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Customer Experience, Customer Engagement and CRM – Think Big, Act Small

This is the second post in my mini series about continuously improving the customer experience and customer engagement in the triangle of Customer Experience Management (CEX), Customer Engagement Management (CEM), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Well, actually the third, if you include my guest post There’s no customer experience without customer engagement on friend Paul Greenberg’s ZDNet blog.
A while ago, in my post CxM and PoS – A Tale of two Cities I have asked you to stay tuned in case you were interested in learning about a way of implementing the strategy of thinking big while acting small in order to be able to keep the big goal – adding value for your customers offering the best possible experiences –  at the center of actions. All this while acknowledging that priorities are shifting, budgets are scarce, and different customers prefer to engage via different sequences of touch points.
Sounds like a nasty and complicated challenge.
And it is!
But if you break it down into smaller pieces it becomes manageable. It requires a kind of SCRUM-like project management approach, on corporate level.
The objective is to have a strategy and delivery infrastructure that
  • bases on optimally delivering to customer needs
  • covers every touch point with the customer while remembering that not every customer journey is created equal
  • is flexible enough to quickly adjust to changing customer demands
  • embraces the strengths and weaknesses of the existing systems. Not every touch point needs all available information
It all starts with the customer, with customer engagement, customer experience and, yeah, management of the relationship with the customer, in a mobile dominated Internet of Things world.
Following an adaptation of Paul Greenberg’s new definition of CRM:

CRM’s role is to manage not the customer relationship, but to manage the business operations related to the customer. Its analysis capabilities turn data into insights.
As such CRM is the foundation for good engagement and customer experiences across communication channels and touch points.
Engagements and customer experiences feed back data to it to enable a virtuous circle.

This requires a strategy of nimbly orchestrating
  • Strategy and its execution
  • Alignment of different business units
  • internally and externally facing systems
  • Customer apps
  • Data collection and Analytics
  • A regular and frequent, transparent process for reprioritisation of priorities
A BI and CRM systems manager of a not overly sophisticated retailer who I worked with said “I am collecting all data that I can get, in case the business units want to use it”. They employ a fairly simple model but especially marketing and operations sometimes do have questions that go beyond the range of data they ordinarily want. With his forward-looking approach he can make sure that they can get answered while keeping the business units in the driver’s seat. This is a very good example for IT being an enabler. Remember, this is a retailer – with retailers being constantly cash strapped this is quite a feat!
Bringing this all together – how does this now work?
Build an evolving roadmap, cycle the process to cater for agility. It is that simple, just requires a bit of discipline.
  • assess – state where one is in respect to where one wants to be. Heaving an objective = destination is only half of any roadmap. You also need a starting point to not suffer shipwreck on the way. This includes not at the least to get a good overview on the menu of customer touch points (yes, menu, not prescribed customer roadmap)
  • Select the right stakeholders from the relevant departments. It is important to cover business-, service units, including IT. The right people are not necessarily the department heads; there often are people on the ground who have a very good overview on what is good, what not so, and, even more importantly, these people can act as reliable influencers when it comes to implementation. Be sure that these stakeholders are empowered and not just bodies that are sent into useless meetings – else the exercise will become useless
  • Collect data on where the pain points that prevent from achieving goals and objectives better lie and get an overview on where in the organisation they are, how much they affect different parts of it. This can be achieved as simple as having every stakeholder rank the individual pain points individually. The sum over the departments then is a measure of the organisational pain. This identifies potential initiatives that mitigate the identified issues, follow corporate-, departmental, and IT strategy and can get pursued. Price them; it is important to know their gains as well as their cost
  • Categorise them, e.g. Into strategic, growth, compliance, or efficiency projects. This can be done by assessing them according to project risk and economic climate. The hunger for risk decreases with with weaker economic climates. Strategic projects e.g. tend to be more risky and thus often are started only in stronger environments, whereas efficiency or compliance projects are more interesting in weaker times
  • Prioritise! This is an important and often forgotten step. Use a transparent process for this and don’t just go for some influencer’s pet project. Tools that one can use for this step are for example business value indicators, IT efficiency index and/or many more. Yet, it is a good idea to map an IT index over a business index as this helps to get mutual understanding and agreement. After all IT- and business departments are not always fully aligned …
    After this step we have a good portfolio of project candidates that can get kicked off if needed
    Build a roadmap, probably including alternatives out of these, that corresponds to the current priorities and budgets
Repeat this in relatively frequent cycles. This keeps the improvement cycle in touch with customer engagement and customer experience realities and necessities in a world of changing economic and technological environments. And it enables you to constantly and consistently deliver value to the business – well, unless you cheat too much in the assessment and prioritisation exercises, that is …
Additionally a cross-departmental alignment is fostered and the continuous outcomes ensure more buy-in than silo’ed work that happens in some hidden corners.
What do you think? Would this help your organisation? Do you operate like this?


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