CX: from Fluff to Tough

Everyone is talking customer experience. McKinsey believes CX programs can substantially grow revenues. Gartner predicts that most companies will soon compete on the basis of customer experience while forecasting that half of this year’s product investments will be redirected toward those initiatives.

But talk is cheap and most companies are seeing only modest impacts from their customer experience efforts if they can even measure them at all.

So how can you go from fluff to tough – driving both customer satisfaction and profits from your CX programs?

Understand who defines the experience

“Executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do.” – Kate Leggett

The customer defines their own experience. Yet many companies create CX objectives that focus primarily on internal benefits like cost cutting instead of what the customer desires: simplicity and responsiveness. It’s no wonder why 80% of companies think they deliver a “superior” experience while only 8% of customers agree.

Be visionary

“The mission of Southwest Airlines is a dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.” Everyone who works at Southwest Airlines knows this mission, and the customer experiences it.

But many companies lack a clear vision or don’t align the customer experience with that vision. These organizations have a Chief Customer Experience Officer (CXO) with no actual team or budget. They implement siloed “CX projects” rather than nurture long-term programs.

A great customer experience requires every employee, every program, and every project to be aligned with the company vision.

Customer acquisition and retention

This point seems obvious, but a majority of industry executives and analysts I talk with confirm that most CX budgets are reserved only for customer acquisition and that support is still regarded as a cost center.

Companies like Southwest Airlines, Amazon, and Starbucks know better. They view customer service as the best form of marketing. They understand that customers will pay more for a better experience, but only if the vendor consistently meets their expectations.

This is a profitable customer retention strategy. All four companies have significantly outperformed the S&P over the past several years.

An end-to-end experience

“Customer experience is the sum total of conscious events, as a coordinated series of interactions between a customer and a brand.” — Esteban Kolsky

Every interaction is a chance to drive disloyalty. But the customer experience is more than any one single interaction.

If you’re not measuring the end-to-end experience, failure can be disguised as success. “Our dashboard metrics were like a watermelon,” admits one senior manager describing his company’s narrow and flawed focus. “On the outside everything was green, but when you looked inside, it was red, red, red.”

Don’t forget your employees

Employees often step into the customer experience to assist. Yet one of the top customer complaints is regarding the employee’s lack of knowledge or ability to resolve the issue. This is more problematic in scenarios which have not already been journey mapped and instead rely on a service representative’s individual ability to engineer a solution.

Companies often rely on the “soft skills” of an empathizer employee, but today’s customers expect someone who can control the customer experience, not apologize for it.

First-hand participation

Whenever possible, I become a customer of my client. Beyond justifying the purchase of some cool gear like a GoPro camera and once owning three different cell phones at the same time from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, this allows me to actually participate in the customer experience first-hand. Rarely is my experience as the company had assumed.

Don’t rely on customer surveys or other flawed assumptions. Roll up your sleeves and take the journey for yourself.

Powerful Results

I recently spoke with several of my current or former clients on this topic.

Many confirmed some tremendous results in leveraging the above concepts. Most of them are doing more journey mapping than ever before with A/B testing and heat trackers to validate their assumptions.

One business intelligence software company leverages an “effort score” within their customer surveys to see if the journey was both successful and easy. Their CSAT continues to improve alongside their stock price.

A friend from Garmin said, “most of us use our own products, making us more understanding and empathetic to what our customers experience.”

I’d love to hear what “tough” ideas your organization has implemented to go beyond the CX “fluff.” If you’re interested in trying out these concepts for the first time, please contact me – I’d love to help.

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3 responses to “CX: from Fluff to Tough”

  1. Bravo. I’m surprised how many companies rely on experts and internal ideas to decide what customers want, without consulting the customer. I receive a lot of requests asking what their customers want, and I always say, “How should I know? Why don’t you ask them?” I also agree that many companies, including some major brands, loudly claim victory for CX, while their internal metrics show dismal CSAT, CES and NPS scores. When a customer is having a bad experience with a brand, and sees the brand publicly bragging about their excellent CX program, that is a major contributor to churn.

    1. Scott Bideau Avatar
      Scott Bideau

      Thanks for the shout out on your webinar today John!

  2. Gregg Palaian Avatar
    Gregg Palaian

    Great read!

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