“Customer experience” can be defined as the total number of interactions that a person has with a brand across all possible channels. This includes every manner of contact — voice, chat, social media, and face-to-face — and all feasible relations, such as questions about a product, inquiries into a service, sales, and technical support.
Excellent customer experience is no longer an expense that must be kept under control. It is becoming a key competitive differentiator for any company. This means that properly managing the customer experience is critical because it builds brand loyalty and identifies sales opportunities — two elements that define the bottom-line of every company.
The best current definition of customer experience management (CXM) is the one developed by Columbia University professor Bernd Herbert Schmitt: ‘‘CXM is the discipline, methodology, and process used to: Comprehensively understand, measure, and manage a customer’s cross-channel and touch-point exposure, interaction, and transaction…with an organization, product, brand, or service…to facilitate success through a competitive value proposition and profitable customer relationships.’’
That being said, client relationships have to be profitable for both parties (consumers and companies). With that in mind, the following are the six major trends that will dominate the customer experience management space in Latin America throughout 2016.
1. Unification and Single View
Many companies believe that “omni-channel” and “multi-channel” are the same thing — but this is not true. Multi-channel simply means that several channels are available for customers to choose from. Omni-channel means that there is integration among channels, and full information and context will be available to all channels. A customer interaction can commence in one channel using one device and switch channels and devices dynamically with no loss of context.
Organizations must be able to manage customer journeys across numerous devices. Without unification and a single view, each customer contact tends to be handled as an isolated interaction. This is fundamentally wrong. Customer journeys are never isolated interactions. To deliver an optimal experience, organizations must be aware of what customers did right before an interaction started and what they will do right after the interaction ends. Organizations also must understand how a specific interaction fits into the wider customer journey.
2. Context Is King
All elements of the customer experience must be context-aware and totally relevant — and organizations need to realize that good customer experiences depend on timing and customer journey cycles.
Understanding the context of a customer determines the effectiveness of the engagement. In many ways, consistency is more important than the highest degree of personalization. Customers expect to receive the experience they have paid for, but no supplier can afford to deliver a consistently excellent experience to everyone.
There are situations in which a supplier can create amazingly strong customer loyalty by going above and beyond its own service manuals, but these situations cannot be identified without context awareness. This is one area in which the cultural affinity to the United States offered by agents in locations like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or Colombia can be a differentiator.
3. Culture and Employee Engagement
“Happy employees drive happy customers” sounds like a sensible marketing adage, but organizations have only recently begun to realize how important it is to encourage deeper, multifaceted dialogue between agents and customers.
The old-school view that customer interactions were costs and not opportunities has had unfortunate consequences. Customer service agents have not been recognized as individuals and important business development assets; rather, organizations have sought to constantly cut costs through outsourcing and offshoring, through which agent individuality was lost to view.
These measures are being rolled back, and organizations are recognizing that the vast majority of employees are actually eager to do a good job — especially in Latin America. Given the right tools, they will provide a good, natural customer experience.
4. Predicting Customer Behavior
Predicting customer behavior becomes the top priority for marketing and customer insight teams, meaning that their focus shifts away from traditional tracking studies describing the past.
When companies realize that customer loyalty is the only real differentiator available to most businesses today and that the customer experience is more important than the brand, they will have to do everything they can to keep customers loyal in the long term, rather than making short-term gains. Predicting customer behavior is an effective way of generating loyalty; organizations will use many new sources of information to gain richer customer insights.
The information sources keep expanding, but many are already available, although they are not being used. Contact center notes, contact center recordings, and other types of qualitative insight and valuable unstructured data will be supplemented by increased use of focus groups and ethnographic research.
5. Spontaneous Innovation
Spontaneously developing and launching new customer initiatives and using real-time insight to conduct micro-tests of those initiatives will make organizations much more agile. Rather than commissioning lengthy testing and customer feedback studies before passing on results to corporate functions that decide whether to launch an initiative, organizations will be much bolder in 2016. They will launch limited initiatives and use continuous insight to adapt and tweak initiatives.
By institutionalizing the concept of spontaneous innovation across organizations, companies can unleash the creativity of the masses to work on “micro-innovation.” A change of culture is necessary in many Latin American companies: They must become less corporate and more dynamic to begin understanding that it is O.K. to fail — as long as they learn quickly from mistakes. With continuous, real-time customer insight, companies can pull the plug on initiatives that do not work without worrying about damage to the brand.
6. Cloud: The Customer Experience Wraparound
Cloud has gained tremendous traction in the customer experience management space. In the next few years, new CXM functionality will overwhelmingly be deployed in the cloud, streamlining integration with other tools and systems also in the cloud.
Any on-premise deployment decision by a company will be severely challenged internally. Vendors in the customer-care space are so committed to the cloud-deployment model that they are beginning to include the cloud concept into their branding.