10 June 2016

Implementing a transformational customer experience solution without a strategist is like installing a hot water heater without a plumber


I continue to learn how essential it is to leverage an expert for everything from plumbing to implementing a customer experience technology solution.

Within a month of moving into my new home, my hot water heater decided to call it quits. I quickly called up my home owners insurance to discuss my warranty, only to find that water damage to my water heater was not covered. My wife, kids and visiting family necessitated that I run out and purchase a water heater and install it sooner rather than later, so that is what I set out to do.

I purchased the water heater, brought it home and took to studying the instruction manual, assuming that my general engineering knowledge and plumbing would get me by. I dug up my pipe cutter, cut the pipes, and spent several hours hooking it up. Happy with my self-sufficiency, I decide it’s time to turn the water on and see if it works. As I’m heading back to check on the water heater, a pipe explodes through the dry wall in my garage, flies just inches by my head and launches out into the driveway.

My wife, kids and family are enjoying each other’s company in the living room, and I am painfully aware that I am back at square one, with also a dry wall patch job ahead of me. I did what I probably should have done in the first place – I call a plumber.

Just like my instruction manual, the internet is littered with blogs and tricks and tips explaining how to design a customer experience strategy or how to build a transformational roadmap. You can even find how-to guides for product integrations – for instance how to integrate Salesforce to RainKing. However, it’s the small process steps and tactical knowledge that you glance over or don’t think of, because you don’t integrate systems or initiate strategic initiatives routinely in your position, that come back to haunt you.

You need an expert for a water heater. The plumber finally showed up at my house at 10p, spent a few seconds looking at the mess and asked me if I had known about the pressure release valve. It wasn’t in the instruction manual nor filed neatly away in my schema, so I answered “no I didn’t know about it.” Recognizing my frustration, he politely told me that everything else was set up correctly, but I did not release the pressure during the filling process with the pressure release valve. It took him a few minutes to fix the problem, and $600 later he was on his way.

The same thing has happened on a small and large scale with organizations I have worked with in the past. On a small scale, when integrating RainKing, a customer data tool, to Salesforce, a customer relationship management solution – you map county and state and assume that country will go to country and state will go to state. However, behind the scenes, RainKing is actually pushing the two-character country and state abbreviation and if you turn the pick list off, you can cause data integrity issues. This will inevitably result in someone spending two hours a week scrubbing the data when a 30 second strategic change would have matched up the fields correctly.

Why Engage a customer experience strategist with a Working Knowledge of the Solution?

On a larger scale, an organization hired an administrator to manage the contact center implementation of Oracle’s on premise Siebel solution. The administrator noticed that the server was running out of space and decided to delete a folder that was taking up 80% of the space on the server. The folder that the administrator deleted was the Siebel repository that ran the entire application. He brought down the application for 3 hours, until an emergency backup could be performed. The contact center outage cost $60,000 and created chaos for the organization’s customer support team. Having someone who had a working knowledge of the application or had asked a Siebel expert – would have saved the organization greatly. Also, when hiring someone new, it is important to make sure the on-boarding process is inclusive to any ongoing project teams to help the new hire feel comfortable asking questions to get up to speed.

Beware of Endless Customizations with No Cross-Functional Customer Experience Strategist

A customer experience strategist will deliver the insight for you to take action.Equally costly, a financial services organization didn’t head Salesforce’s warnings that if you customize the solution with custom Apex code, you won’t be able to upgrade as new features and versions come out. They had business units operating in silos, each with unique customizations they were making to Salesforce. Finally, when an important upgrade came out, they had to completely re-implement the vanilla version of Salesforce and start over. All data from their old version had to be exported and imported into the new system.

The opportunity and material cost of the first customization and then the reimplementation could have been saved if they had entered the solution customization with an enterprise wide perspective. A customer experience strategist could have helped them form a cross-functional charter to weigh the requests from different business units to create a solution that was simple, efficient and benefited everyone. However, since the organization had never implemented the solution before – they weren’t aware of the repercussions.

Just like I walked in at midnight from my water heater fiasco – the organization shifted countless resources that found themselves stuck in a catch-22 situation with no way out but to start over. And unfortunately those individuals involved in the customization still had a full time job they were responsible for completing to keep the lights on, on top of the work they were doing for the CRM solution implementation.

Hyper Focusing without a Big- Picture Perspective Will Have a Negative Impact

Sometimes ill-chosen data management paths can create security and regulatory challenges. A retail home improvement organization decided that if a customer called in and the name didn’t match the return from their customer master – they would bypass all intermediate steps of creating a new customer profile and just make the change directly to the customer profile within the CRM tool.

By changing the name on the CRM tool, they were essentially creating identity theft within their organization as once the name change was made and synced to the customer master, and the identity was updated, all of the assets and previous customer purchase history were applied to the new name and identity record. So, if someone incorrectly has her name changed and then tries to call in to file a claim on their asset or manage an issue – they would not be able to as their history has been removed.

Like my futile attempt to fix my water heater quickly, sometimes hyper focusing on an immediate problem can actually create a larger problem and have more of an impact. Having a customer experience strategist with experience in enterprise data management will help make sure you solve the problem right the first time.

Listen to those with Industry Knowledge of Customer Experience Strategy

My last example is actually a project that I consulted on from the beginning and not one I was called into once the pipe had flown through the drywall. My client wanted to create 1200 versions of their list of value (a list of value is a drop down menu of options you can select for a customer data field – for example: Mr., Ms., Mrs., Doctor) and have it segregated by company branch. I advised that if they pursued this path, they would run into an administrative nightmare. They did not take head and within 6 months of taking ownership – they realized how big of a monster they had created.

They dedicated ½ of the FTE data analysts’ time for 6 months to perform a series of updates that should have taken a week to implement (inclusive of regression testing). There was so much data to look over. Within 6 months, we were engaged once again to help them standardize the customer data values they were looking for. No one likes doing the same job twice, and I would have much rather implemented the most efficient and effective solution the first time around.

When do you need a customer experience strategist?

I’ve been asked countless times, “when do we need to involve an outside party to help us implement a solution.” I’ve always answered with, “It varies based on the complexity, how many field experts you have on staff and how much experience they have with the implementation.”

Without an expert, either on staff or as a hired vendor, you will encounter challenges that turn into organizational costs. If you decide to take my course of action with the water heater and go it on your own, just make sure that you pull staff members out of their role to focus on the implementation, plan to have pain along the way and make sure your timeline is realistic. It took me several hours to do what my plumber did in 45 minutes. He deals with water heater issues 6 times a day and knows what to expect and what to watch out for. Likewise, customer experience strategists know how to facilitate the right conversation from the forefront, so your implementation aligns with cross-functional goals and your business drivers. They also can complete the same tasks more efficiently and effectively because they’ve implemented the solution dozens of times.

Learn More About Customer Experience Strategy

Authored bY

Anthony Williams

In my 10+ years of CX and CRM experience as a Salesforce and Oracle Certified Consultant, I’ve acted as an advisor to organizations ranging from Fortune 50 organizations to Non-Profit government orgs looking to optimize process and technology solutions for Master Data Management, Service, Field Services, and Sales. I’ve lead the technical design and architecture of solutions as well as managed technical teams and project timelines to ensure successful launches that hit their target goals.


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