CompTIA: The Urgency of Good Customer Experience Grows

The quality of the customer experience (CX) trumps product and price.

Lynn Haber

August 2, 2019

5 Min Read
Customer Experience

If customer experience (CX) is a top competitive differentiator for channel businesses, as it is across all industries, then partners have a lot of work to do.

The good news is that some IT firms are figuring out how to improve CX from initial recruitment of a customer through the sales process, technical and business support, and renewal. And it’s not too late for all channel firms to begin executing a CX strategy. That’s according to new research – Customer Experience Trends in the Channel – from CompTIA.

What’s clear in the CompTIA report is the urgency of CX. Today, 89% of companies in the overall economy say they primarily compete on the basis of the customer experience they provide, and less so on product and price. It’s becoming a customer’s market, which is driving new rules for engagement. The CompTIA study consisted of an online survey or more than 400 U.S. IT businesses in April and May.


CompTIA’s Carolyn April

“I think partners are early in the learning curve now. The awareness is happening, but whether there’s action taking place at a substantive level is yet to be seen,” Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis at CompTIA, and report author, told Channel Partners.

The three key points of the report are: Customer support is just one element of a CX strategy; metrics matter; and an omnichannel approach is where the channel is headed.

“The buyer’s journey isn’t a linear experience anymore; it doesn’t start at A and end at Z. It can move all over the map,” said April.

So is how different customers want to engage. The bar is much higher today for the customer service that they’re demanding.

“As a result, it is the quality of the customer experience, or the perception of that quality, that often sways whether clients stick with or ditch a brand,” according to the report.

Partner respondents said that when it comes to customer activities they’re engaged in today, technical support was where they said they’re doing the best job (49%). They also gave high marks for how they’re handling business-related support for customer issues such as billing, contracts and so on (46%).

At the other end of the spectrum, 18% of partner respondents said they weren’t doing well in their customer recruitment and business development efforts; and 16% expressed concern about renewal and client retention.

The report contends that a lack of staffing, lack of formal processes and insufficient training in the required areas, particularly in small IT firms, explain the deficiencies.

When it comes to improving the customer experience, businesses need to take a hard look at what they’re doing right, wrong or not at all. For that, the research looks at channel companies and what they’re doing in the way of self-assessments and having processes in place.

The vast majority of channel firms, the report says, have at least some degree of formalization in place for basic business actions to take place, as part of customer relationship management (CRM). Survey respondents have the most formalized processes in place for the activities they gave themselves the highest grades in — technical support and business-related support. In fact, 75% of respondents report these processes as being effective or very effective.

The remaining one-quarter of respondents who reported little to no formalization of customer-related business activities gave their top three reasons as: lack of staff to focus on process (56%), being too busy running the day-to-day business (47%), and insufficient resources/costs being too high (43%).

As customers require new ways for interacting with the companies they do business with, IT providers are taking notice. Two-thirds of respondents said …

… they’re making changes to their approach toward client engagement and support — 46% are making minor changes while 19% are making major changes; and about three in 10 are considering doing so.

The types of changes they’re making vary: retraining technical and sales staff on newer kinds of communication tools and techniques (43%); introducing a multidevice approach to serve customers regardless of their point of entry — laptop, mobile device, desktop, kiosk and so on (41%); and redesigning their websites to include emerging technology such as AI, chat bots and video (37%). Other changes are more human resource-intensive such as hiring dedicated customer service reps (33%), or marketing and/or social media professionals (31%).

Go-to-market strategies involving how companies communicate, interact and engage with their customers is vital to CX success, with an omnichannel approach critical. An omnichannel approach offers customers a variety of engagement options from in-store experience to traditional e-commerce to online customization of products and services. It enables purchasing options via chat, video chat, email, social media and other platforms. Communications are transferable across multiple devices, including in the midst of a transaction.

Close to one-third of survey respondents have moved toward an omnichannel approach in the last year. The same number of respondents are taking a hybrid (more traditional but morphing toward omnichannel) approach to customer interactions, while more than one-third of respondents are engaging customers traditionally — or one primary vehicle or method.

Again, it’s the smaller IT firms that continue to stick with the traditional marketing approach.

The saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know” matters when it comes to CX and metrics.

“Metrics, like process formalization, are the only quantifiable way to accurately assess the job your firm is doing with customers,” said the report’s author.

Survey respondents are using a variety of tools and tactics for measuring CX, with the annual customer satisfaction survey topping the list (40%). That’s followed by: retention metrics/renewal rates (38%), engagement time with individual customers (37%), online customer reviews/customer referrals (35%), post-customer support survey results (34%), quarterly business reviews (32%), data analytics applied to each customer (27%), and results of timed response/resolution rates (22%).

“Partners need to put measurement metrics in place, not just a customer satisfaction survey once a year, but also other forms of feedback to make sure what you’re doing resonates with customers,” said April. “Your customers don’t call you to say they’re leaving you. They just leave.”

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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