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Rant: The Challenge to CEM if Finance is your “Power Core”

moneyChartIn her 2006 book, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action © (Jeanne Bliss, Publisher Jossey-Bass 2006), Jeanne Bliss introduces the concept of an organization’s “power core.”  Bliss believes it is important to understand which department in your company wields the greatest power.  

In my experience, organizations with Finance as their Power Core will be Customer Experience challenged.  It is not that Finance isn’t purposefully customer-centric; it is just that they often find it hard to quantify its benefit.

Easy to quantify expenses
The expense side of the ledger is typically black and white – it is clear what the impact will be.  Here is where Finance tempts chief executives. Chief executives are charged with hitting numbers.  It is not uncommon that Finance can deliver short-term dollars by cutting out or reducing aspects of customer service.“If we go from next day to three to five day shipping for the rest of the year we can save $19 million dollars.”  Executives charged with delivering their numbers “no matter what” are often tempted by the devil that is short term gain.  

The savings temptation may also include longer-term decisions.  The classic example is offshoring American call centers to foreign countries.  Finance was able to sell this idea based on the expense side saving of 30% on call center costs.  Jobs for America reports that in the 1980s and 1990s 600,000 American call center jobs were sent off shore.  A challenge is that rarely do decisions involving customers impact just a single side of the ledger.  

Did most organizations that off-shored their call centers save 30%?  Absolutely.  The resulting problem showed up on the revenue side of the ledger.  Expenses shrunk, but for some, so did revenues. Customers engaging with call center reps with thick accents who could only respond to an issue by reading a standard response from a script did not create a positive customer touchpoint.  These types of touchpoints are an important reflection of the organization.  They often impact both Customer Relationship and Transactional Journeys.  

ROI includes revenue
Customers complained and some defected from organizations that sent call centers to other countries.  While expenses went down, for some, so did revenue. The actual return on investment (ROI) was negative for some organizations that transferred call centers offshore.  

Going back to the original decision, while Finance could dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the expenses that could be saved taking the call center off shore, the impact on revenue was a grey area.  Impact on revenue couldn’t be accurately quantified or was ignored.

This inability to easily quantify the impact of service reductions on revenue is an ongoing problem that lends itself to poor short-term decisions that, over time, erode the effectiveness of customer touchpoints, experiences and journeys.  This is one primary reason for correlating customer experience metrics to financial metrics such as revenue.  This provides the customer experience argument with relevant data.  

Secret: Don’t bring opinions to a data fight.  

Which department is your Power Core?
Understand which department in your organization holds the most power over most executive decisions.  

Truth.  Most organizations with Finance as its power core are not typically customer-centric and will have trouble becoming customer-centric without correlating customer experience and financial metrics, or changing the power core.  

Speak in terms they understand
Whether Finance is your power core or not, they have a seat at the executive table. And as a result, you need to work hard to get CEM into their language.

The language of senior executives – the primary language they understand – is financial.  That is their world.  When a macro metric like Net Promoter score or customer satisfaction goes from 27 to 31, senior executives typically have one question, so what?  How does that impact our financials?  

I have seen companies with the best customer experience intentions – where senior executives say all of the right things – however, CEM quickly turns into a passing fad.  Why?  Because the organization couldn’t put customer experience in the language of their senior executives – financial.  

Secret, Truth, and Rule; Quickly correlate your customer experience metrics with financial metrics

Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.

This post an excerpt from my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013).  Now available!  For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.

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Mini Rant: Call Centers Are NOT an Expense – Put Them in Sales & Marketing

CallCenterIf you have a call center, chances are it is viewed through a single financial lens: expense. Leaders of call centers typically rise up through operations and are charged with minimizing the expense of their department.

According to a study reported in the July 7, 2010 Harvard Business Review article by Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman, and Nicholas Toman, Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, customers are four times more likely to become disloyal rather than loyal after a service touchpoint. Think about that. As your customers engage with your organization, the interaction is typically so bad that they are more likely to become disloyal rather than loyal. Wow! What does this say about call center touchpoints?

Call centers often suffer from, “what gets measured gets done.” A bane of customer experience efforts is the call center metric “call time.” A knee jerk reaction is that less call time means less time for the reps on the phone and fewer reps in seats, saving money. An intuitive analysis comes up with the quite the opposite. If reps are measured on how long they are on the phone, they will shorten calls – “what gets measured, gets done.” Chances are shortened calls will not address all of the customer’s issues, leading to additional calls. Additional calls mean more reps and higher costs – and an unhappy customer.

For many companies, the call center is the primary means of interacting or engaging with customers. This should be considered an area for investment, not an expense department. This is an opportunity to build Lifetime Customer Value.

A strategy for success?
Zappos.com is a company recognized for their amazing customer-centricity. Here is a company that invests in their customer “loyalty” center (rather than call center). They don’t measure call time. Not at all. Anecdotally, their longest call was over eight hours. Imagine. They train their reps to engage with customers rather than to rush them off the phone.

The fact that Zappos.com hit $1 billion U.S. in sales nine years after its 1999 launch and in 2009 was purchased by Amazon for a reported $1.2 billion U.S. certainly supports their customer focus as a viable strategy.

Call centers becoming proactive
The call center is evolving. Progressive companies are undertaking creative ways of utilizing their best call center personnel. Some are discarding the pure passive role of just accepting calls and creating teams taking proactive roles in making outbound calls. These calls can be to address service issues, reach out to lost customers, aid “go to market” strategies, etc.

As a critical opportunity to engage your customer and further establish your desired Identity – that perceptual asset in the mind of your customer – your call center should be a part of your sales and marketing organization. Remove it from operations.

Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.

This post an excerpt from my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013).  Now available!  For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
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phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
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Walk a Mile in your Customer's Shoes

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I took my wife to the podiatrist today.  Great doctor, but observed something interesting in the waiting room.  Two different patients came to the practice in wheel chairs.  A podiatrist office, so not surprising.  However, the waiting room was square with chairs, tables and doors consuming all of the wall space.  There was no place for a person in a wheel chair to wait, except in the middle of the square room.  Uncomfortable for them, I suspect, but I know that I felt bad on their behalf.

So, what are you missing in your business that you would see if you took the journey of your customer?

Take the journey of your customers: walk into your store through the front door – not the employee entrance, sit where your customers sit – look around and look deep (they will), go to the bathroom they use, walk up to the reception area – each of the reception areas (do you get the same “feeling” from each?), walk up to your convention booth, and on and on.

Experience their touchpoints as they do, and take a note pad.  My bet is that you will find a lot of customer experiences and customer touchpoints to improve.  And that’s good for your customers, your employees, and your bottom line.

Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.

This post an excerpt from my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013).  Now available!  For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
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Mini Rant: VOC can (and sometimes needs to) Start With Voice of Internal Customers

MegaphoneManI was working with a new client that couldn’t wait to get started on their gorilla Voice of Customer (VOC) metrics.  In our Assessment, it was clear that everyone wasn’t playing well in the company sandbox.  Customer Service pointing fingers at Regulatory – they were taking forever to service customer complaints.  In fact, their internal processing of complaints was so bad that they were getting complaints about their complaint process.  This, after two efforts to examine and improve their complaint process.  Think about that.  But I digress.

Sales was pointing fingers at Accounting – customers commenting that the people in Accounting weren’t always pleasant.  Customer Service and Sales pointing fingers at each other for not being responsive to each other and for not being customer-focused.

My recommendation was to start with VOIC – Voice of Internal Customer (the employees).  Start with 360 degree reviews of an experience such as complaints.  Have the review cover the processes, policies, and systems as well as individuals.  Name names and get the dirt out on the table.

As it turned out, their problems were multifaceted.  Part of the problem was individuals, and part internal systems and policies.  It is amazing the change in behavior that can be created when individuals know that they are going to be evaluated on their customer service.  Again, “what gets measured gets results.”

This organization was not ready for VOC.  They might have uncovered amazing opportunities from their customers but their inability to work together internally would have inhibited their ability to fully capitalize on those opportunities.

Truth.  Sometimes your best VOC program needs to start with VOIC.

Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.

This post an excerpt from my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013).  Now available!  For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
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Receive tips, tricks and secrets from the front lines of customer experience by signing up for my TOUCHPOiNTER eNewsletter:

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CSAT Survey is Often the Opposite of Customer-Centric

No Dinosaurs I am not a big fan of the typical annual or semi-annual customer satisfaction survey.  These are dinosaurs that typically deliver little value and create enormous amount of internal work, churn and consternation. Worse, the process is often not customer-centric at all.  These surveys are typically long and arduous for customers.  And when customers complete long and arduous surveys, they develop expectations.  Nothing is worse than asking your customers what will help, having them take their valuable time and effort to provide you with relevant and actionable ideas, and then take a ridiculous amount of time to act on that valuable feedback - if at all.

Hey, we must have solved the problem

From my experience, it is not uncommon for organizations to ask customers what they can do to improve, and then not take any action on the results.  Then, ask again, and again not take action. Then, ask again. Eventually customers stop telling them about their issues and the company can actually start to think that either an issue isn’t important anymore, or that they have somehow miraculously solved it.  This, even though the company hasn’t done anything about the problem at hand.

Internal frustrations

There are frustrations with internal customers of the annual customer satisfaction survey as well.  Managers can be frustrated that the market research department doesn't deliver relevant or valuable data or intelligence.  Colleagues in market research can do a great job of delivering intelligence, but can become frustrated when their intelligence isn't acted on, especially at the touchpoint level.  When an action plan actually does surface, those employees that "catch" the action plan can be frustrated with the extra work - they already have full-time jobs.

Kill the dinosaur - build a process that delivers value to all customers

These types of survey experiences aren't customer-centric.  And for the time, cost and churn, stop these experiences immediately and allocate the resources to a much more customer-centric and actionable process.  Focus on short and productive surveys at important touchpoints along customer journeys.  This type of "listening post" feedback process can do a much better job of delivering the right information to the right people at the right time.  The test: resultant intelligence drives immediate action, or is used in planning, or both.  The results of listening posts can be integrated into ongoing job responsibilities and not become a large project added on top of an employee's full schedule.

Best Practice: The first response to any customer feedback should always be, “thank you.”  And let customers know what changes are made as a result of the collective feedback.  This demonstrates that they will realize value from their investment of time to provide feedback.

Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.

This post an excerpt from my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013).  Now available!  For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.

Please post a comment or question.

I welcome your questions and inquiries.  Please connect with me via
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
phone: direct  904.466.1805, text   415.515.6391
  linkedin
facebook twitter youtube

Receive tips, tricks and secrets from the front lines of customer experience by signing up for my TOUCHPOiNTER eNewsletter:

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For Email Newsletters you can trust

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Hank Brigman

Hank Brigman

President & TOUCHPOiNT Strategist
Customer Experience Strategies, Inc.
Qualified Member National Speakers Association
Keynote Demo Video
Best-Selling Author of TOUCHPOiNT POWER

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