I attended the CRM Evolution 2014 conference in New York City this week. It was my first time attending the conference, so I was anxious to see how it would go.
The conference focused on customer engagement strategies and technology. There were also two other conferences sharing the same space, SpeechTek and Customer Service Experience, so there were opportunities to go to even more sessions.
This was a smaller conference with mostly senior level attendees. I really like these types of conferences because you have direct access to a lot of thought leaders and quite a few opportunities to chat with them.
Here’s a re-cap of some of the conference highlights along with links to additional resources.
You may want to start by familiarizing yourself with the conference if you didn’t attend.
Every conference seems to have a few themes that thread through the sessions, keynotes, and hallway discussions. Here are a few themes I observed:
There’s no doubt that the world of customer relationship management (CRM) is getting more complex.
One session I attended shared an impressive success story that came from simplifying complexity for both customers and agents.
The session was delivered by Eric McKirdy, Global Customer Care Manager at Ask.com. McKirdy and his team were able to reduce support ticket volume by 60 percent by presenting customers with a cleaner self-service interface:
Powered by Parature, their customer service software also gave agents a unified view of all the channels they were supporting so they only had to monitor one queue.
The unified queue is likely to be an important trend in the near future. According to ICMI, the average contact center agent uses five software programs to serve customers. This set up encourages unhealthy multitasking that can easily lead to service failures.
Focusing agents on just one queue allows them to focus more of their attention on solving issues for their customers.
New Approaches to Analytics
Customer service analytics and big data were hot topics, though there wasn’t a lot of agreement on best practices. (Maybe that’s a good thing?)
I attended two analyst panels where the panelists seemed downright angry about metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES). The main contention was these measures are frequently used incorrectly and there’s little value in them anyway.
Unfortunately, the analysts were short on clear opinions about what companies should be doing instead.
One session on analytics that was impressive was presented by Steven Ramirez, CEO of Beyond the Arc, Inc. Ramirez showed us how banks and other financial institutions are able to use social media complaints to predict complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Ramirez believes this concept can be applied in other industries too.
For example, let’s say a company launches a new product. Analyzing the volume and content of social media mentions about that product might alert the company to a potential defect before large numbers of consumers actually contact the company or return the product to the store.
The company can proactively respond to the problem by fixing the defect, bolstering customer service staff to handle increased volume, and re-engaging affected customers.
It’s definitely a concept worth investigating, especially for companies that typically receive a lot of social media mentions already.
What the Heck is Customer Engagement?
Customer engagement was a hot topic at the conference.
Stick the word “engagement” on the end of anything and it seems like people will all nod their head in agreement. Employee engagement, brand engagement, customer engagement, you name it. We need it and the analysts all agree its a good thing.
But what the heck is it? This is where there was little clarity.
Perhaps most telling was when a panel of CRM executives were asked to define the term. Four out of five either couldn’t or wouldn’t. Only George Wright, Senior VP and General Manager at Thunderhead.com offered a clear, concise definition.
Engagement is a positive, long-term relationship between a company and a customer.
Do you agree with this definition?
Whether or not you do, it seems clear that we can’t really know if customer engagement is important until we’re sure we know what customer engagement really is.