Note: Today’s guest post is the final in a three-part series provided by Esteban Kolsky, founder of ThinkJar, a research consultancy focused on customer strategy and CRM solutions. The first two posts in the series can be found here and here. InsideView is a client and we have sponsored Esteban’s research on this topic.

We are rounding up this series with the explanation of the outcomes. As you remember, if you were following along, my friends at InsideView graciously decided to sponsor a portion of my research into customer interactions. I have presented the results in the previous two posts, here and here.

I want to take the time now to explore what each outcome means and how it generates value to the customer and the organizations.

As we discussed previously, the world has changed and the customer has changed. This also led to changing customer/organization interactions from a single-purpose, move-to-the-next-stage lifecycle to a continuum where each interaction mattered for more than one purpose, and the goal changed to outcomes. This shift led to new, customer-centric outcomes as explained and shown in the previous post.

The most interesting part of the outcomes explained in that chart is what underlies everything – and what is explicitly assumed in it: there is nothing that functions in this interaction without information as the backbone. And to make sure we are on the same page, we define information as the combination of content, data, and knowledge that is generated from structured and unstructured data.

Let’s look at the outcomes in more detail:

  1. Intent – intent is the reason why the customer entered the interaction in the first place. It’s the real reason they need a responses, an answer or a piece of information. The intent is derived, by the brand, by looking at the information surrounding the customer at the moment they start the interaction: where they came from, what they were doing, what searches and other information they sought, what else they’ve been doing lately, and what other information we have on them.
  2. Satisfaction – while commonly we associate satisfaction with surveys and asking the customer their thoughts post-interaction, digitalization has given us more accurate, faster predictors of satisfaction – if we know where to look. In addition to the information we collect to determine intent, we must also collect and analyze the follow-through information from the customer. Where did they go, what they did, what they said, what they sought – these are clues that talk to their satisfaction with the interaction. Yes, we can still conduct surveys to determine that, but there are far more accurate (and faster) ways to do it by simply following the information trail.
  3. Insights – when we first started to work on social networks and online communities we said that the purpose of the exchanges was to generate actionable insights: knowledge about what to do next, and how, based on the interaction and other information collected. While we learned since then that actionable insights are still a little into the future, the insights are not. The outcome of any interaction must be to know more, and better, about customers, products, services, performance, needs, wants and expectations at the very least. Depending on the situation, maybe more, but these goals will yield valuable insights into customers, products, and processes for improvement as the relationship grows over time.
  4. Resolution – the outcome of resolution is what we seek at the end of the day; it is not just about making sure the customer got the answer and they were satisfied, but it is also about making sure that what we learned, as a brand, about processes and products has been implemented and improved. If the customer, for example, came to the brand as the result of a failed process, the brand must document the failure and implement the necessary steps to fix it so it won’t occur again. That is resolution: solving the root cause of the problems while meeting expectations of value for both parties.
  5. Engagement – the ultimate outcome for any and all customer interactions, over the long run, is that the focus on the previous four outcomes will generate engagement. It is not a goal, it is something that happens as a result of meeting expectations, learning about the customers, improving the interactions, and focusing more and more on exchanging value at each interaction. With the goal of co-creating value at each interaction, the resulting information and the outcomes that come from generating it and processing it are what determine over the long run whether engagement between the customer and the brand can occur.

These outcomes, in turn, will force organizations to change the way they work, the processes they utilize, the way they leverage their systems, but more importantly how they manage the information triumvirate (data, content, and knowledge) to seek engagement over the last run with customers.

And remember, as we have been saying throughout the series: engagement is the ultimate outcome for these interactions; information is the backbone on which engagement is built.

This concludes the series. What do you think?

Whether you have been following along or just reading this entry I’d love to hear your thoughts and your experiences. Drop me a line, or let me know what you think via email, or on twitter, or wherever you happen to be (except Facebook; I have trust issue – see what I did there? Never mind.).

Disclaimer: InsideView is a client and they have generously sponsored this research. This research was conducted as part of my sponsored research model, where kind and generous clients pay me to do research I needed to do anyways and in exchange they get to use the content and their name associated with it. If you know me, and my work, you know this research is continuation of work I’ve done in the past few years – and that no one, even sponsors, get a saying in editorial control or content. In other words, they kindly sponsored me to write what I find out there.

About the author

Esteban Kolsky has over 25 years experience in customer strategy and CRM solutions. Prior to founding his consultancy, ThinkJar, Esteban spent eight years as a Gartner analyst. Esteban is an industry speaker who has presented in more than 15 countries, and has engaged in literally thousands of customer conversations that, combined, give him a solid perspective to align research with real world positions. Esteban was also previously named by CRM Magazine as an “Influential Leader.”