In conversation with Rob Hufschmitt – Solution Manager Customer Engagement
Rob Hufschmitt isn’t afraid to make bold statements. ‘We all wax lyrical about customer centricity and experience but there are very few companies in Europe that are doing it the right way.’ And he immediately adds: ‘Can you tell me off the top of your head what your last really great buying experience was?’
Rob Hufschmitt is Solution Manager for the Customer Engagement team at Cegeka. A team that used to be called the ‘CRM team’, but Rob Hufschmitt doesn’t like that name. ‘We definitely don't want to market ourselves as a CRM order picker, and we don't really want to be a CRM partner either. Yes, we’re very experienced in creating CRM solutions that rely on Microsoft Dynamics 365 technology. But we encourage companies to dare to go much further.’
‘Essentially, what we do is this: we enable our customers to provide their end customers with an extremely pleasant customer experience so that they generate more turnover and are successful. And “customer experience” should be viewed in the broadest sense. This isn’t just about the moment of purchase but also about the entire process beforehand and all the interactions afterwards.’
Q: What do you mean by an 'extremely pleasant customer experience'
H: ‘That differs from sector to sector, and often from company to company. Sometimes I hear people say that it's about being “frictionless”. That’s one way of looking at it, but it’s not the only way. Buying the latest iPhone isn’t necessarily always frictionless when you see people queuing for hours, and yet people keep doing it. For Apple, the pleasant customer experience is mainly the product itself.’
‘Human contact’ is another experience. Sometimes customers want it and sometimes they don’t. People can switch energy suppliers online from A to Z without any human contact whatsoever – and that’s fine for many consumers. But that doesn’t alter the fact that if there’s a problem, they want to communicate with a real-life human being who actually takes the time to listen. And not with an option menu or a bot.’
‘What I also notice is that people transfer their experience as a consumer to their professional environment. For example, we see that buyers in a B2B context expect the same ease of use and the same service that they get from the online stores they use privately.’
People transfer their experience as a consumer to their professional environment. For example, we see that buyers in a B2B context expect the same ease of use and the same service that they get from the online stores they use privately.
Q: What exactly is the Customer Engagement team doing now? Where is your added value?
RH: ‘A good customer-supplier relationship is one in which the supplier “interacts” with the customer with the right message, at the right frequency, through the right channel and in a highly personal way, whether automated or not. And that's where we come in. Firstly, because we help companies discover and map out exactly what that ideal customer experience could look like. Which “customer experience” are we working towards? What are the famous moments of truth? What does the customer really want, and how, and where, and when? What does the customer not want?’
‘Secondly, if it is clear, to create a solution that really makes that experience a reality, consistently, on all channels and throughout your customer’s entire life cycle. Because nothing is as bad as a pleasant purchasing experience and bad service afterwards. Or a nice shop, a great company or an efficient office, but a website that makes you want to pull your hair out.’
Q: How do you approach customers?
RH: ‘Let me start with what we don't do: we don't just talk to the customer about CRM because he thinks he needs it. We don't rationalise from the perspective of the application but from the perspective of the business. If I tell you that around 70% of CRM implementations worldwide don’t meet the targets, then I don't have to spell it out. This is often because people don’t think enough about the essence of the problem that they want to solve with a CRM, for example.’
We’re not going to persuade the customer to purchase CRM just because he thinks he needs it. We don't rationalise from the perspective of the application but from the perspective of the business.
‘So our first task is to find out how the customer is organised, which value proposition he is launching on the market and for which target groups. And especially: How does he want to differentiate himself? Is that mainly in terms of operational efficiency? Customer intimacy? Product leadership? In each of those three cases, the customer engagement strategy will be different. We make that clear for the customer.’
‘We then translate that customer engagement strategy into an actual solution. This can be a CRM system – or part of it – but also ERP functionalities, a portal, an intranet, a custom solution, an app, a chatbot, a training course, and so on. Or the most likely scenario: a combination of some of the above technologies.’
‘The trump card of a company like Cegeka is our size and therefore our very broad portfolio and in-depth knowledge. We can support a huge number of the components required to support a customer-centric solution. So we don't benefit from pushing a CRM down the throats of our customers if it's not the solution.’
Q: One last question: how do you see the market evolving?
RH: The technological possibilities are so gigantic these days that the sky really does seem to be the limit. I expect advanced automation – Artificial Intelligence, for example – to take the pressure off routine human interactions so that employees have more time and energy to make face-to-face interactions with customers truly exceptional.
I also see more and more digital Darwinism. Technology is evolving at lightning speed, which is creating the possibility for extra ease of use. Consumer expectations are therefore sky high. Moreover, this is happening faster than companies can adapt. And then I also notice a kind of nonchalance, especially in our regions. It will all blow over, I hear people say. But I don't believe that. Companies without a customer engagement strategy are in for a hard time.
Interested in a Customer Engagement project? Contact Rob Hufschmitt: