To improve the customer Experience, it is necessary to set up a customer Relationship strategy. But how to position the customer at the heart of the company’s strategy, to focus on the key moments of his experience, to leverage his demands, and identify the best employees to drive such a project ? Here are some keys to achieving your customer Relationship goals.

Differentiating between the customer Relationship and the customer Experience

Although the customer is the common and central element of the customer Relationship and the customer Experience, these two notions are in fact quite distinct. The customer Relationship refers to all exchanges between a company and its customers, across all channels, and via all existing methods of communication. Thus, to respond to a customer issue, the company will implement a set of measures, without necessarily taking into account the overall customer journey.

As for the customer Experience, this is the effect of customer Relationship on the consumer; that’s to say, the whole range of emotions and feelings felt by a customer during his or her purchasing journey. As Frédéric Lobermann, BtoC Customer Experience Marketing Director at Orange, explains at the ADETEM Customer Relationship Conference on 26th June 2017, “In a strategy of customer satisfaction, the customer Experience Department involves those employees who are in contact with the customer, whereas the customer Relationship is everywhere, in all departments and processes of the company, from the executive committee to the customer advisor. The customer Relationship is that which the company does for the benefit of its customers, whereas the customer Experience is that which the customer lives and feels during an interaction with the company”.  This is the heart of the matter. To move from the customer relationship to the customer experience, the company must comprehend what the customer perceives, and become “customer centric”.

Company strategy and customer centricity 

For the past 18 months, at IKEA we have been talking about the Customer Experience. As highlighted by Martial Le Hiress, Director of Services and Customer Relations, “The customer Relationship must be at the service of the customer Experience. We must start from our customers’ expectations in order to offer them an appropriate service, with the goal of improving satisfaction”.   QED!   To accomplish this, IKEA has implemented several measures: a survey of 600 customers throughout all stores worldwide via self-administered tablets on the display shelves; customer satisfaction surveys at the checkout; the use of mystery shoppers. Furthermore,  employees are made aware of the attention they should pay to the emotions expressed by customers.

At iDTGV, a subsidiary of the SNCF group that sells TGV tickets by Internet, improving the customer experience is also a priority. Thanks to the adoption of a Feedback Management * system, which allows the voice of the customer to be heard, iDTGV can today collect feedback from its customers and interact with them in real-time. Thus, on board a train, the controller, now called the “supervisor”, no longer checks the tickets, and has the time to offer customers a very personalized service. Equipped with a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) allowing him to view the customer CRM data – especially any feedback left by a dissatisfied client on his outbound trip – he can then contact the customer during the return journey. As Christelle Le Hiress, iDTGV Customer Relationship Manager, points out : “The customer experience must take into account the emotional dimension of customer perceptions”.

The customer journey and moments of truth

At Orange, the Customer Experience Department attaches great importance to the customer’s journey – and especially the client’s perception of this journey – in order to improve his experience. On this topic Frédéric Lobermann explains, “The customer journey is experienced by the customer in its entirety. But within the company, this journey is broken up into pieces. The Customer Experience team must therefore rethink and reconstruct it from start to finish”.

Another important point to keep in mind is that a customer’s perception of a brand is not determined by his experience as a whole, but by a “moment of truth”, or key moment, that tips him into the category of loyal customers or into that of lost customers. As Richard Bordenave explains in an article entitled “What the customer experience really means”, published on November 21st 2016 in the Harvard Business Review: “The experience resulting from an event or a succession of events is not equivalent to the impression left by the overall experience. In the case of a mail order purchase, if your order is delivered in a damaged package, you may be legitimately dissatisfied. But if the After-Sales Service resends you the offending article within 24 hours without asking for anything in return, it is likely that your experience of the service will leave a very positive impression. Thus it is the memory of having been well treated at a key moment that will remain the main driver of your loyalty and advocacy of the brand”.

Complaints as the heart of transformation 

It is not surprising that the initiatives that work best in terms of improving the customer experience are those that meet customer needs, especially when the company knows how to decrypt and leverage their demands. In this regard, Frédéric Lobermann of Orange BtoC offers two interesting lines of thought: “Allocate the best advisors to the Complaints Service, because complaints, especially negative feedback, are a wealth to be exploited. We must eradicate the root cause of the dissatisfaction (eliminate the irritants) but not the complaints themselves, by leaving an opportunity for the customer to express himself”.

Another pertinent idea : “To improve customer service, we need to benchmark companies that offer the best service, regardless of their sector of activity. If a customer refuses to wait at IKEA, he will refuse to wait at Orange”. Sometimes, a sectoral benchmark (on a sector of activity, linked or not to the company) makes it possible to learn much more about the processes and methods for a successful project than a competitive benchmark.

Managing the customer Relationship 

Even though the entire company may be engaged in a customer Relationship strategy, the project leader might not always wear the same cap or follow the same route. An article titled  “The marketplace for customer relationship managers : Spotlight on 12 new CRM’s”, released on July 7th 2017, presents 12 directors who took office in 2017. These portraits illustrate the diversity of careers of these new managers, who are highly “customer-oriented”. Here are 3 examples :

 “Véronique Surget was appointed as Coca-Cola France’s director of shopper marketing for Western Europe in May 2017. Her mission: to surprise the shopper and incite purchases via all points of contact. She began her career with research institutes such as Secodip and IRI Symphony. She then joined Coca-Cola Entreprise France in 1996 as head of customer studies and then head of the merchandising group. In 2002, she became director of development of the group and joined the France management committee in 2008 as overall operational marketing manager. In 2012, she joined the CCEP European team and assumed the position of director of portfolio development, followed by vice-president, strategy, portfolio and innovation”.

“Since February 1st 2017, Eric Lestanguet is the director of solutions for private and business customers (BtoC). A graduate engineer of the National Polytechnic Institute at Grenoble, he joined the Engie group 8 years ago. He successively held the positions of Deputy Director of the Habitat and Professional Business Unit and then president of the Board of Directors of Engie Home Services. He started his career with EDF in Mauritania, then in Guadeloupe, continuing his career in Paris, the Hauts-de-France, Guyana and the PACA region, where he worked as manager and director in the fields of the production, distribution and marketing of energy and services”.

“Since January 1st 2017, Sébastien Vandervannet is the director of management and customer relations for insurance at Malakoff Médéric. A graduate of ESSEC, he spent ten years as a consultant for Capgemini and then as a member of the management for the transformation of the Société Générale group. In 2013, he joined Malakoff Médéric in the management of the customer service department as director of cross-functional projects, then as director of customer operations for management activities with intermediaries, and finally as director of insurance management”.


Diversity of career paths, variety of job titles ; each company builds its own customer Relationships and gives different contours to this still recent profession according to the objectives it has set itself. And of course, if the customer Relations manager is able to win the commitment of his teams to this project, the customer experience will be a success !

Definition 

Feedback Management consists of capturing, enriching and exploiting the feedback of individuals (customers, employees, and partners) and/or information systems, in order to maximize the performance of an organization, by optimizing the customer experience and developing the commitment of all stakeholders.

  • Capture feedback and data for key customer experiences and at key moments, across all channels of interaction (points of sale, phone, digital)
  • Enrich this raw information with voice/text analysis and artificial intelligence technologies to maximize its exploitability
  • Leverage the enriched feedback by disseminating it in real-time, in a personalized manner, to all stakeholders in an organization, along with the actions to be taken – both strategically and operationally in each department and at all levels of the organisation

By enabling continuous improvement of customer, product and service experiences, but also by enriching managerial tools for a greater “customer centricity”, as well as by integrating an efficient means of engagement for all the stakeholders, Feedback Management offers the creation of sustainable value for the company. From the strengthening of brands to the development of turnover and profitability, all these levers can be impacted in a tangible way.