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Is Customer Experience the New CRM?

Customer experience. You can’t go to a marketing or CRM conference these days without being inundated with content about it. In fact, at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit, customer experience (CX) is, not surprisingly, a central theme—not only in sessions, but also in the hallways.

During a conversation with Pegasystems Director of Product Marketing Jeff Foley, we couldn’t help but focus on it, as well. And for good reason: “It’s all about customer experience,” Foley said, referring to business priorities today. “The cynical view is that customer experience is the new CRM; that there’s a lot more talk than action in terms of focusing on the customer. But there are CX professionals really doing this.”

One challenge, however, is that many of them aren’t using technology to their advantage, Foley asserted. Marketers and other CX leaders, he said, are asking customers for input, but not always sharing that information across the organization in ways that would allow their colleagues to act on it. “This really is the Stone Age for many companies as compared to customer expectations based on experiences with companies like Amazon,” he said. “Marketers and CX professionals need to think about customer journeys across all the disciplines that touch customers, not just their own.”

Interestingly, Foley suggested that some marketers are getting tired of all the talk about CX, but many customer service organizations he’s encountered are still excited about the potential of actually focusing on customer-centric measures such as first-contact resolution instead of more business-centric metrics such as average handle time. But, he said, he’s also finding that CX is one area that marketing and customer service can come together to provide customers with added value and a more personalized experience.

“There’s a growing consciousness of the importance of customer experience,” Foley said, adding that some companies are trying to do this by providing different types and levels of experiences by customer value. While this can be beneficial to high-value customers, it can also backfire if other customers feel jilted. “Beware of unintended consequences of metrics. That’s when you know you’re measuring the wrong things,” he warned. “Whether you focus on average handle time or Net Promoter Score, don’t alway chase the metrics. Do the right thing, use customer data wisely, fix your processes, and the metrics will follow.”

Another issue Foley cautions marketers and CX leader to pay heed to is the omnichannel customer experience—and the technology that supports it. “Some execs aren’t really sure what to do about customer experience when they need to reach across channels and systems,” he said. “Nobody implements tools from one CRM vendor; they get a mixture.”

His advice to help manage the resulting complexity: Implement one tool that provides a view into the data from multiple other systems, and that shows that data in a way that facilitates decision-making for marketing campaigns and customer service activities such as next-best action. “People have been talking about the 360-degree view of the customer forever,” he said. “You can have all the data you want, but if you don’t know what to do with it, how to capitalize on it, so what?”

In fact, Foley brought up a commonly discussed point about customer data that’s important for marketers to keep top-of-mind: “The worst thing you can do is ask customers for information and then not use it,” he said. “Their reaction will be, ‘Why are you asking me this; don’t you know me already?’”

The data that marketers have access to today is helping them shift toward addressing those segments of one, he said. “We have the technology to do it, and we’re getting there,” Foley said. “It’s not creepy if it works.”

The reality is that most marketers and CX leaders are still trying to figure all this out, he added. Some organizations that are front runners in terms of CX are there because—along with being customer-centric—they’re willing to takes risks and test, test, test, Foley said. “No one really has this solved,” he noted. “It’s still a little Wild West.”

But that shouldn’t dissaude marketers from focusing on the customer experience. Just the opposite: They should view it as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage through customer experience. “If you’re not moving, you’re moving in the wrong direction,” Foley warned. “Customer experience shouldn’t lose out to cost-cutting concerns.” 

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