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A month after IDC warned companies about the tough challenges in improving customer experience, a new survey by the research firm shows little more than half the firms are even trying.

About 53 percent of the 799 organizations in the follow-up study said they're pursuing a customer experience program, according to Mary Wardley, the IDC vice president and CRM analyst who also conducted the earlier study.

The survey also found 22 percent are actively working to improve employee experience, which Wardley said is "integral" to improving the customer experience. Sixteen percent are working with their partners to serve customers better.

Wardley sought the additional data, which has not yet been formally released, to get more clarity on how well organizations understand customer experience and its popular siblings: employee experience, partner experience and supplier experience. She also explored how, who, why and what are involved in current programs.

Come Together

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The split between those actively working on customer experience and those who aren't shouldn't surprise anyone. In the earlier report, Wardley noted that "while many corners of the organization understand and  believe in the customer imperative, these departments often do not come together to collaborate on customer experience initiatives."

In an interview with CMSWire then, she estimated most organizations are only in the first or second levels of the five-story climb to improved customer experiences.

The new data confirmed this while also shedding light on what companies are doing now, assuming they're doing something at all. Wardley wasn't available for a second interview, but shared her notes on the new study.

"As we will see in the data, there is a direct link between customer experience and employee experience that organizations are seeing," she wrote.

Who's In Charge?

The intent of the companies to move forward with customer initiatives was clear in answer to another question: Who will run it?

Almost three in four respondents said they either have a Customer Experience Officer or similar person in place today (39 percent) or will appoint one during 2015 (34 percent). An additional 27 percent also plan to add one after this year. Only 0.2 percent said they have no plans to put someone in charge of customer experience.

Asked what they felt were the key factors driving a superior customer experience, the top answer, with nearly 50 percent, was to be expected: "consistent experience across different channels."  Immediately behind it came "personnel that are motivated, capable and friendly."

That suggests most organizations know employee experience programs are needed, even though less than half that many companies have initiated them.

"The data came back showing us what we have been espousing for a while -- that employee experience may be equal, if not more, in importance in providing a standout customer experience than just focusing on the customer," Wardley wrote.

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What Workers Want

Not only do companies recognize the importance of employees in satisfying customers, they also have some thoughts on "driving a superior employee experience."  The top suggestion was to "align processes to ensure that all relevant  information is available and shared."

Nearly 70 percent of the sampling cited that. But six in 10 companies also found it was important to provide "excellent and extensive" self-service options, and to provide seamless collaboration with other employees.

Additional answers included: training employees (55 percent), hiring the right people (54 percent) and rewarding and retaining the best employees (54 percent).

"You have to hire the right people, train them, nurture them and put them in an environment that helps them perform their job," Wardley said. "Today, technologies can greatly aid that process."

Of course, before you can improve customer experience, it helps to understand the reason for the interaction. Pricing questions and product support were the only two factors noted by more than half the respondents. Three categories were close behind in a virtual three-way tie: questions posed in an online community, shipping information, and billing and payment.

Turning to technologies, well over 50 percent thought that both mobile and social were helping to improve the customer experience.  Trailing them, in the low-40 percentiles, were the cloud and analytics -- technologies that have become pervasive in the past few years.

Everything's Connected

Looking over all the new data, Wardley summed up the findings with a challenge: "Tell me these aren't interdependent."

  • Customers want a consistent experience across channels
  • Employees need to be hired and trained effectively
  • Partner experience needs a unified view
  • Supplier experience needs business process alignment and proper supplier selection

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by Bailey Rae Weaver.