The difference between enterprise and mid-size customer experience

Profile picture for user barb.mosher By Barb Mosher Zinck September 8, 2015
Summary:
Is customer experience different for mid-size companies? Yes and no. Barb Mosher Zinck weighs expert views - and the limitations of technology.

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Gartner’s recent report on the top web content management vendors made an interesting point. It noted that some of the leading enterprise-focused WCM/CXM vendors didn’t have a good mid-market CXM (customer experience management) offering.

It begs the question - can a CXM technology vendor support the needs of both the enterprise and the mid-market with a single offering? Is CXM even the same for enterprise and mid-market?

Customer experience isn’t a tech play

Before you answer, let’s lay it out clearly - customer experience management is not about technology. As Christine Crandell, an author, blogger, advisor and speaker on B2B customer success explained to me:

Being a customer aligned company is about deeply understanding customers’ target outcomes, motivations, emotion evokes, and actions followed by defining company strategy, workflow/policies, and culture to customer interaction expectations. Technology’s role is to institutionalize these changes. Technology in and of itself cannot deliver an optimized customer experience.

Julie Hunt, a B2B consultant and analyst for vendors and buyers, agrees noting:

It seems that companies get too snarled up in the technologies and forget the whole point is doing the right thing for customers. That is as much culture and mindset, as it is a technology challenge.

If we agree that CX is not a tech strategy and set aside for a minute the role technology plays, then the next question becomes - is CX the same regardless of the size of the organization? That question is a bit harder to answer.

Customer experience is about the customer

At the heart of customer experience is the ability to understand the customer. Hunt said it’s about understanding how customers behave as researchers and buyers of products, what they want from organizations, and how products and services help their businesses or their lives. Hunt accentuates “theirs” because all too often organizations think it’s about the products and services, not about how customers use those products and services. This is true whether your org is B2B or B2C, small, mid-sized or large. This part of the story does not differ.

Where the story does differ is how CX strategies are devised and implemented, and this, Crandell says is related to the complexity and resource requirements that come with scale.

Crandell points out that mid-market organizations may find it easier to align their organization's people, process, strategy and technologies to the customer because they are smaller. They have fewer customers, employees, and process flows aren’t as sophisticated (or complicated). Mid-market orgs can be agiler, and that makes it easier to get their heads (and their strategies) customer aligned.

Enterprise organizations can still be customer focused. They obviously have more resources to make it happen in terms of people, money and expertise; it’s maybe more of a question of choosing to use them appropriately.

There are other issues to consider that potentially affect all organizations. Lack of internal expertise is one, says Crandell. As is the expectation that “CX is only about driving revenue, a focus on the quick fix and the lack of understanding that cx is as much as part of business and strategy planning as setting quarterly revenue, EBITDA and market share is.”

We’re still not seeing most business schools teach customer experience; there’s no emphasis on how an organization and its strategy must align to the customer. Crandell also notes that change management is not typically a strength for companies, so putting in place the strategy and associated resources and process takes a lot more work than some organizations are prepared to do.

This rings true for most. In the Tempkin Group’s The State of the CX Management, 2015, most orgs surveyed are still in very early stages (which are called the “fluff” stages):

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From Temkin Group's State of the CX Management Report, 2015

The thing that Crandell points out, and that others have as well, is that a seller is obsessed with their products and services. This is how sellers look at the world and how they base their strategy. But customers don’t think in terms of products and services. In fact, says Crandell, the product only makes up about 50% of a customer’s value definition. The other 50% comprises everything before and after the product is purchased: services, support (information, training, access to experts, etc.) and the input of other customers. It’s the entire lifecycle experience.

“The collective ‘we’ have also over complicated it. It’s not hard to understand, nor is it hard to do. The key is a methodology of a series of logical building block baby steps.” This is true regardless of your organization size.

Technology’s role in customer experience

Technology does have a role to play; it’s a key element in how customer experience strategies get implemented. But it’s a supporting role.

Exactly what technology and how to use it can depend on the organization’s size. Hunt works with a number of vendors and what she’s found is that there is no one “mid-market”. Hunt segments the mid-market into five tiers based on revenues, and she says that each tier has different needs and target different customers. They also use different technology.

So it’s not simple to say one technology meets the needs of all organizations regardless of size. Price plays an important role in the decision, but so does the capabilities of the tech, and the ability to manage and support it over time. Hunt:

It may be that mid-sized orgs should avoid comprehensive platforms and should focus on certain point solutions that are just what they need. The case can be made for either approach, and it really depends on the needs and resources of each org.

With different technology needs, can one vendor support both markets? Hunt says that enterprise software vendors often simply provide “scaled-down versions of their enterprise solutions, but this doesn’t recognize the different needs, resources and variability of mid-sized organizations." For this to work well, Hunts believes the vendor would need to be large enough to have dedicated business units for each market it wants to reach. She also believes that cloud-based technologies might bring more sophisticated technologies to the mid-market tiers at a reasonable price point.

Looking at it the other way, smaller vendors may not have the sophisticated capabilities larger enterprise need such as advanced data analytics, dynamic marketing automation, and digital marketing processes and more.

Getting to the heart of customer experience

Crandell says that technology is only as good as the strategy and data. It’s in those two areas where the challenges are the hardest to overcome.

She says that strategy isn’t purely digital (as many software vendors like to market). CX strategy is the entire experience, the consistency and quality of both the digital and the physical experience that determines brand preference and loyalty:

When companies approach customer experience holistically, from the viewpoint of strategy, they understand all the attributes that factor into the customer experience. And, importantly, are able to intelligently balance market share growth with customer loyalty. Using technology to institutionalize new behaviors, values and process is what the leaders do to realize 20%+ increase in annual revenue without product changes, additional employees, etc.

Final thoughts

Something that Crandell said struck out to me. She said that many companies bought into the promise of CXM and the idea that technology is the answer. Now they are coming to the reality that customer experience is so much more, and as they build the right strategy around the customer, they are making hard decisions on what tech stays and what goes.

It’s very easy to be swayed by tech vendors, regardless of your org’s size. It’s kind of that “one ring to rule them all” idea (we’ll never stop using that phrase from Lord of the Rings!). For some, one CX platform might be all that’s required because it fulfills the technical requirements for right now and the near future.

There’s no rush to buy technology that offers more than you are ready to use. Get your CX strategy in hand. Know your customer, map their complete journey and focus on that alone. Pick the best technology to support that strategy and be prepared to throw-away, upgrade or add-on as your strategy changes and matures.

The right answer is elusive. The best answer at the time is the best you can hope for.

Image credits: Screen shot from Temkin's State of the CX Management Report, 2015. Feature image - Office emotion © Kenishirotie - Fotolia.com.