Tech Focus Improves Customer Experience

Companies use a variety of technologies and strategies to enhance the customer experience.
Companies use a variety of technologies and strategies to enhance the customer experience. Improving call centers, automating the sales force, and integrating customer-relationship-management and back-office applications such as billing are helping companies achieve increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. While marketing and IT budgets remain tight heading into the final quarter of 2005, companies hope to win new customers and encourage existing ones to spend more in the coming months.

Customer Approach, bar chartAccording to a recent survey conducted by Optimize Research of 200 business-technology professionals responsible for their companies' CRM decisions, half of the respondents say their approach is to retain existing customers while winning new accounts. One-third report that their focus is on customer retention, and 16% are setting their sights on new customers to meet revenue goals.

On average, 27% of IT budgets are spent on customer-related technologies. Online sales continue to grow, with companies estimating an average of 17% of annual sales from the Web. Two- thirds of respondents expect online sales to rise in 2006, and three-quarters say their companies are using the Web differently than two years ago, with half encouraging customers to use the Web instead of contacting their call centers.

Nine out of 10 professionals surveyed expect to spend about the same or more on IT to improve the customer experience this year. Forty percent of respondents say their companies will devote far more time and money to customer-relation strategy issues and IT strategies this year.

IT departments are taking the lead in developing ideas for using technology to improve the customer's experience. Marketing also contributes and works closely with tech groups to execute ideas. Some companies, turn to customers for suggestions as a third of sites resort to market research and focus groups to determine how best to use technology to improve the experiences of customers.

How is your company working to improve customer satisfaction and win customer loyalty?

Lisa Smith
Managing Editor, Research
[email protected]

In TouchIn Touch
How important is it for members of your IT group to meet with your company's customers?

Technology professionals are increasingly influencing CRM processes, and this is driving many companies to encourage their tech personnel to spend time with customers. Seventy percent of surveyed companies have IT meet directly with customers to better understand how they're interacting with technologies. Nearly 30% of sites conduct these meetings monthly or more frequently. Customer contact is creating a feedback loop for IT initiatives.

Customer SuccessesCustomer Successes
What has your company achieved with its CRM initiatives?

Constantly evaluating customer initiatives provides obvious benefits. It can help companies better meet customer demand and create or maintain competitive advantages. In some instances, CRM initiatives can lead to greater personalization of product offerings. One-fifth of companies are able to segment higher-value customers and address their specific demands because of their customer-management efforts.

Taking StockTaking Stock
How does your company measure the success of its customer-relationship strategies?

Measuring the effectiveness of customer initiatives is critical. Four in five companies measure the success of customer-relationship strategies, according to the Optimize survey results. Nearly half report some sort of measurement on a monthly basis or more frequently. While some companies automate the customer experience in the hopes of reducing costs or shortening cycle times, fewer companies use these metrics when evaluating the viability of customer initiatives.

Positive ChangePositive Change
How has your CRM strategy impacted customer satisfaction in the last 12 months?

The controversy surrounding outsourcing parts of customer management, including customer service, still is raging. It appears that outsourcing is having an impact on customer satisfaction. Of companies that use outsourcers to handle customer-related processes, more than a third report increases in customer satisfaction, and more than half have seen satisfaction remain stable. Only 6% of these companies experienced a decline in customer satisfaction.

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