterflies – sometimes it’s going to rain, pour, or just plain suck. We all make mistakes and customer care has no exception. What’s important is that we acknowledge these as opportunities to remind the consumer that there are real live people behind those flashy logos. We care, we’re here, and we’re human – let’s call this authenticity. Being authentic isn’t how you do something, but it’s WHY you do it. Why do we have a certain return policy?, why do we use these particular ingredients?, why did I cancel your order by mistake (oops!)? Understand the WHY and you’re on the path to being an authentic and trusted brand.
By now I’m sure you’re asking “What about that creepy thing, Chris?” Let me explain. In this relationship with the consumer we must anticipate her needs. But it doesn’t stop there – we must be proactive to these needs, but not too proactive. For example, when Mrs. Customer phones into the contact center and tells you how awesome your product/service is and how it’s improved her life (yes, these calls do happen!) shouldn’t the person on the other end of that conversation (i.e. the Customer Service Representative) know that Mrs. Consumer called 3 months ago to get help setting up that same product/service? The answer is YES, they should and technology allows this to happen. Now the CSR has a choice to make, they know a ton about Mrs. Customer based on her profile in the CRM. How often she calls, emails, chats, and how many followers she has on twitter. “Mrs. Customer, I see yesterday you tweeted about our other product Y, do you have anything to share?” Ok, we just crossed the creepy line. Just because we know this information and it’s public doesn’t mean it’s the right time to engage. What’s important is our consistency of information and conversation as a brand with Mrs. Customer.
As Steve Adamson of Sears Holding Corporation pointed out “the continuity of the customer experience across channels is key!” Brands have one relationship with the consumer in THEIR eyes and we must see it this way. Regardless of her call, her tweet, or her chat, the same question should always get the same answer. If not, trust starts to break down, our authenticity is questioned, and we lose the loyal consumer we worked so hard to meet – it’s a break up.
Jim Becker with UnitedHealthcare summed up this transformation with four impactful concepts on which to build the customer roadmap:
1) Listen and learn from your customer
2) Prioritize and focus on value
3) Information architecture matters and
4) Move quickly, be nimble.
Enjoy the relationship with your customer and embrace the opportunity to be authentic…just don’t creep me out!