Managing Customers Contact by Contact

Managing Customers Contact-by-Contact

Up to this point, we have charted one customer’s footsteps through the Matrix to illustrate how the Matrix’s core elements operate. But the Matrix is designed to provide insight into how each element in every customer contact performs across your company’s entire customer base.

The contact and experience permutations portrayed in the CxC Matrix are staggering when you consider the potential number of combinations of messages, slots, containers, variable attributes, and customers across each customer life stage. This is the challenge the Matrix is designed to meet. It provides insight and management capability for each message in each slot in each contact.

Mindset and a toolset

The CxC Matrix is the foundation of the Think Like a Customer (TLC) manage- ment methodology that encourages all employees and stakeholders to be customer-centric, designing every business decision around the customer, while emphasizing strict measurement and company-wide transparency. The methodology strives to connect business strategy and objectives to customer contacts and activities.

The process is designed to provide everyone in your company with a view of their role as it relates to customers, while providing a means to document decision-making guidelines, procedures, and standards to govern each customer contact. The TLC method provides a means for companies to realize the optimum return per customer contact and is designed to work in conjunction with existing performance measures, systems, and policies.


Visualize the customer experience

Before you can affect customer performance, your company must collectively understand its customers’ experiences.

One of the visual Matrix’s greatest benefits is that it invites participation and innovation from the broadest spectrum of employees at a company.

Figure 6.1 Customer Process

The outcome of each contact, where the business process intersects the customer process, is determined by the decisions used to conduct each contact. Result is, ultimately, lifetime value:

(direct revenue + affiliate revenue + referrals) – cumulative contacts cost.

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify!” —Henry David Thoreau

When designing or rethinking the design of any system, it helps if every- one involved has a “picture” of what is being proposed. Unlike an engineering drawing, the CxC Matrix is designed to:

1. Provide a visual picture of the intersection of customer stages and company processes.

2. Help identify potential customer interaction system shortfalls.

CxC Matrix components and mechanics

Fifteen Customer Stages Mirror the Customer Journey

The 15 Matrix stages in the consumer cycle are designed to align with stan- dard corporate functions including technology systems, process designs, department responsibilities, in-house and outsourced service arrangements, and standard metrics, such as Six Sigma, APQC, or National Retail Federa- tion. Although the standard set of CxC Matrix stages cover a wide range of businesses, other labels could be used if they were more appropriate to a particular situation.

The Matrix stages generally occur in a fixed sequence from left to right on the standard Matrix diagram. But there will always be exceptions. A dam- aged product may be replaced before it is used or a product purchased on credit may be delivered before payment is collected. A customer may repeat portions of the sequence, for example, by selecting an alternate product if negotiations on the initial selection are unsuccessful. There may be multiple contacts within the same stage—most buyers make several visits to a house before they buy it.

In more complex purchases and particularly business purchases, where the buyer may be a multi-party entity, individual stages may be managed by separate departments or multiple departments and people. For example, a company may decide that it requires a larger office space, so it establishes a committee to evaluate options, gather information regarding alternatives, review and narrow choices, and negotiate the purchase or lease.

In this case, a seller or broker may be dealing with a subset of the deci- sion-making entity and likely cannot see the breadth of the customer’s available choices nor the full breadth of the customer’s collective needs.

Figure 6.2

Stage 1: Awareness is the customer’s starting point. The customer has made the decision to make an investment of his or her time and interest in pursuing something. The customer has a need, although perhaps not a clearly defined need. It may be generated by a feeling, a curiosity, a life event, a situation, a desire to replace something, a whim, an urge, or an impulse.

Email spam does not count as a “contact” . . . unless a customer reads it

Your company pays to generate billions of customer contacts through adver- tising, public relations, email blasts, telemarketing, and unattended events such as webinars, webcasts, online videos, or fax on demand. The customer’s

awareness and participation in the activity is essential. If the customer does not see the email because it is blocked, the contact is not counted by either the customer or the CxC Matrix. If a telemarketer does not speak to a customer or leaves a message that the customer deletes immediately, the contact is not counted. If an advertising insert in an envelope is discarded without ever being viewed, it is not counted.

In order for a customer to be counted in the awareness stage, the cus- tomer must have some activity, known or anonymous, in that stage. The customer must participate.


Some customers are not individually identifiable until “Stage 3: Identifica- tion” or at “Stage 5: Negotiation,” choosing to remain anonymous while conducting earlier stages. For example, the customer may have worked with a third party or broker, or he may have worked anonymously, through the web, a pseudonym, or another less detectable means.

A customer who suddenly appears in a stage without links to prior stages, especially a first-time customer, may also indicate fraud. For example, a customer may appear in the repair stage, requesting a refund, or appear at Stage 12: Care and Support, with no record of a purchase.

CxC Matrix channels

Channels represent the physical, digital, and virtual locations where cus- tomer contacts occur. A sample list includes call centers, retail stores, email messages, invoices, web review sites, delivery labels, packaging, websites, magazine ads, coupons, chat rooms, in-field sales agents, welcome screen messages, partners, promotional items, independent resellers, the product and service itself, wholesalers, outsourced customer contact centers, the ever-expanding array of electronic customer-to-company contact points, and every vehicle in which a customer has contact with a product or brand and the product or brand’s image, mention, and effects.

Figure 6.3 Mapping the Customer Journey by Channel

Geography TV Community


Radio Outdoor Signage Magazines

Digital Banner ads Website

Company email

Campaign man- agement email

Support email

Sales click for chat

Location In-store promotions


Third party Package inserts

Private-label partners

Affiliate offers

One-on-one Inbound


Online customer support

Billing statements

Shipments Door-to-door Catalog

Customer service

Statement inserts

Service click for chat

Direct mail

Outbound telemartketing

Community Press/trade



The high level CxC Matrix classifies channels into six categories that closely represent customers’ expectations for service, intimacy, and urgency: Geography, Digital, Location, Third Party, One-on-One, and Community.

CxC Matrix channel categories—fast-easy-simple

Figure 6.4 CxC Matrix

Where do I go from here?

These broad channel categories represent starting points for the customer as well as for constructing a CxC Matrix. Imagine, again, thinking like a cus- tomer. How do I begin to search for your product or service? I likely search online (digital), go to a store, office, or mall (location), call a friend, peer, or advisor (community), contact a current vendor or reseller (third party), or open a catalog, email, or contact from my past (one-on-one). Customers have different expectations for service, convenience, time, and intimacy based on which channel category they choose to contact the company. A customer has different expectations when asking questions face to face in a store or at an office in Stage 3: Identification, versus when shopping online. The customer has different expectations for what can be accomplished, the

timeliness and thoroughness of a product presentation, and the question and answer exchange.

Figure 6.5 Types of Advertising Trusted by Internet Users Worldwide, April 2007 (% of respondents)

Note: n=26,486; *i.e., word-of-mouth

Source: The Nielsen Company, “Online Global Consumer Study” as cited in press release, October 1, 2007,

It is the customer view—you live where?

A customer’s experience is consistently influenced by his environment, and I define this environment a couple of different ways:


Weather, seasons, laws, politics, convenience, distance to location—all of these related issues affect a customer’s experience from the requirement to use a product to the product’s attributes. Do I need air conditioning in my car? Is a convertible practical? What about snow tires?

Contact vehicles in the geography channel category include newspa- pers, broadcast and regional television, sales and distribution territories, and fulfillment and delivery networks such as postal routes, delivery routes, sales territories, distribution licenses, service agreements, travel routes, and licensing conditions.


Includes the set of contacts a customer has via the World Wide Web or web-connected device such as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), in-vehicle navigation and information systems, and blast email or other unaddressed electronic message vehicles.

For example, a customer can access a company website and spend time navigating and searching, or downloading information without logging in or providing any personal information. This anonymous activity is classified in the digital category. Once the customer enters personal information, which may or may not identify that customer as a current customer or return visitor, the category shifts to one-on-one. While companies may use web session cookies and other means to track returning customers and capture web and other digital exposures, the contacts are classified as digital until the customer acknowledges identification or a desire to be identified.

The digital channel category does not typically include addressable electronic contacts, opt-in electronic messages, email, text messages, or messages delivered via registered website visits, which are classified in the one-on-one channel category.


Includes the set of contacts that take place in a store, office, trade show booth, kiosk, or other single, fixed, physical location. It is best to think of channels in the location category as destinations: physical places the cus- tomer must travel to. In some cases, customers and company representatives must each travel to a location to meet, such as a trade show.

Third Party

Includes all addressable third party entities that sell, resell, distribute, influ- ence, and review a company’s products and services. Addressable means that the company has direct communication and a formal or informal relation- ship/dialogue with the third party. For example, resellers, non-captive sales agents, registered financing companies, all forms of registered partners and vendors, news editors/advertorials, paid reviewers, and analysts are classified in the third party category.


Includes all direct contacts with a customer that appear to be personal- ized and bi-directional from the customer's perspective. One-om-One con- tacts require individual customer information and often make use of some customer database, contact management system, or integrated access of multiple sales, operations, order management, contact management, and other systems.


Includes all of the channels and contacts that exist outside a company’s con- trol: word-of-mouth mentions, product and service reviews, news, and press exposures, social networking, web forums, unplanned product and service exposure, after-market sales and contacts, inter-customer bartering, trading, collecting, fan and hater clubs, websites, independent and unsponsored user groups, independent sellers, re-packagers, aggregators, disaggregators and their sales, service, refurbishing, refinishing, and repair networks.

Customers exist in communities where they exchange information with people of similar interests and needs. A person with a need often seeks a community solution through a referral, recommendation, or other word-of- mouth means for assessing purchase, usage, and care options.

‘A person like me’ has become the most credible source of information about a company or a product, increasing from 20% in 2003 to 68% today.

—Edelman Trust Barometer

Community: Life Stage 15 and Channel Domain

• 39% of the online population, 57 million American adults, regu- larly read blogs

• Approximately 175,000 new blogs are created each day

• Approximately 1.6 million blog posts are made per day, equivalent to 18 posts per second

Source: Pew Internet; Technorati

The importance of community

Community has always been a major source of customer contacts. Commu- nity is the place where customers exchange their experiences about product and service performance, quality, price, product use, customer service, and adventures.

Communities used to be considered primarily as organic, local groups for customers with similar interests who were bound by proximity and com- munication restraints. With advances in the World Wide Web and com- munication channels, special interest groups, and hobbyists, all sorts of people can inexpensively (and without restraint) attack brands, companies, products, and industries. Advances in web technologies enable customers to not only exchange stories and commentary, but also purchase, service, resell, and execute contacts across every Matrix stage via the community channel. Customers can buy on Amazon, Craigslist, or eBay and receive customer sup- port from a self-described fan or fan group in a web forum or blog. They can receive expert product use and repair advice and services through websites like Elance, ITToolbox, Angieslist,, Getafreelance, or TDWI. Custom- ers have access to thousands of community category channels.

Think Like a Customer!

Matrix contacts retail banking breadcrumb trail

Even a simple Matrix like the banking one below, representing a banking customer’s contact activity for the past 30 days, clearly shows which chan- nels the customer prefers to use for different activities. Just as importantly, it shows which channels he or she prefers not to use. Gaining better under- standing of how customers use contacts to conduct their business with your company illuminates opportunities for designing new services and service combinations and configurations, while also excluding or reducing invest- ment in other contact areas.

Figure 6.6

This customer received messages trying to up-sell and cross-sell services through eleven awareness generating channels. He then used a combination of the branch, the online bank, an event and the call center to research and select a service. He also performed some research about the bank’s com- munity involvement prior to attempting to purchase a service at the branch, through the online banking service, and by email. The customer had some

problem with the account as evidenced by the combination of support and repair contacts before he closed his account and cancelled his new service in the branch after trying to close his account at the ATM. He started complain- ing about the bank’s service on Facebook while contacting support, where he also discussed his repair and disposal sentiments.

What about eBay and The New York Times?

How certain third-party channels are classified may depend upon how your company uses them more than how the customer perceives the channel’s operation. For example, a customer in search of a particular machine part may search on Google and find a seller at eBay, along with search links from the part manufacturer, a number of reseller distributors, and miscellaneous after-market providers. The customer may choose the eBay seller based on price and shipping terms without knowing that the seller is actually the manufacturer. This manufacturer simply chose to leverage eBay as a sales channel, but it is not obligated under the same warranty or service require- ments as it is when it sells the product part directly. So, what appears as a set of community contacts to the customer may actually be third-party contacts through eBay.

In a similar instance, a favorable product mention and review in an article may appear to a customer as unbiased, unscripted advice. Therefore, it appears to be a community contact. But if the review is written from information provided in a press release where the company may or may not also be an advertiser in the publication, sometimes referred to as an “advertorial,” the customer’s reading of the review should be classified as a third-party contact.

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”

—Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Experience Matrix communities—clarity through chaos

In the past, individuals in communities had faint voices and small impact through word-of-mouth, only gaining recognition when they got louder through a published letter to the editor or commentary in some other broad- cast media. Today, individuals regularly create tremendous influence through user-generated media like blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, user forums, chat commentary, and a growing number of social networking venues.

While your company’s investment and participation in community may have been seen as insignificant or arbitrary in the past, Internet and digital communications have changed company and community relations forever. Your managers might ask, “Why pay attention to community?” Since communities by definition are unmanaged, uncontrollable, and unpredict- able, why bother? Because communities can be influenced, persuaded and leveraged. Communities can be put to work not just to get the word out,

but also to create “the word” and package and deliver a message.

“Up to 25% of the entertainment being consumed in five years will be what we call ‘circular’ . . . people will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up, and pass it on within their peer groups.”

—Mark Selby, Vice President Multimedia, Nokia, December 2007

Angry and exuberant customer messages can make or break a new mar- ket entry, a product, or a brand. This challenges you to continually maintain awareness of what is being said about your company in multiple channels and to remain alert to changes in community sentiments. Resources and messages must be prepared at every contact point to ensure that the right message and response is delivered.

The CxC Matrix helps you measure the impact of communities on all of the other channels and customer stages.

As a channel, communities cross-pollinate information with other chan-

nels such as digital, geography, and third party. Message and information artifacts are spread through word-of-mouth and customer folklore. Custom- ers tell stories of alternate uses for products or how they received exceptional service under the direst circumstances.

The CxC Matrix treats “community” as both a stage in the consumer cycle and a channel since customers freely contribute information and com- mentary to communities while they access information from communities throughout their customer experiences.

Companies traditionally participate in communities through third parties and in external activities, as well as under the budget categories of “public relations” and “charitable giving.” While these types of community give- backs may be truly altruistic, your company measurably benefits from the local visibility that sways public sentiment, particularly in times of corporate trouble or when seeking approval from local politicians and special interest groups. A common justification for spending in the community is helping to promote a positive brand image.

Customers know when companies are lying

Walmart’s public relations firm thought it had a good idea. Why not create a blog in which an average American couple travels across America in a recreational vehicle and stays in Walmart parking lots? Many middle-class Americans would relate to their adventures and get a warm, fuzzy feeling about Walmart as a place to shop. The problem was that nowhere on the blog was it revealed that Walmart was paying for all the expenses of the blogging couple. It didn’t take long for the promotional tactic to be revealed and brought to a halt.

In faking a blog, Walmart and its advertising agency was experimenting in a new channel category—community—where rules of engagement and disclosure have not yet been clearly defined. They certainly exposed the need to distinguish paid advertising and paid storytelling from user-contributed blogs and stories.

Similar mistakes frequently happen in the digital community. Product and company reviews sometimes seem a little too clean, polished, and detailed to believe that an average customer took the time and effort to write them on a whim. Certainly, some customers do write extensive, fact- laden reviews and commentary, but if fewer than three percent of customers ever report complaints, imagine the odds of a customer writing a review, let alone a comprehensive product walk-through.

It’s one thing for a company to write a review. It’s a whole other thing for a company to delete community information.

“On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 para- graphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company’s machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits. In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service . . . traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and, for the first time, puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investiga- tions of specific allegations.”

Source: John Borland, Wired News, August 19, 2007, © John Borland.

Company trust will continue to be tested as advocates, loyal customers, loyal employees, interested third parties, and competitors alike participate in anonymous communities to add and subtract stories and comments.

How powerful are digital communities?

I think they elected the President of the United States

The power of leveraging communities to achieve a specific goal was evident in the 2008 United States Presidential Election. Barack Obama enlisted a digital community of over five million “friends” across a network of social networking sites and his own hosted site, MyBarackObama. The Obama campaign leveraged the “unmanageable” channels by providing a variety of tools and gadgets in each of the digital spaces to help individuals take ownership of the campaign’s popular messages.

The campaign provided content to be shared and modified using each web platform’s technologies, including notes, photos, news feeds, posted items, video messages, tags, event posts, invitations, friend requests, profile pages, and fan walls. It fueled a motivated audience and leveraged all of the viral aspects of the digital community while likely educating a lot of new users to the many “cool” technical capabilities in each application.

The immediate statistics are overwhelming:







MySpace: Friends



Twitter: Followers



YouTube: Channel Views



Additionally, MyBarackObama hosted over two million profiles, con- nected 200,000 offline events, and served nearly half a million blog posts.

Channel and media expectations differ from customer to company


fastest right? No? How about email? No? Then what . . .

On its website, PNC Bank tells customers not to submit text messages or emails to the bank because they may be intercepted by third parties

or not received by appropriate business units at the bank. The bank asks customers to call its toll-free number or write instead.

This is not meant to ridicule PNC Bank. Most companies currently choose not to handle email, text messages, or other quick and easy channels with the urgency in which they are sent.

PNC discourages customers from using email as an contact channel to communicate with the bank, stating that it “may not be secure, may be intercepted.” While these types of disclosures exist in small print in most contacts, it is unlikely that customers ever read them. This only causes greater customer frustration when the customer experiences the effects of “may not be immediately received by the appropriate business unit at PNC.” The bank does not insert any caveats or warnings about sending a letter, nor does it ensure that the appropriate business unit will receive a letter. Just imagine the cost of manually handling each of these contacts and their follow-up. There must be a better way!

Of course, there are good reasons for discouraging certain contacts and practices, and the biggest reasons are cost and liability. The cost of customer service personnel to respond to text messages and emails is exorbitant, not to mention the cost and liability associated with emails that may have been blocked, email blasts designed to overwhelm companies, and so on. The list of excuses goes on and on.

Customers have different service, response, access, and intimacy expectations related to each CxC Matrix channel category and their needs at each stage in the consumer cycle. For example, a customer dealing one-on-one with a company by phone, chat, or even postal mail has different expectations of response time than a person who is face-to-face with a sales rep- representative at a physical location. Likewise, if a customer is dealing with an online, third party intermediary looking to negotiate price on a large ticket item, the customer will have different expectations than if he is online on the company-managed order page or on the phone with the company’s in-house service representative. Customers have different expectations in each channel for information (Can I try it on? Can I take it for a test drive?),

identification (I have five websites open at the same time sorting each by price), product delivery, and payment terms.

Companies control some channels, whereas third parties own others. Channels may also be reached through other channels. For example, a web- site may be available through an in-store kiosk, and a call center may be reached at an airport check-in counter.


Although the customer must be aware of your company’s involvement in a contact, your company is not always aware of your customer. Contacts such as exposure to a public billboard, viewing an in-store product display, and daily product use can occur without your customer being identified. Even direct contacts, such as telephone inquiries, may not be recorded, or they may be recorded without linking them to a specific customer.

A benefit of the Matrix is that the need to identify contacts leads compa- nies to consider new ways to record exposures and capture responses. This is a particularly important opportunity today when technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, self-diagnosis and repair functionality, and web-connected smart devices generate enormous amounts of data that can potentially be linked to customers.

“Wow me” — Every contact should be an “event”

“When the customer opens the box each month, we want it to be an event filled with excitement, curiosity, and pleasure. Each opening of the box must stick out in customers’ memories. The coffee memory and the box memories are intertwined and critical to customer tenure and up-sells.”

—Executive at major coffee membership company

Customers want to be wowed. They want to be impressed, acknowledged, entertained, and served in ways that merit attention, such as “opening the

box.” The box referred to above is from a company that delivers coffee on a periodic basis as part of a membership or continuity program. Coffee arrives at the customer’s home or office based on the frequency specified by the customer. The box’s exterior is brown and unexceptional except for a large color imprint of the brand’s name. The company carefully selects and arranges the items in the box and plans the messages and sensory experi- ences that opening the box will generate.

The coffee company deliberately and effectively uses the box opening as a platform to reinvigorate the customer’s perception of its brand. This mea- surably benefits customer retention, cross-sales, gift sales, and referrals. The company also includes additional offers in each box, using the customer’s information, demographics, coffee consumption and taste preferences to determine which products and messages should be packed and in what order. For example, the box may contain a sweepstakes entry form if the customer’s modeled profile indicates he responds to that sort of thing. The box may contain a sample of a new coffee or tea that is coming to market which might grow his monthly consumption. Each element of each box is carefully crafted to create the optimum customer response. It’s designed to create a delighted, enthusiastic customer and ideally to prompt the customer to share the event with others by word-of-mouth, as a gift, or as a referral. Some contacts should be memorable, but sometimes business models perform best when contacts go unnoticed. E-ZPass is one such example, where a customer’s payment account is automatically debited each time the customer’s vehicle passes through a highway toll booth or exits a parking lot that is a member of the E-ZPass payment network. E-ZPass makes the

“collection” stage a non-event for its subscribers.


Contacts represent any connection between a customer and a company. The CxC Matrix classifies contacts along two major dimensions: channel and stages in the consumer cycle. Stage reflects customer needs and attributes,

while channel represents company resources and behavior. Within a channel, contacts are further classified by container, system, and slot.

In the context of a given contact, each slot can be assigned a specific value representing its potential impact on the long-term value of the individual customer. Companies can optimize customer value by optimizing use of their slots. Treatments apply business rules to manage a contact’s components and coordinate messages during each contact. Treatments are the mechanism to manage the customer experience and optimize relation- ship value.