Usually, I receive letters at Christmas time, from people asking for this gift or that gift, in the hopes that I will pop down their chimney on December 24th and leave it under their Christmas tree. Well, this year things are a little different, I need to ask for a Christmas gift of my own. Please let me explain.

I used to provide what most people considered the premier gift delivery service in the world, I had little competition. However, over the last decade or so, emerging technologies such as the Internet, have enabled new competitors to spring up. For example, Amazon and eBay. I have been losing market share to Amazon and other e-commerce sites for years, and I feel I need to do something about this situation.

At first, I didn’t worry too much about these newfangled upstarts, as I could always beat them on price. Let’s face it; I give things to people for free, whilst the likes of Amazon charge for everything ordered.

However, it soon became clear that people were willing to pay for things they could get for free from me, and I must admit I found this confusing. Rudolf, one of my senior managers, came up with a theory at this stage, and he tried to explain it to me.

What Rudolph suggested is that people don’t necessarily look for the best price, they look for the best value, and the price is only part of the algorithm for calculating value. Rudolph told me that value = price + service + quality. He started talking about complicated things like “service provisioning”, “customer experience”, “voice of the customer”, and “logistics”. He’s pretty smart for a reindeer actually.

Being a smart person myself, don’t let the red suit and silly beard fool you, I decided to give Rudolph free rein (Ho Ho Ho!). I have given him a new job title, that of Chief Customer Officer, and this is what he has related to me following an exercise in evaluating our level of CEM maturity:

Rudolph has highlighted some key problems with our customer experience. The main problem area is our service provisioning, and how we manage crucial touch points. When Rudolph first tried to explain service provisioning to me, I had to sneak off and do a little research on the Internet, making sure I had blocked access to Amazon first, as landing on an Amazon page by accident is bad for my blood pressure.

Rudolph had already concluded that Customer Experience Management (CEM) would be key in any initiative we took towards rebuilding the Santa Claus brand, and this prompted me to research both service provisioning and CEM.

I found all sorts of information, but something I kept coming across was how telco’s face a tricky CEM problem, due to the fact that service provisioning is a major source of contention with customers, and drives a very high percentage of touchpoints. Once Rudolph had explained to me what a telco is, I just had to say Ho Ho Ho! Do they think they have problems? Try my market!

We were able to take this information and build a picture of our current problems. Maybe it might be best to compare our basic ordering and delivery process to that of Amazon, like this:


  • Customer visits website and browses gifts on offer.
  • Customer chooses gift, and can check whether it is in stock.
  • Customer orders gift, receives delivery confirmation.
  • Customer receives gift, usually within 24 hours.

If the customer has a problem with the gift, they can contact Amazon, and arrange for a replacement or some other resolution.

Santa Claus:

  • Customer researches the gift they want externally, as we have no online catalogue.
  • Customer writes us a letter, asking us to deliver the gift.
  • Customer receives no order confirmation, or confirmation of gift being in stock.
  • Customer hopes we deliver the gift on 24th of December.

If the customer has a problem with the gift, tough luck, try again next year.

There are two major differences between the way we work and the way Amazon works. With Amazon, the customer knows what they are ordering is in stock, and when they will have it delivered. With us, the customer has no idea of what we have in stock, and can only hope we turn up on Christmas Eve with the gift they ordered.

Amazon offers a 24-hour delivery timeframe. For us, if somebody orders a gift on December 26th, they have to wait 364 days for delivery! These shortfalls in our service provisioning and logistics cannot be overcome, and we realize that these are impacting our customer experience in a very negative way, so we need to find a way to negate them as much as possible. Rudolph suggests that improving our customer experience in other areas will help to make up for these shortcomings.

One area that we do beat Amazon hands down in is Customer Feedback Management (CFM). We receive billions of letters each year. These are often handwritten letters, and up until now we have simply read these letters and tried to deliver the gifts they mention.

Rudolph has suggested that these letters almost certainly contain actionable insights into the customer experience and that we need to go further than CFM, and deploy some form of text mining and sentiment analysis solution, to warehouse and analyze these customer interactions. I admit, I copied that part straight from the report that Rudolph gave me, as I am not sure I understand it all myself, but he assures me that you will.

As a side note here, there has been a point of contention between myself and Rudolph. Rudolph insists that we need to become more up-to-date, and capture customer intelligence across new platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as allow people to send us SMS messages and emails. I insist that we maintain a purely paper-based system, as the paper the letters are written on makes excellent fuel for our heating boiler, how do you think we keep warm up here at the North Pole? However, I am happy to concede this point to Rudolph, as I am beginning to suspect he has an incredible mind hiding behind that shiny red nose.

Rudolph proposes that we deploy some form of unified CEM solution across our entire operation, that is used by every department, and that we begin to promote a much more customer-centric work ethic in our staff. Rudolph says that this may be a problem, as we will face a challenge in gaining buy-in from our workforce. Elves are rather silly creatures, and not too bright. Don’t go believing they are some sort of majestic, long-haired, good-with-a-bow-and-arrow type of thing that you see in the Lord of the Rings movies, they are not! J.R.R. Tolkien has much to answer for, giving my elves a high opinion of themselves!

By using the online SANDSIV CEM Maturity Assessment Tool, Rudolph assesses our CEM maturity level to be around stage 1; we have identified the importance of CEM, and are willing to begin striving towards becoming a more customer-centric enterprise. We understand the value of the Voice of the Customer (VoC), and are ready to start working towards deploying a unified solution that will give us a completely holistic, 360-degree view of the customer experience.

So please SANDSIV, for Christmas this year, could you advise me on how to move forward, and begin to exploit CEM to regain my market share, and increase customer loyalty?

Best Wishes

Santa Claus

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