Monday, October 10, 2011

Curt Carlson on Customer Experience: #3: How do your customers feel about doing business with you?

In this new series of posts, we are joined by guest blogger Curt Carlson, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience Management – TNS North America. Read the full series here.

Hi! This is the third of four posts leading up to the NACCM conference. In my last one, I discussed a way to begin to unlock some of the strategic value inherent in all Customer Experience Management (CXM) programs. That approach required becoming truly customer-centric…understanding individual customer’s needs and taking action at that level. We also, however, need to take into account how customers make decisions regarding the companies they do business with. Science is telling us that decision making is not very rational. It is, in fact, mostly emotional.

The earth is flat. The sun moves around the earth. We use our powers of reason to make decisions. All were strongly held beliefs…once upon a time. Today, neuroscience reveals that the emotional regions of the brain are very active when making a decision. Once a decision is made, however, the rational areas take over. It sure looks like we make decisions emotionally and then rationalize them. Like Plato’s Cave, our current process-based survey approach is a shadow, a reflection of the rationalization process, but not necessarily of the decision process itself. Understanding customers’ emotional states is as important as understanding their needs. This is where Dynamic Loyalty comes in.

Most relationships are habitual. You shop at the same grocery stores; you buy business supplies from the same providers; you’re wedded to your mobile device. Eventually, however, disruption strikes. You see on the 11:00 news your grocery store has been charging more at check-out than the posted price (anger). Your business supplier stops carrying the printer cartridges for your older printer (irritation). You try your wife’s new iPhone (“wow” – my own emotional response). Each of these experiences and the emotions they produce disrupts the steady state and influences decisions that will weaken or strengthen current business (or other) relationships. This perspective explains a phenomenon we’re all too familiar with: Customers are loyal until they’re not.

They tell you... “We really like doing business with you.” “Just focus on doing what you’re doing.” “Don’t take this the wrong way, but we’re putting our business up for competitive bid – you can expect an RFP in the next few weeks.” THEY LIED! No, they didn’t. They really believed what they told you in your steady state relationship, but there was a disruptive event. (Management fed up with flat customer experience scores? New information found in a competitor’s blog?) Either you create and manage disruption, or someone else will.

So if you’re going to improve customer experience to drive your company’s business performance, you have to find ways to meet customers’ individual needs (drivers) and manage the emotional states (disruptions) that impact decision-making. That will require strong relationships, excellent performance, and engaged employees. Your CXM framework must reflect these components. I'll have more about that in the next post.
Until next time…Tell me what you think: Does this wider perspective reflect fundamental change in thinking about CXM…or is it just another dress on the CSAT mannequin?

If you enjoyed this post, join TNS this November at NACCM for a session on Best-in-class Customer Experience Management.

To learn more about NACCM,
click here. To register, click here. Readers of the Customer's 1st blog can save 15% off the standard registration rate with code NACCMBlog.

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