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Heart of the Customer in Expert Interview Series

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 01/16/2017

Something different. I was recently interviewed by Netscout as part of their Expert Interview Series for CIO Brief. A copy is below. Enjoy!

Jim Tincher is the Mapper-In-Chief of HEART OF THE CUSTOMER, where he helps brands understand how hard it is to be their customer. We recently asked for his insight on how businesses can better know their customers and improve their customer experience. Here’s what he shared:

Can you tell us about the mission behind Heart of the Customer? What are your goals?

Our mission is to help change agents transform their organization to fully internalize the voice of their customer and to drive action against that. Our goals are to provide those change agents with the call to action needed to drive change.

How has the way brands engage with customers evolved since you launched your business?

Customer experience is now being taken more seriously. In the last few years we have seen the rise of the customer experience (CX) organization, charged with driving the company to build a customer-centric approach. However, we’re still at a fairly early stage, so methodologies are not yet robust. We’re in a very exciting time, as we are building the tools that will become the standard.

What do you think customer engagement will look like in the next five to 10 years?

While the last few years have led to a separate department to run CX, in five to 10 years we’ll see it dispersed out again. Bruce Temkin calls for a federated model of CX. It wouldn’t surprise me if in 10 years, there is no more CX department, as customer experience becomes everybody’s role. It’s somewhat similar to quality. When quality became the critical differentiator, a separate role was needed to drive the organization. However, it eventually became evident that quality needed to be part of everybody’s job. You still had individuals coordinating quality, but it moved from centralized to distributed. We’ll see a similar result eventually. The CX department is absolutely critical today. They are driving the company to focus on customer needs. But our goal should be to put ourselves out of a job, by creating a culture where everybody is focused on the customer.

How has technology enabled companies to improve their customer experience? What types of applications have had the biggest impact on customer experience?

Improved self-service has been critical to an improved CX. Customers really don’t want to think about you and your brand – they just want to accomplish their goals. According to the CEB, 58 percent of customers calling a contact center started on the company’s website before calling, and 59 percent of them are annoyed at having to call. Customers want to solve their problems quickly and easily, and preferably without actually having to interact with you at all.

While not a technology per se, applying a design thinking approach to technology is even more important. By focusing the development firmly on customer problems, and building it with active and continual feedback, you can develop better products more rapidly than through traditional approaches.

What excites you about how data is used to improve customer experience? What insights should brands be analyzing to have a better picture of their customer’s experiences?

Data is one of two critical components to creating the input needed to improve customer experience. Data tells you what customers are doing, to help determine problems and preferred ways to interact. What data lacks, though, is the story behind why they are doing this. So while data is critical, it needs to be paired with qualitative research to show the full picture.

The key is to understand your customer’s journey. McKinsey reports that measuring journeys is 30 percent more correlated with business outcomes than measuring individual touch points. So that’s where you need to focus. First analyze the data to understand what customers are doing today – where are they going, and where is the journey failing. Use this to identify the critical journeys to explain – those causing reduced loyalty, for example. Then use the qualitative research to understand why that’s a problem. For example, a health club client used their data to determine which types of customers were most at risk – new Millennials. So then we used qualitative research to understand why this was true. This then narrowed down the critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to the critical few, that they were able to measure to analyze their ongoing journeys.

What are best practices for using technology to improve customer engagement and customer service?

First, learn your customer’s goals. Most people at a retailer don’t want to use a self-service kiosk. But they may have a goal to get in and out quickly. So if you can focus the technology on their goal (get in and out quickly) rather than yours (reduce labor), you have a much better chance at success.

Next, look to your different customer types or personas. Different customers have different needs. Using the example above, some customers will simply never use a self-service kiosk. That’s OK. If that’s the way it is, then feel free to ignore their feedback on what a self-service kiosk should be. Instead, develop it just around the customers who are interested. It’s too easy (and awful) to develop a solution for everybody. A solution for everybody is truly a solution for nobody.

What are the most common mistakes or oversights you see brands making in implementing technology solutions to help with customer service/engagement?

Brands tend to develop the technology for themselves, rather than for their customers. As experts in our domain, we want to give customers choices, and submit the entire option set to them. But here’s the challenge: Customers want choices. But they don’t always want to choose. How do you give them the entire option set, but not force them through selecting between 64 different configurations. How do you use your technology to guide them in their choices?

How can brands evaluate the success of the customer engagement strategies they implement? How will they know if they’re effective?

It starts with fully understanding your customer’s goals. They’re often not what you think they are. We studied a B2B relationship, for example. The goal was to understand what the VP of Purchasing wanted. The assumption was that he/she wanted lower prices and quick response. In our research, we found that was totally false. Yes, they want these things. But what they really want is to bring something of unique value to their company. Low prices and quick response are table stakes. But giving that customer something that shows their being innovative – that’s what really mattered. By fully understanding your customer’s true goals, you can develop solutions that actually make a difference.

What brands do you follow that have used technology to improve customer experience in especially innovative ways? What can we learn from them?

Amazon is an obvious example. But not just in how easy it is to click on their site – look deeper. Notice how well they allow for completely separate brand experiences (Zappos and Woot, for example). Yet, even though the experiences are very different, they are still able to leverage their technology consistently. NEST is another great example of just making it easy to be their customer.

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