Why learning more about your customer is good for business
“I am not a number, I am a free man”. So said Patrick McGoohan, starring in the cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner. Your customers may sympathise with him – to your disadvantage.
Many companies treat their customers as just a series of transactions. It is convenient for the company, but for the customer it can be a turn-off.
“For customers, all contacts with your company are part of a total experience – a customer journey,” says Ben Silcox, client engagement director at information management consultancy TAH.
“If that experience is bad they may just leave without telling you why.”
Silcox describes the transaction-driven approach as traditional business architecture. He contrasts this with what TAH calls customer architecture. The customer architecture approach means building your business around the customer. It involves learning everything you can about your customer’s journey and all the points where your business processes touch them.
“It’s not just the obvious ones, such as calls to customer services, but those that are invisible to you, such as the times when they try to call and cannot get through,” he says.
Clients that have enabled customer architecture with the aid of TAH include insurance company AON, the University of Central Lancashire, retailer Superdrug and Vodafone.
So what does it mean in practice? Silcox cites the case of a customer who bought a camera from the manufacturer, but then discovered he could have got it for less from a retailer. When the customer complained to the manufacturer he was told there was nothing they could do, he should have shopped around.
Had the manufacturer used a customer architecture approach it could have monitored the prices charged by its distributors. Immediately after the customer contacted the manufacturer he could have been told that the camera was available cheaper elsewhere, but offered a voucher equivalent to the difference in price.
“This proactive approach helps create a better customer experience,” says Silcox.
Using the customer architecture approach, TAH helped Vodafone to better understand its customer journey. Its contact centres knew which customers called and when, the call duration and subject. TAH helped the company to gather previously invisible information such as how many times the customer had failed to get through, and whether they had been passed from one contact centre to another.
“Systems like this build a chronological picture of the customer journey, so the company can proactively intervene,” says Silcox.
“You can tell if your customer has called three times about the same problem, and offer an incentive to mitigate that negative experience.”
TAH can also bring together customer information that is held in different ‘silos’ within the company, making the full picture available to the people who can do something proactive with it, such as customer services or marketing.
But transforming the customer journey is not just about software.
“Creating customer architecture is about changing the philosophy across the whole company. Most firms do not realise the risk they run with ‘business as usual’,” says Silcox.
Once an organisation has decided to implement the change to customer architecture, TAH discusses the company’s customer journey and identifies problems or gaps.
Then it reviews their current information systems and data, to see where improvements are needed. Finally TAH aggregates the information to produce a platform that can be used to proactively innovate and create a better customer experience.
The necessary organisational and technology changes are carried out in bite-sized chunks.
“That means you can see the benefits within two months, and achieve complete transformation within six months to a year,” says Silcox.
“Once you decide to change your philosophy, we can help you deliver the transformation, resulting in being more competitive and relevant to the customer.”