TMC (News - Alert) celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction this year, which means it couldn't be a better time to look at where we've been with customer service and where we're going. We're also rebranding and retooling our customer effort. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with Marchai Bruchey, chief customer officer and chief marketing officer at Thunderhead.com.
How and when was your company established?
Bruchey: Thunderhead.com was founded in 2001 by CEO Glen Manchester. After recognizing a gap in the marketplace for customer experience and engagement solutions, Glen privately funded the company and has since grown it from a U.K. startup to a global technology company with operations throughout Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Australia.
Thunderhead.com is a global provider of enterprise solutions for customer experience management. With its cloud-based ONE platform, Thunderhead.com provides powerful SaaS (News - Alert) solutions for customer engagement and helps maintain consistent, intelligent conversations across all channels and touch points: digital (Web, mobile and social), print and call center.
We’re celebrating the 30-year anniversary of TMC’s Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. What has been the most important development in the past 30 years related to customer interactions?
Bruchey: The Internet has been the most important development in the last 30 years with regards to customer interactions. The entire customer journey can be completed using the Internet. You can gather information to make a buying decision, purchase the goods or services, register the product or service and use self-service or contact the call center through a chat session, all at the click of a mouse.
In the past decade?
Bruchey: The mobile phone and its evolution from a device for phone calls to the smartphones that we use today would have to be the most important development in the last decade. The same customer journey that can be done via the Internet can now be done on a mobile smartphone enhancing the concept of when you want it, where you want it and how you want it.
In the recent past?
Bruchey: The tablet is quickly becoming the device of choice while on the go. It is the device of choice for note taking and is taking us one step closer to becoming paperless from a meeting perspective. Having the ease of use of a mobile phone along with a device that has a larger footprint is really appealing. The simplicity of operation and the touch-screen technology on a tablet is opening up the digital world to an older demographic that may not have had the technical skills for a laptop.
How is CRM changing?
Bruchey: When CRM came of age in the late 80s and early 90s, the focus was on improving internal processes to better support customers, reduce costs and increase satisfaction. It was an inside out view of how to manage a relationship with customers. Many CRM strategies were designed to give you a single view of the customer across the sales, marketing and service function although I think many companies would admit that after many years of project and millions of dollars spent, they never achieved this goal. I think in large part it wasn't that the technology didn't exist, it was the internal siloed approach where no one single operational executive had the responsibility for the customer.
In some views, customer experience management is just an extension of CRM, but I think it is a fundamentally different approach to managing a relationship with your customer. When CRM came of age, the Internet was fairly new as a way to service the customer and many people did not use it as such; the phone was still the device of choice when either transacting business or getting support. The world has changed forever, and your customers have gone digital. The balance of power has shifted from the company determining how they manage the relationship with their customer to the customer defining how they want to be managed. The new customer no longer wants to wait for you to respond, they will be more than happy to take their business elsewhere.
If you don't start managing your business from an outside in view – that is, from the customer’s perspective – that hard won customer may become a defector. Customer retention is a business imperative for many companies which is why you are seeing the rise in customer experience officers, customer loyalty officers, chief customer officers; no matter what the title is, businesses are recognizing that customers need a seat at the executive table and they need someone to work across the silos in the business to make customer experience a reality.
How is marketing changing?
Bruchey: Customers have gone digital. Winners and losers will be determined by their ability to engage customers and businesses more deeply across digital touch points and other channels. However, building enduring relationships that strengthen commitment to a company is hard. Customers are inundated by hundreds of choices, offers and prices. Marketing must now manage a dizzying array of channels as well as massive shifts in consumer behavior. Technology that used to help now just gets in the way – and today’s digital customer won’t wait for IT’s timeframes. Customers shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than a best-in-class experience at any point in their journey. They shouldn’t suffer broken conversations over time or across channels. Nor should they be annoyed by irrelevant communications or have to repeat themselves between channels. In short, customers shouldn’t have to put up with digital experiences that are less satisfying than face-to-face interactions.
To win the land grab for customer experience and engagement, businesses need to captivate consumers and continuously improve the experience in every conversation. Imagine delivering exactly what consumers want, every time. Imagine a world where marketing and service always deliver a superior, memorable experience. Imagine multiplying revenue impact from all marketing initiatives. Companies that deliver this superior customer experience will outperform the status quo and drive fierce customer loyalty, unfair competitive advantage, revenue growth and brand health.
How is the rise of cloud computing affecting how businesses target, engage with and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Bruchey: Cloud computing allows businesses to scale accordingly with their business growth and needs. Cloud computing allows companies to more efficiently manage their cash flow and scale operations. With open standards, ease of integration and the ability to customize cloud services according to needs companies of all sizes can take advantage of what the cloud has to offer. For example, linking together social, CRM and support platforms in the manner that Best Buy (News - Alert) does has certainly has provided an improved customer experience and mitigated poor customer experience.
What new tools and practices are businesses using to better leverage their own and/or outside data to target, engage with and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Bruchey: Traditionally, businesses have relied on customer transactional data augmented with customer profile data collected from outside sources to target known users. In recent years, the growth of behavioral data collection on websites has improved targeting to unknown, anonymous users and has reshaped how marketers target people browsing their sites. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to link behavioral data with customer transactional data to provide the rich levels of engagement desired by both marketers and customers. The rise of mobile and social media data sources, including geolocation data, social profile information and previous conversation history, provides rich sources of new information to improve predictive targeting for new offerings and support.
How is the mobile boom affecting how businesses target, engage with and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Bruchey: Mobile provides companies the opportunity where consumers opt in to better personalize the offers made. With geolocational services, strong customer data and social following brands have the ability to provide consumers with well thought out and tailored offers. The key here is having consumers opt in. This same concept can be applied to servicing clients-would it be helpful if for instance your bank knew where you were and was able to tell you the nearest ATM is 1 block over and there will be no charge for withdrawing money. Mobile usage is about convenience and the ability to perform common tasks while on the go. Understanding what customers are looking to accomplish on mobile devices and making it simple to achieve these goals dramatically impacts the success of your targeting and customer engagement on mobile devices.
What other key trends are you seeing as it relates to how businesses target, engage with and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Bruchey: The rise of the empowered customer will have a tremendous impact on how businesses engage with their clients in the future. Not only must companies anticipate what a customer wants to accomplish, but also when and where it is most convenient. Businesses are learning that individuals have influence across their many followers and friends across social media channels and when execution fails to meet expectations, large groups of people will hear about it. It is critical that service levels consistently meet expectations and businesses must monitor social networks to tie their customers into a community. Knowing your customer, creating loyalty and understanding what channels they choose to engage you with never goes out of style and today is more relevant than ever before.