Customer signals management as it was once intended

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It’s now been eight years since I initiated customer signals management, and it’s awesome to see it implemented by many large organizations. And that there are even vacancies advertised for customer signals management. But those same organizations almost all struggle to get customer signals management successfully off the ground. This blog explains my vision on why that happens and how you can give customer signals management wings after all.

10 years ago, many organizations had discovered complaints management. A topic which is still current today. However, we want to learn not only from complaints but from all signals given by customers: customer signals management (CSM) therefore. That was once the rationale behind initiation of this method. Yet it is now precisely the pitfall facing many organizations. By limiting the KSM method to the effective managing of every signal received, you not only miss the benefits of an integral look at customer signals management but also run the risk of drowning in the sea of signals. “There are so many complaints, expressions of discontent, compliments, questions, et cetera, that I simply don’t know where to start” and “how important is that particular tweet or that complaint when considering all the other priorities on our list?”

The key to Customer Signals Management: integral view

The key to the CSM method is precisely that you take an integral look at all signals. Organizations were originally poorly motivated by complaints alone, and the simple volume of complaints did not really get people moving in the end. And rightly so, to some extent. The same can now be seen in organizations which implement customer sugnals management too narrowly. If you combine complaints with other signals however, such as customer satisfaction, calls, e-mails, visits, tweets, et cetera, you certainly have the mass required to determine priority: in the interests of the customer and organization alike.

The missing link: the customer journey !

The crux which is missing in all these organizations is the framework with which a clear structure is gained: the customer journey. Which steps do I, the customer, take with your organization? Whenever I examine this structure together with organizations, it serves as an eye-opener as to how simply and quickly such a structure can work. And everyone can create it! All that is needed is to step into your own customers’ shoes
The customer journey at the highest level is, for example, ‘I become a customer’, ‘I pay for the product’, ‘I call customer service’, right through to ‘I end the relationship’. You can then establish the detailed customer journey for each step at this highest level. ‘I become a customer’ then comprises: ‘I check out the website’, ‘I complete the application form’, ‘I register for the MyAccount environment’, ‘I receive conformation of my application’, I receive the product’, I receive the invoice’.
Working on the basis of these customer journeys, you can then check:

  • How satisfied are my customers with this step?
  • What are the true drivers for satisfaction in this step?
  • How many calls/e-mails/complaints/visits/social media posts does this step generate?
  • What is the top X of all these customer contact moments?
  • Are all these steps really necessary or is there a smarter approach?

Simple prioritization

As sketched above, organizations soon drown in the sheer volume of signals or in their own complexities, for example. There is a simple enough solution if you apply a customer-centric approach instead of an organization-centric approach. Let’s imagine that the highest level of your customer experience journey (I become a customer, I pay for the product, …, I end the relationship) comprises 11 steps. Where should you start? You can quickly and simply establish priorities by using customer satisfaction surveys (experience), all customer contact moments (dollars) which you already have, and also the number of times that customers actually move through the various steps (impact). By combining these three, you can quickly choose the top 3 steps in the customer experience journey which will give the most effective start.

KSM 3.0: integration of channel steering

Over the past 3 years, I have taken the CSM method one step further at a number of organizations, by adding a 6th step: which channels are best in keeping with this step and what is the current channel distribution? Integration of your channel steering gives maximum benefits for both the organization and your customers. This total picture naturally gives great confluence: better customer experience, more efficiency, less unnecessary customer contact moments, optimum use of channels. While this may seem like an overload, it is actually very manageable and can be initiated straightaway because you can quite simply start with 1 customer experience journey, for example. And with measurable results!

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