The benefits and best practices of a unified CEM program

8th Jun 2011
Using case study examples, Russ Haswell looks at unifying organisational siloes with customer experience management.
Imagine a world of CEM unification. Does the CEO of a Fortune 500 company have his finger on the pulse of what millions of customers think about his company?
When he logs into his company’s metrics dashboard, he sees 'Promoter Score: 62', a high rating. By itself, that number is a single measure of customer health, but, similar to key financial measures like Net Profit and Revenue Growth, it doesn’t tell him enough about what areas of the company are driving that number. To find out why customers value his company so much, he can, with one click, break down the score by touchpoint (brick-and-mortar, ecommerce, contact centre), by brand, or even further - by individual stores or agents. He can also track performance over time.
The health of the organisation from the perspective of the customer is at his fingertips. The information is not overwhelming, but it is not too simplistic, either.
Does a call centre agent in the same organisation have real-time access to how the 50 customers he served today feel about his performance and, by extension, the company’s?
When the agent logs into his dashboard, which is customised to his role, it displays 'Promoter Score: 59'. To find out why customers value his service so much, he can, with one click, delve into verbatim customer comments. He can also benchmark himself against his top-performing co-workers to discover best practices that might help him improve.
This system unifies the organisation around a single metric by making it relevant to everyone. It tells the CEO that his company is a leader in experience, which delivers value to customers and shareholders across the organisation. It tells the call centre agent that he is a leader in experience whose performance impacts that of the overall organisation. This level of unification is possible only when the entire organisation leverages a single platform to embrace a single metric.
The benefits of a unified system are measurable. When a global athletic merchandiser consolidated its multiple programs - for stores, web channels, and call centres - onto one metric (Promoter Score) and one platform, it achieved a 5-7%score increase across channels, as well as a 10% decrease in dissatisfied customers. Other benefits include cost savings (one subscription vs. many) and internal consistency (no need to train inside transfers).
Negative consequences of sticking with silos
Unfortunately, too often, companies end up with separate, siloed programs by happenstance. They shop around for a contact centre solution, then add a separate platform for point-of-sale surveying. And so it goes as the company grows until, before long, it has too many platforms to keep straight. The result is less than optimal. There’s:
  • No centralised customer history. If a customer first makes a purchase online, then seeks tech support at a brick-and-mortar store, then calls the contact centre about a billing issue, each piece of this record will be housed in a different system.
  • No synchronised case management. An employee trying to close the loop with the customer will have no way of knowing the customer’s entire use history and pain points, so any follow-up risks being either over- or underdone.
  • No clarity at the executive level. With a handful of systems each generating different reports, execs have no way of monitoring and benchmarking the performance of the business on a single metric spanning touchpoints.
"You can’t have these silos of communication channels," Forrester senior analyst Kate Leggett said in a recent interview with "You also have to understand that each communication channel has a cost associated with it. Some are high cost, some are low cost and what a company is trying to do is balance the cost of doing business with how happy their customers are."
Please consider the following case study as an example of best practices for implementing a unified CEM program.
Case study: Global apparel company launching web-based CEx program
  • Gain commitment to the launch from everyone - the frontlines to corporate executives. This firm embraced the customer satisfaction initiative as the single most important goal throughout the organisation. From the CEO on down, the company was prepared to expend the resources necessary to build the program across two brands, thousands of stores, a wedding registry, furniture delivery, the contact centre, and more. In fact, the CEO informally added chief customer office to his title to further reinforce the commitment. "No decision will be made without the customer at the table," he said.
  • Walk before you run, starting first with a pilot and then a full launch. The company wanted to implement a customer satisfaction program across stores, contact centres, and the website, so it began with its core - bricks-and-mortar. Once brick-and-mortar embraced the system, this firm was free to add contact centres, delivery, and other business aspects - and each feature became a seamless add-on rather than an entirely new implementation. Breaking up adoption into manageable chunks may take more time, but by doing so, you gradually convert stakeholders rather than overwhelming them with a new system.
  • Sustain your commitment to the program even after launch: This company expects over 1 million pieces of feedback from customers in 2011 - which puts employees on the hook to make 100,000+ follow-up calls to customers wanting to hear from them.
The effort to launch a unified program is greater than the effort to launch a siloed one, but so is the payoff. Since the kickoff of the program less than a year ago, brand promoters have increased, sales have grown 6.6%, and the company’s stock price has surged 60%.
Overall business benefits
Customer experience is the leading indicator of business performance. Influential business thinker Peter Drucker argued that the one valid definition of business purpose is “to create customers”by delivering value customers are willing to pay for. "What…customers value…is so complicated…it can only be answered by the customers themselves," he said. In other words, customer experience - measured by asking customer directly what they value and, by extension, whether they will remain customers - is the leading measure of whether a company is fulfilling its core purpose: to create customers.
Unified CEM programs let customer experience be what it is: the leading indicator of overall business performance. Silos squelch the true potential of customer experience. It’s time to unify CEM.

Russ Haswell is vice president of sales for Medallia, Inc. a CEM vendor headquartered in Palo Alto, CA. With over 12 years of experience in customer experience management and enterprise software-as-a-service solutions, Russ heads up sales and business development efforts for Medallia.

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