With mobile technology and social media helping consumers become more informed than ever about purchasing options, it's increasingly vital for companies to "wow" their customers with incredible experiences. Customer feedback holds the key to that wow factor. But how can companies keep a handle on the huge amounts of feedback they receive, and make sure it gets to the right people in time for them to act on it?
To answer this question, we sat down Sam Keninger, director of product marketing at Medallia – the company helping brands such as Nordstrom, PayPal and Four Seasons build their industry-leading customer experiences.
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TechRadar Pro: What are your top three pieces of advice for companies implementing a customer experience program?
Sam Keninger: The first step is getting executive buy-in. The best customer experience program in the world won't succeed if people at the top of your organisation aren't engaged with it.
Once you've done that, it's also very important to make sure your program isn't stuck in an ivory tower. Employees throughout your whole organisation, particularly those on the front line, need to be involved. When feedback is operationalised – or integrated into every aspect of your company's business operations – you'll be able to maintain a more consistent focus on customers' needs.
Finally, the program must encourage employees to act on the feedback they receive, and use it to resolve customer issues. The more your employees are enabled to respond – particularly in real-time – the stronger your customer relationships will become.
TRP: How has the customer journey changed with mobile and social media? How is it defined today?
SK: Customer journeys have always varied from industry to industry and company to company. It's hard to have a catch-all definition, and trying to find one can actually make it harder for companies to see what makes their own customers' experiences unique.
In general, mobile technology and social media give customers more ways to interact with companies. This has meant more work for companies in engaging with customers, wherever they are. But the good news is that companies can use these new touch-points to solicit customer feedback and get a more nuanced understanding of the experiences they're providing.
Since mobile and social platforms are so prevalent, customers are going to say how they feel about companies one way or another. You can work with that, or try to fight it. We have found that companies able to collect and respond to mobile and social feedback are more closely aligning themselves with the customer – and they're the ones that are flourishing.
TRP: What tools and processes do companies need to map customer journeys?
SK: To do it properly, customer journey mapping takes a lot of effort, as you need input from people all across your organisation. It can be a bit overwhelming at first. A useful strategy is to focus initially on one critical journey that spans multiple business units – for example, the phone activation journey for a telco – instead of trying to map every possible journey at once.
If you're able to understand that one important journey, you'll gain insight into a wide variety of processes at once. You'll also be able to see how well different customer touch-points are sharing feedback with one another.
When mapping customer journeys, remember that the voice of the customer is also typically the voice of reason. Companies need tools that unify feedback from different touch-points and channels, make the customer's voice accessible to people all over the organisation, and show how it impacts business results. Your employees should see how their actions play out not only on end customers, but on their co-workers downstream as well.