As to my background and credentials as editor of this publication: I began my career as a sports journalist, where I worked closely with Sports Illustrated, and later as a reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer and as Weekend Night Sports Editor for the Cincinnati Post. I moved on to work as a copywriter in the marketing department at Union Central Life, then one of the top 50 insurance companies in the US. My next stint was as a Marketing Manager for KDI Corporation, a high-tech A&D conglomerate. From there I served for a couple of years as a writer and account executive at a promotion agency, working for Champion Spark Plugs, Owens-Corning and Jeep. I did a stint as editor of an international trade magazine and then made the jump to marketing management at a chemical company, and later at NuTone, a manufacturer of home building products. That’s when I made the big jump, opening a sales promotion agency with partners Richard Blumberg and Barron Krody. Over the next two decades we built the agency up to one of the 50 largest in the US, serving Procter & Gamble, Toshiba, Florida Power & Light, 3M, Imation, Quaker State, Pillsbury, St. Paul Insurance, among others. I sold the agency to join Cincom Systems — the oldest software company still in existence — where I worked with a phenomenal group of marketers as Marketing Director for Manufacturing Customer Strategies and to manage marketing programs with Microsoft Dynamics, our primary business partner . I retired from Cincom at the end of 2015 to put renewed focus on this online magazine.

The CEM Challenge

The Dysfunctional Difference

With over 40 years working in marketing and sales with national and regional companies, my observations blend into certain realities.

A lot of companies are dysfunctional.

They were dysfunctional then and years later, they still are.

A few do almost everything right.

There are profound differences in how these two types of companies go about creating value for their customers and provide positive customer experiences.

These differences determine how different companies generate economic value — by first creating a valued customer experience. But for all the words written about customer experience, so few seem yet to get the message.

A massive study by the Conference Board confirmed that only 5 percent of companies have achieved sustained inflation-adjusted growth of more than 6 percent.  All the other companies have stalled out.

Recent studies confirm similar patterns:

Profit from the Core (Chris Zook and James Allen) — 13 percent of 1,854 companies achieved sustained growth.

Creative Destruction (Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan) — 16 percent of 1,008 companies achieved sustained growth.

Good to Great (Jim Collins) — 9 percent of 1,435 companies achieved sustained growth.

The numbers tell the sad truth.  

It is all too easy to succumb to a kind of corporate hysteria in which the illusion of action wrapped in a great deal of rhetoric replaces effective action.

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, leap and shout.”We allow corporate infighting. Alternate approaches are pitted against each other in an “either-or” scenario in which there can be no winners.

Yet worse … we apply incremental band-aid solutions that address symptoms instead of causes. The problems persist, yet we expect better results.

Such common actions can put any company definitively in second or third place or in no place at all.

Customer Experience Goes South in the Contact Center. Who to Blame?

By Dale Wolf

A variety of different surveys indicate that at best only one in ten consumers have an outstanding experience when calling corporate contact centers. The other nine are average, mediocre or poor. The fact that I work for a company selling contact center technology brings an interesting observation. As much as we want to sell our solution, the reality is that providing a great customer experience on the phone is mostly about how you use the technology. Sure, you need certain features to enable agents to fluidly provide fast and accurate responses, but the customer happiness is about how company policies and whether the agent actually cares about providing the customer with a wonderful experience.

The features touted by Cincom as essential elements within the technology are three-fold:

  1. A unified agent desktop (that lets the agent see all the information that is relevant to a particular customer call without digging through a lot of back-office applications).
  2. Intelligent scripting (to guide the agent into the most productive and relevant conversation path).
  3. Automated, personalized fulfillment (that enables an agent to send back to the customer confirming information about the issues they discussed on the phone).

Given these three capabilities, a well-trained agent can extend to the customer a perfect customer experience.

The fact that some 90% of contact center interactions annoy the customer is uncalled for and unnecessary. It is mostly indicative of corporate cultures that have not made the shift to customer experience marketing. The agents reflect the culture and the compensation policies of the company they work for.

Senior executives with poor customer service in the contact center need first to look at themselves and the culture they are fostering. Change that and the customer experience will improve. Change that and you will grow faster and more profitably than your competition.

Key Insights for Delivering a Perfect Customer Experience

By Shaun Smith

Shaun_smith_2 Do you know what your most profitable customers value and the 3 or 4 most important attributes which drive their intention to repurchase or to refer you?

Without the answers to these questions you may have data, but you do not have insight. A key difference between simply providing ‘good’ customer service and a customer experience is being differentiated in a way that is valuable to target customers. Being different is not enough.

For example, the Fashion Café, the chain of restaurants created by fashion models including Naomi Campbell, was clearly differentiated in its use of fashion memorabilia in the design of its restaurants. However, its offer had no lasting value for people who go to a restaurant first and foremost for the quality of its food and service. As a result, once the novelty factor had worn off The Fashion café saw a decline in business.

Another example is Barclays, the UK based bank that created a very expensive advertising campaign to promote the fact that it is a big bank. The campaign bombed because most retail customers see no value in their bank being big. In fact quite the opposite; ‘big’ stands for impersonal and uncaring.

One more example: Like a number of business people, I use the Platinum American Express Charge Card for its travel service and benefits, yet I receive unsolicited direct mails shots from an organisation called Capital One on a weekly basis. The mail shots all say the same thing and offer me the same credit card promoting a low rate of interest. They always enclose a cheap ball-point pen in the envelope. This bank clearly has not taken the trouble to understand me, what I value, or develop an offer that is likely to appeal to me. It has gotten to the point that now as soon as I feel the pen through the envelope I throw it away unopened.

We can all avoid making this mistake — treating customers as if they are all the same … or worse yet, treating them all as if they were you. When we look at how we can provide value to each distinctly individual customer, we will be moving in the direction of the perfect customer experience.

Stand Out from the Crowd with a Unique Customer Experience

By Shaun Smith

Shaun_smith_1 Richer Sounds is a UK based HI-Fi retailer which achieves the highest sales per square foot of any retailer in the world. Why? Because Julian Richer, the Chairman, believes that the customer and the employee experience are inextricably linked and so he uses uncommon ways to create a great employee experience and reward them for creating an exceptional customer experience. He creates a distinctive employment experience for his best performing “colleagues” by providing these employees with the loan of company Bentleys for the weekend and trips on the company jet.

Yet any other retailer attempting to copy these very unusual employee practices is likely to fail because they would not be linked to the customer experience strategy.

The fact is that unless your customer experience and employee experience are carefully aligned with
the strategy for your brand you are unlikely to stand out from the crowd. The issue is not what these companies do but why they do it? Best Practice assumes that what works for one company will work for another. In our view, it is far more important for organisations to first decide their strategy and then decide how they can bring it to life through creating and managing a customer experience that delivers this every day. Only then can internal processes and policies be designed to reinforce this.

Unfortunately, all too often, it is the technology that drives the strategy or customer experience. Expenditure on CRM systems grew from $20billion in 2001 to $46billion in 2004 yet Gartner Research estimated that 55% of CRM systems drive customers away and dilute earnings.

Most CRM systems are installed without any thought to how they will be used to deliver the customer experience. These powerful data bases allow companies to collect knowledge about the customer that can be used to offer them products and services tuned to their particular needs and preferences yet many organisations (and banks are the worst) use them as a blunt instrument to stalk, rather than woo, the customer: many customers think that CRM stands for Constantly Receiving Mailshots!