Improve customer service 

Don’t fall into The Chasm

The three common gaps many companies encounter when improving the customer experience, and how to avoid them.

by Jimmy Chou

Every company – from the bodega on the corner, to your favorite clothing store, to the Fortune 100 bank or insurer – creates an experience for its customers. The best companies work relentlessly to refine and build memorable customer experiences; consider the feeling of shopping in your city’s most beloved grocery store, your surprise at the helpfulness provided during an otherwise routine call center experience, or the joy of your preferred social media app.

How you interact with a brand – in person, over the phone, or online – is the customer experience (CX).

When CX is done right, a business can not only create a memorable and even delightful event for someone, but also strengthen and improve business results.

The importance of the customer experience is undeniable, and the process for defining and implementing CX transformations is well-documented. Transformation starts with defining the CX vision and ends with implementation of multi-dimensional improvements, but through 20 years of helping clients navigate their CX improvement journeys, we have identified three common gaps that many clients encounter along the way.

We refer to these three gaps as The Chasm.

GAP 1: IDENTIFY key customer needs and moments that matter.

Companies must start by identifying the customer journey, and ask questions: Who are our customers, what are their needs, and what is going through their minds – and hearts – throughout their entire experience with us?

Journey-mapping documents each touchpoint of the customer experience, from the moment a person calls, lands on a website, or walks through the front door until their needs are fulfilled. Along the way are particular “moments that matter,” key make-or-break points that should provide joy or relief to the customer. If there’s frustration or friction at these moments, improvements are required.

To accurately identify and map the CX requires access to the customer. This means feet on the street – physically traveling, if needed, to see the experience in person and conduct qualitative research. Customer research analysts may walk a retail floor, or observe a customer navigate through a bank’s website or mobile app while documenting every step along the way. We see well-intentioned organizations start and stop customer research with a single survey or a set of data. But this limited-source approach misses a key point: Customers are multi-dimensional human beings, not a data point.

In a contact center for a roadside assistance company, for example, we listened in on phone calls and sat side-by-side with agents, jacked-in to the phone to observe the experience from the customer perspective. These customers were already under stress, each one in need of roadside assistance whether from a breakdown or minor car accident. We documented friction points and key moments along the way during the call.

Quantitative surveys, demographic research, social listening, market or competitive research, and analysis of in-house data may also be required to identify the CX journey. Customers are multi-dimensional human beings, and understanding their needs and emotions during the journey is a critical first step in overcoming the customer needs Identification gap of the Chasm.

GAP 2: ALIGN processes and technologies to the CX

Too often, companies get bogged down with “org charts” that list each department in a separate silo. But many forget that customers don’t care about your organizational structure or your disparate processes and technologies. And it’s not just org structures that create silos. It’s only natural that companies that grow through acquisitions build up process and technical debt through years of operating as separate companies, and now must deliver a common experience to the customer.

This is hard work.

Customer experience is owned by every department and division, not just the ones that have customer-facing interactions. Connecting these silos – and if necessary, the technologies underpinning them – is ultimately the goal of CX transformation.

With the journey mapped and data in hand, it’s important to align your customer journey to the processes and technologies that enable your target experience.“Aha” moments are visualized by the overlapping applications, multiple customer data stores, and gaps in processes.

So where does technology play a role?

Technology can provide a solution to CX problems, but it’s often the only fix considered. It is easy to get distracted with the latest, greatest, and shiniest. There are thousands of technology vendors out there, custom technologies are expensive, and they need to be researched, understood, and clearly connected to customer and business benefit before implementation. 

GAP 3: CONNECT customer experience to KPIs

Transforming CX should surely make the customer feel better, but when done properly, will also drive business results.

Still, the lack of explicit linkages between customer metrics and financial metrics make CX seem like a “nice to have” versus a “need to have” when prioritized against other initiatives. Too often, we still see organizations manage CX improvements in a silo, as its own program versus embedding CX into the business.

In our work with a global insurance client, we mapped out the end-to-end customer experience and noticed inadvertent moments of high customer effort. Customers were forced to switch from web or mobile interactions, where they started, to calling into the contact center to complete their transaction. This resulted in high client frustration and increased contact center operations expenses.    

Through a CX improvement roadmap that tightly integrated customer experience improvements with key business metrics, the insurer not only improved the experience for customers, but reduced operational expenses by more than 20 percent.

 Transforming CX is complex and has many moving parts, but it is critical to gain a holistic view of your customers, overcome organizational silos and tie together disparate processes and technologies, and connect your CX to results (key performance indicators).

Good CX is good business, and when you overcome the gaps of The Chasm, you create great CX.

Learn more about our Customer Service solutions.

Jimmy Chou
Jimmy Chou
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