Recently one of the analyst in my IDC group, Mary Wardley (VP Enterprise Apps, CRM and Customer Experience) published a case study on mid-market ERP vendor SYSPRO, and its laser focus on its customers. Customer experience (CX) gets a lot of air time these days, but for me, its still rare to find companies that have fully embraced the concept and daily execute on the strategy across its entire employee community. I've known the US management team at SYSPRO for quite a while, and have always been impressed with their ability to make a software company feel more like a family than a company. Still, until I talked with them about this case study, I'm not sure I realized just how much of a CX driven culture they had built.
Really executing on a CX strategy is not an easy, short term program. It's a fundamental shift in a company that manifests itself in the way your employees think and act. In other words, as I've said repeatedly, CX is not a technology, it's a strategy executed through a company culture that fosters specific types of employee behavior (manifest in business process and how those processes are executed) in relation to the company's customers. That's a mouthful but what I mean is that CX is a strategy, supported by a company culture that is manifest in employee behavior and in the design of business processes. There's technology underpinning of course, the technology is the means to execute the processes at scale.
An example would help understand what I'm talking about, and we'll look at SYSPRO but first, I want to make sure that it's clear what CX is from the customer view. Providing a positive customer experience is simply meeting customer expectations. That sounds simple, but unfortunately it's not. The problem is complex; how does a company know what experience actually meets each individual customer's expectations? Satisfaction occurs when experience overlaps expectations.
SYSPRO is a 30+ year old mid-market focused ERP vendor that builds / delivers solutions to the manufacturing and distribution industries. They also offer deeper functionality to medical device manufacturers, food and beverage industry, electronics and heavy machinery manufacturers. There is no shortage of competitors in this segment, and many of the competitors, like Oracle, SAP and Infor are giants in the software industry. So how does a $73M company compete effectively against companies that are orders of magnitude larger? CX creates the market differentiation and competitive advantage for SYSPRO. Now don't get me wrong, the products are very feature rich, with strong mobile, business intelligence, social and business process management capabilities in addition to the core feature set. Having good products is only part of the equation though, it's the culture of customer centricity that brings in new customers and keeps the current set of customers loyal.
SYSPRO is a company that is organized and focused on providing the best possible customer experience. This is not a new development that grew out of the current wave of CX, but a fundamental tenet of the company. Building a CX strategy requires a structure and culture that supports the desired employee behavior. In other words, you can't just "say" you're focused on the customer and expect that your employees will behave differently, you have to build the company around the strategy. At SYSPRO the company has built a pyramid style approach that they refer to as SYSPRO USA Einstein "simply smarter" messaging. For SYSPRO this is manifest through these principals:
- Lead from the top (CX excellence is the personal philosophy of the executive team)
- Infusion into corporate culture (with measurement and recognition)
- Instantiate product + CX into holistic go-to-market strategy
- Continuous customer feedback mechanisms, both direct and indirect (channel)
- Communicate to all 6 audiences (stakeholders) the desire to excel at CX
Principals are not enough though, action to back up the principals is necessary. To support its CX strategy SYSPRO:
- Created a customer experience handbook
- Created a stand alone CX department that reports directly to the SYSPRO USA President
- Set the company priority of "protecting the customer's investment and ROI"
- Set a 2nd priority of not only building a great CX but also maintaining the experience over the life of the relationship
- Build products that are focused on customer needs first, not on company profits
In addition to the principals and the processes, the company has the correct organizational structure, compensation structure and attitude of putting the customer's needs first. The employee that gets involved in a customer issue owns that issue until it's resolved or until someone else in the organization with the required skills takes over.
CX is more than a strategy, it has to be engrained in the company culture and employee actions. CX in action is a competitive advantage.