For more than 20 years, West has been leading the way in hosted and cloud-based solutions, with unified communications, safety services, and customer experience management solutions like IVR, cloud contact center, and notifications.
Loyalty360 talked to Bruce Pollock, Vice President of Strategic Growth and Planning at West, to find out more about the company’s approach and views on the customer experience, customer loyalty, customer engagement, and the associated challenges.
What is the biggest challenge that your clients face today in creating measurable experiences to drive customer loyalty? How do you recommend they measure efficacy?
Pollock: For starters, it’s getting more difficult every day to measure client sentiment because of the proliferation of online and offline channels through which sentiment can now be measured. Having said that, the biggest challenges lie in ever-changing, ever-evolving, and more demanding consumers of all ages, and trying to design different customer experience solutions that fit the needs and wants of those specific segments or groups. The fact that not every age group embraces the same channel, in the same way, makes it really challenging for companies to offer fantastic customer experience.
It’s a tough job and it’s getting tougher. Companies simply can’t keep up with the needs and demands of their customers, each of whom wants personalized service in the mode of their choice when it’s convenient for them. It’s daunting for companies to offer great service in this rapidly evolving environment.
We work with our clients to help them sort all these challenges out, set goals and objectives for the future, and develop a plan to get there. One of the first things we do as a starting point is to understand where a client fits on the Customer Experience Lifecycle Management (CXLM) Maturity Curve e.g. how sophisticated and comprehensive their CX offer and approach is. This helps us get a snapshot of “today.” In this context, we then discuss where they want to be tomorrow, and the gaps they (and we, as their partner) need to tackle to get there. We also conduct customer focus groups, customer journey mapping sessions, usability tests, and surveys. From there, we develop action plans with goals and milestones.
What are the biggest opportunities/challenges for brands and marketers today? If you could recommend one thing to a client (or prospective client), what would it be?
Pollock: Many brands have lots of customer segments. There’s a multitude of technologies and solutions that can be made available to those segments. Brands need to know their customers (and their buying habits and preferences). It goes without saying, companies need to make “mobile” solutions top of mind. Brands should personalize customer communications at a segment and individual level and ensure that, regardless of the communications channel, context is leveraged e.g. if a customer is on the web then texts or calls the contact center, ideally the application and agent (if there is one) should know the customer was on the web previously and what they were attempting to do.
How sophisticated are the customer experience and customer loyalty initiatives of most brands today?
Pollock: While some are quite advanced, many are not. On the CX front, brands need to have a CX vision and roadmap, think mobile first, reduce customer effort across all their applications, and keep pace with customer sentiment and feedback.
On the loyalty front, brands shouldn’t pursue and grow loyalty programs blindly. Traditional loyalty programs cost more and deliver less than many executives realize. Even loyal customers will switch from a brand on a moment’s notice. Brands should focus on providing great products and services, retaining customers by delighting them with great service, and then leverage their customers’ social connections to gain new customers. In other words, brands want and need loyal customers to sing their praises far and wide, not just quietly redeem their loyalty perks periodically.
Should all brands try to become the next Apple or Amazon? Or is it more realistic and/or beneficial for brands to understand their own unique brand identity, and then define objectives, process, and programs that align with that unique identity?
Pollock: Duplicating another company’s strategy isn’t an avenue to success. That’s one of the biggest mistakes brands make. Every brand needs to have an acute understanding of its own customers and their preferences and needs to develop products and CX management strategies for each segment.
Can you define what the phrase “customer journey” means to you? What does it mean to brands? And how do you see it changing?
Pollock: Customer Journey is how a customer experiences a brand, from start to finish, either in a discreet transaction type or multiple transactions. It’s the sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with a company/ brand and is absolutely critical to any brand’s current and future standing.
Customer Journeys will continue to evolve over time as customers and brands will. Brands need to continue analyzing and enhancing/improving their customers’ journeys or run the risk of becoming out of touch and irrelevant. With the number of customer communication tools and channels continuing to proliferate, keeping pace with customers will be doubtless a huge challenge in the future.
What is the single most important thing that you have done (or do) over a period of engagement (say a year) that helps clients increase customer loyalty?
Pollock: That varies by company, of course. Having said that, the one constant that exists in all this is that companies need to understand the specific delight drivers, from the customer’s point of view. Knowing what the drivers of delight and retention are, companies can then develop and or refine products, solutions, and services that are likely to keep and grow a customer. If readers are interested in some supplemental reading on measuring customer delight factors, particularly how to ensure they are measuring the right things, they can check out references to the “Kano Model” on the web. The Kano model was developed by Noriaki Kano, an educator, lecturer, writer, and consultant in the field of quality management. Kano is the developer of a customer satisfaction model (now known as the Kano Model whose simple ranking scheme distinguishes between essential and differentiating attributes related to concepts of customer quality.
If you ask a brand, a customer, or a competitor one question, what would it be? Effectively, if you had a crystal ball and could ask any question, what would it be?
Pollock: What are you doing to make your customer interactions and journeys with your brand simpler, easier, and more intuitive, both today and tomorrow?
What is the future of customer loyalty?
Pollock: Loyalty will be tougher than ever before to attain and maintain. Brands that understand loyalty drivers at a detailed level, and who provide a fantastic experience consistently, that their customers will rave about offline and online, will be the clear winners–at least until their competitors leapfrog them with something even better!