How many of your employees directly interact with your customers? How many of your senior management ever interact with customers by anything but accident? How many of your customers have demands that you think are probably outside what the company can do or ever has done? How many of you use the incredible amount of intelligence that customers provide even in normal conversations? How many of you presume you know your customer? By the way, “presume” is a precisely chosen word.
The answers: Many. Almost none. Several, but what can you do? Not too many. All of us, especially marketing people.
Here’s how little you really know your customers. eMarketer reported on a 2008 study done by QCI International:
Truthfully, we don’t know our customers all that well, despite their often easy willingness to be known. Put on your customer hat for a minute. About how many companies are you willing to say, “Damn. They seem to know just what I want!” A few . . . maybe. But what about this next statement, “They not only know what I want, but how I want it!”
I mentioned the options they had, each of which cost something. How each girl dresses her doll, which services she chooses (haircut, hot dog), and which associated media she sees or buys affects the revenue of Mattel. It’s rarely a matter of price except as a consideration in a granular look at the customer experience.
The reason for all this variation is that each of us is self-interested. Even Mother Teresa was self-interested. Doing Good with a capital G was a way of satisfying her internal emotional “benchmarks.” Self-interest is not selfishness. That individual interest can be a benefit to a company that understands what it is that drives that customer, but a major headache when it doesn’t. The biggest “fail” is when someone at the company presumes they know what the customer’s self-interest is, and they don’t. Believe me, they don’t.
There is a simple answer to that presumption failure, though, which I mentioned back in third Chapter. It’s worth repeating: Ask the customer what it is they think and want!
Mapping will be your first set of brushstrokes for your freshly painted customer portrait.
Customer mapping isn’t merely a questionnaire that you get to ask a customer—via Survey Monkey or your internal e-mail system. However, preparation for customer mapping can be done using the traditional instruments for customer queries. But it doesn’t start with that. Before a single question is even discussed, there are several strategic CRM elements that have to be in place.
Consistent Perception of CRM Mission and Vision
Nothing proceeds without a clear mission and vision statement that provides the customer-facing cues the company needs to define how it will approach its interactions with the customers and what the future holds for that. This is a prerequisite for any sort of customer experience mapping you are preparing to do. The full evolution and development of a strategy isn’t.
The reason it isn’t is pretty straightforward. If successful, the mapping will help you define the strategy, helping you execute on your mission. As time goes on and you redo the mapping—yes, redo, this isn’t a one-time-whew-we’re done—it will provide you with the insight to tweak the elements of the strategy going forward. That means that your vision can be realized.
Before you get to that, you have to make sure that the perception of the mission and vision is consistent across the company. What do I mean by that? Let me get literary.
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Titinius returns home to find Cassius, of the lean and hungry look, dead. He says, “Alas, thou hast misconstrued everything.”That is a state you have to make sure you avoid.
The only way to avoid it is to make sure the mission and vision that are the fundamental statements for the Social CRM strategy are not only clearly defined but clearly understood across the entire value chain. By having that mission and vision clear, the direction that the strategy has to be pointed will be obvious to all concerned, and that doesn’t require the entire strategy to be complete.
The entire value chain includes the accounting department, your logistics organization, the warehouse managers, the human resources department, and all the others in the back of the company. The reason this encompasses the entire value chain is that with the increased customer demands and the heightened emotional sensitivity due to extreme economic fluctuations, among other things, how every part of the company performs will have an impact on the customer experience.
For example, several years ago, a client of mine called up with an odd dilemma. Their accounting department, a few years before the call, had developed a technique they used in accounting entries that saved their rather large department around $40, 000 per year. However, they had added e-commerce to their portfolio of sales channels. As a result, this accounting technique created an online glitch that made the customer purchasing online enter some of the same data twice. Never mind how it got there—it’s not germane to this. They wanted to know what to do.
My recommendation, since it wasn’t technically fixable, was to jettison the technique despite its improved efficiency, because it was degrading the customer experience and thus irritating customers, who expected their online shopping to be seamless and easy.
They did just that. Which is great, but the true moral of this story is to note how even the back office can affect a customer experience that is expected to be something it turns out not to be—in other words, there is a failure to meet expectations. So what can you do to prevent that—and, hopefully, even exceed expectations?
The Traditional Approaches
There is nothing wrong with traditional approaches—though they work less and less. When I say “traditional” approaches, that includes focus groups, standard surveys, customer interviews that have directed questions, and attempts at customer segmentation. Each of them has a strength or two, but they tend to have an underlying flaw: the results tend to reflect the prejudices of the company, rather than the raw honesty of the individual customer. Even with analytics-driven customer segmentation, for example, your result is the assessment of people who are similar to you, not of “you” as an individual. While “someone like me” might be your customer’s most trusted source, companies should remember that it isn’t a good demographic in the eyes of that same individual customer. They may trust someone like them, but they want you to know them personally. To do that, you need to start by mapping the customer experience.
Now We Map
Mapping the customer experience is a granular process and one that encompasses all channels a customer uses to interact with you or vice versa. If you are a retail store, it encompasses every interaction starting with the moment the customer walks through the door and notices something to the moment that they leave the store and go home, and to the time they call up customer service or the sales rep who has to do follow-up on the purchase. It encompasses their web experience and how they interacted with you on the Web, ranging from how comfortable the site was when they were navigating to the effect that the 11 seconds of latency that you uncovered in your customer interview affected that customer behavior or marred their experience—or not.
But as important as the specific interaction is the expectation of the result of that interaction the customer brings to the table and what kind of importance the customer assigns to it. I’m going to start by breaking out the fundamental elements.
An interaction, for the purposes of the customer experience, is any time a customer communicates with the company—regardless of the communications channel and regardless of whether it is a cyber communication or a physical conversation.
Examples of good and bad interactions are in Table.
Table:Examples of Good and Bad Interactions via Different Channels
These are simply examples. What I’m sure is that as you read them, you were able to attach a real-life experience either specifically or that more generic, slightly ethereal feeling that you know what I mean, but you can’t pinpoint it specifically. But “good” or “bad” can be attached to interactions only if there was an expectation of how that interaction was going to turn out. If it met or exceeded the expectation—voilà— good. If it fell below the expectation—oy vey—bad.
Then what is a customer expectation? One definition, put forward by J.Olson and P.Dover in their 1979 piece, “Disconfirmation of Consumer Expectations through Product Trial” in the Journal of Applied Psychology, says, “Customer expectations are pretrial beliefs about a product that serve as standards or reference points against which product performance is judged.” I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me.
There are at least six significant factors that customers incorporate when it comes to determining their expectations. What kind of result do I expect:
Each of them, and, usually, all of them, has an effect on what the customer thinks the outcome is going to be.
But not all expected outcomes and their actual results are the same. What makes understanding the customer’s thinking even more difficult is that each expectation and how well or poorly it is met has a different importance in the eye of the particular customer.
But you already know that, don’t you? For example, I have to assume that most of you reading this have used review sites like Yelp to find a restaurant you might want to eat at or Epinions to see about a camera or Amazon for the book reviews. When you go to the review, you use the ratings—say, 1 to 5 stars to filter how you want to read the reviews. Maybe you want to only read the bad reviews, not the good ones, so you can see how bad the negatives are on something you really want to buy. Or maybe you read all of them. What I think most of you don’t do is to aggregate the stars and make your decisions based on the number of stars that a product has. Instead, you actually read the reviews. What you then do is to say, as you read them, “Oh, that reviewer says the delivery was a bad issue, but that doesn’t matter to me, but they loved the look of the product, which matters to me a lot.” Or “That reviewer says they think the duck at the restaurant is too dry but the tilapia is to die for.” If you like duck, you tend to not go;if you like fish, you tend to go. You are weighing what is important to you—and not. But note that “if” is a key word here. Fish or duck? Your personal likes and dislikes will drive your expectations of the place whether or not the review might be 4/5 stars.
Want to further check how you weigh decision factors? Go back to the beginning of the chapter and read the descriptions from the review sites. What’s important to you in each of the reviews? Was it what was important to one of the reviewers and not the other or a compilation of both, or did neither meet your standard for importance?
You get the picture now? This is a major facet of what can be uncovered when you do customer experience mapping.
Mapping: The Four Questions
Okay. Before I ask the four questions (not related to Passover), I’m going to show you a couple of diagrams. First, take a look at a high-level version of a customer experience map. Now, look at a portion of that map broken out and incorporating the use of RFID-related technologies for a part of the customer experience. Both of these are related to a shopper at a grocery store.
Figure: A high-level view of a customer experience map. Interaction in the boxes, expectations, and the results in the diamond
Now, the four questions.
1. What is the interaction?
2. What does the customer expect the outcome of that interaction to be?
3. What was the actual outcome?
4. What kind of importance did the customer place on the result?
Mapping:Prior to . . .
I have a standard rule for when I engage a client. If customer mapping is part of the engagement, then some of the customer interviews done have to be done by senior management. The reason is quite simple, really. Senior management has very little to do with actual interactions with customers. I don’t blame them (I actually do blame them), but they need to get over it right at this point. I won’t take the engagement if they don’t agree that they’ll do some of the interviews. Senior management needs to know how customers think. You know they don’t. You saw the numbers earlier in this chapter—only 13 percent have regular contact with customers. Amazing—and bad. Senior management needs to engage, as a learning experience for them.
The other preliminary step is to agree that the customers will be compensated for their time. They need to know their time is valued. The compensation can be money—in one smaller sampling $100 to the interviewee was considered reasonable. In a larger sampling it can be a gift certificate or an outright gift, but one that makes sense to whom you are questioning. Give them a choice if gifts are options.
Mapping:Choosing the Customers
How large a sampling and from what segments you choose are pretty much up to you and your comfort zone. The number is the least relevant, though the smaller the number, the greater weight each of the respondents has in your thinking. I would recommend at least 100 customers interviewed for any sampling. What does require some serious thought is from what segment you get it. For example, you might not want to use just the traditional demographic segmenting. For one retailer, we looked at segments that were nowhere near what you would expect the norm to be such as:
It was then broken out by geography as a subcategory. The idea was to see what the best (and worst) practices were when it came to processes that worked (or didn’t) in store environments. The customers and the locales they came from, since regional preferences mattered in this case, became the arbiters of the store interactions. While not a normal segmentation, it was one that answered the questions that the mapping exercise was created to answer.
David’s Bridal, one of my best clients and one that’s done the customer mapping successfully, has graciously allowed me to use some of their questions to give you an idea of how to craft the questions you’re going to use. Needless to say, the interactions you’re going to be questioning and those of a highly emotional bride are not the same—so please don’t do this at the chapel.
The questions have to be developed with two principles in mind:
1. They cannot direct the respondent in any way.
2. They cannot have an emotional tinge.
That means that they have to be agnostic and emotionally neutral. It’s the difference between asking:
In the first example, you’re directing their answer by asking them about the emotion they felt specifically, which will compel them to answer in the box you created for them.
In the second example, while you didn’t ask them about the specific emotion, you are asking them to verbalize an emotional response, which might or might not be a truthful answer. Sometimes, in these situations, you should be prepared to read the emotional state that the memory puts them in. So if you see them crying while they declaim the blasé nature of it all, you know they aren’t exactly being truthful. It’s where your judgment has to come into play and not be tainted by an expectation of your own.
The final choice is the most pristine and the right question. Give them the guidance they need to note which interaction you’re asking about and then let them respond freely from there.
Greeting and Registration
Consultation and Product Selection
While this is by no means the complete “store experience, ”it is entirely representative of how questions need to be constructed. Note that none of the questions are either judgmental or point in any direction. They are designed explicitly to trigger the memory of the interaction in the sequence it is likely to have occurred through a particular channel.
Customer Mapping:The Interview
Once memory of the interaction is triggered, it’s up to the interviewer to interpret the responses. That’s why these interviews need to be one on one and live—over the phone at the very least and in person if it can be done. E-mail will not do. This isn’t a survey nor is this a focus group.
Customer Mapping: Ten Cardinal Rules
That’s about all I can fit in a single chapter. I hope that you find it at least useful. If not, my bad. Here are the summary rules for customer experience mapping
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