In research and a white paper, conducted by information management professionals organization AIIM, the organization looks at what’s the main focus of customer-centric businesses right now: improving customer service and the customer experience. It’s a topic I have tackled for years on several media as it’s simply the backbone of your business.

Intelligent Information: Improving the Customer Experience” is not just the title of the paper but also of a keynote, John Mancini presented at the Global Directions conference, back in 2013. You can read more about it in the interview with John on the present and future of content management.

Back to the research, customer experiences, the context, how it’s all connected and why it matters so much. In an interview with digital marketing expert Jay Baer on being useful, I referred to Joseph Jaffe’s 2010 Customer Service Manifesto where Joseph looked at the extreme importance of service in the broad sense (not in the strict sense of solving customer issues).

Let me quote from it: “The old marketing adage is that a satisfied customer will tell 5-7 of their friends about their experience, whereas the dissatisfied customer will tell 15-20. Today, an unhappy customer will tell a million of their closest strangers“.

The research of AIIM, commissioned by Kodak Alaris Information Management, found that as a factor for future business success, improving customer experience is considered more important than transactional refinements.

However, look at these findings (I quote):

  • “Inbound channels are mostly not integrated between paper and electronic content, nor between different departments. In 26% of organizations, inbound content is likely to be fed to entirely manual processes.”
  • “The majority feel their speed of response to customers could generally be improved overall, and 30% feel their speed of response on paper documents, forms and faxes is “too slow” or “much too slow” (12%). Handwritten correspondence is the most challenging. Response to emails and web forms is generally better, although could be improved, as could Facebook and Twitter response.”
  • “50% of respondents have no integration between their systems. CRM and ERP are the likely first candidates for integration, especially in larger organizations, but only 11% have customer, transactional and content systems fully connected”.

The findings show there are still many gaps to close, in processes and systems, but certainly also in other areas, for organizations that want to move to genuine digital transformation projects and there is quite some digitization to do in many areas first.

Customer experience excellence as the basis

We know the reasons why it’s important to focus on customer service, and in general customer experiences:

  • More cost-effective and better ROI than acquisition.
  • The importance of word-of-mouth (among others, shorter sales cycles).
  • The sum of all touchpoints leading to the overall customer experience shapes the brand perception and trust.
  • Lower churn, more up-selling and cross-selling, you name it.
  • It’s just effective and good business and the numbers prove it.

Today’s connected and omni-channel or multi-channel consumer wants customer service his way and he expects consistency in his customer experiences. But he also wants more than excellent customer experiences. As a marketing manager recently told me: excellent customer service is just the basis of what we want to achieve, not the goal. Furthermore, the speed of response is essential and it needs to be improved. Respondents to the AIIM survey recognize that.

As I wrote before and as the research clearly indicates, there is a strong link between information management and customer service and customer experiences. One of the main challenges in customer service in the strict sense, for instance, is getting access to the right information fast (and to the proper processes). Another one is properly capturing and responding to social signals, customer request and so much more across all possible channels.

As opposed to what we might think this challenge of information management (and the actual activation of intelligent information) and integrating/connecting input from several channels is not just one of digital and social media.

While social customer service gets most of the attention these days, consumers still often use traditional media in their interactions with business, especially regarding service: email, telephone, fax, letters, etc.

Sure, the situation has changed but email is often found to remain the main channel people use to seek support and this has not changed since I wrote about it end 2009. In fact, the AIIM research found that the main channels/formats customers use to communicate with business are basic emails, followed by PDF files. Despite the importance of social customer service, Twitter, for instance is used far less than many believe (which doesn’t mean you should ignore it: right time, right place, right channel, remember?).

The report is filled with eye-opening data, showing the way we have yet to go but also the ways to get there. Of course, you don’t change processes or infrastructures overnight so it takes time to implement an integrated and intelligent information management connected with an integrated customer service approach/culture and the right systems/processes.

However, as Joseph Jaffe wrote back in 2010: customer service is the new marketing (and more). Looking at the impact of poor customer experiences and service on revenues the time to connect the service, information and customer dots is now. Digital transformation today is mainly about finding the sweet spots between customer value and thus optimizing customer experiences and business value in a truly connected way and transforming around the increasingly digital customer experience anyway.

Disclaimer: Kodak Alaris Information Management is an i-SCOOP customer.