How Service Can Bridge the CRM–CX Divide

Companies continue to invest in CRM applications because effective customer management is what sustains and grows revenue. In fact, nine out of 10 CRM buyers believe CRM is critical to their business operations. When you ask about customer experience (CX), however, you get a very different story, with only one in four believing CX is business-critical. Why is there such a divide between thinking on CX and CRM, which are both part of the customer picture?

First, CX's value is harder to define. Much broader than applications or processes, CX is about customers' perceptions of their experience with companies, from the marketing and branding to website interactions to in-person interactions to billing and customer service. CX is subjective, personal, and often event-driven (a customer responds to a campaign, buys a product, or needs customer service). CX is holistic, and not just multichannel but cross-company. While CRM metrics (increased sales, accelerated call resolution) often have a direct bottom-line impact and can be tracked and trended, CX metrics (customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores) depend on many factors beyond the scope of any CRM application or service process.

Second, CX is highly political. Whether marketing, sales, or service owns the customer is just the starting point. With siloed systems and departments for sales, marketing, service, and billing, even simple questions about common customer data models are open for debate. Compared to 10 years ago, the average cost of integration and master data management (MDM) tools and technologies has dropped by two-thirds. However, only 60 percent of companies have integrated some components of separate sales, marketing, and service applications. And despite the whiteboarding and customer journey efforts, very few have a fully integrated view of customer data. While data and technology are a challenge, the bigger hurdle is in getting sales, marketing, and service to play nicely together.

Third, CX is viewed as a technical problem—integrating data—versus a cultural one. With multiple vendors pitching their views of a CX panacea, it is either sold as a technical solution (MDM) or a fix targeted at a specific buyer (usually marketing) that reflects that buyer's world view (which brings us back to politics).

CX is about delighting customers throughout their interactions. As the primary channel for interaction with undelighted customers, service is in a unique position to drive CX efforts and to realize its benefits. With better customer understanding and data, service can keep its own house in order by accelerating customer issue resolution and increasing customer satisfaction. It can also contribute measurably to sales, product development, and marketing efforts. In looking at highly successful CX companies, there are a few common themes in how their service leads the CX charge.

Successful CX companies invest in consistent and personalized social media service strategies. Effective social media responses to service issues drive brand advocacy by customers and are far more effective dollar for dollar than investments in social media marketing in building repeat business and brand loyalty.

Successful CX companies empower service agents to sell. Educating service agents on products and enabling (and encouraging) them to identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities put them in an ideal position to sell to customers at the ideal point of interaction: when a customer initiates contact with a company.

Finally, successful CX companies have service managers who measure and communicate metrics—both good and bad—that extend far beyond the traditional service automation umbrella. They rapidly identify trends in customer issues that could be the result of poor product or service delivery, identify customer demands that possible aren't being met by current products, and provide actionable data to sales, marketing, and product development about what customers do and don't want.

The advantage of these approaches is that they enable service to shine and prove its value beyond the contact center without the dependence on or political hurdles associated with a broader CX strategy or technology project that needs sales' and marketing's blessing. While data integration and MDM strategies are important as part of an overall CX effort, CX can begin at home with service, and give service champions a powerful place at the table in driving overall customer experience and satisfaction.

Rebecca Wettemann is a CRM industry analyst with more than 20 years of experience helping companies build the business case for their technology investments.