Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Aligning Technology Choices with Customer Engagement Goals

An interview with:
Michael Taylor
Senior Director, Client Support

Interviewed by Sam Narisi

Technology is moving faster than ever, and there are many new tools available to help companies manage their interactions with customers. However, companies need a strategy in place to make sure their investments are helping create the kind of customer experience they want.

Frost & Sullivan recently spoke with Michael Taylor, CareerBuilder’s Senior Director of Client Support, about the opportunities companies have to improve the customer experience and the lessons he has learned about aligning technology decisions with company strategy. Michael will also be leading a discussion around these and other topics at the 10th Anniversary Customer Contact 2014, West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, October 19 – 22, in San Diego, CA.

What are some of the biggest opportunities available for companies to use technology to improve the customer experience?

Even before looking at a specific technology, you first must understand your strategy and goals for driving a strong customer experience. For us, we are working to create an effortless experience for our customers. In the past, we’ve made investments in technology, but not necessarily directly aligned to that strategy.

Over the last six months, we have performed discovery around the support best practices from our partners in the business, our customers, and various industries. That’s led to some important findings. One is that the concepts of Support and Success are very different and require very skill sets, incentives, and bottom line goals. Support is any process that involves a customer contacting you with a question or concern. Success is where we proactively work with the customers to drive long-term engagement. You have different incentive structures and goals that align to each.  We tried to do both at the same time with the same people. Part of our discovery process was uncovering how to maximize both through technology, automation, and structure in a way that aligned with our goals.

For support, there are key parameters you must maximize to achieve an effective customer experience: speed, accuracy, and transparency. To achieve this we’ve worked on three areas with technology:

  1. Commitment to a strong and flexible central CRM platform. 
  2. Integrating or consolidating our internal systems and customer platforms so that the full record of the customer, including their journey, history, and opportunities, are fully visible. 
  3. Striving to make it as easy as possible for the customer to be able to contact us and get a full understanding of their inquiry, who is working it, and when it’s expected to be resolved. 

We’re proactive in our communication to the customer, and they have the ability to see their status first-hand at any point. Integration is critical because we have to ensure this communication is visible to the front-end for our customers, as well as pull any data on the back-end into that platform. This gives you the opportunity to have one lens, one view, and one voice of the customer. Over the past few years, the software has become very flexible, so even if it’s not all on one platform, it’s possible to gather the data into one system.

What benefits have you seen as you’ve improved transparency – for example, how has it affected call volume? 

It reduces calls and escalations. You can also leverage any of the customer intelligence gained to provide content in the front-end for more effective self-service. This improves impact and efficiency because whenever escalations occur, many parties become involved to resolve; more managers and leaders of other groups are involved, which doesn’t necessarily help speed up the resolution and draws a lot of static.

However, the other key benefit is longer term. Transparency helps ensure a long-term customer. There are many occurrences where you capture the active voice of the customer, whether they’re contacting you, filling out a survey, or communicating via social media. However, there are numerous sentiment and health signals that emerge when customers are not interacting with you directly. The real opportunity is not only to capture customer sentiment from all channels, but to understand the customers’ overall health based on their usage, allowing you to take effective, proactive action.

What are some examples of how you engage customers proactively?

We use Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a metric for the transactions various teams have with customers. For all of those transactions, our scores as a whole, I’m proud to say, are quite high – at the world-class levels. We thought that was great news, but then our marketing team did a brand loyalty assessment to gauge the overall sentiment of CareerBuilder as a brand. We learned that while the NPS for individual interactions was quite high, the overall sentiment was probably significantly lower. There was a gap, and that was part of our call to action to improve engagement.

We target proactive activities in two areas: one is time-based within the customer’s life, and the second is based on specific events and specific usage patterns with particular products. An example of a time-based trigger would be a quarterly account review that looks at the performance for the customer based on the products they purchased. We analyze the data against their goals and provide recommendations to ensure they’re maximizing their experience of what they purchased from us. Event-based triggers are product specific. One example is with our data products. We look the customer’s usage. So if a customer is leveraging the tools quite frequently, but their usage declines over a period of time, we take action, investigate, and reach back out to the customer.

How can you ensure incentives and the use of technology align with the company’s overall strategy?

At the end of the day, it’s about knowing the most important bottom line goals for the business. There has to be transparency across the leaders and there has to be consistency and understanding of what the mission, strategy, and goals are. Then it’s a partnership between leadership and the success and support teams to ensure group goals and incentives align to the vision. For us, our mission became to create a fun and effortless experience for our customers and partners.

Once you have your group’s vision statement, you can target specific objectives and measurable goals to achieve it. That could mean looking at ways to use technology, outsourcing, consulting, or your own personnel. You have to ask: Does what we’re investing in align with the overall goals of our products, our customers, and our business as a whole? Can you prove it or at least show a logical roadmap to get there? For us, it didn’t just start with signing our CRM contract, but with the willingness of the business to invest time and other resources to ensure the platform was a vehicle to achieve our mission: creating a fun and effortless experience for our customers. We will achieve this by maximizing the speed, accuracy, and transparency of Support, and long-term engagement and partnership of our customers through Success.

Also, there’s an opportunity for any group or company to leverage discovery and rapid prototyping. It costs no money and limited time; and the more of that you’re willing to do, the greater your understanding and likelihood that you’ll make the right investment. This increases your ability to create a case that shows what the return on technology investment will be and how it translates to the bottom line goals of the business. This will set you on a path to success.

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