Customer Experience – Just a cheap buzzphrase to sell expensive software?

Posted by Ross Coundon on February 21, 2017

customer experience buzzword

Recently we were working with a client on an operations healthcheck.  This is where we diagnose the areas where businesses with field service operations can be more efficient and more effective.  (Yes, thanks for asking, our first ‘quick-win’ suggestion for how to better prioritise work paid for the engagement more than twice over)

One area we work hard on at Leadent is avoiding buzzwords and bringing a dose of reality to industry hype.  Instead, we aim to use real English, not the language of a typical consultancy to make them sound important.  So, imagine my disappointment as we came to the end of the engagement when our sponsor said to me, “When you guys first arrived on site I thought you were one of those typical consultancies with your buzzwords and bullish!t”. (Sorry for the language but that is the actual quote)

I was mortified.

I began wracking my brains for things we said in the first couple of workshops and interviews, the team reviewed the presentations we’d delivered, the questions we’d asked and the notes we’d taken from the meetings, there was nothing.  I was confused and worried, this isn’t how we do business.

So, we went back to the client sponsor to find out more information.  “Well, it was when you started talking about Customer Experience, I figured you were trying to flog us a CRM system.  We’ve already got one of those anyway, we built it ourselves.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of talk in our industry about Customer Experience.  The term is subject to the usual hype and I suddenly realised that we’d been talking about customer experience and our customer had heard Customer Experience (capitalisation deliberate).  The latter has its own obligatory abbreviation, CX, which of course, turns many people off.  The former is something that we all have every time we interact with somebody who wants to sell us something or provide a service we’ve already purchased.

This got me thinking, our client had immediately made an association in his mind that, when we were talking about customer experience, we were referring to the problem that his company felt they’d solved by creating their own CRM.  Now, I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of buy vs. build, that’s for another time, but what’s important here is that, whilst related, the objectives that people are typically aiming for with (bear with me, I’m going to use those acronyms) CRM are different to that of CX.

Historically, CRM has been deployed to help the business to manage its interactions with its customers.  Tracking phone calls and emails, understanding customer buying habits, managing contracts and service tickets, managing the sales pipeline, running market campaigns etc.  This is a very ‘me-centric’ view of the world, it’s all about how can I get my existing clients and potential customers to buy (more) from me.  There is often little focus on what’s in it for those customers.

This is where customer experience should be different.  Customer experience is about how I make the experience my clients have with dealing with my business as positive as it can be; a very ‘you-centric’ view.  It’s about helping customers to self-serve, to be able to interact with my business on their own terms and in their own way.  If, as a customer, I’ve bought a service contract from a company for the maintenance and repair of my washing machine, a differentiator is the ability to be able to book my service online or via an app on my phone, manage my appointment, receive real-time SMS or app updates on when my engineer’s going to arrive and get reminders of when my appointment will take place.

In our experience, getting this customer experience right is one of the most important things you can focus on as a field service business.  Most often, as a customer of this type of business, the only person I meet from your company is the engineer that arrives at my house to fix my washing machine.  Or maybe I booked a service.  Either way, I’m likely grumpy that my washing machine is broken in the first place or unhappy that I had to take a whole day off to wait in for a service at an unspecified time between 8am and 5pm.

As margins are eroded on the sale of goods, service is becoming a bigger source of revenue for manufacturers.  (Cue another buzzword I dislike – servitisation).  The mindset and focus of a service business and that of a manufacturer are similar in some respects but there are important differences.  To provide the seamless service that allows a customer to manage their own appointments within a small window of time without adding huge cost to the business requires that a lot of business processes, data and systems are aligned to that goal:

A detailed understanding of the capacity of the engineering workforce to do work in all its different flavours

  • A thorough understanding of the skill levels across the organisation
  • An accurate picture of how long jobs actually take, not an organisational average, but for individual engineers
  • An accurate picture of how long travel between jobs actually takes and predictions for how long it will take
  • The capture of time spent by engineers that is necessary but unproductive – van checks, break times, van stock counting
  • An understanding of where inventory resides and which parts are generally required for jobs
  • Flexible quota management to deal with cancellations and reschedules
  • Optimised routes to keep costs of shortened time slots to a minimum
  • A realistic preventative maintenance/service schedule with early warning for customers to book
  • Introduction of a notification capability to remind customers of appointments
  • Making this notification process two-way to allow for rebooking without tying up a Contact Centre rep on the phone
  • Lightweight, fast customer satisfaction surveying to help with continuous improvement and refinement of the process

By addressing some or all of these things, you are able to ensure the experience a customer has when dealing with your business is a very positive one.  We all know intuitively and through experience that when we’ve had a truly positive experience, we tell people about it.  I’m more likely to buy from you again, my friends are more likely to buy from you too.  It’s that simple.

And you know what, it doesn’t have to be expensive – the software to achieve all of this is affordable and available on a subscription basis and, when you work with a business that’s done it time and time again, it’s simple and fast to implement.

So, to address the title I gave this blog.  Is Customer Experience a cheap buzzphrase to sell expensive software?

Frankly no, customer experience is something we all have almost every day of our lives, and it’s probably the most important thing to consider when building a service business, and the software and implementation don’t have to be expensive.

There’s simply no excuse for poor customer experience and it might just hand the advantage to your competitors, and it’s for this reason we created Leadent Service Cloud; best-in-class field service management, delivered by buzzword free experts, with nothing to pay upfront in project fees.

Now there’s no excuse.