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Empathy and the Customer Experience
I delivered a talk about empathy at Oracle’s recent Modern Customer Experience (ModernCX) conference. In the talk I described how we in North America SaaS Customer Success are building out an enablement program for Customer Success Managers (CSM) that will be fueled by empathetic inputs. What are those, you might be asking? Good corporate education programs are the result of outcome-based design, of course, and if we are to properly design a program with the right outcomes in mind it needs to reflect the strategy and values of our company, and the abilities of its students (in our case, the CSMs). Also, the program needs to consider how it will eventually play out in front of customers (the ultimate beneficiaries of the program), even indirectly. In other words, the customer’s experience needs to be represented in those inputs. One of the end goals of the program is to help CSMs gain a deeper appreciation for the customer experience so they’ll be able to strengthen their customer engagements regardless of whether those engagements are digital or face to face. The curricula will go beyond product and domain training and more, even, than just teaching them all the mechanics they’ll need to know in order to effectively deliver the new Advanced Customer Success Service to customers. The program will attempt to ensure that the constant consideration of the customer experience becomes more than a buzz phrase and that its prominence and criticality is built into the core of the program.
CX Is Hard and So Is Exhibiting a Natural Inclination to be Empathetic
Here’s the thing about CX. If you don’t focus on it as being a corporate-wide strategy there will be a competitor who will and they’ll end up bleeding your customers away. We know this from research like this CEO Guide from McKinsey, which states that “…customer-experience leaders gain rapid insights to build customer loyalty, make employees happier, achieve revenue gains of 5 to 10 percent, and reduce costs by 15 to 25 percent within 2 or 3 years.” To complicate matters, optimal customer experiences cannot be described by a single definition. Just as there are a hundreds of millions of customer touchpoints happening constantly in business, similarly there are multivariate customer skill and solution adoption levels that need to be considered as well and that can significantly impact the ability for companies to deliver optimal experiences for customers. So, when I read research like this report from PWC which shows that 70% of customers value speed and convenience from companies while at the same time 74 to 82% say that human interaction matters, the word tension comes to my mind. Why tension? Because how can business leaders balance and deliver on both those critical fronts (speed and convenience AND human interaction) while also growing and economically scaling the business? Clearly, technology must play a critical enabling role?
Time – a Multi-Faceted Object
Customer experience as a top priority for companies is a refreshing development for those of us who were reared in a world in which choice was limited, change was slow, and recourse for poor service was usually an exercise of endless wandering along the branches of a telephone tree. As a customer myself, it’s nice to see product and service providers on their heels ferociously battling to ensure I’m satisfied. I welcome the vastly improved ability to get good service from a company without wasting too much of my time and usually arranging for it at a time that is convenient for me. It does boil down to time and time is the exact right word in this context of the customer experience and it’s a word that is more extensively expanded upon in this great piece that Oracle’s head of CX, Rob Tarkoff, EVP and GM, Oracle CX Cloud, wrote recently. Broadly speaking the cloud has helped to usher in a tremendous opportunity for both sides of the equation (vendor and customer) to transform customer experiences by creating the triggers that allow customers to take more control of their time and of their relationship with vendors.
Respecting Customer Time Sometimes Means Delivering Expertise Sooner Rather Than Later
Oracle’s new Advanced Customer Success Services is one of those triggers. By offering a deeper level of expertise that is grounded in knowledge about the customer’s business and its imperatives, it offers a real possibility for moving forward the vital corporate-wide strategy conversation I mentioned earlier. By respecting customers varied digital and business capability levels and offering a number of ways to begin on a journey to value, the service is designed to acknowledge that no customers are completely alike and that they should be given choices when they embark upon their road to value realization. But that respect has to come from somewhere and I believe that it must come from empathy for the customer’s experience.
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