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Posted on July 9, 2013 by West Corporation 


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Warren Buffett’s Words of Wisdom Apply to Customer Experience Management

Many readers are aware that Warren Buffett, otherwise known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” is one of the most successful investors and wealthiest people in the world. Each year in early May, thousands of Buffett-worshippers make the pilgrimage to Omaha to the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting. They come to hear Buffett and his business partner, the effervescent Charlie Munger, talk about the global economy, stock markets, government and politics — and of course, to hear about the company’s progress.

There is little argument that Buffett is an investing icon. There are lots of reasons for his and Berkshire Hathaway’s success, including his uncanny ability to choose stocks at an affordable price, Berkshire’s strong yet relatively low-profile management team, their ability to capitalize on market uncertainties and their focus on investing in what they know.

Along the road to becoming the world’s most iconic investor, Warren Buffett has offered sage pieces of advice for investors, which many continue to live by and treat almost like a religion.

Although much of Buffett’s advice and one-liners are tightly focused on investing, many of his most famous quotes are also applicable in other areas of business or life, including customer relationship management (CRM) or customer experience management.

So, with that in mind, I’ve uncovered three of Buffett’s quotes and taken the liberty of relating them to the world of CRM and customer engagement management.

“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.”
This is a timeless quote from the Oracle of Omaha that is so relevant to CRM. It used to be that companies that provided adequate products and mediocre customer service could succeed in the market and maintain or grow their competitive position. This is how the U.S. auto manufacturers operated for many years, until the Japanese and Korean car companies (Honda, Lexus, Hyundai, etc.), landed in the U.S. market with superior products and great service/brand experience.

It’s also how some large PC manufacturers dominated their industry until Apple came along with better products, better service and a superior customer experience.

And there are lots of additional examples like this where industries and companies sat on their laurels while new competitors more focused on quality and customer experience sneaked in and took market share and customers.

The key point here is that today’s consumers are more demanding than ever before. Just because a consumer likes your product and service doesn’t mean they will buy it, buy it from you or remain loyal.

Consumers today expect top-notch products and personalized, superior service and experience, in order to do business with and stay loyal to a company.

Food for thought: What’s special about your company’s product or service, that will encourage consumers to buy from you and stay loyal in the future?

“There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.”
We all can relate to this Buffet quote, because it reminds us of how some companies treat us every day. They make things harder and more cumbersome than they have to be, including difficult-to-navigate websites, confusing IVR applications when we call, and the like. Many times this isn’t intentional. Well-meaning product and customer service teams often have to accommodate new products, features and services with yet more Web pages and IVR options that nobody ever takes the time to review from a customer experience perspective.

There’s no perfect solution to this ongoing challenge, but one way to keep things simple for customers is to conduct regular usability audits of your website and IVR systems. Conduct focus groups and usability studies, and, perhaps most importantly, try using your own website or IVR system. Often, that’s the best way to edit out or clarify content, to make things simpler for customers who interact with you. As the old saying goes, sometimes less is more.

Resist the temptation to unwittingly make things more complicated and difficult for your customers. Instead, try making difficult things easy for your customers. They’ll be delighted you did so, and will be more likely to remain loyal to your company or product.

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars; I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”
This quote has a high degree of relevance in the customer service/CRM context.

Case in point: Sometimes, companies think the only way to improve customer service and loyalty, and differentiate themselves from competitors, is to leverage the latest, greatest hot technology (the 7-foot bar) that they hope is a panacea to all of their problems, as opposed to making incremental improvements (the 1-foot bars) in processes, products and customer service.

I’m sure every reader of this blog can think of a company or two that has rolled out new, allegedly revolutionary technologies or applications, hoping that they could rocket their customer service and Net Promoter Scores through the roof overnight — only to find that the technology or application has little, and even sometimes negative impact.

While it’s true that if researched and implemented well, these game-changing technologies and applications (7-foot bars) can improve customer service, it’s also true that that bringing continuous, incremental improvements to a company’s current systems (1-foot bars, e.g. IVR, website, outbound notifications, contact center workforce management/optimization) and other current systems that it knows and understands well, can likely bring the same or better results, often with less risk.

Food for thought: What are some 1-foot bars that you can step over today that will make it easier and more enjoyable for your customers to do business with you?

I am sure these aren’t the only Buffett quotes that apply to CRM. If you find more that you think might apply even better, I encourage you to reply to this blog post and share them with us.



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