Ben Vloon from Crowd and Company tells
INTERVIEW WITH: BEN VLOON, FOUNDER AND CO-OWNER OF CROWD AND COMPANY
Ben Vloon is founder and co-owner of Crowd and Company. Prior to this, Ben has always worked on the business development and marketing side and almost always at international organizations selling complex technology. Crowd and Company. was started 10 years ago and focuses primarily on bringing together organizational promise and customer experience. We spoke to Ben about digital transformation and the acceleration needed within companies to improve customer experience.
Ben: ‘By becoming more aware of customer processes as a customer, I became aware of how companies actually are in the game. That interested me. Is that what organizations promise also how the customer experiences it? If those two things don’t match, you get angry faces. ‘I had ordered something else or expected a different service’ are statements you don’t want to hear from your customers, and those are the decent versions. Or customers who drop out. Voting with their wallet. Bringing together that promise and experience is what I am constantly striving for.
Mission, people, brand and added value
‘Customer value for the client must be balanced with the organization’s bottom line. You can build entire spreadsheets on that. But it’s mainly about four components that you need to have in focus as an organization: mission, people, brand and added value. That’s where it starts. You have to have them so sharp that every member of your management team writes down the same thing when I ask them what their mission is. If the management team writes down eight different missions, then the team they manage also has eight different perceptions of what the company does. This translates directly to the customer experience.’
“Companies promise more than a customer experiences. When it comes right down to it, reality sometimes deviates.”
FAQs are band-aids for customer processes that are broken
We think the biggest evidence that there are things that are not right in the interaction between customers and organizations is the FAQ. The ‘frequently asked questions’. If customers are always asking the same questions… where is the responsibility to do something with them? To improve something? Right. With the organization. If customers are always asking questions about the same item on the invoice… then you make sure the invoice gets better.
FAQs, in my view, are band-aids for processes that are broken. Making an FAQ obsolete should be a goal. Everything you do as an organization should be so good and clear that there is no longer such a need.
Therein lies the challenge. Continuous improvement. Every day.
Why is it still difficult for organizations to meet that customer expectation? It’s never because of the customer. It is always an organizational issue. No clear policy, unrealistic objectives, overfull project agendas, no space for employees in the improvement process or not even an improvement culture. This forms the basis of behavior that ultimately hurts the customer. With a bit of solid marketing and communication, you can put a spin on it, but those are expensive band-aids. Everything we do at home we often don’t do at work. Take that as a starting point. It’s a great start.
Looking in a different way at how your customers want to be helped
The mission, people, brand and added value should be taken into account when designing your customer journey and the communication within that customer journey. Your digital interaction with customers is crucial for a good customer experience. I see this as an important tool that is becoming more important for an ever-growing (or growing) group of people. Take this example: a lot of things I’m not going to teach my parents anymore. But a lot of things I’m not going to unlearn from my children. The people I’m about to serve as an organization won’t want to speak to me on the phone at all. So you will have to look in a completely different way at how they want to be helped and you have to prepare for that now.
Three notable trends in digital customer interaction
I see several trends in this. Think for example of the shift to more and more images and short messages instead of very complex texts. You can increasingly see the influence of social media on various communication styles in the field of digital customer interaction. The letter of the past with lots of text is being replaced by high-quality UX in the form of moving or still images and short understandable texts.
But I also see, for example, that the medium is still sometimes confused with the use of the medium. Older people with an iPad, for example, are not necessarily digitally proficient. They use the medium in a different way than people in their thirties. And very slowly that shifts. Unconscious ignorance of use slowly becomes conscious ability of use. My parents use digital technology passively (things come to them), where people in their thirties use digital technology interactively and context sensitively. Communication consumption shifts with age groups. You have to keep a close eye on that distinction, because it is constantly shifting.
The trend that I also notice is that more and more people are less able to read comprehensively. The level of literacy is not exactly increasing. Low literacy is a fact of life for 2 million people. That’s a lot of people. We as companies are not going to solve that problem. But we can help them within the context of a story, a quest or the desire to get something done. By looking at customer interaction in a different way, we can explain things very differently to a specific group.
Partnership pure and simple
The core of what I’m saying? It’s about being aware of your customers’ “job to be done” and taking action on it. The combination of the right technology for digital customer interaction and the front end – the vision and strategy development – is the magic. That is the core.
And how do you get this done? That’s where Dialog Group and we at Crowd and CO. find each other again and again. Dialog Group’s technology fully supports this. And in that collaboration, it is always about wanting to deliver the best to the customer under the motto ‘the right customer value at the table at the right time’.
Does the challenge lie on strategy and vision development first and technology second? No problem. It’s never about burning out hours, but always about fulfilling the customer’s needs. Where are the customer’s needs and do we have the right offer at the right time? Clarity for the customer, and very pleasant collaboration for us. That is partnership pure and simple.
Founder and Co-owner
of Crowd and Company
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