Louis Columbus, Cincom Systems
Reprinted with permission from Louis Columbus, Cincom Systems

The next 12 months will see a greater focus than ever before on the quality of customer experience permeating strategies, systems, applications, and initiatives.

An efficiency and transaction mindset is driving many industries, including airlines, into a churn-based business model that is tough to escape.

In 2012 many businesses will need to step up their efforts to make better use of internal systems that are not integrated to customer relationship management (CRM), analytics, and customer service systems so they can deliver higher-quality customer experiences immediately. Integrating these systems together and making the quality of data and intelligence a priority will increase the quality of customer experience delivered.

Predictions for 2012

With these thoughts in mind, here are several customer experience predictions for 2012.

1. By combining quality monitoring, analytics, and social media, many companies get a true assessment of the customer experience they are delivering for the first time.

2012 is going to be about measuring and improving the quality of customer experience first, and increasing the speed and efficiency of interactions second. Quality monitoring is going to get beyond just measuring activity-based and high-end customer satisfaction metrics. Behavioral analytics and real-time feedback from social networks, integrated to sentiment analysis, will give customer experience and customer service managers instant visibility into how effective their strategies and programs are. For many, it will be the first true reading of customer satisfaction and quality of customer experience.

2. Consistency of customer response across all channels gets measured, monetized, and rewarded internally and externally.

One of the quickest ways to increase the quality of customer experience is to make responses identical, synchronized, and complete across all channels. Surprisingly, according to Forrester Research in a recent study, 90 percent of companies can’t do this. Customers, however, expect this to be like a dial-tone in their interactions with you and your company. In 2012, there is going to be a much stronger focus on this area, with more measurement, monetization (through upsell and cross-sell), and greater spending on this than ever before. Delivering a consistent response across all channels is no longer optional; it’s required. Companies that did the hard work of making this happen will end 2012 with higher gross margins, retention rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

3. Knowledge management and the use of configuration and constraint engines to streamline its use in web self-service and agent-based applications goes mobile, accelerating across all channels.

Having real-time access to the knowledge base of their companies further increases the quality of customer interaction and experience for service reps, driving up quality monitoring scores in the process. Smartphone and tablet integration via Android and Apple iOS will begin to provide richer data sets and greater analytics application performance, giving customer service much greater ability to respond in real time regardless of location or time.

4. Using social media and online communities, customers will make it known which channels they are most and least likely to use for service and support—the migration between channels will be more fluid than ever before.

Using analytics, data mining, and real-time quality monitoring is going to be essential for customer experience and customer service teams.

About the Author
Louis Columbus has nearly 20 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in market and industry analysis, sales, product management and development. He is a Marketing Manager for Corporate Marketing of Cincom Systems, with a focus on technology solutions for the manufacturing industry.

He’s held senior positions at Toshiba America, Ingram Micro, several software start-ups and immediately before joining Cincom, as Senior Analyst at AMR Research. Mr. Columbus is a frequent contributor to industry publications and has published fifteen books on operating systems, peripherals and industry analysis.

In addition, Mr. Columbus is a frequent lecturer in Webster Loyola-Marymount University’s graduate program on International Business and Global Competitive Strategy. He is a regular contributor to the Cincom Product Configurator blog, the Perfect Customer Experience blog and his own blog, “A Passion for Research.”

Mr. Columbus earned his MBA from Pepperdine University and has completed the Strategic Marketing Management Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.