As I look through my social media, consulting and vendor newsletters and general business articles, I find a tsunami of articles, opinions, recruitment efforts, and attention being paid to the ‘new’ hot topic – Customer Experience (CX). Maybe I am exceptionally tuned into the subject after all of my years with a customer-focused mindset, but the floodgates seem to be open at full throttle. Alas, here’s what the rush to CX looks like:
- Motivation: The measurable benefits of CX improvement invariably adds 5-10% directly to a company’s bottom line.
- Decision: Company after company says that providing a great customer experience is their primary focus.
- Result: By any number of customer measures, very few companies are actually successfully adopting customer experience, or improving what they already have in place, by default.
Companies shout that they are “customer focused” even though they are simply creating a feedback survey or asking for a Net Promoter Score (NPS). Others take some time to do an Experience/Journey map. Then they put it up on the wall in the hallway and – Check! -- That’s done.
Organizationally, we see a lot of companies that assign a department to ‘deal with CX’. It ends up as an afterthought rather than as a key element to the company’s Brand Promise. Employees are told that we want you to give our customers a great experience, but they have no idea what that really means. It’s as if we were a marching band leader and said “March out on the field and create a great series of figures for the halftime show.” Given the competing priorities of every hour in their busy days, employees can’t simply figure out what it means to “do CX” or exactly what to do next that would improve the situation.
Quick hit actions don’t tend to be very productive. They fade slowly away or disappear suddenly as the manager championing CX meets apathy, overload, a lack of tools, or moves to a new and less frustrating job.
Maybe companies are a bit too complacent or even lazy to do the hard work of truly understanding their customers, partners, and employees and then applying that knowledge to every aspect of their business. It’s hard work and given shorthanded staff and distracted executives accustomed to focusing on cost cutting and quarterly results, it just doesn’t register until oftentimes it’s too late to recover.
So what are the best practices that make CX happen and effectively work toward happier customers and a better bottom line?
Delivering on and realizing the value of the customer experience is complex and requires continuous improvement. The customer’s experience crosses all areas of the organization and requires that these areas collaborate together – stepping back to look at the end-to-end customer experience, breaking down internal walls and silos, sharing data and sentiment and realigning performance measures to help enable the internal change necessary. Not easy. But the alternative is losing customers – or even part of each customer’s business – to competitors willing and able to make this leap.
Sometimes CX work tends to expose company dysfunction. All those fiefdoms and data silos become clear – fast. I have seen a lot of embarrassed executives and senior managers dance when a diagnostic review of the whole company relationship lifecycle exposes gaps and friction that may be due to empire building and data hording. Is that holding up your company?
So how to start really doing the ‘practice’ of CX? It really isn’t as difficult as it seems. I like to start with what you have – all that data! If you don’t have a clear picture of who your best (and worst) customer is, – now is the time to put the systems in place to be able to answer that question anytime. Marketing departments often have a wealth of customer and transactional data. This can be leveraged to tell you what is happening with your demand generation, acquisition, retention, growth. By adding in behavioral and psychographic insights you can get a view into your customer personas and behaviors.
The data provides your customer value (LTV) and actions. Now it’s up to you to do some sleuthing to understand WHY you might have an issue with one or more of those key business factors.
You can expose the friction in your processes by creating a focused set of questions for your customers that is also asked of employees to get to key gaps and opportunities. A maturity model or “voice of the company” and an ‘outside in’ and ‘inside out’ research-driven experience map and diagnostic using tools specialized for the need provides you with the WHY. (One highly rated company that does exactly this is SuiteCX. Full disclosure: The CEO at SCX used to be a Managing Partner at Peppers and Rogers Group, and my co-author and business partner Martha Rogers serves on their Board.)
This holistic work exposes friction at touchpoints; poor cross company communications, policies or rules;- incorrectly designed software etc. so they can be addressed and eliminated efficiently. The tools enable you to rank and prioritize what’s most important for success balancing cost-to-adopt with the value to the customer. Used in a regular cadence (think six sigma), these tools enable you to continuously ID opportunities and address pain points.
Is it worth the effort? Generally this is a 3-4 month effort the first time. From there, you have the basis to apply this CX effort to
- demand-generation programs,
- customer loyalty,
- UX at your channels, and
- corporate strategy and decisions, in many cases.
Bottom line – CX is just smart business. It uses customer insight, employee feedback and a clear picture of your capabilities to ensure that you are executing on your Brand Promise and reducing friction at every interaction. In fact, it is as rich a source of business intelligence as you can get.
It’s time to stop talking about Customer Experience and start doing it. Get started. Your competitors are. Tools like SuiteCX give you the methodology and workflow to make this a company discipline and if you need assistance feel free to get a consultant or advisor who can help you plan your strategy and metrics to guide you to customer experience success. Talk about it at the water cooler. Learn the specifics. And make it happen.