Why organization's customer teams are critical for success in creating superior customer experie
Why we missed that?
These days many organizations have its own customer teams handling the relationship issues with its customers. Analyzing customer journeys we created in our organization I came to conclusion that one of the most important factors influencing on customer experience is the interaction that our customers' team have with the customer. It became clear to me that most of the touch-points that our customers have with our organization are actually related to customer teams interaction itself. It's not the process that defines the interaction. It's our people and their behaviors!
What can we do about it?
As in this case we are dealing with people and its behaviors its quite important to look at this issue having in mind cultural outlook. Few months ago I conducted small research for my organization as they have troubles to understand why one of our services is not well utilized by our customers. I suspected that there could be some discrepancies between countries so I decided to research how the situation looks like in Finland and Sweden. It was dictated by fact that we have different customer base in different countries as well as different approach to customer relationship in those countries. Those things I figured out analyzing customer feedback from our ITSM ticketing system which is presented in table below.
Table 1: Categories of issues found from ITSM ticketing tool feedback
I invited 34 customer teams and its members (Delivery Executives, Delivery Managers, Customer Executives, Customer Managers and Service Managers) to discuss customer topics that had been reported.
I asked customer teams in Finland and Sweden to validate the findings and indicate what are the factors influencing on customer experience, categorize them and explain issues behind. I took several approaches: from the realness of occurrence, from functional & process area point of view and from customers' loyalty point of view.
Figure 1: Factors determining customer experience from realness of occurrence
Figure 2: Factors determining customer experience from functional & process area point of view
Figure 3: Factors determining customer experience from customers' loyalty point of view
The drivers of customer experience in case of Finnish customer teams are based on process ease, cross product comparison, risk perception and past experiences. Finnish customer teams are evaluating service through service interaction activities, specific customer requirements, overall service functionalities and functionalities that attracts to use it. They judge service based on experiences with other similar services.
Result indicates as well that past experiences that those people have with other services are influencing on their confidence level over service during this interactions. Lastly, very important customer experience factor for Finnish customer teams is about risk perception, where effective recovery from issues connected with service interaction activities and service functionalities affects their emotional experience over the service.
When it comes to Swedish customer teams most of mentioned factors having similar characteristics indicated by past experience, process ease or cross product comparison.
Results showed that past experiences which those people have with other services are influencing on their interactions with the service in scope based on emotions triggered during interaction, their perceptions over service processes and functional and attractiveness aspects.
In addition, they are evaluating the service pretty much through their first interaction with service where emotional aspects, service interaction activities and their confidence level over service during interactions are the biggest influences on their perception. Lastly, they are judging the service based on experiences with other similar services where they are expecting that the interaction with the service specific requirements they have, emotional aspects (wow effects), functionalities that attract to use it and additional services that the service provides will be at least on the same level as in other services.
Table 2: Summary of Finnish and Swedish factors influencing customer experience
Table above presents a summary of the findings. Comparing both countries we can see quite significant discrepancies in customer experience factors. Finnish customer teams indicated customer experience factors connected with process ease (emotional aspects of service evaluation) putting attention to functional and keeping attention elements of the service, hence Swedish customer teams paying attention to emotional values and higher confidants elements in provided service. Swedish customer teams paying more attention when it comes to additional services provided by the service.
In addition, they are perceiving services provided through the service comparing past experiences related to functional, and attractive elements of provided services. In opposition, Finnish customer teams paying a lot of attention to risks of provided services based on service activities and functionalities which affects their emotional experience.
What the research tells us?
It was clear that interaction with the service causes the most of problems so I decided to have a closer look towards the issues. I chosen to use observation method to find out what are the pain points in using the service. Information about observation’s ideas (explaining reasons, goal, possible time, and outcomes) was send to 34 customer teams. Initial interest declared only 10 customer teams out of which I was able to observe 2 end users from 2 companies and 2 internal customer team end users keeping accounts of 2 companies (In total 3 different customer accounts).
I started to realize that the whole interaction problem with using the service was not the critical factor therefore I post the hypothesis that there might be some other factors (behavioral ones) influencing on the service usage. I conducted additional research looking for the constraints and reasons why there was no interest in customer teams.
Figure 4: Customer teams constraints categories
From the figure above you can see that the major constraints comes from proposed time (30% of answers) for observations that did not match with customer teams plans. Second biggest constraints was related to customer teams believes (24% of answers) about how or when observations should actually happen. Third biggest constraints came from customer teams worry about limited functionalities (15% of answers) to be observed and its reasons for it. Fourth biggest constraint was about that customer teams have problems with their perception of processes (8% of answers) on customer side affecting possibility to have observations.
Fifth biggest constraints came from unwillingness of customer teams to participate in observations (6% of answers) dictated by internal perception of customer reasons. Sixth biggest constraint came from customer teams perception about limited amount of users (5% of answers) that could participate in observation. Seventh biggest constraint came from language barrier (4% of answers) issues or customer agreement language related issues. Eight biggest constraint came from customer teams issues related to permissions (3% of answers) to do observations, internal or given by customer. Ninth biggest constraint came from perception of lack of training provided (1% of answers) that could effect on the service observations.Tenth biggest constraint came from perception of additional costs (1% of answers) to customer teams related to performing observations.
Where is the beef?
I believe that customer teams constraints radiating and influencing on factors determining customer experience. It's almost self-evident that there is a correlation between constraints and experiences itself. I conducted the analysis that correlated experience factors and constraints and the results are below.
Service process (4), points to:
Past experience: time, no training provided.
Freedom of choice: process.
Account management: permissions.
Customer interaction (4), points to:
Past experience: limited users amounts, language.
Freedom of choice: willingness to participate.
Process ease: issues with tool.
Relational experience (1), points to:
Expertise: personal believes.
Online functional elements (1), points to:
Cross product comparison: limited scope.
Convenience (1), points to:
Past experience: costs constraints.
From the analysis above it is visible that major effect on experience have processes related to time issues, lack of training received by customers where customer teams decision upon having observations or not resides in received permissions from their peers and customers. Additionally, there is a lot of influences concerning past experiences with limited amount of users that could participate in observations, problems with the service itself, costs related to it and language used in observations’ meetings. Quite big constraint is here the willingness of customers in observation’s participation as it is just free choice of customers. Important factors plays here personal believes not necessary connected directly with service context.
What's the solution?
We, designers working in customer experience area should always analyse customer journeys not just from the point of touch points visible to customer but as well from the point of internal interactions. It's very important to capture not only the issues related to service itself but also back-end office challenges not visible to our customers. My research provided the evidence that those factors plays significant role in defining superior customer experience. Therefore I am proposing extend the traditional view of customer journey maps with additional elements very important to internal interaction and divide those in 4 lines.
Line of journey
Customer journey stage: is the phase that customer takes during the interaction with the organization.
Customer journey activity: is the action that customer makes through out interaction with the organization in particular stage.
Customer persona: is an imaginary customer archetype interacting with the organization during particular activity.
Steps: are the moves that customers do through out interaction with the organization in particular activity.
Line of customer’s visibility
Touch-points: are a tangible or intangible actions representing what customer is doing in particular step.
Channel: is physical or digital medium where interaction takes place between a customer and organization in particular touch-point.
Persona – customer interface: is an imaginary employee archetype / role working on customer interface related to particular touch-point.
Line of internal interaction
Persona – back office: is an imaginary employee archetype / role working on tasks related to customer touch-point in back office.
Back-end process: are the organization's operations behind the scene related to touch-point which customer is rarely comes in contact with.
Systems / tools: are physical or digital organization's services related to a touch-point that makes interaction with customer possible.
Line of emotional experience
Think & feel: are the customer impressions about particular touch-point experience.
Pain points: are the sources of customer’s pain about particular touch-point and its possible negative impressions impacting the organization's interaction with customer.
Moments of truth: is the most important promise given to customer by the organization related to interaction with touch-point that leaves a long lasting positive impression on customer.
Experience: summarizes visually the customer’s positive, neutral or negative perception related to particular touch-point.
Opportunities: ideas that arises based on discussion around each touch-point's pain point
I already tested the approach with 3 different customer teams and I've got really positive feedback. In particular, the description of customer journey opened their eyes to internal interaction factors they would never take into consideration before. In addition, they were satisfied that this approach taking into consideration aspects influencing their tasks and jobs related to customer interactions.
I am looking forward to hear your experiences from it? Share it with me, challenge me or even constructively criticize. I am looking forward to hear your opinion!