Building The Collaborative Enterprise to Improve Customer Relationships

I have challenged some of the hype about the social enterprise because I feel “social” gives the wrong impression. For most people, social media is predominately about being social. While everyone likes to feel that going to work is partly about being social, when it comes down to it running a business is about winning customers, selling them your products or services, and providing customer service when needed. In today’s competitive markets, none of these is an easy task.

As I look across four of my research projects – customer experience managementcustomer feedback management, and customer relationship maturity – I see several issues:

  • Organizations have a mass of customer-related data. An increasing amount of this is unstructured – call recordings, paper-based communications, text messages, IM scripts, CRM notes and social media posts, for example. Indeed, my research shows that 26 percent of companies have 20-plus sources of customer-related data.
  • As a result, most companies don’t have a single view of their customers; my research shows that only 31 percent have such a view.
  • Consumers now want – demand – to interact with organizations through an increasing number of channels – everything from face-to-face to phone calls, letters, email, customer portals, text messages, chat, video calls, and social media posts and forums. My research shows companies support an average of five channels, and the number is going up – as indeed is the overall volume of interactions with each new channel, adding to the total volume rather reducing the volume through existing channels.
  • In a quest to answer more interactions the first time, organizations are getting more “experts” involved, so interactions are being handled by almost every business unit in an organization.
  • Companies are collecting feedback from customers, but it is collected by different business units, and only 34 percent respond to every customer.
  • Most companies are on social media, but few have yet to use it to provide customer service. Most don’t systematically analyze what consumers are saying about them on social media, and even if they do, they don’t have formalized processes for responding.

All these together add up to a major issue for companies as they look to improve the customer experience and make it consistent across all touch points, human and electronic. I believe the approach to solving this issue is increased collaboration – breaking down the barriers between business units, having processes that flow across business units, synchronizing data, sharing information, and having a customer experience strategy that is driven from the top, across the organization. To help address these issues, my research into customer experience management shows that organizations are beginning to introduce roles such as chief customer officer or customer experience manager. Having someone in such a role helps companies develop a cross-business-unit strategy, but many large and midsize organizations also need to use technology to support these efforts.

The good news is that several technologies are available to help:

  • Unified communication allows individuals to quickly find experts who can help them resolve issues, and provides capabilities to share data and information.
  • Internal Facebook-style applications allow groups to share information and collaborate on issues.
  • Social CRM applications allow organizations to communicate with customers through the social channels of their choice, and to create forums where customers and the organization can share information and resolve issues.
  • Social media analytics can capture data from social media, analyze it, and provide organizations a view into what consumers are saying about their products and services.
  • Smart desktop technology allows organizations to build a desktop that make it more intuitive for any user to access the systems and information they need to resolve issues, and to collaborate with other users.
  • Mobile applications offer the opportunity for customers to serve themselves and to more easily interact with agents to resolve issues.

Many of these tools are now available in the cloud, making them more accessible, affordable and easier to implement and use. Even so, not all of them will suit all organizations. I recommend organizations step back, look at how they want to interact with customers and improve those experiences, develop a cross-organization and -communication channel strategy, then put in place technology and processes that allow the organization to collaborate internally and with customers.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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