Interview with Ryan Hollenbeck, SVP Marketing, Verint Systems: Customer Engagement Strategy
I’ve been hearing a new topic bubbling up from TSIA members: creating a customer engagement strategy. Common in the consumer world, B2B companies are putting more emphasis on defining and measuring customer engagement now that more interaction channels are being embraced, and proactive strategies to boost customer adoption and consumption of technology are being developed by more tech companies. A customer engagement strategy includes which channels of support are offered, staffing for all channels to guarantee service levels, tools to deliver multichannel support, and technology to measure and analyze customer satisfaction, loyalty and sentiment.
To discuss customer engagement strategies, I tapped an expert on the topic: Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Verint Systems. Ryan has been in the customer support technology space as long as I have, and he is a member of TSIA’s partner advisory board. Here is a snapshot of our conversation:
John Ragsdale: Hi Ryan! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today about customer engagement strategies.
Ryan Hollenbeck: Always a pleasure, John, and thanks for discussing this important topic with me.
John: I’ve heard B2C companies talking about ‘customer engagement strategies’ for a while, but it is fairly new with B2B companies. Are you hearing this topic bubble up within more of your customer base? I know you have a good mix of B2B and B2C companies as customers.
Ryan: Absolutely! In fact, customer engagement is a top consideration for our customers worldwide. Many of our customers are thinking of customer engagement as something that goes beyond managing the experience at touch points to include all the ways companies motivate customers to invest in an ongoing relationship – a lifelong customer journey of sorts! The entire enterprise needs to align with the C-Suite on the vision for engagement: what relationship do you want with your customers? Organizations need to think about different customer journeys and then tailoring experiences along the way by providing relevant context, as well as empowering customers to tailor their own experiences.
John: It seems that Verint Systems is uniquely positioned to be a leader in customer engagement. You offer resource management and scheduling tools, case management, multichannel service, knowledge management, as well as a survey platform and voice and text analysis. I can’t think of any other vendors who offer such a “soup to nuts” approach to planning, delivering and measuring customer engagement.
Ryan: Verint offers a unique Customer Engagement Optimization platform that enables organizations to enrich interactions, improve processes and optimize the workforce. With the combination of Verint and KANA solutions, “smarter engagement” – where you can capture and manage cross-functional information and behavior around customer interactions and workforce performance across delivery channels – is readily available. Organizations can then inject intelligence to uncover trends and discover why certain employee and customer behavior is occurring. These organizations can then manage interactions seamlessly across channels and use guided business processes and recommended dialogues to deliver fast, precise, personalized service – from next best action, to next best offer.
John: I’d like to pose some of the FAQs regarding customer engagement I’ve received to get your input. The first question is “Who owns the strategy?” In consumer firms it seems marketing largely owns engagement strategy, but in the B2B world, service seems more of a driver. Do you see advantages to service or marketing driving this initiative, or should it be a collaborative effort?
Ryan: Service is the new marketing! It’s actually a collaborative effort across services, marketing and other enterprise functions. Organizations can analyze customer and employee experience data in real-time to design and implement customer-centric business strategies that unite the organization across people and processes. As a result, they have better alignment across the organization and can move much more quickly to take precise action to deliver differentiated and personalized experiences that count. This improved alignment leads to more engaged employees who are spurred on by solutions that capture and manage information about customers and performance, then use it to predict measurable, sustainable business results.
John: Another FAQ is the role of social media in customer engagement. According to my just released 2015 social support survey, less than half of tech firms, 40%, are supporting customers via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. But two-thirds of tech firms, 63%, are monitoring social media conversations as part of voice of the customer analysis. Are you seeing best practices emerge around social support?
Ryan: Social media is here to stay and we all need to get on board! Social support it’s critical to any organization today. If you don’t have a social media monitoring ad text analytics solution, now is the time. With access to a growing social media warehouse and additional online content, organizations can use Text Analytics to expand its understanding of customers and markets outside of standard feedback channels. These tools provide key insight into what customers are saying about your company—and your competitor’s products and services—no matter where they say it. Text Analytics provides out-of-the-box integration with major social media outlets and business intelligence tools. Social media support is here to stay.
John: A final FAQ I’d like to ask you about is how to best gather customer feedback. Many companies seem to rely solely on post-interaction surveys and a one or twice a year overall satisfaction survey. In my opinion, this is a good start, but is not nearly enough. Could you talk about some innovative approaches you are seeing to harnessing the voice of the customer?
Ryan: We agree that surveys are critical and post-interaction surveys provide valuable insight! And yet there are so many other means to gather the voice of the customer. For example, in addition to highly segmented customer and employee feedback across channels, forward-thinking organizations are also evaluating Social Media to gain deep insight from Twitter, Facebook, and social media monitoring services. They are also looking to analyze Website Visits by extracting information from virtually any website to obtain visibility into visitor experiences and overall site effectiveness. Further, many organizations are seeking to collaborate with Online Communities to construct vibrant, healthy online communities that can synchronize feedback efforts while augmenting customer engagement. Last but not least, let’s not forget the importance of the ability to mine Customer Calls, which can help uncover call drivers, determine customer emotion, identify emerging issues and trends, and measure customer sentiment about products and brand.
John: This has been a very enlightening conversation! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.
Ryan: Thanks, John! We appreciate all of the work that TSIA does to measure and analyze trends in customer engagement models that increase customer consumption and optimize customer lifetime value!