Customer Experience has become an increasingly popular term in recent years. Companies that provide exceptional CX better retain their clients. Lacking up-to-date data and a clear vision or company culture hinder a company from delivering great customer experience.
Recently, we decided to learn more about CX by speaking with Carlos Hidalgo, founder and CEO of VisumCx, who has helped many companies build and manage CX strategy.
Carlos is the author of Driving Demand and has been named one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management for the last six years. He is recognized by Onalytica as the “Most Influential Person in B2B North America in 2015.”
Hi, Carlos! Thank you very much for this interview! It’s great to learn from an expert like you. Customer experience has become increasingly important in the last decade. Why, in your opinion, are we seeing this shift?
The shift has been driven by customers themselves. Customers have more choices than ever before, have higher expectations, and want their needs addressed in a near real-time manner. Additionally, they have access to all of the information they need in the palm of their hand via smartphones. It is this dynamic that has pushed companies into orchestrating the best possible and personalized experiences for their customers.
Would you argue that customer experience is the most important tool for winning over customers?
I believe it is one of the most important for retaining customers and maximizing their lifetime value. Without this as a focus, even customers who may have a superior product or lower prices are not assured of limiting their churn.
If there was one piece of advice you would give to a business looking to improve customer experience, what would it be?
It is vital they understand the full customer journey including who, as their customer is involved at each stage of the journey, the actions they take along the journey, and who on the vendor side is interacting with the customer at that specific stage. Once this is understood, organizations need to learn what kind of experience the customers expect at each stage and how they can enable, equip, and empower their employees to deliver it.
Holistic Customer Experience Strategy
On your LinkedIn profile, you wrote that you help build “holistic customer experience strategies.” Does this include outbound prospecting at the top of a sales funnel?
Demand generation is a part of customer experience as organizations need to deliver a good buying experience as part of a more holistic CX. Outbound prospecting is a macro term and can mean many things to many individuals. The more important thing is to deliver a multi-channel experience that aligns to the preferences of your customers. In essence, know what channels they use across the full customer lifecycle.
From what I understand, “Holistic customer experience strategies” are applied across four customer-facing departments: Sales, Marketing, Customer Success Management, and Support. In your opinion, who should be in charge of the creation, implementation, and control of these strategies?
I believe that marketing is in the best position to spearhead and ultimately be responsible for maximizing the customer experience. Given that marketing is engaging across brand, the buying experience, sales enablement, and customer retention, they have the most comprehensive view of the customer.
This does not mean they go it alone, but they are chartered with the strategy and ensuring collaboration across the organization in order to deliver.
I’d imagine you’ve observed conflict between these departments. How do you tackle these problems with your clients?
There can often be a conflict for certain. I believe it is first fundamental for CX to be an organizational mandate that comes from the CEO. Secondly, I believe each of these groups needs to be wholly vested in developing the insights needed to get the full view of the customer and the journey they take with their brand.
While each group plays a specific role, having full lifecycle visibility will also unveil how each of these organizations can work together to deliver a seamless experience.
How can a company provide the best customer experience when conducting outbound prospecting activities?
This gets to my answer above. Know thy customer and determine the channels that they prefer. Outbound has its place in demand creation, but may not be the channel that will be most effective or be the channel that will be welcome to your customers. If that is the case, do not use it.
Customer Experience vs. Customer Service
You wrote that Customer Experience Isn’t Customer Service. I couldn’t agree more. However, I see a major problem. To me, customer experience seems to be less trackable than service – and therefore less controllable.
For example, recently I went to a bank to get a debit card for my 9-year-old. The experience was horrible (I had to wait in a queue, then to order one more card for myself, I had to make 10 e-signatures– the process took way too long). On the other hand, I enjoyed the service. The manager did her best. While the bank tracked her actions and also asked me to evaluate her work (1-5 scale), they failed to notice I was unhappy with the whole process. I doubt they’ll ever find out.
So the question is: How can you improve something if you don’t even know what makes your customers’ experience unpleasant? Well, I think you just hit on something very important – you have to ask the right questions, collect the right data, and track the right metrics. NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a good start, but in my opinion, does not go deep enough to show the why behind the NPS score.
Designing an experience survey will go a long way into determining where customers are. Also, looking at revenue metrics such as retention and further share of wallet are a good indication of how a company is doing in terms of delivering the experience.
Churn is inevitable at each stage of the funnel. How can a company gracefully let go of its clients (in terms of customer experience)? And more importantly, how would you recommend attaining management buy-in of this potentially heretical idea?
I do not think any company should shrug at the thought of customer churn. The goal should be 100% customer retention. While this may be unattainable in any industry, it should at least be a goal. I would also caution not equating a customer journey with a waterfall or funnel. It would be easy if the customer journey was that linear – we know it is not.
My point of view says: create an exceptional experience at each stage of the journey for your customers and you will see a reduction in churn and most likely increase spend from your customer base.
Are there ways to predict the churn at different stages of account lifecycle: early stage (1-3 months), mid (3-6 months), established/sometimes loyal clients (6+ months)?
I am not sure there is and this gets back to the science of demand generation i.e., the customer buying process. Rather than trying to predict churn, look at predicting your conversion rates and then looking to improve and optimize them continually.