Esteban Kolsky is the Principal and Founder of ThinkJar, an advisory and research think-tank focused on Customer Strategies. He has over 25 years of experience in customer service and CRM delivery, consulting, research, and advisory services. In this interview he speaks about customer service tools and strategies for businesses in order to make them more customer centric and develop better customer relationships.
Q: Can you tell us about the role of a Customer Strategist?
It depends on whom I am working with. At the core of it, I look at better ways for organizations to create strategies that will lead to customer centricity and better engagement with their customers. When I work with brands we focus on how to leverage technologies, concepts, and the latest lessons learned from the field to create and implement better strategies. When I am working with vendors we focus on how to use the same information to improve their products, their messaging, and create a better strategy to bring the product to market.
Q: What major changes have you seen in the customer service industry during the last two decades?
Nothing and everything. Nothing has changed, we are still about finding exceptions that happen during the delivery of service or use of a product and determine the best way to restore the situation to a normal state. Everything, because the major changes have been in technologies and solutions available that aid brands in finding the solution and delivering a better outcome faster.
“Customer service is what always was; we can do it better now.”
Q: What are the challenges being faced by modern business organizations today when adopting Omni-channel communication strategy?
First of all, I don’t believe that an omnichannel solution can be delivered – thus, I am going to focus on a cross-channel implementation where all channels deliver SIMILAR solutions, not the same, and where customers can hop from one channel to another without fear of losing track of the interaction or where they are. The biggest challenge is the lack of a consistent data model that allows organizations to focus their sights on a customer as they go from channel to channel. Customers don’t use a single channel – ever – for anything. They use multiple ones, and it is the organization’s responsibility to track that and manage it; without a single data model that tracks the necessary data and allows the organization to use it, this is impossible. This is part one of why omnichannel does not exist. The second part is the belief, and the second challenge they face, that all channels can serve to deliver all solutions. Each channel has certain characteristics and specific nuances that make it unique – all channels are not the same, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Q: What are some of the new tools that you think can help businesses enhance the customer experience?
The most important aspects of customer experience are to let the customer create their own experience, each time being different from the one before, and to ensure there are accurate solutions delivered as part of those experiences. Therefore, the most important tools are those that deal with information management to ensure the accuracy of the information exchanged, and the platforms that organizations are beginning to adopt to support their deployment as they are the basis for being allowed to create common experiences each time there is an interaction.
Q: How can small businesses with limited budgets deliver exceptional customer service and make their company more customer-centric?
The same as everyone else, it is not about the money. It is about focusing in learning the customer expectations, and about using all the resources at their disposal to deliver against them. Focus on the right answer, on the right place, and the right time and it is not a question of money or budget – it is a question of how those budgets are used to deliver on the expected outcomes.
Q: Can you suggest 3 innovative strategies for business in order to build more profitable customer relationships?
First, focus on outcomes not money or profit (customers spend more when they get what they want, companies spend less when they have happy customers). Second, listen to your customers always – they may not be right, the customer is not always right, but they know what they want and need and if you deliver against that you are on the road to making more money. Third, do what you say you will do and don’t worry about either outcomes or money – it is not counter to what I said before, it is a complement. If you do what you said you would do you are generating trust in your customers – nothing is more important to customer retention, upselling and cross-selling than trust. If you can generate trust, focus on outcomes, and listening to your customers you cannot help but make money.
About Esteban Kolsky
Esteban Kolsky is the Principal and Founder of ThinkJar with 25 years of experience. Most recently he spent eight years at Gartner, focused on Customer Service and CRM research and consulting. While there he coined the terms for EFM (enterprise feedback management) and CIH (customer interaction hub). In addition, he researched and wrote on the social networking topics that led to today’s revolution and assisted Fortune 500 and Global 2,000 organizations in all aspects of their contact center development – from vendor selection to strategies, including tactical implementations and optimizations. Mr. Kolsky is currently advising vendors and organizations on how to extend customer interactions from the CRM niche to the entire organization in their efforts to become Social and Collaborative Businesses.