Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences that Drive Profitability and Growth

When it comes to sticking to a sound business strategy, it’s easy to get sidetracked by a steady cadence of product launches and upgrades, competitive pressures, changing customer communication preferences and buying behaviors, and internal projects. The list of distractions could go on and on. However, proactive business leaders don’t lose sight of the opportunities and threats that lie far into the future along with those that are immediately in front of them.

Jeanne Bliss, founder of and cofounder of Customer Experience Professionals Association gets this. As the past chief customer officer of Lands’ End, Allstate, Microsoft, and Mazda Corporations, she’s had to take a proactive role in improving lasting customer engagement strategies at each company.

Jeanne, who is also the author of the best-selling book, I Love You More Than My Dog: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad, will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Customer Service Experience conference (August 19–21, 2013) at the New York Marriott Marquis. She spoke with Michele Masterson, staff writer at Speech Technology magazine, to shed some light on how the vendor-customer relationship has changed and what organizations can do to prepare for this shift.

Masterson: What’s happening in customer service today that is forcing people to change the way they deliver customer service?

Bliss: The big forcing function that’s happening that’s making leaders stand up and take notice and dedicate more resources to the call center is by recognizing a critical moment of truth. Their touch point is social media and customers have the biggest megaphone in their hands. They are able to tell it like it is to legions of people. Customers no longer take a company’s word for what they stand for or what their promises are.   

Masterson: Why do you think this is happening?

Bliss: Think about what your life is like as an individual. Before you go out to dinner, you go on Open Table, before you take a trip you go on Trip Advisor, many people now before they take a job go on and see what it’s like to be an employee. In addition, they ask a lot of questions, such as, “What are they like?” “Do you know who they are?” It is offline and online social questioning and conversations that is driving a more informed consumer who’s done their research before they commit to a company, product or service.

Masterson: What does this mean for businesses? How should they respond?

Bliss: Organizations are realizing that they now have to get really deliberate and diligent and invest resources in creating an experience from the customer’s point of view, instead of just cutting out costs or looking at their competition. I think that’s one of the powerful forcing functions.

The other thing that’s happening is that a lot of industries are becoming more mature, and [realizing that] you can’t just acquire your way to growth. You have to really grow your customer bases and organizations are finally realizing that. The economic downturn has been good for a customer experience focus because organizations are realizing that customers that they have are the most important ones to nurture.

The way that companies are responding to this is that for the first time they are paying a lot of attention to uniting the organization and working together. There’s always been a good deal of what I call silo dysfunction inside of organizations because it’s easier to manage the stovepipe, it’s easier to build a sales organization, easier to build a marketing team that does upselling, cross-selling, or build a service department that fields complaints. Customers don’t experience a company down the silos, they experience it across the operation. Companies are now rebuilding how they work and their operation from the customer’s journey point of view.

Masterson: What do you plan to cover in your keynote speech at the 2013 CRM Evolution conference?

Bliss: The keynote is about being deliberate in decision-making: the people who belong in your company, being reliable and how you’re going to apologize and prepare the emotional connection with the customer when you make a mistake. It’s about being deliberate about how you’re going to trust your customers by getting rid of rules or policies and procedure that don’t make sense and how to also enable your employees to be trusted. It’s this whole idea of decision-making that really separates an everyday company from a beloved company. People will be able to hear these case studies and compare how they make decisions in their business as compared to the greatest companies that are growing.    

For more information, register for the Customer Service Experience conference (August 19–21, 2013) at the New York Marriott Marquis, where you can see Jeanne Bliss’ complete keynote presentation, as well as 2.5 days of additional presentations from customer service consultants, analysts, and practitioners.