ClickZ recently met with industry-leading communications company CenturyLink to discuss how their focus on improving customer experience (CX) helped reduce customer churn after merging with Level 3 Communications in late 2017, and how they used Qualtrics XM (Experience Mangement Platform) to do that.
Headquartered in Monroe, Louisiana, CenturyLink provides connectivity, cloud, and security solutions for digital businesses and consumers. They offer DSL and fiber internet service in 37 states and throughout the world.
The experience economy has changed the way businesses compete. Today, organizations must continuously listen to the beliefs, emotions, and intentions of customers, employees, suppliers, partners, and all other stakeholders. This type of data is called experience data, or X-data.
Businesses must be able to interpret and analyze large amounts of X-data, and understand its relationship to the operational data of the business, or O-data. Operational data is data that businesses already collect each day through their systems (e.g., a list of top salespeople, customer inventory, purchase data, etc.). Experience data looks at how each core stakeholder interacts within the business (e.g., are your salespeople unhappy and about to quit?)
Experience management is the discipline of using both X- and O-data to manage and improve the four core experiences of business: customer, employee, product, and brand.
Cross-platform survey—Source: Qualtrics
Customer experience management can have a tremendous impact on a company’s ROI.
Qualtrics recently announced data from a study conducted by Forrester Consulting which demonstrated that a composite organization based on Qualtrics customers saw a 633% ROI over three years, equaling benefits of over $38 million.
This includes $24.5 million in improved customer care support, $12.3 million in increased customer retention and reduced customer acquisition costs, and $1.7 million in avoiding costs of previous survey and analytics tools.
ClickZ spoke with Beth Ard, VP of Customer Experience and Karen Humphreys Russell, Director, Voice of the Customer at CenturyLink to find out why they chose Qualtrics and what motivated CenturyLink to focus on CX management in the first place.
From a corporate perspective, CenturyLink realized that customers have relationships with multiple stakeholders including their employees, brand, and product.
Beth Ard explains, “This is an evolution in the way we think of the voice of the customer. We’ve got to take a holistic view of our customer experience and think of it well beyond the traditional silos that it’s been in before.”
For CenturyLink, CX management is a powerful tool that allows them to pool all of their experience data in one place, giving them a holistic view of the customer’s relationship with them and providing deeper insight into how customers, employees and other stakeholders interact with the company—and each other—at all touchpoints.
Says Ard, “Our employees are very influential in how well they’re enabled to give a good experience to customers. We can see the linkage between customer experience and employee experience.”
These days, most companies have a “voice of the customer” platform, but when CenturyLink and Level 3 came together as two companies in 2017, they realized their company had become very complex. They decided to look outside the organization at other experience platforms to determine how to get a handle on the combined customer experience that they wanted to create.
“An acquisition forces you to come to the table,” says Ard. “We wanted to be able to drive a combined brand experience and have a good handle on our customers as they went through this process with us while we were merging. It became a good opportunity for the team to think about the customers’ experience differently.”
In their acquisition of Level 3, CenturyLink inherited a business focused on enterprise customers. They needed to quickly get a handle on their newly combined customer group. This is ultimately why it made sense to go out and look at a new solution. It can be very disruptive for customers when two companies come together and they wanted to stay on top of that disruption to prevent losing customers.
“We really needed to listen to our customers in a lot of different ways so we could keep the churn low,” explains Karen Russell. “We had very little in the way of significant churn when we came out of that merger. We were successful in listening and making sure that we could make our customers happy during the process.”
CenturyLink used Qualtrics to present surveys at each touchpoint of the customer’s journey. They were also able to use the tool to minimize the need for a large customer experience oversight team, so even though they came together as a very big company, they had a small team of extremely skilled people who were leveraging the platform.
“We needed a platform that was really usable,” says Russell. “It had to be easy to set up, and easy to change, and easy to scale as we learned more about our customers.”
Qualtrics provided a platform from which CenturyLink was able to unite the newly integrated companies around a single vision. It gave them access to the data they needed for their customers to come along on the journey with them.
The customer experience team set up dashboards in a mobile application that gave the team access to all the data. They then modeled business outcomes based on this data, which was critical for reducing churn and keeping customers happy.
CenturyLink measured their success on how customer and stakeholder data influenced the business in revenue, sales, and lifetime value which resulted in a positive ROI for the program.
Investing in a single customer experience management platform enabled CenturyLink to reduce costs in other areas such as SaaS tools and professional services as well as reduce the spend for the global program even though the company grew. The fact that it’s a self-serve platform that is easy to use meant they could reduce spending on services with other vendors and not have to pay for two or three disparate systems from legacy companies.
“Qualtrics enabled us to close the loop with customers, so when their feedback is negative, we pick up the phone and send them an email,” explained Russell. “We’re in the middle of looking at predictive analytics right now and can also do some predictive modeling to help prioritize where to focus next. Although a human does have to review the data at some point, predictive modeling allows us to understand sentiment, trend, and theme—everything that drives the customer—using their own words.”
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