Customer experience: Capturing the big picture

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Customer experience: Capturing the big picture

By Dan Berthiaume - 12/09/2019
Brian Dennis, senior VP, customer engagement of SMG

Your customers are on a journey, and need a good experience every step of the way.

Customer experience management technology provider SMG helps retailers listen to their customers and act on shopper feedback in real time. Chain Store Age recently spoke with Brian Dennis, senior VP, customer engagement of SMG, about how retailers can deliver the type of experience that keeps modern, omnichannel customers coming back.

Q: What are the top two things retailers should focus on to evolve and enhance their experience management program? 

It’s important for retailers to truly understand the entire customer experience (CX) journey. Customer service is simply one aspect of that journey. For example, if you place an order over the phone to be picked up in a store and the person you are speaking with is friendly and knowledgeable, that is good customer service. When you arrive to pick up your order at the store and it’s there, is accurate, and you’re in and out quickly, that is a good customer experience. 

This “total view” of the customer experience is what retailers should dial in on as they evolve their experience management program. The two things they should focus on is capturing feedback in real time and leveraging data to provide actionable insights. The data needs to be in a very structured format that allows quick interpretation and the ability to act on it in a meaningful way so it can be measured against business results. 

Q: How should experience management teams optimize insights from a growing number of listening channels?

From a program design standpoint, it’s really about putting disparate datasets in dialogue with one another to make sure different listening channels don’t get siloed within different departments. 

We sometimes see a CX program get cast as an "operations responsibility" or a "marketing effort." What that really means for most people is that it's "someone else's job." To break down those walls and bring the program up to the enterprise level, we partner with brands to establish a cross-functional steering committee in the early days of the program. 

By gathering internal stakeholders from different areas of the business, brands are more likely to develop a program strategy capable of impacting the entire company, find innovative ways to sync up improvement efforts, and ensure the right people are in the room when opportunities arise.

​From a technology standpoint, again, it’s about capturing feedback across channels in real time and reporting on it in a single platform that’s both intuitive and actionable. 

Q: Which is more important, consistent experiences across channels, or personalized experiences for every customer? 

A: In the prior five to seven years, delivering a consistent experience probably ranked higher on the importance scale among consumers. However, delivering personalized experiences has quickly caught up as the customer journey has become shaped more and more by digital channels—and both are equally as important today. Customers have now come to expect this frictionless experience from the brand and demand a seamless experience as they cross the different channels within that brand. 

Q: How can SMG uniquely help retailers?

SMG's core differentiator is our unique partnership model. Unlike SaaS companies or CX research firms, SMG combines platform technology and professional services. There are SaaS providers with data collection and reporting technologies that will serve any industry. 

However, we've found that there can be a disconnect between platform providers and platform users, which often leads to cumbersome, check-the-box activities for field teams instead of useful tools geared toward end-user actionability. On the other end of the spectrum, some companies choose to partner with research firms that specialize in insights but rely on third-party suppliers for technology needs. Sometimes the SaaS and insight vendors partner together, but that can be expensive and inefficient.

SMG brings the best value to leaders of consumer insights, analytics, and customer/employee feedback teams. We're unique because our client insights, technology, and research teams all speak your language. They sit down the hall from each other and collectively understand what brands are trying to accomplish with their feedback technology and data. Instead of being another vendor to manage, SMG brings thought leadership, adds to existing competencies, and enhances their brain trust. And our clients value the expertise we're able to provide to their programs. In fact, we owe our growth to the loyalty of our clients and their willingness to refer us—the source of 50% of our new business each year.