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Every time I see that I cringe because I know this is all too common.   Our industry has developed a poor reputation over the years for being controlling, inflexible and clueless about the needs of the business.  IT has, for so many years, brought technology to the employee and has had a difficult time as tech-savvy consumers and professionals are now telling IT what they need to do their jobs.

Last week I attended Autotask Community Live in Miami, FL.  ACL is the annual technical and business conference for users of the professional services automation (PSA) tool Autotask.  One session that left me thinking about our company was by John Dalton, VP and Research Director at Forrester.  His session titled “Why Customer Experience?  Why Now?” was thought-provoking, insightful and left me with important take aways for NorthStar and how we continue to improve the holistic experience for our customers.

Power Shift

From the 1900’s through 1960’s, we experienced the age of manufacturing and distribution where companies such as Ford, Boeing, Wal-Mart and UPS dominated through mass-manufacturing capability, global connections, and transportation systems.  These companies drove how the customer experienced working with them.  However, recently the information age has created connected computers and supply chains combined with a new, empowered consumer.  This shift has ushered in a new need to cater to the customer as they now drive technology use and can make or break a company’s reputation simply by speaking their mind on social media.  Companies like Amazon or Macy’s recognize that this customer obsession is what drives their business, and they build their systems and processes with their customers based solely on how consumers want to interact.

Path to Customer Experience Maturity

According to Dalton, there are 4 phases to reach customer experience maturity within an organization.  These are based on the disciplines of culture, governance, measurement, design customer understanding, and strategy.

  1.  Repair – The first step is to build a process to recognize where customer experiences are broken, fix it, and then measure the results.  For example, for us that means locating things where it may be difficult or cumbersome for customers to request support.
  2. Elevate – Next, work to make good customer experience the norm.  This may involve automatically sharing customer experiences programmatically and building customer experience thinking into the culture.  At NorthStar, we automate feedback on an issue by issue basis, as well as focus conversations on what can be done to make working with IT a better experience.
  3. Optimize – Build a toolkit within the organization to measure customer experience quality with business results.  Incorporate design in everything you do and provide specific training for employees to foster a great customer experience.   At NorthStar, we track customer experience at each “moment of truth” point where our customer interacts with us.  We compare those results to the financial results and can easily see where high customer experience scores result in actual business success.
  4. Differentiate – It’s not good enough to do what everyone else is doing.  Adopt processes to help define the customer experience that is truly unique to your organization.  This is done through locating customer’s unmet needs in the industry, reframing your customer’s problems and re-building how you provide your service with customer experience in mind.

Positive Results

Forrester’s research concluded that all this hard work pays off.  Customer experience highly correlates to future business, customers talking to others about your brand and ultimately leading to increased annual revenue

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