SOCAP International

The 6 Rings of the Modern Customer Experience

You’re accountable for responding to a customer who has tried to connect with you, and you’ll be better able to do so with the right technology.

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It’s not just industries that are being disrupted by product and service innovation. It’s customer experience as well. When you rent a place on Airbnb, you can easily text with the person who rented you the space. When has it ever been that easy to text with a company? It hasn’t.

Internal dysfunction, old CRM technologies and the lack of a customer oriented culture all contribute to poor customer experiences. But you know what’s exciting about customer service now? It’s like the invisible layer around the entire company because of its ability to listen. So let’s explore the six rings of the modern customer experience.Morgan_2

Ring 6: Your stakeholders.

The external ring of modern customer experience is your customers, prospects, partners, external communities, influencers and the public. They are talking about your brand, often without you knowing. They respond to your marketing promotions, they reach out to you for customer service or they might be shopping for a product.

Maybe they aren’t your direct customer, but they reach out to you with a question or a comment. They might call you, they might tweet to you, or reach out to you in your community. Millennials would enjoy connecting with your team directly via your company’s app as they shop for a product on their phone. 

You are accountable for responding to that person who tried to connect with you. You will be better able to do so with the right technology. This brings us to the fifth ring.

Ring 5: The channels.

The number of channels customers will seek customer service on will only increase in the next few years. When customers reach out to a company on multiple channels, they must repeat themselves and it feels like completely unique interactions. It’s like when you call the bank, and the bank tells you that you’ve called the wrong department, but “as a service” they will contact the agent in the other department—while you’re on hold—who can actually help you. It’s still not a good feeling for the customer who has just spent several minutes describing their problem.

The problem is that many companies have limitations in their technology, including old CRM systems that are so outdated they are no longer useful. They aren’t easy to integrate with the many channels customers come in on, and often the processes for agents are highly complicated and tedious.

Ring 4: An omni-channel CRM.

Morgan_3Omni-channel as it stands today is not omni at all. It’s very hard to find and roll out a CRM that will not only account for every single channel, but will match a customer’s information from every single channel and update the CRM in real-time. The agent on the back-end would be able see every move the customer makes no matter the channel. Most big companies don’t have this. They’re still trying to piecemeal their old technology together with new social-media listening and response software.
Back to that example earlier from the bank where two agents from different departments are trying to work together to solve the customer’s problem: The agent not only must re-explain this to the other agent, but they’re both working out of old CRMs, further slowing the process. These processes are undesirable for the customer. 

A good tool will trace the entire customer journey in real-time, as the customer jumps from one channel to the next. The CRM will be updated, and even send out proactive content or messages depending on what step the customer is at. The technology predicts the customer’s next move, preventing further problems for the customer. Remember the best service is no service, and your CRM should assist with that. But today as it stands most CRMs simply don't.

Ring 3: Collaboration technology.

You’re only as good as your ability to work with other departments. Remember what customers experience as poor service is often a result of internal corporate dysfunction. At big companies, departments are often run as if they are completely separate companies.

Today, customer service is often on the frontline of social media. They are listening to all the responses to the marketing assets sent out. They are first to the fire when there’s a crisis. Customer service has eyes and ears on millions of messages about your brand. Collaboration technology allows customer service to quickly engage with other departments. This is in the best interest of the customer in addition to being in the best interest of the company. A good collaboration tool helps it to be more organized, preventing errors that make the company look disorganized. It also solves customer issues more quickly.

If you outsource social listening and engagement, or any other part of the contact center, it can create more layers when those agents need to connect with the company’s employees. While outsourcing customer service can be more cost effective, it creates more red tape when those agents need to talk to the various internal departments.

Ring 2: Personalization.

MorganLisa Arthur, the CMO of Teradata, says that personalization has largely failed marketers. Every customer has had the experience of shopping for a product, even buying it, only to be stalked by that product on Facebook and other channels for weeks. Take the example of a shoe. Instead of following the customer with that same shoe, why not advertise them a matching belt or bag? Arthur wonders why our technology doesn’t allow us to be smarter about how we sell stuff to customers online.

But personalization is not just for marketers. So much of customer service still depends on customers sifting through lengthy articles, searching through communities or an external knowledge base of some kind. Good personalization is about knowing where the customer is at and proactively sends that customer messages that make sense in real-time.

Ring 1: The customer.

At the heart of your customer engagement process is the customer. If the customer is the focal point of your service strategy, you will have considered their experience at every point along the way. Why is it so rare for executives to take time to walk through the customer journey? Most don't want to actually see the mess under the hood. There is power in truth. Once you know where things get sticky for the customer, you will be able to make it better. Better yet, ask your customers—especially your most loyal customers. If you need to offer them an incentive in a big way to give you feedback, fine. That feedback is worth its weight in gold.

So tell me about your customer experience. What are you proud of and what would you change?


Flight Digital founder Blake Morgan is a digital strategy consultant, former digital strategy practitioner and Forbes columnist. She is the vice president of communications and marketing for the SOCAP Northwest Chapter. She loves customer experience because as humans we are feeling, sensing beings. Our most vivid memories are powerful experiences. She has worked with Intel, Go90, Verizon Wireless, Zendesk, Sparkcentral, Newmark Knight Frank Retail and more.