Implement DevOps to Improve CX

There’s been a movement in IT during the past seven or so years to adopt a DevOps methodology; whereby, developers and operations are working together to deliver sound secure code and applications in a frequent and timely manner.

There’s been a movement in IT during the past seven or so years to adopt a DevOps methodology; whereby, developers and operations are working together to deliver sound secure code and applications in a frequent and timely manner. Companies have gone from releasing new code annually or semi-annually to continuously in order to meet customer needs. Software companies are focused on delivering a great user and customer experience (CX).

The success of DevOps got me to thinking, “Will the same methodology work for sales, marketing and customer service?”

The steps are straightforward and intuitive:

  1. Plan
  2. Create
  3. Verify
  4. Package
  5. Release
  6. Deploy
  7. Monitor

Let’s look at each step in the process and see how it might work for sales, marketing and customer service to improve customer experience.

  • Plan: Where every project needs to start. All three parts of the business need to sit down together and define the business problem they’re trying to solve. Given that 85 percent of companies think they’re delivering a good customer experience, while only 15 percent of customers believe the same indicates there’s a huge gap between perception and reality. Perhaps you need an NPS or customer satisfaction study to help everyone get on the same page about the problem(s) you need to solve to improve the customer experience you are providing.
  • Create: Here’s where you need to map the customer journey from initial consideration to installation and repurchase. You also need to know what the customer expectation and experience are at each of the stages of the customer journey. You can create a hypothetical customer journey by collecting the experiences and impressions of your team, as well as analyzing all of the data you have regarding awareness, attribution and survey results.
  • Verify: You need to validate the accuracy of your hypothetical customer journey map with your customers. Data can tell you a lot. Real customers can tell you a lot more. How accurate is your map? At what step in the customer journey are you meeting customer expectations, where are you exceeding them and where are you failing to deliver? Talk to customers to find out.
  • Package: After you’ve verified your customer journey map, it’s time to identify steps to take to improve the customer experience. You may identify a dozen or more opportunities; however, start small. Have sales, marketing and customer service each identify one thing they can add to or change in their current process to improve the customer experience. As you have success with those initiatives, and see the positive results, you can take on more initiatives.
  • Release: Start doing the three things you identified with a segment of your audience. Sales may be differentiating marketing-qualified leads from sales-qualified leads. Marketing may be providing more personalized, relevant information of value. While customer service may be using a 360-degree view of the customer so they already know what the customer’s issue is and are able to resolve it on the first call (or email or text).
  • Deploy: Once the release is complete and you know how the initiatives are performing, you can deploy the initiatives across your entire audience of customers and prospects.
  • Monitor: Perhaps the greatest return on the DevOps process is the speed at which the organization learning about how its applications are performing. Short feedback loops let the DevOps teams know how consumers are responding to their apps and their code and improvements can be made quickly and released back to the consumer who sees the continuous improvement. This can be a tremendous benefit for sales, marketing and customer service.

Sales sees productivity increase and sales cycles shorten as they focus their efforts on sales-qualified leads. Marketing sees greater open and click-through rates with more relevant communications. Customer service sees and hears happier customers who are getting their questions and problems resolved more quickly.

Now that these three initiatives have been implemented, you can tackle the other five, 10 or 20. Improving the customer experience is a never-ending journey, but one which differentiates your company from your competition, while generating more revenue, more repeat purchases and more customer equity.

Security Is Part of the Customer Experience in Marketing

As companies work to define an exceptional customer experience, my guess is few of them think about the security of the customer and their personally identifiable information (PII). While consumers are willing to trade privacy for convenience, is it incumbent upon application providers to provide secure apps.

As companies work to define an exceptional customer experience, my guess is few of them think about the security of the customer and their personally identifiable information (PII). While consumers are willing to trade privacy for convenience, is it incumbent upon application providers to provide secure apps.

When we buy a product or service from a manufacturer, we do so with the assumption that the product will solve a problem. But what if it creates one with unforeseen circumstances?

Seventy-seven percent of applications have known vulnerabilities. Based on my interviews with hundreds of IT executives, they are not surprised. Organizations put much more emphasis on getting apps to market and monetizing them than ensuring they are secure.

Developers are rewarded for releasing applications as quickly as possible, without regard for the security of the application. Until consumers start worrying about the security of the apps they use and foregoing those apps that do not value the privacy of their information, we can expect more egregious breaches of B2B and B2C data.

While it’s not pleasant to think about, caveat emptor. The emoji keyboard that pops up on your phone has a vulnerability. The key fob to your car is easily replicated to steal your car. Hundreds of mobile websites and apps leak PII.

What’s a consumer to do? Ask questions about how the items they are buying are being secured. By asking questions, we begin to let manufacturers and solutions providers know that security matters and will be part of our purchase decision.

We know 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. How many more are willing to pay for a better customer experience that’s also secure?

We’re in an ongoing battle with hackers to develop and deploy secure apps that protect our PII. It is incumbent upon us as consumers to hold suppliers accountable for the products and services we buy.

This goes for the security of our infrastructure, medical devices, as well as our cell phones. It’s a matter of making security part of the product requirements upfront and then employing security testing throughout the development process.

Deliver an Outstanding CX When Customers Aren’t Talking to You

Customers like self-service. This makes sense when you already have a relationship with a company and you’re just trying to execute a transaction as quickly and efficiently as possible. I do this with American Airlines, interacting with a kiosk to check in rather than an agent.

I just saw the headline, “Consumers Like Self-service More Than Associate Interaction, Reveals Survey.” The gist of the research is if consumers have a choice they’re more likely to tap self-service technology vs. interacting with a retail sales associate, according to a SOTI survey.

This makes sense when you already have a relationship with a company and you’re just trying to execute a transaction as quickly and efficiently as possible. I do this with American Airlines, interacting with a kiosk to check in rather than an agent. I use the self-check-out at Harris Teeter (a grocery store). And I use an app on my phone or an ATM more frequently than a teller at my bank. I also have more than a 20-year relationship with each of these brands.

If they don’t know me after 20 years, they aren’t listening. And, after 20 years, if I’m not pleased with an experience, I’ll let them know about it.

If I didn’t already have a relationship with the airline, the bank or the grocery store, I don’t think I’d trust their other distribution channels. I certainly wouldn’t be familiar with them, they’d be less convenient to use, and I likely would not use them — it would no longer be the most efficient way for me to do what I need to get done.

  • What are you doing to engage your customers and provide an outstanding customer experience?
  • Are you providing a product or service that addresses a problem or concern of your customer?
  • Do you make it easy for your customer to buy?

Do you, or your customer-facing employees, try to engage your customer in a conversation along these lines:

  • What’s driving you to buy our product?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Have you used our product before?
  • How’s our service?
  • What can we do to improve our product or service?

A lot has been written recently about how customers don’t want to have a relationship with a brand. However, a brand is not a person.

I believe customers do want to have a relationship with a representative of the brand. Someone with whom they can share a comment or suggestion and know that it will be heard and acted upon.

Typically, the people interacting with your customers are your employees.

Do you encourage your employees to engage customers in a conversation to learn more about their needs and wants? What they’re happy with and what can be improved?

Your customers probably don’t want to talk to you because you’ve shown no interest in talking to them. They may have no emotional connection to your brand and don’t care whether you succeed or not.

I have an 11-year relationship with Chipotle and fill out an online feedback form after every visit because I do have an emotional connection with the brand and I want to see it delivering an outstanding customer experience.

You may send a customer satisfaction survey or mine sales data, but have you, or your employees, had a conversation with the customer?

People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. People also don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them. This is done person-to-person, not by analyzing data. This is how you build an emotional connection between a customer and a brand.

This is a function of having empathy and being sincerely concerned about why the customer is buying your product vs. that of your competitors — B2B or B2C.

Customers want relationships with brands and product and service providers on their terms. They want to be able to talk with a real person with some knowledge and authority if they have a question, suggestion or complaint.

The customer wants what they want when they want it, and it’s up to the service provider to figure out what it is.

Empower employees to find out what your customers and prospects want to know and how they want to find out about it.

By finding out how different customers want to learn about your products and services, you’ll be able to differentiate and segment your customers; thereby, providing them with more relevant information of value.

You must provide your customers the options they want in order to keep them satisfied. If you don’t, they will find someone else who will. In order to understand your customers’ needs and wants, you need to have a relationship with them, so you’ll be able to fulfill their needs on an ongoing basis.

If customers don’t want to talk to you, it may be because they don’t have a need right now, or they’re pressed for time. However, they are not saying they never want to talk to you or give you feedback.

Don’t stop trying to have a relationship with your customers. Don’t stop trying to gather real customer insights. Be there for your customers when they’re ready to talk.  If you’re not, they’ll go to someone who is.

Use My Personal Data, But Don’t Offend Me

I’m fine with companies collecting my data; however, how about providing me something in return?

I’m fine with companies collecting my data; however, how about providing me something in return?

I’m a huge college football fan and watched most of the 41 bowl games that just wrapped up with Alabama beating Georgia in the second-best bowl game of the year, next to the Rose Bowl.

Nissan is a significant sponsor of college football. It runs commercials throughout the games and has spent a lot of money producing the humorous Heisman House series that appears before the kickoff of major games.

I noticed the addition of a five-second tag at the end of a few Nissan commercials, saying it was the official vehicle of “Duke Blue Devil” fans. I live in Raleigh, N.C. There are a lot more University of North Carolina (UNC), N.C. State University (NCSU), and East Carolina (ECU) alumni in Raleigh than Duke alumni.

I can only assume I was targeted to receive this tag with programmatic advertising because I have two degrees from Duke. You can pick this up from Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. However, if you look deeper at my profiles and posts, you’ll learn pretty quickly that I’m not a Duke fan, I’m a UNC fan because of Dean Smith — the person and the coach.

Instead of making me feel an affinity to Nissan, it alienated me. Over the past 15 years, I’ve owned three Nissans, but just replaced my last one with a Hyundai. When it’s time to replace the current Hyundai, if we’re still owning cars, I will remember Nissan’s mistake. Is it significant enough for me to not consider a Nissan? We’ll see.

The amount of data companies have access to in order to identify the needs, wants, likes and dislikes of consumers is huge. Granted, we’re in the infancy of using this data to improve marketing; however, companies must be smarter about how they are going to use this data.

How about this? Focus on providing information of value to make customers’ and prospects’ lives simpler and easier instead of trying to make an emotional connection which, in fact, offends. It’s much less risky to tell your story than it is to attempt to make an emotional connection based on big data, which is inherently impersonal.