Last week I attended the Forrester Customer Experience Forum in New York. Judging from the number of senior-level attendees, it seems that customer experience has elevated into a strategic priority for the top management. A strong theme I noticed was the importance of cross-channel customer understanding and delivering a consistent experience through the new interaction channels.
Almost every session I attended included the mention of a "journey map" to understand how a customer interacts across those different channels. Presenters shared their insights and vision on the practice, and many technology vendors had wares designed to follow customers along different experience paths. The concept becomes more important as the number of channels grows and becomes more complex. Some highlights:
Phil Bienert, senior vice president of Consumer Digital Experience at AT&T, mentioned the importance of thinking of customers as "omnichannel" users. No channel is more important than another, and customers will use all of them. Thinking this way takes customer experience strategy in a different direction than if you think of customers in terms of cross-channel or multichannel strategy. The journey can begin or end anywhere. He said AT&T's goal is to provide "an effortless, anytime, anywhere customer experience. Effortless is the critical part." Customers want to do things themselves, and they want companies to help them do that.
Bienert explained that an effortless customer experience has multiple elements:
• Adaptive and responsive
• Actively assisting
• Highly contextual
• Proactive and personal
• Acting on feedback
AT&T's three-pronged strategy to meet this goal is to have a mobile-first focus, create omnichannel initiatives, and drive innovation with own scientists as well as the developer community with open-source projects.
Meanwhile, at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MSSB), David Lessing is focusing on mixing a great customer experience with performance and results. Lessing, who is the chief operating officer of U.S. Wealth Management, says the company has spent the last three years re-organizing the whole business to be a new integrated brand. To stand out, the company is committed to performance that matches customers' needs. Customer experience and relationship-focus is important, he says, but it's just table stakes.
In the financial world, it's likely that the customer journey involves many financial institutions. Most consumers have accounts with more than one bank. MSSB created a tool where customers can give financial advisors a view into all of their financial assets, not just those with Morgan Stanley. That way the advisor can see the whole picture, and offer advice for the customer's entire portfolio. It's an interesting holistic approach to the customer, taking into account channels inside and outside of the company.
Both companies are aligning their customer experience efforts to match the consumer point of view. It's an interesting time, with many complex challenges as well as opportunities. Those who can map out a strategy that fits customer needs will find their way to success.
About the author: Elizabeth Glagowski is the executive editor of strategy at Peppers & Rogers Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.