There are many opportunities for loyalty marketers today, but somehow some of the basics seem to get lost in the pursuit of bottom line success. Chasing great customer experiences to provide is estimable for brands, but they need to know what constitutes a memorable customer experience first.
Ron Balmer, Managing Director of Customer Experience for Greenwich Associates, talks to Loyalty360 about what he views as a critical opportunity for loyalty marketers.
“Defining what is a positive customer experience,” Balmer explains. “So many companies set out on their CX journeys without defining what it means for the organization.”
Balmer shared an eye-opening example of this.
“If you look at NPS for the hospitality industry,” Balmer says, “the No. 1 scoring hotel chain is Ritz Carlton. But, No. 2 is the Hampton Inn. Hampton Inn has defined what a great customer experience is for a customer who is spending $87 a night to stay in one of its hotels. It’s their niche that has an entirely different set of expectations. Unless you understand and react to customer needs, demands, expectations, and perceptions of value, it’s difficult to enhance the overall customer experience. This is a real opportunity for marketers and brands.”
What’s more, Balmer talks about a movement toward using Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM). An EFM is, essentially, software that enables organizations to centrally manage deployment of surveys while dispersing authoring and analysis throughout an organization.
“It allows you to deploy huge, scalable data collection programs and get results quickly and cheaply,” Balmer says. “But, that’s all it does. Don’t rule out working with a consultant to help bring the data to life. It’s important to know what is happening best-in-class in your industry segment around customer experience, and what’s happening in other industries, and being able to provide industry benchmarks. Working with a partner can enable these things.”
Greenwich Associates, a leading global provider of market intelligence and advisory services to the financial services industry, specializes in providing fact-based insights and practical recommendations to improve business results.
Greenwich Associates has client relationships with more than 260 of the world’s leading banks and financial services firms and help them improve their respective business performances.
Balmer believes that two other important challenges are for companies to strike a balance between the front of the house and the back of the house, understanding the impact of both personal interactions and digital interactions.
“There is a real difference between the front of the house and back of the house when it comes to driving customer experience,” he explains. “Helping the people in the back of the house understand, appreciate, and own the role they play in driving customer experience even if they never interact with a customer is critical,” Balmer says. “Marketers need to be mindful of the digital interactions that influence one’s perceptions while still managing the personal interactions that matter. Communication is a factor, accountability is a factor, and visibility is a factor.”
Besides being a key differentiator among brands, customer experience is a massive topic among loyalty marketers.
“What we find is CX is hot right now,” Balmer says. “It’s really sort of a core strategic pillar for a lot of organizations. We know that 90 percent of U.S. companies tend to compete on customer service. Yet, less than half of those companies rate their customer service as really good. These CX programs and CX leaders are beginning to realize that these programs aren’t delivering on the expected results.”
The reason?
“The challenge of data collection,” he adds. “Are respondents to my surveys representative of the whole? Another reason is reported results are grossly underutilized, and a third reason is a lack of advanced analytics. We have some clients doing basic analytics, but there are so many other tools that software has made easy and inexpensive. EFM providers will always point to their analytics capabilities. But, these tools lack the human consideration of the variables you’re going to analyze, the context and application of the results of the analysis, and choosing between and among the available analytic frameworks. It requires domain expertise in both the sector you’re in and CX.”
Data itself isn’t the issue.
“The challenge is what to do after you have the data,” Balmer says. “We think EFM marketers will continue to market their software as a CX solution. They are not a CX solution. They’re software tools that are CX enablers. They enable you to get the data you need to do something else. Great CX executives aren’t focused on collection and reporting, but rather on integrating that data into the kinds of activities that drive behavior and culture change; integrating data into action planning, customer journey mapping, setting priorities for action and budgeting, and using CX data for root cause analysis. All of those things become possible with data collected from customers.”
A platform is required for effective CX management, Balmer notes, but it represents only half of the solution.
“We view our own platform as table stakes,” he says. “Digital data collection and providing reporting and visibility to results allows customers to use portal tools to access data. But, the platform doesn’t differentiate your CX. It just enables reporting on CX. The other half is having the knowledge of what are the best practices in the industry. Be proactive in CX and create a plan and road map for improvement. Platforms are only useful if employees do something with the knowledge the platform can help you gain.
Greenwich Associates prides itself on helping clients address a major source of dissatisfaction and anchor on loyalty levels: Problem resolution.
“Problem resolution has a direct link to loyalty,” Balmer says. “As customers become more dissatisfied with problem resolution, loyalty erodes. We find that problem resolution can frequently be a leading indicator of future loyalty erosion. In our view, what is new is really the notion that this is the Age of the Customer. Customers have more options, they have the ability to evaluate options, they have access to information about the quality of those options, and the ability to share how you have performed. Customers are truly in the driver’s seat in a way they haven’t been before with greater expectations. Continued problem incidence and a failure to resolve problems will only serve to motivate customers to explore those options.”

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