Smart Customer Service/CRM Evolution 2018: Focusing on the Human Element of CX

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Whether describing customers as "accidental narcissists" or stressing the need to convert them into brand advocates or brand storytellers, speakers throughout day one of the collocated Smart Customer Service and CRM Evolution conferences urged attendees to focus on the human element with customers and employees alike.

"When we talk about customer experiences or employee experiences, what we’re really talking about is how does someone feel and react in those moments that we've designed for engagement," said Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group in his opening keynote for Smart Customer Service 2018, CRM Evolution 2018, and SpeechTEK 2018. "When we're making technology investments, it's not just about facilitating the transaction; it's can you engage someone in a way that isn't just compelling or productive but meaningful."

Solis asserted that reliance on old technologies, processes, and ways of thinking handicaps companies when it comes to delivering exceptional customer and employee experiences. "When we're making decisions about their experiences we're doing so removed…we're making decisions based on how we understand business works, but a lot of those models and processes are now coming up on 50 or 60 years old," Solis told the audience. "And so when we're making decisions based on the platforms and the foundations that we have, we're doing so not just from a legacy perspective, but we're starting to become increasingly irrelevant in how we're making those decisions and how they should play out."

The challenge for companies is that technology increasingly gives people a greater sense of importance, he said, creating what he calls "accidental narcissists." "That is simply because technology is consuming. Every app you use, every device you use as a human being today tells you [that] you are the most important person in the world," he said. "When we're designing for customer experiences or employee experiences, what we're really looking at is how do we design for that accidental narcissist in ways that they can experience our business in one moment and the sum of those moments to equate to what our brand should be."

During an afternoon workshop session, Randi Busse, president of Workforce Development Group, laid out five methods for enlisting customers to advocate on your behalf: (1) think like an owner, (2) build a relationship, (3) remove the roadblocks, (4) walk in your customers' shoes, and (5) capture your customers' heart.

First, companies need to ensure that employees are engaged so that they, in turn, will make decisions, solve problems, and do right by customers as if they own the company. Second, companies need to establish rapport, demonstrate care, and show genuine interest in customers and their needs. Third, companies should eliminate obstacles that get in the way of customers doing business with them. Fourth, businesses should be aware of exactly what customers want and how they wish to be treated. And finally, companies should forge an emotional connection with customers that makes them feel special and appreciated.

During another session, “Seriously Sparkly Service: The Power of Profoundly Remarkable,” Chip Bell, senior partner at Chip Bell Group, asserted that the highest level of customer advocacy is when companies get customers to tell their stories for them. He listed six features of experiences about which people tell stories: enchant, enlist, enrich, enlighten, ease, and engrave. Experiences that create a level of enchantment occur when companies go above and beyond, surprising customers in a positive way that makes them want to share the experience with others. Experiences that enlist involve consumer participation, getting customers involved in the process of testing new products and services. Enriched experiences occur when companies deliver the unexpected, such as 4-D films that feature physical effects. Enlightening experience provide customers with new and useful information. Ease refers to the overall practice of making customers' interactions with a company linear. Bell noted that comfortable and simple are not synonymous; customers do not have trouble handling complex situations but are averse to ones that don't make sense. Finally, experience that engrave are ones in which the company maintains awareness not just of what they are striving to do, but of their overall reason for being.

Aimee Lucas, vice president and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, identified three drivers of customer loyalty: success, or the degree to which customers can accomplish their goals; effort, or the difficulty customers face in accomplishing their goals; and emotion, or how the interaction makes customers feel.

Of these three, she asserted that emotion has the strongest impact on the most areas. "Our research shows that when we look at what drives customer loyalty, emotion has the strongest impact on the customer likelihood to buy more from you in the future, willingness to try new products and services when you introduce them, willingness to trust your recommendations, likelihood to recommend your company to others, and willingness to forgive the company when it makes a mistake," she said.

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Speakers take on forward-looking topics such as the impact of social media and quantifying customer experience.

Posted April 11, 2018