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The top 10 customer experience questions

Read our list of the top ten customer experience questions from expert Lior Arussy. Learn about customer experience mapping, the chief customer officer position and more.

We've compiled this list of the top 10 customer experience questions and answers from Lior Arussy, President of...

Strativity Group. Lior receives hundreds of customer experience management questions every year, so chances are he's already answered your question or one like it. This FAQ series was designed to help you get quick answers to some of the most common customer experience management questions. Learn how to deliver a great customer experience, create a customer experience strategy, track the customer experience across all touch points and more.

Lior Arussy is an author, visionary, consultant and creative catalyst in the areas of creating delightful customer experiences and executing profitable customer strategies. His consultancy, Strativity Group, Inc., advises Global 2000 companies as well as emerging businesses around the world. Prior to establishing the Strativity Group, Arussy held executive positions at Hewlett-Packard and other organizations.

Delivering a great customer service experience

How can we define what a valuable experience is for our customers and how should we use that to decide what type of customer experience we want to deliver?

Lior ArussyLior Arussy,
President,
Strativity Group

Lior Arussy: Defining what a valuable customer experience is for your customers and deciding what type of experience you want to deliver involves customer input and insight. After you recognize that your customers are your partners in a mutually beneficial relationship, ask them to define their expectations of the relationship. Speak to loyal customers, prospects and even former customers to determine what works, what doesn't work and what they want from the relationship. Prioritize your efforts by first focusing on the issues of greatest importance to your most loyal (by revenue or profit) customers.

The type of experience you want to deliver should be profitable to your organization. Delivering an exceptional experience isn't always cheap and while your experience should always be focused on the customer, it should also be focused on improving the bottom line. After you've identified your priorities, ensure that by elevating your customer's experience you'll realize additional revenue and profit.

Customer relationship manager job description

Can you define the role of a customer relationship manager? How has this role changed as a result of emerging technology and new trends in the marketplace?

Arussy: If by customer relationship manager you mean an individual who is in charge of actual relationships with a customer (as opposed to an individual who is in charge of customer experience design), then here are some suggestions:

  • Customer relationship managers should know their customer's needs, wishes and dreams. He or she should be well versed in the value delivered to customers and the problems customers are trying to solve.
  • The customer relationship manager will not only solve customer requests but will proactively offer ideas and insights to improve the customer's issues and challenges.
  • The customer relationship manager will follow up on every issue and ensure complete satisfaction and maximum utilization of the product or services sold to customers.

Six basic customer needs

What are the basic needs of today's customers? What are customers looking for in customer service?

Arussy: When it comes to customer service, customers are seeking several things. Customers who are calling a call center with a problem have six basic needs:

  • Agents who can make decisions – Customers want to talk to an empowered call center agent who has the authority to help solve their problems.
  • Knowledgable agents – Customers want call center agents to be prepared with information so the customer doesn't need to provide it repeatedly.
  • First call resolution – Customers want their problems resolved as quickly as possible.
  • Respect – Customers want to be treated with respect and do not want to be taken for granted.
  • Empathy – Customers want to talk to a kind and understanding human being.
  • Fair resolution – Customers want the resolution to be fair; not arbitrary or one-sided.

Anything beyond this is great, but these are the main principles.

Customer engagement survey results

Has there been any research done on how respect (whether or not a customer feels they are treated with respect) and integrity (the customer's perception of a company's integrity) impact customer satisfaction and the customer experience? How do these factors compare with other factors that impact a customer's perception of a company?

Arussy: You are referring to a customer's emotional engagement and satisfaction. There are multiple studies I have seen about the emotional engagement of a customer and its impact on a business. The best study I have seen is one published by the Gallup Group that compares the purchasing/spending patterns of credit card customers. Gallup found that unsatisfied customers and rationally satisfied customer spend the same amount of money. However, emotionally satisfied customers doubled their spending with the bank.

Company-wide customer experience mapping

What is the best way to map the customer experience across all touch points?

Arussy: Mapping the customer experience across all touch points requires rigorous discipline, and many companies tend to cut corners and therefore fail to do it properly. What a customer experience manager needs to do is map the journey of the customer from the first initiation of a contact (e.g. advertising and website) to the last invoice they receive. Then, assess the importance of each touch point in the eyes of the customer as well as the company's performance at each touch point. Such an assessment can be done through interviews, focus groups and Web surveys. Either way, it has to look at the holistic customer experience journey. What can help in this process is to collect all complaints and issues raised at each touch point. These will give an indication of which quality issues need to be prioritized.

Keeping customers loyal in a down economy

How can we take into account the impact the current economy has on our customers spending habits and loyalty, and how should we approach the customer experience in the current economy?

Arussy: Let me suggest a simple way to approach the customer experience in a down economy. Let's assume that we will not obtain new customers under the current economic conditions. All we have are our current existing customers. Let's also assume that our competitors will be going after our current customers more fiercely than ever before. Both assumptions are fair. In light of those things, the quality of our customer's experiences becomes very critical. As a company, we are in defense mode, protecting the business we already have. If our customer's spending gets tighter, they will opt to move to cheaper alternatives faster if they do not see sufficient value through the customer experience we deliver. These customers may be less forgiving and every mistake may be a good excuse to leave our business for cheaper alternatives. The economic conditions we all face make the customer experience more critical then ever before. We have far less room for errors and mediocrity.

The chief customer officer job role

How important are chief customer officers for managing and improving the customer experience?

Arussy: Hiring a chief customer officer is a great step in the right direction for any organization. A chief customer officer usually oversees the customer's overall experience across all silos, and that is critical to improving the customer experience. Of course, the role of the chief customer officer is still evolving. In some companies the chief customer officer functions as a coordinator who is in charge of customer complaints. In other organizations the role is more operational and helps manage the customer service function.

Either way, having a chief customer officer is an important step -- they are responsible for holding the entire organization accountable for the total customer experience.

Customer databases and the customer experience

What are the benefits of a customer database in an organization? How can we or should we use our database in providing good experiences to customers?

Arussy: The customer database is the backbone of your relationship with the customer. Think about it as your brain. It is where you store your knowledge about the customer, use it to sell and service him and anticipate his needs. The more you collect in the customer database, the better you can fit your solution to his needs and the higher the likelihood of doing business with the customer.

To drive better experience, the customer database should serve as a repository of information shared by everyone in the organization. So no matter where the customer calls within the organization, everyone is fully informed and the customer does not need to repeat his issue (major dissatisfaction factor). Additionally, the more information you collect about your customer (e.g., birthdays) the more personalized your experience. The more personalization you can factor into the experience, the more loyal your customer will become.

How are customer satisfaction and retention linked?

From a marketing perspective, the indicators of customer retention are customer satisfaction with services and good complaint handling. How can these be best quantified to understand customers' experiences while doing business with us?

Arussy: The question is based on the assumption that customer retention equals customer satisfaction and complaint handling. I disagree with this assumption. In fact, several studies have indicated that there is little correlation between customer satisfaction and retention or future purchases. In one case, only 17% of satisfied customers of financial institutions claimed that they would not entertain a competing offer.

The real indication for retention is not customers' perceptions (e.g., satisfaction) but customers' actions. Repeat business, purchasing ancillary services, recommendations to others, willingness to pay premium price and frequency of purchasing are the indicators of customer retention. These factors can be easily quantified and measured by the dollar value of each action.

Improving customer satisfaction in a call center

What are your primary recommendations for improving customer satisfaction through the call center?

Arussy: This question is very broad and there are many ways to address it. Below are five basic principles on improving customer satisfaction in the call center. These should provide a good starting point.

  1. Define the desired performance. Show your agents what an excellent performance looks like and set clear expectations.
  2. Educate, educate, educate. Make sure your employees understand the business from the customer's perspective. Help agents understand the consequences of their performance on the customer's satisfaction level.
  3. Create a culture of excellence. Put significant emphasis on recognizing and rewarding top performers and people who go above and beyond. Make it clear to everyone that you run an "excellence or nothing" operation.
  4. Remember the customer. Use technology to minimize the customers needing to repeat who they are and what their problem is.
  5. Personalize. In everything you do, make sure the customer feels like he or she is the only one that matters. Use the customer's name, refer to personal information and congratulate a customer on his or her birthday. Make them feel at home.

Next Steps

Visit the customer experience management Ask the Expert section for more FAQs.

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This was last published in March 2009

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