Moments of Truth: Lessons in Cracking the Customer Experience Code

Connie Moore, Customer Experience guru
Connie Moore, customer experience management expert, and Senior Vice President, Digital Clarity Group

The truth is, customer experience is in a crisis.

Studies show that a whopping 73% of companies say improving CX is a strategic priority (Forrester).

And, yet, only 1% actually meet customer expectations.

On top of that, 80% of customers say they’re frustrated with how businesses respond to their problems, according to the 2017 National Customer Rage Study.

In this Digital Trailblazer interview, customer experience expert Connie Moore talks about the convergence of operations and customer experience, and takes us to school on the importance of eliminating snags in “moments of truth” (customer interactions) throughout the customer journey.

Moore is Senior Vice President, Research at Digital Clarity Group (DCG), a New York City-based research and advisory firm that helps organizations get the most out of customer experience through technology and digital partners.

An acclaimed big thinker in business process transformation, Moore works globally with senior execs on everything from customer experience management and business analytics to organizational change and the future of work.

Prior to DCG, she served as Vice President, Principal Analyst and Research Director at Forrester Research, where she pioneered research on large-scale business transformation.

Moore worries that many companies are slow to automate the data record keeping behind customer experience, because they just don’t prioritize it.

“That’s why the call center is still very much a cost center,” says Moore. “So, why have a digital customer experience strategy, if you’re not going to fix the last few miles in the process?”

The CX guru also debunks some of the mythical thinking about CX, and shares her deep smarts on turning CX into lifelong customer loyalty.

Hope you enjoy the conversation.

Appian: In a recent article, you wrote about the coming together of BPM and customer experience in the organization. Did that trend live up to your expectations?

Moore: Yes and No. It’s not happening as fast as I had hoped. But it’s happening in pockets. On the operational side—the process side, the BPM side—people are beginning to look beyond the narrow focus of the process.

Just three years ago, it was like pulling teeth to get the operational excellence people to think beyond the operational box—which is doing things cheaper, better, faster and thinking internally rather than beyond operations. But, increasingly, I’m hearing that the topic of journey mapping is coming up in conversations on the operational side of the organization. And some operations people are playing a leadership role in that.

Getting Out of the Operations Box

Appian: Are you seeing the same thing in other areas of the organization?

Moore: On the enterprise architecture side, customer journey mapping is being added to the modeling process. And that’s going to create more cross pollination between operations and customer experience.

On the other hand, I don’t see digital experience professionals pushing as hard into process as they need to. That doesn’t mean it’s not important—it’s very important. It’s just going to be a more gradual process.

Appian: What about BPM vendors? Are they prioritizing customer experience?

Moore: Some do and some don’t. And there are some BPM providers that have both an internal operational excellence message, as well as a customer experience message. They even go so far as to say that you get an end-to-end process from them.

“Moments of Truth” Key to CX Success

Appian: Which reminds me of something else you’ve talked about. You’ve called inside-out and outside-in approaches to customer experience two sides of the same coin.  Could you talk about that?

Moore:

Yes. I think an important term to think about is “moments of truth.” This refers to when customers get to a certain place in their interaction with an organization, and they have to make a decision to continue down the path or do something different.

It’s easier for a process to go well, when a customer is engaged at the start of the journey, because companies tend to focus on improving the early stages of customer interactions. The phone call, chat bot, texting goes well, so the company doubles down on the mobile app.

But, then you get deeper into the process—on the fulfillment or operational side—and you can hit snags, because the company hasn’t focused on upgrading back-end systems that have been around for years. These systems may work fine internally. But from a customer’s point of view, they hit snags.

Myth: CX Is All About Sales and Marketing

Appian: So, these snags tend to happen the deeper you go into the organization?

Moore: Yes. So, it’s kind of a fallacy in customer experience that CX is all about sales and marketing and engaging customers at the top of the funnel. So that’s where companies tend to put their focus.

But they have to move beyond sales and marketing and also focus on customer support. If, for example, it’s a technical product and something breaks, and you have to return it. And the whole service experience is lousy.

Or, let’s say a customer placed an order on a website. And a product or service is supposed to be delivered, and that goes badly. And the customer is not happy, and they call to complain.

For me, I think about Amazon. Every interaction that I’ve had with them, nothing has ever gone wrong. It has always been delightful, from start to finish. If I called to let them know that I didn’t get my package, they would just send another one. You know, there were no questions asked.

So, back to your question. These things are two sides of the same coin. The customer doesn’t care how the company is organized, who does what, how things are handed off, the customer simply doesn’t care.

Appian: They just see the name of your company…

Moore:

That’s right. They see the product or service they’re trying to buy, and the rest of it is up to that company to figure out. So, if you blow it at the last step of the process, all that good will goes away, all of that loyalty unravels.

If you’re looking at digital customer experience from a sales and marketing point of view, you’re taking a short-sighted, almost blind approach to delighting customers.

Appian: So, what’s the big takeaway for C-suite execs around this disconnect? What do they need to know to create a drama-free customer experience?

Moore:

You have to really understand what matters to the customer. Many companies think they know what matters to customers, but when they go out and talk to customers in a systematic way, to learn what customers value and don’t value, they are often surprised at what they learn.

So that’s the most important thing, understanding what customers expect—from their perspective.

I had a client that was working as hard as they could on customer journey mapping. And at the very end of the process, I had heard something said, and I couldn’t believe my ears.: They were not interviewing the customer. They were interviewing themselves (laughter).

There’s no Substitute for Talking to Customers

Appian: Wow! Talk about “inside-out” thinking.

Moore:  Yeah! And they were so proud of their customer journey mapping (laughter).

Appian: And they never talked to a customer?

Moore: I pointed out that they might want to shift their focus. Now, there’s something I should say about that. Often the people who have the greatest insight into what customers are thinking are internal employees. But in this case, everyone listened to sales and marketing and what they had to say.

Appian: What should they have done differently?

Moore:

Talk to people in the call center or the contact center, or the customer service support group. They often know where the problems are, because they are the ones the customers hang up on. They’re the ones in the chat, when the customer disconnects.

They often can propose solutions, although many companies don’t talk to front-line employees to get that kind of intelligence on customer experience.

So, that’s important too. But it’s not a substitute for actually talking to customers.

Customer Experience is Broken

Appian: On that note, do you think companies are capturing enough of that kind of customer experience data in their contact centers and call centers and other customer touch points? And are companies doing enough to understand that data to make it easier for customers to get what they want?

Moore: No. Front line employees are not empowered. It’s the rule rather than the exception. I’ll just give you the challenge. The next time a company asks for your phone number, zip code and birth date for the umpteenth time, tell them that they’ve asked for that information too many times, and to get that feedback to upper management, and see what they say.

They could automate a lot of the data record keeping about customer experience, but it’s just not a high priority. That’s why the call center is still very much a cost center. So, why have a digital customer experience strategy, if you’re not going to fix the last few miles in the process? Why bother, really?

Appian: Continuing on that point, some experts are saying that competitive advantage will increasingly go to companies that compete on the basis of service, and not on product or price. What do you make of that?

Moore:

I think that there will always be new ways to interact with customers. So, customer experience is not going away. Just like Lean Six Sigma hasn’t gone away either. But, right now, customer experience is the broken area in business.

Eventually we’ll move on to other things. The most predictable is AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning, which is immediately applicable to customer experience. Drone delivery is another one.

Leaders, Fast-Followers, and the “Me-Too” Crowd

Appian:So, you see AI and machine learning as the next big things?

Moore: There are lots of differentiators out there. People are always going to be talking about what the “next big wave” will be. But when a big category like customer experience hits everyone’s forefront. It doesn’t go away. It becomes the next layer in a limitless effort for businesses to differentiate themselves.

Appian: As you think about senior execs, what’s important for them to understand about the business value of customer experience?

Moore:

When it comes to customer experience, I think that you can divide senior execs into two categories—those that really believe it in the heart, think about it strategically, and know that there’s always a chance that a brand-new startup may be looking at their industry totally differently.

These execs are always aware that they could get hit with a tidal wave of disruption. And they’re always on the lookout for the next wave of competition.

Appian: So, what’s the other category?

Moore: Business leaders and organizations that say: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have to do this just like we have to put in new telephone systems or do due diligence, because it’s just something you have to do. This is not at all a strategic way of looking at customer experience.

So, you have two kinds of companies as a result. You have the leaders and fast followers. And you have the laggards and the “me-too” crowd. And it all depends on how the senior leadership approaches the customer experience challenge.

Every Industry is Being Disrupted

Appian: How does this play out from an industry standpoint? Which industries tend to have which kind of exec?

Moore: The execs that are thinking about CX aggressively, tend to be in industries that are in the process of being disrupted. For example, the hospitality industry. They’ve been disrupted by Airbnb. So, if you’re in hospitality, and you sit around and don’t respond, you’re going to be in serious trouble.

But my take on it is that every industry is being disrupted. Every industry has a player that’s eclipsing everyone or on the cusp of being eclipsed. Or, there are companies in retail, like Walmart, that are determined not to be eclipsed. And then you have retailers that are being rattled by the massive shift in eCommerce.

Appian: Exactly, Walmart is a case in point. They’re responding to the eCommerce threat from Amazon.

Moore: Yes, and it’s kind of amazing. If you look at retail stores, it’s amazing how so many of the industry giants are still wrestling with the disruptive force of eCommerce, which has been around them for well over a decade. And they still don’t quite know how to come to terms with it.

One of my favorites is an online retailer that I came across, where the CEO was saying that she didn’t understand why anyone would ever go to a building that had a bunch of clothes on a rack, that may or may not fit them well, or flatter them. And I thought: What a way to summarize how completely wacky bricks and mortar retail is.

Today, you could have an AI system figure out what you like, what looks good on you, what size you need, and ship it to you (laughter).

Engaging Customers from End to End

Appian: One of the other things I wanted to talk about is the confusion out there about customer experience and customer engagement. What’s the difference? Or is there a difference?

Moore: This is based on my opinion, not on facts. People often use those terms interchangeably. Folks on the prospect side of the world, use the term engagement. And folks on the marketing side, use the term experience.

Appian: Which do you prefer?

Moore:

I like engagement better, because when I talk about engagement, I’m talking about the full end-to-end process that supports the customer from start to finish.

When people talk about experience, they tend to steer more toward the process of learning about a company, then deciding you’re going to do business with them, interacting with the website, call center, catalogue, and so on, and then placing a purchase.

Appian: So, how’s engagement different than that?

Moore: I think of engagement as more comprehensive. And I think when a company uses the term engagement a lot, it gives you a window into their background, which is most likely going to include Lean Six Sigma thinking.

Omnichannel Doesn’t Come in a Box

Appian: There’s also a lot of buzz around the term “omnichannel” in the customer experience conversation. What do you make of that? Is this just another buzzword, or is it something that senior execs should take seriously?

Moore: Yes and yes. It’s a buzzword. And senior leaders have to take it seriously. The main thing with omnichannel, is that it means different things to different people. So, for example, you could have multi-channel within a channel.

You could place a phone call and hit one line of business. Then, you could end up getting transferred to a different line of business in the same company. Which means you may have to start the customer service process all over again, to get your problem resolved.

When that happens, you want your customer data to travel with your customer, no matter where they go within your organization. A lot of companies go down this path, and one or two million dollars later, find out that they went about it all wrong.

Appian: So, omnichannel is serious business…

Moore:

I think omnichannel is very important, from a customer’s point of view. But it’s not something that you start with out of the box. The thing is to first learn your way with customer experience before you start tackling omnichannel.

The Importance of Digital Trust

Appian: You’ve also written about something you call “digital trust.” What is digital trust, and why should we care about it?

Moore:  Digital trust matters because customer experience is about building trust. You don’t want your customer experience to just be transactional. You want your customers to love doing business with you, and to come back and build greater reliance and trust in your ability to do whatever the customer expects you to do.

Appian: Your experience with Amazon is good example of that…

Moore: Yes, I trust them and they’ve earned my trust over the years. This is what happens when you create an enchanting kind of customer experience with social, mobile, website, and they’ve all been integrated to support an omnichannel strategy. And each time your customers interact with you, they hand over more information.

Appian: Which raises the topic of data security and all the news reports about cyber theft. How does that fit in the customer experience narrative?

Moore: So, boom! You get hacked and all of your customer data gets stolen. That trust you built with customers will get shattered. So, the first thing is not to get hacked (which is easier said than done). But, if you do get hacked, the important thing is how you handle it.

Unfortunately, what often happens is that the CTO, the CIO, Chief Risk Officer, or Chief Privacy Officer gets into the act of handling customer communications. And if you’ve ever read some of their horrible correspondence, you’ll quickly see why trust gets smashed, because the messaging is not at all customer oriented.

It’s All About the Data

Appian: To wrap up our conversation, tell me about your expectations for 2019 and beyond. What are some of the things on your radar, as it relates to customer experience trends?

Moore: I think the number one trend (and this is a really big one) is data. The emphasis on data cannot be understated. And companies have a lot of data. But they can’t get the customer data they need. It’s not integrated. It’s not actionable.

Customer data drives process, all of your outbound and inbound channels. And customer data is core to delivering machine learning. And I think where people really want to hang their hat is on machine learning.

But they have to get their customer data house in order first. It’s all about data.

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