Ben Davis: Don’t talk nonsense about customer experience, just get CRM right

Customer experience is exciting, but before you move onto chatbots and augmented reality you need to get the basics right, and that includes taming legacy technology.

customer experience

Marketers can’t seem to stop talking about customer experience. And CEOs haven’t shut up about “putting the customer at the heart of everything” they do.

Why is customer experience so fashionable? Is it because marketers see it as their best way of exerting a broader influence in their organisations – a way to get involved with product management?

Do marketers see customer experience as more worthy than advertising, or less tied to pesky revenue goals? Or is it simply because the internet has increased competition so dramatically that marketers need to work harder to please customers?

Whatever the reason, 19% of company respondents in Econsultancy’s 2018 Digital Trends survey picked customer experience as their single most exciting opportunity this year (it was top of the pile).

Customer experience encompasses so many things – I recently moderated an Econsultancy roundtable on the topic and we covered online checkout design, fast food ordering and queueing, package delivery, content curation, retention marketing and personalisation.

Customer experience is exciting, yes, but it’s often a bit of a red herring. If we’re honest, what we really want is good customer service.

But ultimately, I’d like to put forward legacy technology in customer relationship management (CRM) as perhaps the biggest customer experience snag of all. Though it might not be pressing for all companies in every sector, where it does bite it causes plenty of anguish for customers.

I’ll give you an example from my personal life.

I recently made an insurance claim over the phone. A claims expert working for my insurer subsequently emailed me to clarify something. The email included a request for some photographs that I had already provided weeks prior. This annoyed me slightly, but I replied with the requisite information. Next I got a response which said: “Could you please confirm our claim reference……to help me locate the correct claim.”

I found this pretty disappointing. Not least because I knew that one more back-and-forth via email would inevitably eat up another day or two at least.

For a while I sat in front of my laptop with an email in draft which read “But you emailed me!?” I even did some Googling to make sure the email wasn’t a scam – after all, it seems strange to be asked for this sort of information from the insurer.

Obviously, the claims expert could see my contact details and some context around the claim (necessary to do their job), but either didn’t have all my details to hand, or simply wasn’t willing to find them. Could it be that this member of staff would rather send a customer an unnecessary email than go to the trouble of cross-checking another internal system?

Maybe I’m ignorant of some legislation that prevented this from happening, but it seems doubtful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m cognisant of the impact of financial regulation and GDPR, but my claims reference number doesn’t seem particularly sensitive or even personally identifiable information.

Endless questions

What’s more, I encountered further legacy technology issues when I called my insurer to sort the mess out. Every time I was put through to a new department, I had to answer a slew of security questions, which was aggravating when compared to seamless customer service interactions I have experienced in the past – such as making a call to my bank from within my banking app (and foregoing all security questions).

In fact, when I was put through to the correct department, I was first told that nobody was picking up, so I would have to wait on hold, and that there was no information as to how long the waits were, nor could I request a call back.

If this article reads like the ramblings of a boring man who sat down next to you at the bus stop, dear reader, I apologise. But it can feel fairly visceral when you have to interact with a company that plainly works in silos.

I’m coming to the point. Customer experience is exciting, yes, but it’s often a bit of a red herring. If we’re honest, what we really want is good customer service.

And however much we want to pretend otherwise, old-fashioned IT is still the scourge of customer service and joined-up thinking.

If you work for a company wondering where to invest next – perhaps an augmented reality campaign or a chatbot – why not put some of that money aside to do some user research and find out what pain points your CRM might be causing? Even better, take a walk down to the contact centre and see for yourself.

Ben Davis is editor at Marketing Week sister title Econsultancy

Hide Comments4 Show Comments
  • Tadas R. 6 Jul 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Banks and insurance companies have the worst customer experience, and yet customers rarely change them. I hope you won’t stay with your insurer; losing customers is the best incentive for change.

    • Ben Davis 9 Jul 2018 at 11:06 am

      Hi TR. Sure will. Would pay more for better customer service even if they are competitive at renewal.

  • Phil Rubin 6 Jul 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Terrific piece and spot on. CRM is a foundation for delivering a better customer experience. CX is another marketing BS buzzword that is, like so many others, misunderstood. Kind of like CRM was about 20ish years ago!

    For us (at rDialogue), most often considered as a ‘loyalty marketing’ firm, CRM, loyalty marketing and customer experience are all derivations on the same idea: build, strategize and execute around the customer so that what is valuable to them is also valuable to the brand and the enterprise behind the brand, along with its stakeholders.

    Which is why we define what we do as “helping brands pay attention to customers and act accordingly”.

    People will argue that CRM is yesterday (as stated in the article “legacy”and CDP is today, which is right, but only to a point. At the core is the ability to capture and associate multiple data sets with an individual customer and use the data to be more relevant and valuable.

  • Tim Williams 9 Jul 2018 at 10:41 am

    ‘I’d like to put forward legacy technology in customer relationship management (CRM) as perhaps the biggest customer experience snag of all.’

    I’d argue rather that the biggest CX problems stem from thinking that CRM is a technology in the first place…

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