Hi Marshall, tell us about yourself and your background.
I’m an independent CRM analyst, originally from New York and currently living in Chicago. I entered the field as a journalist, writing for CRM magazine, and branched out after that. I’d call myself a generalist, but some of my favorite concentrations are customer experience, customer journeys, SMB, and enterprise suites. I’ve worked for Informa and for G2, run my own brand, and am currently trying to launch a consultancy with Thomas Wieberneit and Ralf Korb, highly respected analysts in their own right.
What is the biggest misunderstanding about customer experience, in your opinion?
There’s a mostly false belief that CX is about creating fantastic experiences for customers at every touchpoint. That’s not possible, even for a company like Disney, which is built on doing exactly that. There aren’t enough hours in the day for consumers to be wowed by every brand they interact with, and it would quickly become exhausting and annoying. Customer experience is about reducing obstacles and making interactions with the business as easy as possible in 95 percent of cases, stepping back and letting the customer accomplish what they want to, with help along the way if needed. Save the wow moment for the rare occasions when you can make a truly lasting impression — especially if that moment is solving an urgent problem.
What are some of the newer CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
You’ve just revealed another big misunderstanding in customer experience: that any company or product with the letters CX in it somewhere does customer experience. Those letters are becoming what CRM did many years ago — a catch-all for an increasingly broad range of products, weakening everything it touches. In keeping an eye on newer companies and solutions, I spend a large chunk of my time trying to decide for myself whether they even belong in the discussion. Some do. Others are old marketing tools with a new name or customer service knowledge base software that’s been polished up a bit.
What can companies do to improve customer loyalty and retention?
Don’t screw up badly enough to become the focus of anger. I read a study from last year that said about a third of customers will abandon a brand after a single bad experience, with 90 percent leaving after two to five. I absolutely believe those statistics, but they’re only part of the story. The fact is, inertia is real. Consumers face enough tough choices and decisions in their lives already; they’re inclined to let little mistakes slide when they have other stuff to worry about. Nobody wants to start over with a new brand if they don’t have to. Deliver good, consistent service, apologize quickly and sincerely if you make a mistake or displease the customer, and focus on turning that negative interaction into a positive outcome for them.
What do you think is most relevant and why: CSAT (customer satisfaction score), NPS (net promoter score), or CES (customer effort score)?
The real question here is, which data scientists do I want to have angry with me when I answer? Each of these metrics serves a different purpose, and if I raise one above the other, it could be misleading. Relevance requires context, and each of these metrics is used in a different context: CSAT for immediate post-interaction results, NPS for reach and customer lifetime value, and CES as a predictor of stickiness.
How can companies better use social media in the era of customer-centricity and personalization?
Targeting is key with social media. Know your audience. Be where they are, reflect and support their values, and don’t bombard them with your message. This has always been true to an extent but seems to be more important today as we go through worldwide crises of health, politics, and justice. Your customers need to believe you’re on their side, and if you’re not sure what side that is, it’s best to stay out of that particular discussion. Brands still have to avoid pandering to their audiences because fake or obviously self-serving support will be noticed, and the results will not be pleasant.
What is your opinion on AI-based chatbots to handle customer support?
Good chatbots give human CSRs the time and freedom they need to address the more complex customer service issues that AI can’t cope with. Bots aren’t replacing people; they’re changing the scope of their jobs.
What was the best movie you saw that has come out during this past year?
There were movies last year? The only one I can remember seeing is Bill and Ted Face the Music. I was too busy hiding in my apartment. Let’s just say I have a lot of catching up to do.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I know what I said about metrics earlier, but I have a personal affinity for Customer Effort Score. If you make the customer work too hard, they’re going to go someplace easier. As a guy who loves to take naps, I can really get behind this one.