A Better Experience
Who doesn’t appreciate a great buying experience? With everything from buying a car, ordering a coffee or doing some online shopping, a business can make or lose a sale based on the overall experience. But what about the technology industry? To get some better insight to what this looks like for companies that provide technology products and services, I recently spent some time with Katalyst's Director of Client Experience, Emily Hennessee.
JA: What exactly is “Client Experience”?
EH: Client Experience (CX) is an umbrella term used to lump how we interact with, and make impressions upon, our customers and roll up into an overall feeling we leave the client after doing business with us. Do they believe we have their best interests in mind? Do they think of us like an extension of their team? Are we directly correlated with their forward progress as an organization? It’s centralized in this way to give a central point of authority within the business to ensuring all others have consistent mechanisms to deliver high standards across the lifecycle of an engagement. CX as it’s more commonly referred to is what seems to be the most meaningful way to leave the best impression on your customers and win their loyalty and commitment to your business.
JA: Isn’t the concept of CX more of a marketing tool?
EH: Some companies see it as an emerging data point from resources like Gartner who describe it as the soon-to-be singular differentiator when choosing a partner/vendor by the year 2020 (surpassing price and product offering), and they want to capitalize on that without understanding or embracing it, or being a believer in what a difference it truly can make. At Katalyst however, we see CX as a necessity, not an optional offering, to solidify ourselves at the forefront of our competition. Our business is changing and we know the X factor to whether we can rise to the challenges within those changes hinges greatly on embracing CX as a company culture, not simply a marketing tool.
JA: Do your customers see more value in the experience or in the products behind it?
EH: Having the right product catalogue is a must. With the assumption that MOST partners do, you then must ask, what separates us from our competition. As a student of Psychology, I personally have always found that the interactions I have with companies, bad and good, is an enormous influence on my spending decisions. I think the more the other elements like product and price become less differentiated in the marketplace, the more the customers will focus on the experience of doing business as their determining factor.
JA: In a perfect world, where do you see CX driving the technology industry?
EH: There are two levels we at Katalyst are tackling CX as it relates to our business. One is adopting a culture that has a hyper vigilance on how our decisions impact our customers, and what visibility into things like account history, stakeholder bios, customer strategic objectives can do to make us operate more cohesively as a team and deliver a well-above-average experience. Externally though, we’re also looking at the value of things like Adoption Services as an additional layer that should be more of a requirement than an option if you really want to get the most out of technology.
JA: How can Katalyst’s customers expect to see evidence of its CX focus?
EH: One example: For all Managed Services customers, we partner with outside organizations but want to make sure that we remain plugged into their value realization of those services so there is an additional layer of customer touch added to the arrangement. A rep from the CX department conducts periodic Business Review meetings to review metrics and look at data that should be reflective of the experience they are having with the service. We then assess any missing areas of success that aren’t captured in the data but are integral to the service providing the greatest results that we continue to monitor for them. We call those Success Metrics.
JA: What are some strategies for your customers to improve their own CX without increasing costs?
EH: Leverage tools you already have that can help you accomplish the following initial goals:
1) Get visibility of what the current Client Experience is like and identify weak spots
There are also many free survey tools you can leverage to get off the ground and start figuring out what your next step needs are to take it further. Make sure within your organization that all feedback gathered is shared to one place (set an email alias as the preferred destination if you must) so that you’re capturing the good along with the bad.
2) Document and centralize information that would otherwise be communicated verbally if you were going to prep a new team member for walking into a meeting with your customer.
You can leverage things like Salesforce or Sharepoint for information like this if you’re already using them.
3) Promote the mindset in everything you do internally to drive the culture.
Constantly ask the question, “How does the outcome we’re debating make a difference to our customer?”. Keep it in the front of all discussion and presentations b/c it will not succeed if it does not become your culture.
Reading time: ~3 minutes