Know your customers and how they want to be served: know the channels they prefer to use — agent, self-service, chat, phone, etc. It is important that companies cater to the way their customers want to interact. As an example, BOTs have really matured and can now be effective and desired for some interactions.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Donlan.
Bill Donlan is Executive Vice President, Digital Customer Experience at Capgemini North America. Bill has more than 26 years of experience helping companies improve customer and value chain relationships through a combination of business strategy, process tuning and industry best practices, and technology integration. He is experienced with all of the leading software vendors in the CRM space as well as several of the mid-market packaged solutions. Bill is based in Miami, Florida.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have a Masters Degree in Information Systems Accounting from the University of Florida. My school program was very much geared toward readiness and prepared me well for my career in consulting when back then, it was predominantly the “big eight” accounting firms doing the majority of consulting work.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
One of my early engagements was with an insurance company in New England, and the project focused on a very large mainframe-based solution. The senior consultant over my track was great; he taught me many things about effort estimation, requirement elaboration, unit testing, development standards, etc. To this day, I often fall back on those fundamental skills built on that engagement.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
If done correctly, customer service can be a way to enhance loyalty in your customer base and truly differentiate an organization from its competitors. Service used to be a “have to” for companies — now it’s become a way to expand revenue channels and opportunities. Selling models are changing to include more and more “as a service” models where service becomes even more important. For many of our clients, service has become the new sales; front line service personnel now often represent the face of the brand to the customer base — this can be a customer service agent in a call center or a field service technician. Being able to deliver tailored service to one’s customers is more critical today than ever and a key revenue driver.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
I think technology is extremely critical to customer experience and service success — being able to provide the agent or technician with the right information about the customer to answer their queries effectively — customer history, assets they own, contracts in place, entitlements applicable, SLAs, etc. These are all examples of the data needed by front line service personnel to be effective in-service delivery. I also think there is a growing segment of customers who can serve themselves if the data and systems are present to support self-service. The technology assets for case management, customer self-service and even the AI/ML options have significantly evolved in recent years to be used as tools for front line brand ambassadors.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
I do think competition helps to create better service for customers that ultimately leads to a better customer experience journey. We increasingly see companies offering service on competitor products — medical devices, manufacturing, technology are examples of industries where we see tailored, tiered service on one’s own assets and products.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
We have worked with many customers in a variety of industries to enhance the level of service and the service experiences they are delivering to their customers. We have built systems that can accurately suggest problem solutions or next action step, effectively predict when assets need service to increase up-time in “as a service” models, offload call volume to state of the art and effective self-service channels and provide an omnichannel service environment across multiple channels.
One of the systems we have built and implemented involves tracking interruption or disruption for top-tier customers and enabling customer service agents to be more proactive at the point of service delivery. This solution does not fix the problem or take the problem away, but it does create an aware, up-to-date agent and that has been met with appreciation by affected customers.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
Since the discussion has been about service, I am going to focus on aspects that organizations can address from a customer service standpoint — the answers might be different if we expanded to include sales and marketing.
- Know your customers and how they want to be served: know the channels they prefer to use — agent, self-service, chat, phone, etc. It is important that companies cater to the way their customers want to interact. As an example, BOTs have really matured and can now be effective and desired for some interactions.
- Have flexible service delivery models: organizations across industries are seeing the need to support “as a service” rather than only selling assets. Providing tiered service levels is also popular. In addition, contactless models are desired today where possible due to the pandemic.
- Understand what technology can do to assist in delivering world class customer service with a return on investment. Platforms have matured and can play a big role in cost reductions and increased customer loyalty if properly implemented. The right platform can also more easily support new business models — subscription billing, and as a service are examples where complex, highly customized legacy systems could have blocked companies from deploying these new business models.
- Be able to support alternative business models and be agile and nimble in adjusting to those models. Companies must be able to adapt their selling and service models to support market needs. The on-demand service delivery model is becoming more and more the expected model. Companies must adapt to their customers and how they want to purchase, consume products and how they want them to be serviced.
- Invest in platforms and technologies that can support the desire to be agile and nimble — along with changes in business models, it is critical that systems and infrastructure can support companies who want to move to alternative models.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
It depends on the type of customer and client. As an example, in the B2C world there are multiple ways to share experiences with others — referral, social activity and posts, among other options. The B2B world can be a bit trickier, but there are independent vendors that evaluate and rank customer service scores and provide analysis of “best in class”.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I really focus my social media exposure to LinkedIn. Feel free to reach out!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!