Customer Experience Intelligence Inspires Innovation


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Customer intelligence is a source of insight and inspiration for innovation in marketing and loyalty programs, as well as operational efficiency and effectiveness. What is UN-intelligent is the unhealthy tension caused by different interpretations of “customer intelligence” and “customer experience” that creates a battleground marketers and voice-of-the-customer managers. To do best by customers, as well as shareholder value and employee morale, intelligent management of customer intelligence requires just that: truly balancing well-being of customers, shareholders, and employees in harmony. This is how to maximize innovations and their value in all aspects of efficiency, effectiveness, and growth.

What’s the Customer Intelligence Battleground?

  1. Marketers and loyalty managers inherently see their role as influencing the behavior of customers.
    • They generally entice customers to behave in ways that help the company grow revenue.
    • Digital body language, purchasing patterns, social engagement, word-of-mouth, personalization, touch-point monitoring, and predictive analytics are important customer intelligence tools for marketing and loyalty.
    • The aim is customer engagement as an extension of the company’s sales force.
    • It’s largely about doing things to customers for the company’s (shareholders’) well-being.
  2. Voice-of-the-customer managers see their role as influencing the behavior of the company.
    • They enable customers to have a voice in helping the company be better for customers’ well-being.
    • Complaints, constructive comments, low ratings, lost sales, and internal performance of “moments of truth” are important customer intelligence tools for voice-of-the-customer.
    • The aim is employee engagement in resolving, preventing recurrence, and anticipating occurrence of customers’ hassles.
    • It’s ultimately for the same purpose: revenue and the bottom line.
  3. The mis-match of intentions and methods damages employee morale and wise use of precious resources, and thwarts customer experience excellence and ROI.
    • Struggles for political clout, access to C-team sponsors, and dilution of trust and accountability (internally and externally) are common results of the mis-match.
    • The effort that’s less painful often gets the upper-hand. This means that voice-of-the-customer gets short shrift (less attention) and struggles even more than the marketers do to prove business results.
    • All of this is in opposition to each party’s purpose and goals.

Context is King
Who’s right? Who wins? The company wins when the customer wins, and vice versa. There’s a system at-play. The system runs on customers’ inclination to buy. Without that, it fails absolutely. What causes customers to decide not to buy is dissatisfaction: missed expectations. As long as customers have an inclination to buy, then it is a matter of aligning opportunity and timing. When this gets turned around, it’s like the tail wagging the dog.

Context of customer experience in its broadest definition — not just at a moment in time — is the guiding principle for optimizing resource use and well-being all-around.

Keep in mind how you feel as a customer. Your experience with a provider is a bundle. It’s the product, the service, the personnel, the place, the aura, the policies, the processes, the business model, the interactions, the information, the fun, the not-so-fun — all wrapped up together.

Everything everyone in the company does should be done within the context of the customer experience. If so, then waste is minimized as we focus on what customers value and do it in the way they value it. If so, then the whole customer experience bundle is fine-tuned for a smooth fit that delights customers and inspires them to help us.

Customer Experience Intelligence
The point of customer experience (CX) intelligence is to optimize everyone’s well-being in harmony. As such, it’s holistic. It connects the dots from end-to-end. It connects all stakeholders’ interests. It unifies the perspective of all managers. It connects customers’ views, behaviors, and outcomes with the company’s behaviors and outcomes. And by doing this, customer experience intelligence inspires innovation by everyone company-wide — within the highest-impact context, as described above.

The gap between CX intelligence and current practices in customer intelligence can be summed up in one word: silos.

  • Data: Customer care intelligence is about customer service. Marketing intelligence is about customer acquisition. Loyalty intelligence is about customer retention. Touch-point intelligence is about interactions. Voice-of-the-customer intelligence is about ratings. And so forth. We rarely combine all this intelligence to be fully intelligent.
  • Customers: Monitoring of customer behavior and opinions is typically limited to whoever is interacting with the company. Particularly in B2B, there are multiple people influencing buying decisions. Are we minimizing uncertainty and maximizing predictability of buying decisions by keeping a pulse on all buying decision influencers?
  • Departments: Customer research conducted by the R&D department and by the branding department is rarely shared. Division A or Region B may have conducted research that nobody thinks about sharing across the company for everyone’s collective intelligence.
  • Awareness: Accessibility of customer intelligence is typically limited to managers and employees on the front-line. To what degree are we enabling marketplace agility by empowering all departments company-wide with intelligence about customer experience patterns? Are we setting up innovation synergies by encouraging all employees, regardless of rank or function, to innovate “the bundle”?

We are likely leaving a lot of money on the table, so to speak, by sub-optimizing customer experience intelligence.

In Temkin Group’s 2013 State of Voice of the Customer Programs report, 7% of companies said they are in the early stages of VoC development. 37% are simply busy collecting VoC. 37% are busy with number-crunching. 16% tailor VoC to meet the needs of specific organizations’ improvement efforts. Only 4% of companies link VoC into most of the company’s processes for cross-organizational improvements and decisions.

These statistics were similar among B2B companies in the ClearAction Customer Experience Management Best Practices study, with only 4% of companies poised to transform customer experience through cross-functional improvements, and 46% going beyond data-crunching. “Connecting the dots” to overcome silos is practiced by about a third of companies, as shown below:
Customer Experience Intelligence

Customer Experience ROI Building Blocks
We noted these gaps in our 4-year study of customer experience management practices. That prompted us to innovate by creating a customer experience maturity assessment that emphasizes what’s needed to “move the needle” in sustaining CX return on investment (ROI).

Stepping stones within the Customer Experience Intelligence building block include:

  • Establish a holistic view: overcoming the silos listed above.
  • Identify patterns: making intelligence out of data by interpreting correlations, trends, patterns and causes.
  • Characterize by customer experience: defining customers by what they are “trying to get done”.
  • Enable proactive management: coordinating real-time intelligence and anticipating customers’ needs.

If it’s not inspiring improvement and innovation in the customer experience, then what is the value of customer intelligence? The most intelligent organizations are overcoming battlegrounds and silos to maximize their return on customer intelligence. They’re insisting on the “dog wagging the tail” by instilling customer experience context for all actions and decisions company-wide. They’re applying customer intelligence to innovate the full customer experience “bundle”. And they’re equipping organizational learning by sharing, showing actionable patterns, focusing on what customers are trying to get done, and being proactive in enabling customers to love the company.

This article is 5th in a 10-part series providing glimpses into the ClearCXTM customer experience maturity assessment.

  1. Customer Experience Maturity Roadmap
  2. Customer Experience Strategy is Uncommon
  3. Customer-Centricity is Controversial
  4. Comments are Customer Experience Gold

Contact the author, Lynn Hunsaker, to find out how to customize these practices to your situation.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Lynn Hunsaker

Lynn Hunsaker is 1 of 5 CustomerThink Hall of Fame authors. She built CX maturity via customer experience, strategic planning, quality, and marketing roles at Applied Materials and Sonoco. She was a CXPA board member and SVAMA president, taught 25 college courses, and authored 6 CXM studies and many CXM handbooks and courses. Her specialties are B2B, silos, customer-centric business and marketing, engaging C-Suite and non-customer-facing groups in CX, leading indicators, ROI, maturity. CX leaders in 50+ countries benefit from her self-paced e-consulting: Masterminds, Value Exchange, and more.


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