Return on Behavior Magazine
Home for marketing and customer service professionals

Customer Experience

September 26th, 2009

How to create a stable but dynamic Customer Environment


Evolution is the best proof for the fact that nothing is stable; constant change rules the world and constant changing customer requirements rule your business. 

Keeping up the pace in customers’ changing requirements is a tough issue for everyone.

Increasing competition forces companies to be absolutely up-to-speed in addressing and fulfilling the ever changing demands.

Increased competition, crowded markets with little product differentiation and years of constant sales growth, now followed by flattened sales curves indicate to today’s intelligent competitors that their focus must change. Rather than only assign resources to hunt down new customers, companies should try to boost customer loyalty and increase customer retention. For most of the companies this is a quite demanding and struggling process as multiple organizational aspects change and need to be managed.

>>You can control a lot of things, but not change…Or can you?

The difference between success and failure is simple - preparation. When the winds of change come blowing and you start to let coincidence be in charge that is where trouble begins. But if you take over control of the areas where it is possible, you start catching the wind instead.

To be able to listen “live” to the voice of your customers enables you to get an early warning about changing preferences and upcoming problems, giving you enough time to initiate appropriate actions.

>>So where do you start?

The problem companies face, however, is how to exactly do all of this and how to do it well. They need to understand how to quantify, measure, and track customer experiences. Without a clear and accurate sense of what needs to be measured and how to collect, analyze, and use data as a strategic weapon to drive the business, no company can be effective. The aim should be to find out what turns your customers into loyal customers - not really an easy task.

It is a fact that most companies rely on outdated or unreliable measures of customer loyalty. For example, they only observe sales volume or they listen to sales reps describing what they believe their customers feel. Maybe they even track and count the complaints from their customers. While these approaches are not without value, they are often biased and do not really measure what needs to be measured or just measure it the wrong way. Wrong information then leads to misinterpretations and distortions of the voice of your customers. The risk for taking the wrong initiatives increases. Static pictures drawn from once-in-a-time, incomprehensive and often biased customer surveys do not have the power to provide bullet-proof information about the dynamics in your customers’ demands. In the long run, there is no substitute for a valid, well-designed customer experience survey program embedded as a part of your daily business.

>>The following criteria are vital for a customer experience surveying program to be successful:

  • It has to be an on-going process to capture the dynamics of change
  • It must be easy to understand and interpret
  • It must be credible so that employees believe in the results
  • Performance and compensation must be attached to the results
  • It must generate actionable insights for management as well as employees

>>History has shown that market leaders in their respective industries have some things in common: they listen to the voice of their customer and achieve customer loyalty. Parameters they have in common are:

  • Marketing and sales divisions are primarily responsible for designing customer experience surveying programs
  • Top management and marketing divisions champion the programs
  • Results are made available to all employees
  • Internal and external quality measures are often tied together
  • Compensation is often tied directly to the customer experience surveying program
  • Measurement results are related to internal process metrics, too
  • Company evaluations include not only their own customer loyalty ratings but also those of their competitors

>>The following methodology can help you to achieve the wanted results.

The first step that should be taken is the identification and prioritization of the human touch points that encompass customer experience in your organization. It is essential to take a multidimensional approach to be able to draw a comprehensive picture that helps you to find out which areas are the most crucial ones for your business.

The second step is to find out about the characteristics of each of these touch points.  Given the fact that all touch points have different objectives, the overall aim should be to customize customer surveys that fit the different requirements to assure a high level of survey validity. Through that it will be possible to formulate questions that are more in-depth, hence are able to measure such abstract constituents that determine a “customer’s experience”.

After the first two steps have been accomplished, it is time to design an overall survey structure that is on-going and automated and that supplements your business processes at the defined touch points. Two factors are crucial to ensure maximum quality of the gained results.

  1. All customers should answer the surveys at the very time they make the experience with your company.
  2. Customers that answer your survey should be picked on a random basis, so that the final sample replicates the real situation.

When the survey-process finally started, the objective is to convert the gained information into valuable knowledge about your customers. To enhance this conversion process, it is especially important that the information is easy to understand and accessible for many players in the organization.  In this way, an optimal experience process can be established and put into your operational standards, internal branding, coaching reward or recognition programs to ensure that the wanted customer experience is sustained over time.

The results will help management to communicate a clearly defined and organizationally aligned strategy for an optimal customer experience. This in turn will lead customers from satisfied to loyal customers who ultimately through word of mouth become advocates for your company.

Moreover people will talk about the survey informally as well as formally, and your company can use this energy to maximize the results. With the right communication, the survey process can bring people together. In cooperation, common problems will be discussed, solutions will be created and ultimately action plans will be made. The employees themselves - given the right tools and guidelines - will bring the company in the driving seat to achieve the ultimate goal: Listening to the voice of the customer.

If you now think that all of this sounds like a utopian story, please contact us and we will prove that it is not.

About the Author

Fredrik Abildtrup

Fredrik Abildtrup is the CEO of TeleFaction. He is a seasoned customer experience and Return on Behavior specialist. Currently he is responsible for the growth and internationalization of TeleFaction. Moreover he assists TeleFaction clients in improving customer loyalty, reducing churn and increase cross-sales across customer service contact points. TeleFaction primarily caters to European businesses in the telecom, financial services, energy, travel and transport industries.

He has many years of  business experience, primarily in sales and management. Most recently as the Division Exeuctive with T-Systems Denmark, a sister company to Deutsche Telekom, where he was responsible for more than 100 employees.

Fredrik Abildtrup graduated from the Copenhagen Business School with a degree in International Marketing and Management. Moreover he has a master's degree in International Business obtained via the CEMS-programme at the Universität zu St. Gallen in Switzerland.



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