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Customer experience strategy: Chasing that 360-degree view

How can companies remove data silos to get a full picture of their customers?

A few months ago, I ordered a new bed from a popular online retailer. It was to be shipped to me via another well-known...

delivery service. I received notifications from the retailer and the delivery service that the bed was estimated to arrive at my house on a certain date and time. The delivery service's notification also encouraged me to create an account on its online delivery management system that allowed me to track my shipment and manage (for a fee, of course) my delivery dates if the estimated delivery time wasn't convenient. I signed up and changed my delivery time. The bed arrived, but only partially. On my account page, the delivery service showed I had received the full shipment.

Over the past couple of years, Twitter has been my favorite customer support channel. If you are a brand with a handle on Twitter, you can bet that's the first place I'll go to inquire about your product, report a problem or announce my opinion about your product. So naturally, in this instance, that's where I started. I tweeted the delivery service about my problem. Promptly I received a response from a sympathetic social media community manager apologizing for the inconvenience and asking for my shipment tracking number. The community manager said the company would get back to me shortly. A few hours passed, and I decided to contact the call center of the delivery service to report my problem. I didn't mention I had reported the issue on Twitter, but I did report the discrepancy between my online account information and the information contained in the delivery. The customer support rep, also a sympathetic individual, informed me the department did not have access to my account page, but would be happy to record the issue and get back to me as soon as possible. I noticed that the representative did not mention my earlier post on Twitter.

So what's the story here? It is the story of typical silos in a large, well-intentioned company. The call center, the social channel for customer service and the self-service channels were disconnected from one another, which makes for a poor customer experience.

How can companies remove these kinds of information silos and achieve the elusive 360-degree view to bolster customer experience? At Tangerine Lab, we take the following steps with our clients:

When a call center, social channels for customer service and the self-service channels are disconnected from one another, it makes for poor customer experience.
  1. Walk in your customer's shoes. Your customers do not think of you as silos and they don't think of themselves as digital or analog customers. They engage with you through channels that are most convenient and relevant for them at any point and for specific problems. You can begin tackling the 360-degree challenge by walking in your customer's shoes. Map their journey as they enter and exit your customer channels. Customer journey maps are tremendously effective in understanding your customer's intent and expectations. In my scenario, I started with self-service, moved to social media, and ended up at the call center.
  2. Identify the "onstage elements" along the journey. At every touch point your customers interact directly with processes, people and places that you have made available as a part of your brand experience, such as your website, mobile app, call center and customer support representatives. Using a theater analogy, we call these onstage elements, or what your customers see and experience firsthand. Each has the potential to provoke a customer sentiment: positive, negative or neutral depending on what you have promised and what your customer has come to expect. In my example, the onstage elements were the Twitter account, the community manager, the account management/self-service site and the call center, and my expectation was they were all connected.
  3. Identify the friction points (or differentiation opportunities). Redundant steps, disjointed experiences, unfulfilled expectations and promises are "friction points" in customer experience. They create negative sentiment. Conversely, effortless transactions and satisfied expectations can bring customer relationships to the next level. In my example, my experience was disjointed and required me to share redundant information with each channel I came in contact with.
  4. Identify the enablers for removing the friction points in customer experience. Now you can start thinking about the 360-degree view. Ask yourself what capabilities each channel needs along the customer's journey to deliver a seamless customer experience. These include customer insights, business rules, employee competencies, processes and technologies each channel needs to service the customer efficiently and effectively. In my example, I suspect the delivery service had fragmented customer data and CRM capabilities.
  5. Perform an audit of your capabilities ("backstage elements") along the customer touch points and fill the gaps. To continue with the theater analogy, perform an audit of your backstage elements to see whether they can adequately deliver on your intended customer journey. This is the customer data you carry in your enterprise data warehouse, your CRM technologies, your website's content management system and so forth. In other words, these are the elements of your customer experience architecture that your customers do not see, but they affect their experience of your brand at each touch point along their journey.

About the author:
Banafsheh Ghassemi is the CEO and cofounder of Tangerine Lab, a customer experience design agency specialized in applications of design thinking that are enabled by emerging customer technologies and informed by advanced customer insights and analytics.

For 16-plus years, Ghassemi held executive leadership roles and led innovative product and customer experience strategies, sales and channel strategy, CRM as well as other customer-centric initiatives at MCI, Nextel, Sprint, Nasdaq and the American Red Cross.

This was last published in December 2014

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Is your company trying to bring channel silos together to improve customer experience? How?
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My organization has been able to improve customer service by bringing channel silos together. This has been made possible through transparency. This way, people are able to see inside the silo. This makes them understand what that silo is working on as well as assure them the task is in the best interest of the organization. Again, I have achieved this by allowing information to flow in and out of the silo.
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Great article. Customers don't care how your systems work, they just care that they work for them. Solving these problems requires more than just finding a new tool that will manage the customer experience - it requires communication across teams to identify redundant practices and find ways to improve.
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