This is a guest blog for a company that I personally have a great deal of respect for: Digital Leadership Associates. Given that they are world renowned thought leaders in Social Selling, I thought it would be worth considering the growing role of Social in Customer Service.
In these days of customer empowerment, it is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. Customer frustration or dissatisfaction boils over onto our Social feeds. In the past, we would either have shrugged our shoulders or written to complain. The growth in Telephony enabled us to vent at poor Customer service Agents. However, the Internet now offers all sorts of possibilities to make Suppliers squirm. Social Complaining has now even got a monetary value according to The Spectator.
The example below was typical of many others and the response emphasizes the dilemma now being faced by many organisations.
Customers are using the potential for posts to go “viral” to get something done. This method bypasses traditional complaints management processes and has the ability to cause damage right up to the highest levels of an organisation.
The challenge for Organisations is complex and multi faceted. How to save face, how to treat ALL customer fairly, irrespective of channel, how to respond, how to be proactive etc
So what can Suppliers do?
Firstly, recognise the way in which your customers wish to engage you through Social Media. It may not be to complain but to ask questions or even compliment you. The major UK pub chain, Wetherspoons, recently announced its decision to close its Social Accounts
I do not see that this will help Wetherspoons in remaining engaged with or “connected” to their customers. It is the first public example I have seen of burying your head in the sand. It will not stop people from commenting about the brand whether positively or negatively. However, it will reduce the costs of administering their Social Accounts.
Secondly, identify the Social Channels that you are committed to and learn how to use them professionally. Like anything else, the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are tools that in the right hands can do good, in the wrong hands can harm. Make sure you post appropriately, integrate to conventional channels and “listen” to the noise to detect early signs of an issue.
There was a famous Australian example as long ago as 2009 when a bank turned a customers Twitter rant into a positive outcome. However, this merely encouraged others to get quicker and more fruitful outcomes by taking to Social Media. However, at least they were listening and mitigated any reputational damage to their brand.
Finally, consider how Social can help you create genuine differentiation through service. Why not encourage users to engage with you and use social to get answers to questions, chase up orders and get a more personalised service. The technology exists to do some pretty amazing things and it starts by understanding the persona’s who engage with you and their particular journeys. Design from the “outside-in” and incorporate Social service within these journeys.
My hope is that Social evolves from being a tool used by complainers to getting quick results through “shaming” into a media which is used by organisations to offer outstanding service excellence negating any need for people to rant. I can live in hope….
Air travel is an emotive subject. Especially if you are (like me) a keen traveller and (like me) have an opinion on anything that frequently fails to meet your expectations. My wife says its just part of becoming a grumpy old git but, nevertheless, flying does stir up my emotions. This is particularly true given that I am a qualified pilot…even though you wouldn’t want to fly with Davey Airlines (see below)
Therefore, when I read this post by Sampson Lee, I was equally intrigued and irked. Could the author really be making a case for Ryanair to be delivering “good” CX? His logic is based on the principle upon brands delivering on its promise. Ryanair does not compete on service. It is a low cost airline. It is ‘no frills’ and my experience of flying with them left me vowing never to choose them again, even if at the time, I was flying with a wife and 4 kids with all the luggage that entails. For my experience wasn’t about service. I had low expectations. I did not expect a meal, comfy seat or a back massage. I did expect courtesy, communication and professionalism. On those scores, I was disappointed.
Since that experience 15 years ago, Ryanair has often made the press for the wrong reasons. Indeed, I was in full agreement with Colin Shaws post citing his opinion of Ryanair’s CX. However, Sampson Lee argues that Ryanair is profitable and delivering on its brand promise. I cannot disagree but does that constitute the basis of good CX?
I agree with Sampson in that CX is not just about customer service. A great customer experience can often be about making a buying process easier (just look at Amazon’s one click process) or providing a much valued opt in notification that allows you to make more informed choices. It does not have to be a premium based service. To provide a “wow” moment, it takes innovation, outside-in thinking and a culture of customer empathy.
Let me give an example of great CX that made me go Wow and has retained my loyalty, despite my previous leanings towards travelling with Uber.
My local taxi firm, Betty’s, is trying hard to compete with far larger companies and, of course, Uber. They are, in my view, incredibly cheap already and many of the drivers are both courteous and dependable. They released an app which, for a small company, is very useful allowing you to both book and track your cab. I find this very useful but, these days, it is almost the norm. The way they wowed me was over the holiday period in December and January.
I received a notification telling me that their fares would remain EXACTLY the same over the Christmas and New Year periods. I was amazed. Not only am I used to seeing premiums being charged at busy times but also customers expect to pay more. The Uber pricing model dictates this. Just try getting an Uber late at night.
This decision exceeded my expectation as a customer and helped reinforce my pride in my local cab firm. I use them all the time and never bother to go anywhere locally on Uber.
This rather reinforces the argument that good CX is not about a premium service experience. How often have you gone online expecting to find something difficult or confusing only to say “wow, that was easy”? That, in my book, is a great customer experience. Conversely, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) which passes you from pillar to post, or voice recognition that misinterprets your command is a bad customer experience, despite the intention to make your life simpler!!!
In conclusion, I think the delivery of outstanding Customer Experience is about far surpassing a customers expectations. The “wow” factor. It could be service related and you might pay a premium for that service. However, I content that for a brand to be recognised as one delivering outstanding CX and worthy of customer advocacy, then it needs to exceed a customers preconcieved expectation. In my book, Ryanair does not do this and does not deliver good CX. I’d be interested to hear what others think.
Over the last year, my wife and I have been lucky enough to visit many places popular with tourists adopting the persona of a “visitor”. Most of these align to our interests in history, nature and natural beauty. I naturally include the (excellent) Guinness factory in Dublin in all three categories.
Much to the annoyance of my wife, I find myself continually appraising these sites not because of what is to be seen but more on the “visitor experience” that we are provided with as a paying customer. There is a close collaboration to the principles of Customer Experience in that if I am provided with a wonderful experience, I am very likely to become a repeat, loyal visitor AND tell many others about this experience. Trip Advisor has become THE guide for Visitors, not just in finding accommodation and restaurants but equally in places to see and things to do.
What has surprised me and, in most cases, disappointed me, is the lack of innovation within these visitor experiences. Whilst there are exceptions, here are some examples of innovation that exists but is often not yet readily available:
Augmented Reality allowing visitors far greater detail and insight into what hey are observing. There is often a reliance on static notices (often in one language) or headsets that play a commentary on certain exhibits or topics
Online or Automated payment options reducing the need for excessive queues to get in. Cinema’s and many Sporting events have simplified this process allowing customers to spend more time enjoying the event rather than queueing
Better bundling of products and services to suit my circumstances. For example, rather than drag me through a gift shop,why not personalise offers (either your own or via affiliates) online related to what you know about me?
What do you mean, you don’t know anything about me? In that case, you do not have the right engagement strategy which would allow you to understand my digital footprint, interests and propensity to purchase
Have a strategy to engage all generations. My father refuses to own a smart phone yet when he visits a visitor attraction, he loves the use of actors or visitor centre staff who are empowered and free to engage directly with customers to try to bring something to life or explain something in his language. Too often, there is no-one to answer his questions!
Stimulate the senses. Let me see, hear, smell, touch and taste as far as it is possible. We recently visited the magnificent Roman Mithraeum in London. They did this very well which helped make it such a memorable Visitor experience.
Connect with me through Social Media. Interestingly, not one of the places we visited has attempted to connect to us either directly or indirectly on Social. Retailers have no issues in connecting and often the motivation for me is far less, as the interest level may not be there (I can only get so excited about my bulk purchase of cat litter). Guinness did encourage uploads of photo’s to Instagram and Facebook but there has been no follow up or ongoing engagement, which is a shame as I really enjoyed my visit.
There is more but I’m keen to see those engaged in improving Visitor Attractions to put themselves in the shoes of all their visitors and ask whether their “offering” could leverage modern technology to improve that specific experience.
Customer Experience Journey Mapping (CXJM) has become a commonly used approach for many organisations attempting to design innovative new processes that improve the experience for customers. The objective is to identify emotional “moments of truth” for different persona’s at different stages of a customer journey. For most organisations, there are many different “persona’s”, touchpoints, channels and this results in the work to map out entire customer journeys as being a lot of hard work.
However, this does not mean that the exercise is futile. Far from it. Done well, the mapping brings to life those moments that matter to a customer (and when I say customer, you could substitute the word Employee, Partner, Citizen or Visitor just as easily). In the example below, the journey was of a patient attending a MRI Scan.
Without wishing to delve too deep into the methodology or process of the CXJM exercise, I am fully bought into the value it brings in identifying the key points that impact on a Customer Experience. Some might be obvious (e.g being routed to another Call Centre agent to whom you have to repeat all the identification process and explain, again, why you called). Others are more subtle (e.g Being forced to create an account online for what is likely to be a one-off purchase).
However, the question that I am often asked is why the process of CXJM often leads to….not a lot.
I was at a CXJM introductory event recently where the delegates were asked to put their hands up if they had ever done Journey Mapping before. Approximately 50% of the audience enthusiastically put their hands up. They were then asked whether the outcome of the exercise had been worthwhile. Again, almost all of the original hands remained up. Finally, they were asked whether they had implemented changes based on these findings. The hands in the air disappeared rapidly leaving just one or two delegates awkwardly looking around as if they had done something wrong.
This is not unusual. I often hear of organisations who “did” Journey Mapping but the output is on a shelf or in an archive file somewhere. So why is that?
Journey mapping, done correctly, identifies everything that is needed to positively impact the experience. The players, the technology, the process and policies. However, this is also where it runs into trouble. It becomes too darned tricky. It is easy to identify a problem but is not often as easy to fix it.
It may require money, time and stakeholder buy-in that exceeds the perceived value of the exercise. One of the biggest challenges is that to address any given issue requires input from a variety of sources that may be external to the initial Journey Mapping exercise. For example, what may seem like a small change to a website to a CX practitioner could require scheduled effort from Web Developers, Testers, Project Managers, Technical Analysts, Product Owners and many others. The suggestion then gets put into the “too hard” basket and is “backlogged” into the “future feature” set which, as many frustrated Change Agents know, means “never”.
So what can be done?
I believe that more realistic expectations for the success of Journey Mapping should be set by planning a roadmap for change. The roadmap should be the next step after the CXJM and should focus on multiple, incremental changes based on the output from the Journey Mapping. The most immediate changes would be those where the biggest impact can be achieved with the minimal disruption and input.
This might help avoid the time and expense of creating a Business Case. The days of Big Bang mega projects are (hopefully) in the past as the need for rapid and innovative change lends itself nicely to multiple, smaller Agile projects. However, Journey Mapping should also help identify the measurements of success that would be needed to justify any proposed change.
Perhaps the changes could be classified and viewed as per the matrix below?
So how does one know how to categorise and prioritise the changes?
Firstly, I would suggest creating an agile cross functional team, with the CX leader acting as Product Owner. By cross functional, I do not mean technical. It should be a blend of Business and Technical skills that can assess and prioritise. For this team to determine the delivery roadmap, the sponsorship of a senior leader is essential in being able to take the next steps and remove roadblocks. Being able to demonstrate success through regular small change from a customers perspective will give an impetus to the roadmap as well as delivering a tangible return on any investment.
Secondly, I would not assume that your organisation knows everything about its customers experience. Involve them. Bring in a Customer panel or forum. Interview them. Appoint customer champions. Do whatever is necessary to ensure that your roadmap WILL make a difference to your customers. In fact, I would involve customers in the Journey Mapping itself.
Finally, ensure that the roadmap achieves a consistency of Customer Experience across all channels. Your Contact Centre can be the best in the world but if you then look to migrate people to lower cost channels where it takes twice as long to transact, then there is an inevitable impact on customer satisfaction.
As Confucius once said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one small step”. Make sure that you have the roadmap for your journey and then be brave enough to take that first step. I look forward to hearing more clients starting to get great outcomes from their Journey Mapping.
It takes a certain combination of events to lose a customer. It is rarely just a single event. It could be cost, customer service, poor quality or maybe just a stronger brand luring the customer to “churn”. Often it is a combination that create that “tipping point” when the customer either consciously or sub-consciously says “that’s it…I’m off”.
In my day job, I hear and learn about good and bad customer experiences and how organisations deal with it. I recently met with a leading Aussie Restaurant chain who are now moving to a model whereby they are valuing their customers and pretty much starting to refund customers on most basic complaints. The point being that the lifetime value of a satisfactory resolution far outweighs the short term cost of a voucher (given by way of a refund). Smart.
At the other end of the spectrum, last week I had an incident with Telstra, Australia’s former State, and now privately owned National telecommunications provider. I even used to work for them and swallowed the cool aid whereby Telstra were doing all sorts of initiatives to improve the customer experience.
In my opinion, the product is good and although premium priced, meets my needs for Internet, Mobile, 4G Remote wifi and Home Phone. I spend $225/month with Telstra and have done so for several years. I had never considered churning. I was loyal. However, in the space of 60 minutes that all changed.
The issue arose when I moved home. I ordered the new home connection in good time and everything was set up and good to go. On the day we moved in however, there was no phone signal to the house. I rang Telstra who were very good in attempting to troubleshoot the issue. However, they soon concluded that an engineer needed to fix the issue. As I often work from home, I was without broadband so had to use my 4G Remote wifi dongle in order to work.
Telstra took about a week to fix the issue and everything was good….until I got the bill.
I had been charged for a Broadband service for the week when I had no service and, to make matters worse, had gone over my monthly 4G Remote Wifi limit and had been charged $120 ($10/GB for 12GB) extra for this cost. Of course, if I had my Broadband service (which gives me 1000 GB/month), this wouldn’t have happened.
Therefore I rang Telstra to get the bill changed. The first lady was a generalist and was not empowered to resolve my issue. She was very helpful and courteous but took almost 30 mins to come to the conclusion that she could not do anything and that my call had to be “escalated” to Customer Complaints.
The Manager then at first failed to understand the issue. He tried to argue that I should not have used my wifi dongle. I tried to explain that I needed to use it in order to work but this seemed to fall on deaf and, dare I say it, ignorant ears. He then said the “best offer” he could give me was for $97. I asked why not the full $120 and the pro rate rebate for my Broadband service. He said it was not the policy to do this and he was only doing this by “breaking the rules”. I was now querying why Telstra would have such an inflexible policy and realised that he also wasn’t empowered to act in the customers best interest. He clearly had a maximum % that he could “refund”.
This got me cross and I asked to speak to his senior. “I am the most senior” he said, continuing with “if you are not happy, I won’t give you the offer and I’ll close the case as ‘customer dissatisfied”. By now, I was beyond dissatisfied. I told him what I thought of both his personal attitude and of Telstra’s so called customer centric strategy.
Interestingly, no more than 15 minutes after I both tweeted and posted a whinge on LinkedIn, he rang back with a “change of heart” and promptly reinstated my $97 rebate. It isn’t the $145 I should have received and it doesn’t allow for the lost income during the hour long call.
The lesson from this is very clear. I’m worth $3000/year to Telstra. In arguing vehemently over an amount that represents less than 5% of this amount, Telstra might lose one customer at $3000/year. However, that is not the whole story. In the first 24 hours, my LinkedIn post had over 5000 views. Not viral as such but how much black paint needs to be dripped into a white paint pot before it becomes discoloured?
So, will I churn? Probably not. I can easily put this down to one poorly trained guy who needs to be empowered and to learn the art of customer empathy. However, it has shifted my position from being loyal to being “open” to move providers.
or maybe it should follow just the same set of thought processes. It certainly should not be overly onerous. This blog suggests why….
I blame it on “Game Of Thrones”. If it wasn’t for the fervour created in our household by the imminent arrival of the latest instalment of the annoyingly addictive GoT, I may not have found myself in the HiFi store in the first place. I mean, we do have a “spare” TV and it’s not as if we watch a lot of TV. But she who must be obeyed (my wife, not the Mother of Dragons) insisted on us having to replace the TV in time for Jon Snows latest escapades.
So there I was in JB Hifi surrounded by wall upon wall of TV’s showing the same identical Disney movie, hearing the same soundtrack in a barrage of echoes, thinking this “should” be easy. I mean, we just need a TV. I have helped procure and, turning gamekeeper into poacher, sell complex enterprise CRM systems. These systems can cost thousands, if not millions of dollars in terms of software, services and support. It can take months to go through an evaluation and procurement exercise so surely buying a TV cannot be that hard, can it?
However, very soon I was being pummelled by an enthusiastic young “Audio Specialist” asking seemingly stupid questions such as “What do you use your TV for?”. I felt like saying “doing the washing up” but before I had chance, he bombarded me with a plethora of use cases “downloading films, watching YouTube, gaming etc”. Whilst I was scratching my head thinking, he was telling me about features such as HD, UHD, SUHD in fact any other acronym with HD would have seen me thinking he being sarcastic. There is 3D, Curved, Super size (more like a cinema screen), 4Hz and the mesmerising list goes on. The result was that I got to thinking about how people choose a CRM and that perhaps it can get over complicated in a similar way.
First and foremost, there is a budget for everything. I did not want to spend $7000 on a TV so the one that made an IMAX theatre look conservative was never going to be an option.
Secondly, there was my needs. What did I need it for? All CRM’s do the basics but the nuances come in whether you are looking for a Sales, Service or Marketing oriented system. Of course, you will need a decent set of functional and technical (non functional) requirements but to me it is pointless saying that a CRM must be able to add an email address to a Contact. That’s like asking whether a TV has an on/off button.
Then there was the “look” to consider. Believe it or not, the TV’s were not all identical! Similarly, the look and feel of a CRM must be intuitive and user friendly. This “User Experience” has become an increasingly important factor in choosing CRM software due to the lowering of training costs and the need for users to adopt the system, which is far more likely if they find it easy to use.
Once I had gone through this thought process, I had quickly narrowed down my choice to two TV’s. Now to seal the deal, I needed to differentiate based on things like Warranty, Installation and Availability. These will also come into play when selecting a CRM Implementation partner, although availability in IT terms means something different than “is it in stock”. Focus on a partner with proven expertise in the selected technology. You would not take a Mercedes to a Ford garage would you?
So when I got to thinking about it, I wondered whether sometimes people over complicate the buying process. Organisations can “try before they buy” with “Proof Of Concept” and Pilot implementations commonplace. In today’s Agile world, projects often commence on the basis that the end destination is not clearly defined, reserving the right to change direction and innovate as the project evolves.
Choosing a CRM should be pretty simple. Be clear about what your desired outcomes and user expectations are, what your budget is (don’t forget, its all about the TCO- Total Cost of Ownership) whilst considering the broader picture (refer to my previous article suggesting that the choice of CRM is not the single biggest success factor).
Although I have always been technology agnostic, I have recently become very excited by the development of Microsofts Dynamics CRM. It has evolved immeasurably over the last few years and the latest release, Dynamics365 is very good indeed. It will not be for every organisation just as my choice of a TV will not be the brand that you may have chosen. However, I do believe that Dynamics should be on most organisations shortlist not just because of the breadth of capability but simply because it just works with all of the other Microsoft software seamlessly. It is that ease of use that makes it a formidable solution and why, these days, I now work for an organisation that specialises in Dynamics365.
If you are asking “which CRM is best”, you may be asking the wrong question. Choosing the right tool is important but in isolation, it is probably not the decision that is going to make or break your initiative. This blog gives you pointers as to the questions you should be seeking to answer before looking at choice of software.
If I was paid $1 every time I was asked “Which CRM should we choose” then I would not need to be checking the Lotto numbers each week!
The trouble is that a widely held perception is that you need the “best” CRM. Questions such as these are posed based on an assumption that the choice of CRM software will determine the success or failure of the business issue or opportunity it is being considered for.
But it’s not as simple as that.
I’ve therefore compiled a list of things that I consider to be critical success factors that need consideration by any organisation thinking about CRM, let alone purchasing CRM software.
1. What is your “why”? You clearly think that CRM is an answer but to what? Have you carefully listed all the requirements you have? Have you broken these into Functional and Non Functional? Have you prioritised? Are these based on what you want to do or what you do today, or both?
2. Do you know what benefits you are seeking to achieve and, if so, how these will be measured and realised? What must the future state processes, people and technology deliver to realise each benefit?
3. Do you have Business and I.T support for any potential initiative? I have often found that one without the other goes nowhere. You need both parties fully engaged, collaborative and supportive with Executive buy-in and active participation (deeds as well as words)
4. Do you have a Budget? It is not just the software cost that should be considered but also the “services” required to implement and support the solution. These services should include internal and external (3rd party) costs.
5. What is the customer impact and perception? How will this positively lead to a greater customer experience which will drive retention and lead to customer advocacy? Have you engaged with people who know what a Customer Journey map is and can help create Persona’s?
6. What is the appetite for change? CRM is as much about a change in culture as a change in software. I recently worked with an organisation that could tick most of the previous 5 boxes but change fatigue was such an issue that it almost killed the CRM initiative.
7. What other changes will need to be made to accomodate CRM? New devices, Cloud provisioning, Reporting and Analytics, Integration platforms, Channels, Service Providers, Business Process Reengineering and IT Support are just a few off the cuff considerations that need to be thought through. There are many more.
8. Do you have internal resources who could commit time to both evaluate and then help implement CRM? Examples include Subject Matter Experts (SME’s), Architects, Business Analysts, Project Manager, Legal and Finance. They may or may not be required on a full time basis and certain roles can be outsourced but you will need to allow for commitment from several internal stakeholders over a project lifecycle.
9. How does this initiative align to the overall company strategy and are there competing “projects” that might mean the timing is less than ideal? I see many companies attempting too much at the same time and therefore achieving little. Corporate portfolio management is a necessary discipline.
10. Finally, yes, the choice of technology is a factor but software is just code. It is a tool. It needs to be made to work in the right way. For that reason, your choice of Technology Integrator will be just as critical as the software they help integrate and implement. Look for partners that can demonstrate that unique blend of understanding your business and demonstrating previous examples of well designed solutions and delivered outcomes that are referenceable.
Therefore, when someone next asks me “Which CRM do you recommend”, they will understand why I reply with ” Well, it depends….”. If you are in a position to proceed having worked through these things, then I believe you are well on the way to success and I look forward to hearing about it.
How could a great Customer Experience possibly spoil an Australia Day BBQ?
I’m all for technology enhancing my overall experience. But not when it gets between me and an Aussie BBQ.
It was Australia Day and we had friends and family over to our home enjoying the Public holiday celebration with the traditional dips in the pool, cold wine and, of course, the delights of my culinary skills on the BBQ.Just as I was about to serve, a phone call. Thinking it must be important, I left my Snags, Corn, Burgers and Steaks in the hands of the BBQ gods to answer the phone. Imagine my surprise to hear an automated message from a certain Financial Services provider wishing me a Happy Australia Day!!!
This has led me to think whether this seemingly innocent “customer experience” has added or detracted from my view of their brand. To me, it was intrusive and unnecessary, or maybe I was grumpy because I was hungry. Nevertheless, although well intended, I do not enjoy unsolicited calls even to wish me well. Being automated, it was low cost yet also insincere.
Please people, use technology as a tool to enhance a Customer Experience by all means but please think through whether that experience will add or detract from a customers perception of your brand.
Fortunately, the beers stayed cold, the steak was perfect and I was soon a happy camper again.
Every business has them. You can usually tell them from a distance. It’s those customers you wish would go elsewhere but you need them, right, and those in customer facing roles are brainwashed into believing the customer is always right. Even when they are irritating, irrational, immoral and/or ignorant. The Basil Fawlty approach to Customer Service simply cannot survive in the 21st century.
I believe that it is not a question of what we believe about our customers but rather a strategy of how we handle them. In the 21st century, the power has shifted towards any potential conflict going viral.
Example: A poppy seller, a war veteran, was asked to move outside into the cold weather from the relative warmth of a UK Supermarket in a small provincial town in the UK, . The story went viral with a backlash nationally against the supermarket chain. The action of one store manager upset one passing customer who did not stay quiet.
Of course, in the past, businesses could get away with losing the odd customers. With a seemingly small sphere of influence, the consumer had little opportunity for recourse. Put up or shut up. Therefore if the product or service was desirable enough, consumers would simply put up with a poor customer experience. The balance of power was not with the customer. How times have changed. In this Digital world, organisations are now increasingly aware of the need to ensure that the customer is always seen to be right, aware that even one negative customer experience could have a major impact
Example: a disgruntled bank customer tweeted that his banks incompetence in processing his mortgage application had lost him his new house. Fortunately, that bank noticed the tweet and within 30 minutes responded to the customer asking him to send a Direct Message. By the end of the day, his loan had been approved. That story also went viral earning the bank much quodos having turned a potentially damaging incident into a “look how we care” story. Thank goodness for Social Listening.
However, this introduces another 21st century conundrum for organisations. If we are to be proactive in providing excellent customer experiences across all channels, how do we ensure that we provide a consistent response across all channels? Why should a customer get a resolution in 24 hours because they tweeted about it whereas other customers may have to wait several days? It highlights process inefficiencies whereby organisations are reacting to the need to be kept honest by their customers. The omnichannel experience that is so desired can also highlight inconsistencies in service delivery.
It is this that is one of the great challenges being faced by Digital organisations who have realised that the customer must always be seen to be right but that all channels on inbound and outbound communication must deliver a consistent customer experience.
Until then, organisations may strive to deliver amazing customer experiences but the opportunity for something negative to go viral remains. As an example of the viral threat, how would I otherwise have got to hear about this
Using innovation and Agile to transform the Sales process and Customer Experience for a leading Timeshare company
Being recognised by an Industry body for game changing innovation is something I am very proud of. From concept through to delivery, a great team helped put together a solution which forms a new paradigm in Travel Sales.
Travel is something that I am passionate about. Therefore when the opportunity to “transform” a major player in the Travel Industry came knocking, I was genuinely excited. However, when I then learnt that it was in the Timeshare industry, for some reason, that excitement suddenly became muted. A bit of research revealed explained my reaction:
Timeshare is a concept that many are aware of but often the perception of what timeshare is can be very far from the reality. In its purest and original form, buyers purchase a share of a hotel room/apartment in a managed holiday resort. This share equates to a percentage of a year, usually a week. Historically, the purchase of this week bound the owners to holiday at the same resort at the same week year after year. It was a hard sell and became a haven for unscrupulous salespersons, developers and dubious incentive programs. This helped explain my initial cynicism.
Over the years, the concept has grown and evolved into a multi billion dollar industry which even includes household brands such as Disney, Ramada (as part of Wyndham ) and Accor. Some schemes offer points, some varied resorts and others have evolved into travel clubs. There are now timeshare companies offering yachts, RV’s or even private homes as alternate travel options.
Therefore, in early 2014, I became involved with Australia’s largest Timeshare Operator, Classic Holidays, who operate over 60 resorts in Australia and New Zealand. Its members have varied membership types representing the changes in the industry over the last 20 years and more.
Despite the modernity of the new Timeshare programs, I was surprised to see that much of the technology used within the industry was very verticalised with few specialist providers. Those that did exist appeared to focus upon the property reservation and management aspect of the process rather than enabling a member centric perspective. Classic Holidays were using a myriad of Microsoft Access/Google Docs and paper driven processes to attract, recruit and create new Members. Once I understood the core business processes involved, I suggested that a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) CRM software tool could easily replace the tools being used and become the hub for Member Centric processes in the future.
This met with some resistance as the commonly held perception was that the industry was so specialised that there was nothing that would meet the “unique” idiosyncrasies of the Timeshare industry. Therefore, after some product evaluations, I managed to persuade the Classic Holidays Leadership that SugarCRM seemed a good fit based upon functionality, price, usability, “openness” and being a SaaS based product.
In August 2014, I was asked to create and then deliver a project for a new “end to end” Sales and Marketing solution as the first phase in transforming the (prospective) Member experience. We called it Project CHARM (Classic Holidays Advanced Relationship Management). I will explain how CRM was used to address and provide solutions in some of the unique Timeshare industry processes.
The process of selling in Timeshare usually starts with Lead Generation with Off Premise Canvassers (OPC) representatives.
The OPC role at Classic Holidays was primarily to generate leads by enticing prospects to attend a presentation through the use of scratch cards which offered guests the chance to win prizes. Those with winning tickets were invited to a presentation (tour) to collect the prize upon condition of attending a 90 minute sales presentation. OPC’s used their own phones to look up a shared Google Sheet to check availability at a given wave. The prospect would then be given a slip of paper confirming the date, time and location. To try to guarantee attendance, prospects were asked for a deposit (cash) and were given a paper receipt. Often, the prospect would change their mind and “no show”. Whilst the prospect might lose their deposit, the impact on the company was costly as the cost of holding Waves (a number of tours all starting simultaneously) was a fixed cost. I found it a very amateurish process for such a quality product and thought that if I was approached by an OPC, there was no way I would trust them enough to pay a deposit and give up 90 minutes of my time for something seemingly shrouded in mystery. Again, I was told that this was just “how it worked” but I felt that better tools, processes and empowered people could bring about significant transformational change.
The OPC Portal
An application was created that acted as a “portal” for the OPC’s in the field.
Each OPC was given an iPad with a direct link to the Portal. An OPC would log in to a personalised Dashboard. From here, they could review the status of previous bookings and add new bookings, thereby replacing the paper forms and Google sheets.
We were also able to include a digitised version of the “pitch book”, a leaflet based piece of collateral that was often used by OPC’s to show imagery of the Classic Holidays resorts. Since OPC’s only had a very short space of time to make the booking and collect the deposit, the User Experience was a vital part of the design, ensuring it was quick to use, well laid out and met the User Stories that were developed in our Agile Project. A key function was a real time look up of availability of each wave at any location. This ensured that Prospects were booked to waves which had availability.
When an OPC made a booking, it was previously hoped that the Prospect would turn up. CHARM introduced additional communications with the Prospect which consisted of a SMS and/or eMail confirmation, a link to a new landing page on a new CMS (Kentico) where they could confirm their attendance whilst also learning more about Classic Holidays (rather than keep it a secret).
This allowed better planning because a trigger was built in that sent an optional reminder SMS should they not have confirmed within a predetermined timeframe. By using sophisticated web tracking tools (Woopra), we were also able to see whether the prospect had visited the site and analyse what information they had accessed. This gave insight into the reasons why people might “no show” and allow Classic to change their future messaging accordingly. We did not have the capacity to undertake AB testing but this would have been a benefit to learn and adapt the landing pages more quickly. However, the insight gained was a real game changer and has seen Classic become better placed to increase Sales.
When a guest clicked on either the SMS or email call to action, they were taken to a personalised landing page which congratulated them on winning a prize and gave them further information on the presentation and more reasons to confirm their attendance. Once they confirmed, the status of their booking was updated in Sugar to reflect their intentions. This enabled the Sales team to have greater confidence in the likely attendance and ensured that Sales Managers could have the right number of Sales Representatives available for each Wave.
A Wave is a scheduled set of concurrent one to one Sales Presentations (known as Tours) by a Timeshare Sales Rep to the prospective Members. It typically consisted of a PowerPoint style presentation which resulted in various membership options being offered to the Guest. The Waves therefore have a number of tours to be filled in order to keep the Sales Reps productive. These waves occur at the local Sales Office and can occur three or four times a day. Calendar management met this requirement perfectly and through the use of web services, a web front end was built which could allow these Waves to be exposed to OPC’s via the OPC Portal who could create Leads and assign them to Waves where there was availability. We were even able to create wait lists to ensure that each wave was well attended. The new solution allowed Sales Reps to know who was attending and, by capturing the lead within CRM, allowed downstream processing without the need to re-enter data or, even worse, asking the guest to complete more forms!
Registration and Check-in
On the day of the Wave, often wary prospects would arrive not knowing quite what to expect. Despite friendly receptionists and a warm welcome, the prospect was given a pen, paper and clipboard and then asked to complete a paper registration form. Ironically, the details asked for were already known by the OPC but until CHARM, there was no sharing of data. Now, the experience was rather different: On arrival, they were asked their name which was already on the Manifest having been added by the OPC. The Status of the booking was determined by whether the Prospect had confirmed.
The Receptionist now was able to check them in “online” which generated a QR code on the screen. The Receptionist then scanned an iPad against the code which opened up an online survey on the iPad (replacing the paper form and clipboard). A digital signature was also captured to acknowledge refund of the deposit which was then emailed automatically to the Prospect as a PDF.
Once the survey was complete, the status in CRM was updated to reflect the transition in Sales Stage. The Sales Representative then took the Prospects through a “standalone” presentation. We identified that we could rebuild the presentation into Kentico and incorporate data from SugarCRM and, in turn, export the data captured. This became a secondary project (known as S2S) in itself which I will blog about separately. For the purpose of this initiative, the only direct intervention was for the Sales Representative to update SugarCRM with the outcome of the Tour. This translated the Sales Opportunity into either a Won or Lost state. For those declining to become Members, they were still awarded their prize which, in turn, generated a new Lead to reconnect with the Prospect whilst they enjoyed their gift. For those who decided to buy, the next stage was to create the paperwork necessary for them to become Members. This process was known as “The Button Up”.
The Button Up process is where once a Prospect agrees to purchase, the deal is finalised or “buttoned-up” with all the paperwork and, if required, finance organised. Prospects are entitled to a 7 day cooling off period. Many of the documents require signatures and the long standing process required much printing, manual entry, signing, scanning and photocopying of documents.
As SugarCRM already had a lot of the data required from earlier stages of the process (Guest Survey, Booking etc), we created digital images of all the documents which were populated with data already captured upon an opportunity moving to a relevant status. This was a big time saver. We also integrated Docusign, an electronic signature solution, which allowed quicker completion of the forms although the real benefit would come later when guests wished to buy additional products (i.e To upgrade their Membership) from home. The Button Up process could take up to 90 minutes. The CHARM solution dramatically reduced this and also allowed the downstream processing to be quicker (I.e Loan Approval) as the forms were now digitised.
Memberships were bought for periods from 7 years up to lifetime (>60 years). The longer the Membership purchased, the more expensive it became despite offering better value. Classic Holidays were able to offer financing through an associated Financial company. Loan Applications can be typically arduous and although we digitised the application form, little benefit was seen until we were able to integrate to ARMNet, the Loan Management software solution used by the Finance company. This allowed real time decisioning and drastically reduced processing time as the staff no longer needed to re-key the application into the ARMNet solution. The data required for a Loan and Membership Application was captured in SugarCRM (see below) and interfaced to ARMNet as well as prepopulating the forms ready for signing.
In the 7 days post Tour, many new prospective Members suffered from “buyers regret” and therefore the churn rate is often high. However, the CHARM solution now offered the potential to communicate digitally during the cooling off period with personalised offers and comms.
A legacy system, Viewpoint, written by a small software company, At Work International (recently acquired by Classic Holidays) was used to manage inventory (rooms) at resorts and bookings for members. It was not envisaged to replace this system but I proposed that in the future, Classic should use Sugar as the main interface for Members. SugarCRM could call web services to check inventory, make bookings etc. At the time of leaving, this had not been started but will further transform Classic Holidays once complete. Once linked to a Member, personalisation of the digital channel throughout the Membership lifecycle can occur with relevant offers and options being presented across multiple channels. Therefore the conversion of a Lead to an Opportunity to a Sale needed to go to the final step: A Member.
In conclusion, CHARM has opened a world of opportunity for both Classic Holidays whilst also improving the overall Customer Experience. What was a once amateurish, shady Sales process is now professional and transparent. Of course, Timeshare is not for everyone but given the high degree of customer loyalty experienced by Classic Holidays, this new process can only bring benefit through efficiency and reducing churn in the Lead to Sale process.
Massive kudos to the Classic Management and delivery team and the Project team (including the SugarCRM System Integrator, CRM Online ) that I put together. There are too many to mention but the recognition goes to them.