"Return to Normal" CX Strategy? 5 Lessons + 5 Recommendations

By Lynn Hunsaker, CCXP posted 07-15-2022 10:47 AM


“Return to normal” CX strategies are business performance quicksand. So much has changed in success criteria for employees and customers!

Forrester's 2022 CX Index reports a return to early 2020 CX quality levels, reversing 2021 gains. In fact, 20% of brands have lower CX quality now than a year ago. Furthermore, only 3% of companies are customer-obsessed, reduced from 10% in 2021. (96,000+ US consumers rated 221 brands in 13 industries.)
CX Index Criteria

Practices deemed sufficient before the global pandemic are now insufficient. For today’s circumstances, popular CX strategies of yesteryear are broken or outdated.

In the 2010s, CX strategies were shaped by the global economic downturn of 2009: convert customers to brand allies and convert Service from a cost-center a profit-center. These CX strategies are an extension of the Marketing and Sales departments: generate brand references and positive word-of-mouth for new customer acquisition, and offset cost to serve with up-selling, cross-selling, fees, and penalties.

  • Lesson 1: over-emphasis on emotion, enrichment, and advocacy are damaging trust and relationship strength. Evidence of this can be seen in the employee experience fiasco of the Great Reshuffle.
    It’s called out in many places like the Edelman Trust Barometer, the Adecco Resetting Normal study, and the media’s declaration of skimpflation. CX excellence is not an extension of Marketing or Sales or Service.

Expansions in Customer Success, Customer Service, CRM, and Loyalty investments generally signal sloppiness among non-customer-facing groups. Consider this: if efforts company-wide are truly in-tune with your core-growth customers’ expectations, then they will prevent issues and generate natural retention, trust, and relationship strength.

  • Lesson 2: expansion of touch-point investments may give the appearance of senior leadership commitment to CX excellence. But this may be a mirage, making up for corners cut in doing the right things right consistently.

Be careful in mistaking interactions as the key to customer experience success. For instance, consider your purchases in the past month where your interaction with the seller was minimal, and your interaction with the maker was non-existent. Are you likely to recommend or rebuy those brands? Would this likelihood possibly decrease if you discovered a need to interact further with the seller or manufacturer?

  • Lesson 3interaction is over-emphasized in popular CX strategies. While interaction quality is important, there is much more to customer experience excellence than interactions.

Success factors for ease of working with a brand extend far beyond interactions. Ease of business is dictated to a great degree by policies, processes, handoffs, and attitudes among the seller’s or maker’s headquarters groups.

Thinking of frustrations you’ve faced with various brands, you’re likely to acknowledge that effectiveness in meeting your needs hinges on all departments’ mindfulness of your preferences in all aspects of running their business. Indeed, costs, convenience, responsiveness, legal policies, and proactiveness are shaped by a brand’s organization-wide customer-centricity.

  • Lesson 4touch-points are over-emphasized in popular CX strategies. Extensive value is created or jeopardized “behind the scenes” in organizations. Likewise, large portions of the customer journey occurs outside of a brand’s touch-points.

Likely to recommendlikely to buy more, and likely to stay with the brand revolve around the 3 CX quality factors. When a brand is hard to work with, weak at meeting customer needs, or poor in generating positive interactions, it’s unnatural to expect opposite performance in the 3 customer loyalty factors.

In fact, if you are seeing higher performance in the customer loyalty factors compared to the CX quality factors, then it’s likely that your loyalty spending is extremely high. You may be able to entice loyalty factors for a while, but those gains are unsustainable without commensurate strengths in each of the quality factors.

To-date, CX strategies have emphasized personalization, data and privacy management, digitalizing service, reducing service effort, content marketing and customer references, designing journeys, listening more in real-time, increasing real-time closed loop communication, and/or migrating detractors and passives to promoters. With these tremendous investments, it’s incredible that no industry has pierced the glass ceiling of Good or Excellent in the CX Index.

  • Lesson 5: customer experience is affected by much more than popular CX focus areas. To test this, consider your own experience as an employee.
    Will EX excellence be guaranteed via employee personalization, data and privacy management, digitalizing employee services, and internal messaging and employee references?
    Would the Great Reshuffle have been avoided by designing employee journeys, listening more to employees in real-time, increasing real-time closed loop communication to employees, and migrating employee detractors to employee promoters?
    That’s all good, but what about the end-to-end employee experience, employees’ intended outcomes, balance, sense of appreciation, and so forth?

At the heart of the EX dilemma is misaligned motivations, lack of mutual respect for interdependencies, and weak follow-through on commitments. At the heart of both the EX and CX solutions is a deeper understanding of intended outcomes, prevention of negatives, and ongoing focus on relationship strength.

In the 2020s, CX, EX, and PX practices must shift to higher standards of balance in how we listen, how we monitor performance, how we acquire and retain, how we act on what we learned, and preventing negatives as the foundation for sustained value creation.

See the 5 recommendations for 2020s CX Strategy in the original article: Rethinking Customer Experience Strategy.