The Survival Guide to Customer Experience

I wanted to reach out and share a Project I was fortunate to be part of. It is a new eBook from Sprinklr called, “The Survival Guide to Customer Experience.”


I am joined by 19 other thought leaders including Jay Baer, Frank Eliason, Annette Franz, Stan Phelps, Richard Shapiro, John Goodman, Steve Curtin, Roy Atkinson and Jeanne Bliss.
Here’s a synopsis of the eBook:
It doesn’t matter what your ads say. In today’s world, the only thing that customers care about is the EXPERIENCE. Customers want a consistent brand experience each time they interact with your brand – and they want this across all channels. But how exactly do you pull this off? Through successful CXM (Customer Experience Management).What’s CXM? CXM is the process of providing unforgettable experiences to your customers at every touchpoint – online, on the phone, on social, and in person.The reasons to invest in CXM are clear:

  • Customers are twice as likely to share a negative experience with a business than a positive one.
  • 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience.

Interested in learning how to create a sustainable CXM initiative?

Download your complimentary copy of the ebook here.

quote-barry-daltonMy chapter in the eBook is called, “Bigger Isn’t Always Better in the Customer Business.” I hope you enjoy it.

Define this. Customer Service is…

Definitions come and go. In this case, how companies define customer service is critical to how they position themselves in the customer ecosystem. How is customer service defined in your company?



Ten Customer Experience Prediction Posts from 2013

UnknownYes, I know.  This is the time of year…or it was actually last month…for the flood of articles and posts predicting what will happen in the upcoming year.  In every field and endeavor, prognosticators are dusting off their crystal snowballs to give us their perspective on what we should expect in the twelve months ahead.

But I’m not much of a bold, big splash predictor kind of guy.  At the same time, I’m not one who spends a lot of time looking back or dwelling in the past, good or bad.  My approach is more observational.  I take in what I see.  And I set my agenda for what I need to do to stay on the crest of the wave; to continue to create value for those around me.

To know where you’re going, though, it is vital to understand where you’ve been.  If the path you’ve set for you or your business is in dramatic contrast to where you’ve just come from, then how you will get there will be radically different than if that path is just a straight line continuation of your current trajectory.

So, in that light, its always interesting to see how close or distant future projections came to the reality, now that that reality is in the books.  This isn’t to suggest who is any better or worse at reading the tea leaves.  But as interesting reading, here is a list in no particular order of ten of those prediction posts about customer experience and customer service from 2013.

My observation about 2013 predictions, as with most such articles, is that they were all directionally fairly accurate.  And, none of what I’ve read from late 2012/early 2013 is nearly complete.  Its all still an evolving work in process.  And at the same time, these predictions are all general and painted with a broad enough brush as to not provide any secret recipe to follow to the letter.  The hard work still remains in taking such information in as guideposts and implementing what creates value for your specific customer.

So how’d they do?

Why Driving Away Customer Contacts is the Wrong Approach

We all love IVRs!  Ok, no we don’t.  Study after blog post after twitter rant confirms that customers generally would rather take a sharp stick in the eye.

Then it’s web self-service.  Everyone wants self-service!  In fact they prefer it over human-based interactions.  Right?  Not so much?

So, why is it that, for certain individuals, words like IVR and other self-service elicit such guttural, vial reactions?

It’s not that IVR and other self-service solutions are inherently evil.  The answer lies in that, in a great many cases, these solutions have been implemented to do one thing.  Reduce the number of interactions that are handled by a human, thus reducing the cost of service.  And, over the past 30 years, that has been the overarching myopic focus of customer service organizations, regardless of industry.

Because, any company that isn’t maniacal about pushing customers to lower cost channels, driving down average handle times, burying the 800 number on the 10th page of the website and reducing the total number of customer interactions will surely not be long for this world.

Oh…wait.  Zappos, eBags, Virgin & Marriott among others do exactly the opposite.  And they seem to be doing o.k.

The fact is your company, any company, should want to talk to as many customers as it possibly can, through whatever channels your customers choose.  By this, I don’t mean talking to the same customers about the same problem or issue over and over.  Rather, cast as wide and deep a net as possible.  Why?  Because, if you make the investment in and take the time to listen to those unsolicited customer voices, the insights contained within will deliver a return far greater than the narrowly focused cost saving efforts of restricted access.

A strategy of cost containment and access reduction limits the insight into customer preferences, needs, problems to be solved and ultimately, their behavior.


What if we looked at the service delivery model differently?  If, rather than the conclusion of the interaction being the end of the process, we need to view that step as a means to a different end.  Then the business justification becomes clearer.   Investing in more ways for customers to communicate with your brand as the means of gathering a greater volume of unsolicited customer feedback can drive innovation in everything from product development, retail experience to back office processes and everything in between.


Pretty intuitive.  Right?

Now let me not be so naïve as to suggest that anyone in your organization, especially your CEO or CFO, is going to write a blank check for you to go out and double the size of your customer service organization, reengineer your IVR and website and dump a whole bunch of money into new channels just because of the argument above.  Sorry to say.  But, you’re going to have to prove it.  And the proof is going to be different in every organization.  So, pick an issue.  Run a pilot.  And build the business case.  If, during that pilot, you identify that you don’t have the data, can’t get to it, or don’t have the ability to analyze it, you may need help from the outside.

Also note that this model of customer service as enterprise analytics hub will likely require different skills and resources within your organization as you are changing the value proposition for customer service as an enterprise function.

We’ll explore those skills and the process for transformation in upcoming posts here.

Contact Us However You Please…I think

Every once in a while, a question pops into my head that appears to need an answer.  Not often.  But, occasionally.  A few weeks back was one of those times.

Over the past year, in several different venues, in conversations with clients and colleagues, this topic of “socializing” a brand’s contact us page has been percolating.  The “contact us” page, for those that have never experienced it, is typically the page on a company or brand’s website that provides all the various methods for…well…contacting the company.  Traditional information has included store locations, headquarters mailing address, hours of operation, phone number and a form that allows the visitor to enter their information and question to generate an email.  In my business, this email ends up in a queue in the contact center where an associates responds and replies with the requested information.

Pretty straight forward.

But, those of us that are more “social-leaning” think there is a better use of this real estate.  In a time when everyone is longing to, and often struggling to, create compelling, value-generating engagement with their customers, this contact us page provides a golden opportunity to do just that.

The thing I always have to challenge myself with however is this.  Is my point of view as one of those social-leaners, in line with or wildly out of touch from others?  So, I posed a quick two question survey to see if I could get a sense of where the prevailing winds were blowing on this topic.

Question 1


Question 2


While the sample size here is small (n=14), I was struck by a two observations.

First, to question #1, in isolation, the desire to de-emphasize email as a channel of communication was promising, while not unexpected.  The motivations, while I didn’t dive into those, are fairly easy to infer.  Email is still a human capital-based communication channel.  Or, at least it should be.  Because if you’re sending out auto-generated canned emails in response to a customer that took the time to write you with their live fingers skipping across the keyboard, we need to talk.  Every contact center continues to face ever-increasing pressure to reduce the cost of service.  The pendulum may be shifting to better balance cost and the customer experience.  But cost is, and will continue to be a variable in the service deliver equation.  So, the desire to leverage other, lower cost options is no surprise.  Also, as a socialite, my thought was that the other channels that would be promoted are more of the social variety, indicating a strong desire and emphasis to create more compelling customer engagement, between customer and brand, and among the entire customer community.

Second, I was not at all surprise to see that few would choose to totally eliminate email.  In an omni-channel world, there continues to be customer demand for this channel.

When I looked at the two questions together, this is where I was a bit confounded.  In question 1, the majority of respondents (57%) indicated a desire to minimize the prominence of email and promote other channels.  While, in question 2, 21% of respondents indicated they would promote email most predominantly on their new contact us page.  The identical number that indicated they would feature social channels as the predominant methods of communication.  And in this instance, live chat was the channel that would be promoted most.  Interesting that, while live chat can have some cost benefits from skilled agents handling multiple simultaneous interactions, it is still a one to one communication.  And, while an email can actually be shared among customers, in a quasi-social manner, chat logs do not lend themselves to this.

So, what am I do conclude from this highly unscientific poll?  Is the conclusion that the pendulum hasn’t swung far enough?  Is cost containment still the overarching focus of customer service and contact centers in general?

What would you conclude?

The Big Data History Lesson

imagesI just got done listening to a keynote from McKinsey’s Matt Ariker on big data at the SOCAP Spring Symposium.  As I was listening I was struggling to find something more interesting to write than just reporting the highlights of his talk.  Then, about two thirds of the way through the hour long session, I got it.  Rather than ruining my own punch line.  Let’s see if you can figure it out.  See if you come to the same conclusion.

Matt started out challenging the audience with some good questions to ponder.  Like big data, what is it?  Why now? Why should you care?  One answer?  According to Tech Crunch, big data will drive $232 billion in spending by 2017.  So, yeah.  We should care.  Good so far.

Matt went on to share some other stats and also some of the key questions that his clients are asking on the subject.  Then, his presentation outlined what he believes, or is observing as some of the critical pains that organizations are currently experiencing with respect to big data.  In summary, they were as follows:

  • Lack of clarity on the vision and roadmap for big data.  Everyone wants all the data they can get there hands on without having the business questions identified first.
  •  Enterprise culture and mindset are not aligned.  There is not 100% buy-in and commitment from the C-Suite
  • Ineffective use of data and tools.  Data project scope creep is deadly.  Too many think “if I can get more data, why not?”  There ends up being too much time and resources spent on acquisition and aggregation at the expense of analysis and solving business problems
  • Ineffective integration of big data projects into business processes.  Internal stakeholders are not engaged in development nor accountable for delivery
  • Too much focus on technology and not business processes
  • Misalignment of required enterprise skills to execute on these projects. The focus is largely on technical skills, or in repurposing other skills and resources.

Did you figure it out?  This is history repeating itself.  Haven’t we seen this before?  Many, many times?  ERP.  CRM.  Virtually any big, enterprise technology initiative over the past 20 years has faced these same set of challenges.  You could take this post and do a find and replace.  Insert “ERP” or “CRM” in place of “Big Data”, date it 1995 or 2001 and the issues would be still relevant.

So, like back in 2000, there are companies that are doing it right.  So, perhaps the best place to start, the first mile of your roadmap, should be to find those examples and do what they are doing. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…and it just might save your career if you’re the one writing the big data checks in your organization.


Disney’s Data Deluge

mickeydataLast week, I threw out some ideas here on how Disney could leverage social and mobile technologies to enhance the guest experience.  And while, if you go back and read that post, there might be some specific reasons why they have a vested interest in keeping guests standing in some lines, the opportunities to leverage big data in the guest experience is just as compelling.  I’m just going to throw out three personal examples.  I’d really like to see what you all can think of too.

First, I would guess I’ve got to look like somewhat of a frequent guest or loyalist, whatever you want to call it.  I don’t have the exact count.  But between business and pleasure, my best guess is that I’ve stayed at Disney resort properties somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 times.  Of those 25 or so times,  I’ve only actually stayed at five different properties.  Yet, I’ve never had any engagement with Disney either through direct marketing or other interaction that would suggest that they know I’ve demonstrated an fairly predictable pattern of where I prefer to stay.

With respect to Disney Park attendance, I’m pretty predictable there as well.  Of the four major theme parks, my order of preference is Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot then Animal Kingdom; with about 40% of my time spent at the Magic Kingdom.  And, in all the time I’ve been going to Orlando, I’ve never once attended one of the water parks.

Lastly (apparently I’m a creature of habit), when I dine at Walt Disney World, 60% of my sit-down meals have been at the same four restaurants over the past five trips there.

Combine all that information with my demographic information and there is definitely a profile there. Also, if you’ve ever been to Disney World, you know that everything you do is tracked through your hotel room key, if you’re staying on a Disney Resort property.  Every dollar spent.  Every park entered.  Every FastPass acquired.

I’m not a data scientist.  Not by any stretch.  But, like last week, I wonder what Disney is doing with this information.  And, how could they use it to make my visit even more magical?

Micky’s Got A Line For Everything

I had an angle to this post that I thought was pretty solid.  Then a seemingly innocuous question from a friend completely made me rethink the subject.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  First a bit of background.

My family have seemed to established a regular vacation pattern with our annual trek to Walt Disney World in Florida.  And, yes I admit it.  I have as much, if not more fun than my six and four year old kids.  Being in the customer experience business, of course I still always look at these things with one critical eye on the experience design while still taking in the childlike enthusiasm that Disney so magically creates.

Disney does a good job of managing lines at its attractions.  And wow!  There were some serious lines the week of Spring Break while we were there.  But, I guess because I had just recently read this article and others about how retailers are leveraging iPads to reduce or eliminate in-store queues , I kind of felt like Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.  I saw opportunities pop out at me in 3D everywhere I went in the Disney parks.  In particular, there seems to be a significant opportunity to better manage the queues at non-attraction venues within the parks, most notably at places serving food.

Just in random thought, a few of these seem to be pretty easy to implement:

  • Bring the food queue to the people by equipping cast members with iPads to take orders instead of the bottlenecks caused by the single cast member sitting at a cash register.
  • Provide several self-service kiosks in food venues to allow guests to order on their own – like self checkin kiosks at the airport.
  • Expanding Disney’s mobile apps to allow guest to not only check availability and make dining reservations, but to allow them to pre-order food and have it available at a specific time – especially at the quick service locations.

And with respect to the attractions, there is opportunity too.

Disney has this FastPass system that allows you to get a ticket to return to an attraction at a pre-determined time and avoid the line or wait in a much shorter line.  How about using their mobile app to deliver this FastPass?  And, what would be the downside if guest were able to trade or swap FastPass mobile tickets while they are within the boundaries of the park?  There are times when you get a FastPass and you just can’t make it back to the attraction at the designated time.  Or, you decide you want to do something else at that time.  The mobile app could control any potential abuse of the swapping system.  And it would leverage social collaboration among guests, adding to the richness of the experience.

Gamification is a vastly untapped tool in Disney’s in-park guest experience bag of tricks.

Disney has this “Hidden Mickey” thing where there are hidden images of the iconic Mickey Mouse silhouette all over the parks.  Guests enjoy trying to find them along their journey.  How about leveraging gamification to allow guests to earn points or badges for finding Hidden Mickey that give them FastPass access to the most popular attractions?  Leveraging Foursquare or some other location-based check-in platform would allow guests to earn badges or mayorships of attractions that would give them V.I.P. access as well.

The Disney Mobile app uses crowds to improve attraction wait time estimates.  How about giving guests incentives, badges or other rewards for reporting wait times?

Wouldn’t you agree that these all just seem too obvious to think that Disney hasn’t already thought of them?  So, on the plane home (in between comforting my kids as we descended through thunderstorms into Atlanta…Atlanta and thunderstorms.  Is that like the ultimate travel nightmare combination?  Or what?), I was flummoxed by the thought as to why they’re not available.

Flash forward to the Monday after my vacation when I was relaying my curiosity to my friend.  His immediate response was this.  “Maybe Disney doesn’t want to eliminate these lines.  Maybe its intentional.”  Wow!  That threw me for a loop!  But the more I thought about it, it was both confusing and completely logical.  The only problem is, I don’t know why.  This is The Walt Disney Company.  The Albert Einsteins of customer experience.  Like I said, my thoughts are certainly not Earth-shattering.  What else could it be?  Could Disney have some motive for the pace at which they’ve adopted social mobile technology?

What am I missing?

(next post, I’ll be exploring the opportunities I think Disney has to better leverage customer analytics)

Isn’t It All CRM?

As i read this recent post from Mike Boysen, I had a flashback to twenty years ago.  Mike raised some very compelling questions and burning issues with respect to the success of CRM.  A few quotes from the first few paragraphs of his post set the tone.

“…numerous studies have shown that the impact of CRM on an organization’s performance is simply not where one would expect, given the enormous investments companies are making.”

“The simple truth is that technology, by itself, cannot create business outcomes.”

Spot on.  So here’s the thing.  I completed my first SFA (sales force automation) project in 1987.  And after…well I lost count of the number of CRM projects…the questions about enterprise, and more importantly, customer value haven’t really changed in more than two decades.  Companies, customers of CRM, have spend countless billions of dollars on CRM technology.  And as Mike rightfully questions, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of consensus on the value that has been created from this investment.  Mike goes on in his post to suggest specific changes that the CRM industry should consider to address this customer value dilemma.

I would argue that the responsibility is not at the feet of the CRM industry, but falls squarely in the lap of the enterprise customers of the CRM industry.  Since those early days, concept of the “customer-centric enterprise” has been top of mind.  How many organizations have achieved it?  Those that have, haven’t done it through the delivery of a CRM application on a desktop.

They’ve done it through core values, culture and strategies that include every traditionally silo’d function in the enterprise as part of the customer-centric business model.  That’s not just sales, marketing and customer service.  That’s finance, HR, logistics, manufacturing.  Every enterprise function.  Every enterprise function has an impact on the customer experience.  Every one.

So, until enterprises can clearly articulate and implement their customer-centric business model, is it really incumbent upon the CRM industry to take any different path than its currently on?

CRM 5 In 5

[We’re not all pretty yet over here.  But, I have things to say.  So, the window dressing will come later]

What better way to kick off my new home than with a reflection back at a story posted around this time last year.

The start of the new year is inondated with predictions of all sorts.  I wonder.  Are there more predictions than resolutions?  Does a similar portion of the predicting population go back and revisit their thoughts as do those that make resolutions? In other words, woefully few?

Well this is a tale of a different sort.  This story started in January 2011 with a post called the CRM 5 in 5, modeled after IBM’s annual 5 in 5 look into the future of technology.  In that post, Lauren Carlson from the site Software Advice asked some leading CRM thinkers for their views on the next 5 big trends in CRM.

In this follow up post, the Software Advice team went back to this panel for their follow up thoughts on crowdsourcing, mobile, curated data, open APIs, NLP & personalized predictive analytics:

  • Denis Pombriant, CEO of Beagle Research Group LLC
  • Brent Leary, owner of CRM Essentials
  • Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of ThinkJar
  • Brian Vellmure, CEO and founder of Initium LLC / Innovantage
  • Paul Greenberg, owner of 56 Group LLC

Additionally, as a follow up to last year’s topics, Rachel Ramsey of the Software Advice team send me this commentary on the convergence of gamification and crowdsourcing.

Gamification was a huge buzzword in 2011. Companies providing these technologies promised increased community engagement, productivity and other improvements by layering in game-like tools such as leader boards, badges and virtual scoreboards. While popular, there was varying opinions about  success of these platforms at the time.

 In 2012, our group foresaw gamification moving from buzzword to business strategy. These programs proved real results increasing customer loyalty, brand advocacy and engagement. We touched on that topic again this year, but through the lens of crowdsourcing.

In my mind, that’s a pretty good list.  And who am I to argue with the group above?

I will add this though.  My prediction (and this is more like history repeating itself.  So, you have a better than average chance of being in the money if you bet on this one) is that a significant portion of the projects in the categories above will fail to deliver customer or business value, if the CRM table stakes are not addressed first.

What are those CRM basics?

  • Customer value, strategy and business process first
  • Technology second
  • Focus on customer insights, not data

My brain can only think in threes.  So, that’s all I got.  What’s your prediction?