“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” – Henry Ford
A recent conference on customer engagement shared principles that everyone can use to develop pro-customer organizations. The story is not necessarily one of revolution, but evolution.
Customers always have looked for the best products or services, but now their buying decisions are increasingly based on who also will provide the best experience. How can your business improve customer engagement to increase satisfaction and value?
The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Evolution 2017 Conference tackled this subject. Here are some observations from the conference and how they apply to many organizations:
- Customer experience (CX) isn’t changing—it has. Customers today no longer want one-way communication with an organization. Before, they would call for assistance with any given issue with a product or service. Today, customers don’t want to talk; they want to photograph the issue, send a message through an app and receive an immediate response on how to resolve the issue. Customers want responses on their own terms, in the most convenient way.
- Digital transformation is the evolution of CX. Technology is a must. According to Sheryl Kingstone, research director for 451 Research, 55 percent of customers prefer self-service tools to avoid calling customer service, 40 percent prefer to contact a business through text message or social media and 42 percent say their loyalty depends on the service provider’s ability to resolve issues through a digital channel.
- The age of artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay. What could improve on the instantaneity of smartphones? Messaging apps. We’re now seeing bots as agents, connected smart devices and AI with machine learning allowing the service provider or manufacturer to know what the customer needs before the customer even knows.
- Relationships still matter. Charlie Brown, chief executive officer of Context Partners, provided a current and age-old message—customer relationships still really matter. Attendees had been mesmerized by innovations such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, where AI is making it easy to communicate with clients. In the end, however, it’s about building a “culture of relationship.”
Questions companies need to ask include:
- What do my customers care about? They want immediate real-time support from trusted sources. This is why community blogs and the user-group concept are taking off so well.
- How do I know what to do with my customers? Define clear roles and align key actions for each role. Empower employees to solve issues with the lowest common denominator. Allow your clients, when appropriate, to solve their own issues.
- How can I reward my customers? Offer the right rewards—material, experiential or recognition. Rewards programs work.
People do buy from people, but customers also need organizations—staffed with people and empowered by technology—where they can build a trusted relationship.
Creating Your Customer-Centric Culture
Even though digital transformation is more about the customer than technology, putting your customers at the center of an organization requires technology. The customer story has many chapters—sales, marketing, customer service, field service, purchasing, billing, social engagement, etc. As each chapter is written, the typical problem is that vital information gets trapped in separate systems, emails, files and spreadsheets. You can’t read one chapter of a book and expect to understand the full story.
This is one reason why we at BKD are excited about Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. We can help build a fully integrated, centralized platform for end-to-end customer management—for businesses of any size. It helps level the playing field for creating a customer-centric culture and elevating the customer experience. It has removed many barriers to competing on customer experience, particularly for small to midsize businesses.
View our webinar, “Excellence in Customer Service,” to learn more about some of the innovative customer engagement tools available with Dynamics 365.