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7 customer experience audit tricks for CMOs

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I learned an invaluable lesson about listening to your customers when I was a sales trainee at IBM in the 1980s. That experience shaped the way that I think about customer experience as a CMO.

I put together the attached list of my favorite tricks for monitoring our customer experience.

I hope you find this useful - please feel free to comment and add your own tips.

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7 customer experience audit tricks for CMOs

  1. 1. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 7 customer experience audit tricks for CMOs Peter S. Mahoney CMO Nuance
  2. 2. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 2 A little bit about me My name is Peter and I’m the CMO of a company called Nuance. We develop the voice and natural language technology that you encounter every day in thousands of products. I’m also the general manager for our Dragon voice recognition software for PCs and Macs. I’m a bit of a geek, I graduated from Boston College with degrees in Physics and Computer Science. I love all things technology and I learned to program starting when I was 12 years old using an Apple II, a TRS-80 and an old IBM 1130 (FORTRAN on punch cards…). I even wrote software for robots using assembly language. I’m also passionate about customer service and I spend a lot of time with my Dragon customers. I can’t say that we provide world-class customer service yet, but I am working all the time to make it better. You can follow me on the social networks under my picture.
  3. 3. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 3 I learned a valuable lesson in the late 1980s at IBM… In the spring of 1988, I was most of the way through my yearlong training program to become an IBM Marketing Representative. (At IBM, the term “marketing representative” actually means “salesperson”, but that is a topic for another story.) My training was comprised of reading lots of documents stored in white binders, online tests to prove my comprehension of the material in white binders, shadowing more senior marketing reps in the sales office outside Boston where I was stationed, several intensive multi-week training sessions in the IBM training facility in Atlanta, and sometimes doing basic gofer assignments for the more senior members of the team. It was during one of these gofer assignments that I learned an incredibly valuable lesson that has stuck to me for more than 25 years.
  4. 4. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 4 You can learn a lot as a gofer… One of our local customers was a medium sized specialty retailer of women’s clothing called Talbot’s. Talbot’s was the store where the preppy, well-heeled women near the company’s headquarters in Hingham, Massachusetts – and all the Hingham, Massachusetts-like communities around the country – shopped for their clothing. Talbot’s had a booming catalog retail business with a call center in their headquarters location that was powered by a solution sold by my IBM branch. My IBM sales manager sent me down to Talbot’s, along with some other trainees, because the call center system was experiencing performance problems that significantly slowed the response time for the call center agents, creating long hold times for their customers. The IBM account team came up with the creative short-term fix of supplying some additional call center agents, in the form of IBM trainees like me, to handle inbound calls until they could fix the performance problem.
  5. 5. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 5 Taking phone calls. After some brief training (and some sideways looks from the all-female staff of agents), I started taking some calls from customers. Some of the customers were surprised to hear the voice of a young man on the phone at first, but they quickly got over it and asked me questions about the items they wanted to purchase and placed their orders. Because the system was so slow, I had plenty of “chat time” with the customers and I learned a lot about what they were looking for, the questions they had about the products – and I learned a lot about the people who were buying Talbot’s clothing. My assignment only lasted for two days, but the lesson has stuck with me all this time.
  6. 6. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 6 My memory about the details has faded quite a bit in the last quarter century, but at the time, I think I could have told you more about Talbot’s customers that many of the marketing managers who only had research reports to learn about their customers. I realized that this front line where customers communicated with the company was where all the action was. I’ve taken this lesson with me all these years and realized that the best way to learn about your customers is to listen to your…customers (shocking revelation – I know). Over the years, I have developed a list of techniques that I use to stay in regular communication with our customers. What I learned. (Hint: it’s about listening to customers)
  7. 7. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 7 The list.
  8. 8. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 8 OneAnswer inbound inquires yourself. With the advent of contemporary CRM systems, it is incredibly easy to replicate my Talbot’s experience with website inquiries. I have access to all the data in our CRM system, so I will often go into the inbound lead queue and personally answer pending customer inquiries. This approach accomplishes two things, it gives me a great view of the kinds of questions that our customers are asking and it sends a great message to our customers that a company executive is taking interest in their questions. I always answer the questions with my name (and contact information) and I only answer questions when I confidently know the answer.
  9. 9. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 9 TwoCall barge your support and sales lines. Whether you use internal call center agents or outsourced agents, it is incredibly important to audit your sales and support lines personally. There is no better way to understand the support experience of your customer than listening to them go through the experience themselves. Most call center systems have the ability to anonymously “barge in” to the call. You will learn a lot about your customers, your agents and how well equipped you have made those agents to handle customer calls. Note: Check with your legal team to make sure you are complying with all privacy laws
  10. 10. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 10 Three“Chair barge” your inside sales reps. In my experience, most inside sales operations (outside the very largest companies) don’t have the ability to support call barging. The way I get around that limitation is by something I call “chair barging” – sitting next to a rep and listening to his or her side of the calls. You don’t have the ability to be anonymous to the agent, but you learn an incredible amount about this very important channel. This team is typically the front line for new prospects to the company and the experience they deliver is one your customers will remember for a long time – and is often the one that drives their initial purchase decision. It can be painful to listen to a rep struggle with a customer question or objection that your team should have anticipated – but there is no better way to learn what they need and what the prospects are saying.
  11. 11. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 11 FourHave a website scavenger hunt. When you spend time listening to your customers, you might ask yourself “why did they call us, that information is on the website?” I asked myself that question a lot until I started challenging myself to find the answers to “common questions” on our own website. Take some of those common questions you hear and see how readily that information is available on your website. Want to take it to the next level? Collect the top 20 questions and put them on single pieces of paper. At your next staff meeting with the web team, have each team member pull out a question and try to find the answer in front of the whole group. I guarantee that you will get fast resolution to those problems.
  12. 12. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 12 FivePersonally test web forms on your site. Fill in web forms on your site and see how fast you get a response. With our CRM system, I can easily follow the lead through the system and identify where it is getting stuck. I typically fill out the form indicating a small opportunity for the product line I am testing, because these are the ones that often fall through the cracks. Just last month, I found a process gap in one of our product lines that was causing us to lose over $100K per quarter – and created a negative customer experience that could be even more costly.
  13. 13. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 13 SixBenchmark your peers. Now that you are good at testing your own website, do the same for your peers or competitors. I like to pick companies with similar complexity or direct competitors to see how they perform. You will find that there is a lot of bad behavior out there in the world, but some companies are really quite good at this. I had a particularly positive experience with Adobe recently. I filled out a web form indicating an interest in a small number of Creative Cloud licenses and received my first phone call back within 2 hours. I had an immediate follow up email and by that afternoon, it was clear that I was already in a nurturing campaign and receiving emails for Creative Cloud. Many other companies have yet to get back to me.
  14. 14. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 14 SevenEngage your customers in social media. Most companies have an active social media presence these days, but the conversation is often delegated to a social media marketing manager – or even worse, to a PR firm. If you have a high volume of social media interactions, you need a staff in place to respond in a timely manner, but don’t use that as an excuse to opt out of the conversation. Social media is great for personalizing interactions with companies. I use my Twitter account to engage customers all the time. I have had several customer engagements on social media that started with a complaint and slowly evolved into a loyal, long- time customer relationship. Set expectations about how much you can engage, but don’t ignore the channel – or delegate it completely to someone else.
  15. 15. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 15 I try to do each one of these activities at least once a quarter, but some I do more frequently. For example, I answer customer web inquiries several times a week, because it only take a couple minutes. It is important to find ways to monitor your customer experience in an ongoing way, because customers are changing all the time. But you need to start somewhere – if you aren’t doing any of these things, pick one and try it – it’s easy. If you have other ideas that you use, I would love to hear about them. How often should you use these tactics?
  16. 16. © 2014 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 16 Thanks for making it to the end…don’t forget to follow me.