A colleague recently told me that his company had hired a new customer support executive to be responsible for redesigning their entire customer experience. Excellence was the ultimate goal. “How will you measure Excellence?” I asked. “What’s the context for the Customer Experience?” There was a long silence.
We spoke of various companies who enjoy good reputations for customer support. He mentioned Apple, Inc., and I pointed out that while the quality of Apple’s support was good, the basis for the company’s reputation has vastly more to do with its design efforts than anything else. I’ve been buying Mac computers for about 15 years, and in all that time, I’ve probably called Apple Support less than 5 times. I always got fast, effective service, but that’s not the reason I continue to buy from them. I buy Apple products because they work, they’re a delight to use, they’re reliable and they last. But if another company came along with an equally consistent set of well-designed and delivered products and gave me an incentive to switch, I would certainly consider it.
If you look at an individual support transaction, — someone with a problem calling the contact center — we can apply The Customer’s Metric  to determine the quality of that incident. If our goal is excellence, however, we need to go much further. In my opinion, the most valid test for contact center excellence is whether or not the customer immediately passes on the story of a very satisfying encounter to their community. The benefit of that excellence is only gained when the tales are told so that the later buying behavior of the audience is affected. If legends about the excellence of my company’s support are being spread outward, especially among people who aren’t yet customers, then I know my contact center team is on the ball. But being on the ball in an interaction is not the ultimate goal.
Customer Experience Management is a nice buzzword, and the concept is a useful one. But in order to get the maximum value out of CEM, you have to have a strategic context. Transactional excellence is great, but where excellence really pays off is when it is in the context of an enduring relationship.
For fifteen years and four different cars, I’ve dealt with the same small auto repair shop. The oil-change places offer faster service and a cheaper price, but it never occurred to me to take my car anyplace other than to Dave. I’ve sent dozens of people to him over the years, and they in turn have introduced their friends. I have a similar relationship with Gary, the manager down at my local Big O Tires shop, and with my personal banker at B of A. They know my name. They value knowing me, and they show it in everything they do. And I return value to them by continuing to buy and in introducing new customers to them at every opportunity.
Relationship-thinking is the critical step in the progression of a company from average to excellence, and it has to permeate the organization on every level. The standard transactional service metrics are of no use in measuring excellence. If you’re going to play on the ultimate level, the metrics that count will be found in the consistent behavior of your customers.