MBA Research

Trend #46: Customer Experience Management

Over a three-day period, last November, the MBA Research team met with groups of Nebraska executive-level business professionals and asked them to identify trends changing or shaping the way they do business. A common theme in each group was rapidly changing and evolving customer experiences. May’s Action Brief explores Customer Experience Management and the tools and strategies that some businesses are finding helpful as they seek to understand customers’ critical touchpoints and collective experiences.

Companies have recognized the need to understand what makes customers tick and how they can build brand loyalty. This has become more important to businesses since customers comparison shop on the Internet. Companies need to determine how to set themselves apart from the competition.

The customer survey is often used as a first step in analyzing customer feedback at different touchpoints with a company. This method of evaluation can be helpful in determining if a customer’s immediate need was met satisfactorily.

Big Data has also become a player in the evaluation of the customer experience. Leveraging Big Data helps organizations understand customer behavior, usage patterns, and preferences. Many companies utilize it as part of their effort to create personalized offers for customers. The nimblest companies use real-time data to evaluate potentially emerging issues which may require an immediate course adjustment.

The case for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems has also grown. CRMs track customer interactions and touchpoints over time and can help companies connect the dots in analyzing customer experiences on both small and large scales. Often, companies confuse the use of CRM systems with a customer experience management program; however, CRMs are just one tool that, when put to good use, can help companies manage and even direct customer experiences.

Customer journey mapping is by far one of the most important tools used to analyze and improve customer experiences today. Participants in our Marketing Executives Panel in Nebraska indicated that an understanding of customer experience mapping processes is crucial to success in business today. Once a full or key customer journey is mapped and understood, the door is open for a company to make changes that can improve customer experiences, and therefore, customer loyalty.

Businesses are using customer journey maps to:

  • Gain a 360-degree view of their customers experiences across touchpoints
  • Understand the reasoning behind customer behavior
  • Understand milestones or crucial moments in customer journeys
  • Align their organizations around customer-centric models
  • Optimize their customer service strategies

Touchpoint surveys, Big Data, and the use of CRMs have limited benefits for companies who have not yet taken the plunge to view customer journeys from a holistic perspective. Take the example of a leading pay TV provider who was getting good scores from customers through feedback regarding individual touchpoints. However, other feedback gathered through focus groups revealed that many customers were dissatisfied with the company overall. It wasn’t any one encounter that customers were unhappy with, but their overall experiences were often less than positive. The provider eventually mapped key customer journeys and was able to pinpoint and address some of the underlying issues, such as length of time for their onboarding process, that were plaguing customers.

The act of completing a customer journey map can in fact be a process that offers restructuring opportunities for companies. It can also be a great time for companies to explore their culture and company values to make sure they are customer-centric. The mapping process itself requires open communication among leaders and employees who may be in functional silos. They must talk and work together to form an accurate representation of customer journeys. Open communication, empowering employees dealing directly with customers, and following customer-centric values starting from the top down are all must-haves when it comes to building customer loyalty.

The recent United Airlines incident is a great example of technology being utilized to determine who would be “invited” to leave a flight. Instead, the situation called for human intervention to analyze the problem at hand and think through potential consequences of forced ejection. United, known for its excessively large “rule” books, has since rolled out 10 policy changes to address customer experiences, one of which is a promise to “empower employees to address customer service issues in the moment.”

Organizations that are able to successfully navigate the mapping process, and implement changes based on what they learn from it are seeing enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty, reduced customer turnover, and increased employee engagement.

Classroom Implications

Customer Experience Management requires both art and science for success. Ask students to think about the customer experience components written about in this paper and identify which is art vs. science. Invite them to discuss why a company’s culture is central to customer experience management.

Suggest that students learn more about customer journey mapping by accessing the following websites:

Have students identify their positive and negative customer experiences and share how those experiences affected their loyalty to a business or a brand.

Discuss with students what it means to be customer-centric. In what ways can being customer-centric help or hurt businesses?

Ask students if it’s ever okay to “fire” a customer. Have them discuss situations where this may or may not be warranted.

Invite students to consider the recent United Air incident where a passenger was forcefully deplaned. Ask them to determine what they would have done differently if they were in the shoes of the airline and the passenger.