“Do more with less” may be more prevalent this year as some tech firms and many others trim their customer experience teams, programs, and the experience itself. But maybe this is the wrong path! Perhaps your customer experience management is on a misguided trajectory. A warped or dusty lens causes poor vision. If your aim is mis-aligned with your target, of course, you must reconsider value.
Here are 23 warped and dusty customer experience practices to stop in 2023:
Customer Experience and Customer Service
1) Stop calling it all customer experience! Customer Service, Customer Success, Customer Loyalty, Experience Design, etc. are relatively small portions of customers’ end-to-end experience with your brand. It’s short-sighted, confusing, misleading, and damaging to our field’s maturity and executives’ confidence. Do not mislabel your technologies, courses, academies, certificates, consulting, job titles, and strategies. Be specific about what they are.
2) Stop undervaluing Customer Service! Reducing churn and negative word of mouth is certainly valuable to any enterprise. Have you quantified this value relative to the value of newly acquired customers? Create a better balance between Sales and Service, and between Service Delivery and Service Recovery, for the ways you treat compensation, talent requirements, development, etc.
3) Stop making Customer Service a revenue center! Asking a frustrated customer to buy is inappropriate in most cases. Usually, they have already tried self-service unsuccessfully, and endured muzak and repetitive self identification. Asking for a purchase is often another layer of frustration. In Service’s pursuit of saving the customer experience, ironically, this practice damages trust as your brand appears mercenary rather than empathetic and relationship-oriented.
Customer Experience Performance
4) Stop focusing on recommendations! “Likely to recommend” means it’s a possibility, but it might not actually happen. Furthermore, they may recommend your competitors’ brands, too. And customers’ career and life circumstances continually evolve, making it hard to count on individuals’ actions. Most importantly, this is a lagging indicator: you know it only after your customer knows it.
5) Stop using survey scores to reward performance! Constant requests for ratings are overwhelming as we interact with numerous suppliers every day. You may be creating guilt rather than relationship strength. Instead, analyze customer comments and behaviors to identify staff’s and managers’ behavioral performance standards. Monitor compliance with these standards as your metrics to reward performance. To represent these standards metrics, I’ve coined the phrase Customer-Critical Factors (CCFs). CCFs are leading indicators of customers’ experiences. A leading indicator allows you to adjust performance proactively.
6) Stop focusing on revenue uptick! Remember Peter Drucker’s wise observation: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”1 This is the proper aim of customer experience management! Marketing and Sales are already responsible for revenue. What’s missing is governance of the gap between brand promise and what customers experience. Focus executive expectations for customer experience management on closing this gap. It’s your path for impressive CX annuities (see points 16-19 below) and resultant enduring revenue gains.
CRM and Customer Acquisition
7) Stop replacing “relationship” with “revenue” in CRM! Does your use of CRM actually mean “buyer revenue management” or “customer relationship management”? In all the meetings I’ve attended where CRM reports were presented, I’ve never heard discussions about relationship-building. What connections does each customer have with us, how can we build upon that, etc. The conversation focused only on size and timing of potential deals. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. On the other hand, CRM software nurtures potential customers along their buying journey. That’s usually good. Then, there’s the handoff to Accounts Receivable, customer onboarding, account management, Customer Success, Customer Service, Customer Loyalty, etc. This end-to-end experience of customers must be tightly coordinated and consistently focused on lifetime value. Consistency is at the heart of trust and relationship strength.
8) Stop misguiding customer expectations! Good experiences are a one-to-one ratio between what was received versus what was expected. That’s how discount brands as well as luxury brands can both have raving fans. Thus, the key to growing earnings per share (EPS) is careful management of both expectations and what’s received. This includes, yet goes well beyond, the product purchased. This is a shared responsibility between Marketing, Sales, and Operations. And it relies on consistency across your entire enterprise and its ecosystem: suppliers, partners, etc.
9) Stop acquiring wrong customers! What is your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)? What percentage of new customers match your ICP? Imagine how much Customer Service/Success volume may be reduced by having more ICP customers in your customer base. Furthermore, CX analyses increase in value by helping to zero-in on ICP customers (what I’ve coined as “core-growth customers”). If your customer experience is not stellar with them, then you may be missing the mark everywhere with diluted focus. Get CX right with these customers first, and then expand your focus to accommodate other segments of customers. This concept is similar to grooming high-potential employees.
10) Stop basing surveys on business goals! Response rates and value of customer insights will rise when you ask customers about their goals and realities. This is customer-centric. Asking about yourself is not. For reports to your managers, you can translate what customers say into what it means for your business goals.
11) Stop asking rote questions in surveys! Pay attention to what customers have already told you, and then ask survey questions that clarify your assumptions and monitor only moments of truth. Almost-free VoC is abundant and massively under-used. Balance Expectations VoC and Realities VoC (qualitative and quantitative research) for wiser management of your entire business.
12) Stop asking every customer for feedback! Instead, make it easy for any customer to give you feedback any time, any way they want (comment, rating, video, audio, photo). Use data mining for transaction insights: word clouds, sentiment, heat maps, digital body language, etc. That’s the great untapped power of CX tech! Also, use stratified random sampling for customer relationship surveys. This frees up customers for invitations to other studies without over-surveying individuals. Stratified random sampling makes your data more representative of market truths. This is the basis for credibility, clout, right-sizing the right actions, and proving connections to financials.
13) Stop asking for feedback too frequently! Ask as often as (1) you make changes in customers’ issues and (2) customers’ circumstances change. This maxim is supported by points 4-6 above and points 16-19 below.
14) Stop “safe zones” in customer insights reports! When managers see averages or stable trends, their interpretation is: “Phew! Thank goodness I can keep doing business as usual!” Instead, report percentages, quantify those percentages in terms of costs or revenue represented, and show performance above and below expectations. As an advocate for customers’ well-being, your CX mission is to inspire continual improvement. It’s paramount to continual value growth!
15) Stop hiding customer comments in VoC reports! Word clouds, topic counts, comment summaries, and sentiment trends are great overviews, but managers really need to read or hear customer verbatim comments. There is no substitute for clarity, empathy, and customer-focused management.
Customer Experience Strategy
16) Stop emphasizing quick wins! The 80/20 rule is also known as the “law of the vital few”. Pareto analysis identifies the vital few sub-issues for each key driver of customer loyalty. Many customer experience awards, conference presentations, technologies, consulting services, and books are based on resolving the “useful many” in quick wins, rather than preventing recurrence of the “vital few”. Hence, many customer experience successes are a mirage, causing the blind to lead the blind in perpetuating these 23 faulty practices.
17) Stop recurrence of prevalent issues! While closing the loop with customers who are dissatisfied is useful, the full value of CX insights is realized when you solve root causes of the most repeated issues. By doing so, you stop the insanity: call volume costs, internal morale and external trust costs from repetitive occurrences, lost productivity for trouble-shooting and escalations, negative word of mouth and reputation, more CX tech as bandages on a cancer, higher marketing and sales costs to overcome churn and all of this, and more (this is the tip of the iceberg). Think about it: your company has committed precious budget to all of the above in perpetuity. When you stop the insanity, you can redirect that precious budget to higher value opportunities (innovation, expansion, staffing, compensation, profit). This redirected growth is what I have coined as CX annuities.
18) Stop favoring experience design over experience improvement! Creating great experiences is certainly valuable, but this typically ignores headquarters’ processes, policies, and structures that are prevalent pebbles in your customers’ shoes. These pebbles are enormously expensive. Ensure your CX team knows root cause improvement techniques and learns how to influence the originators of root causes.
19) Stop excluding some groups from VoC action expectations! Every work group across your enterprise is either helping or hindering customer experience. By definition, then, they are already an extension of your CX team. When you tailor VoC reports for each of them, and point out what they can do to make a difference, it elevates their purpose and performance. When I led customer experience company-wide for many years, we conducted CX improvement workshops for more than 60 account teams, product lines, and support functions. After the first couple years, CX champions in each group did this. Make sure your CX team knows how to speak the language of every work group. When you weave-in CX performance management to their existing work, it becomes a natural way of life. This is what’s meant when I use the phrase “making CX a team sport“.
Customer Experience Leadership
20) Stop expecting your CMO to be your CCO! Marketing is about setting expectations (value proposition, brand promise, communications, lead generation). Customer experience is about a one-to-one ratio between what’s received versus expected, from your customers’ perspective. Driving this ratio requires a very different set of competencies. A CCO’s customers are internal as much as they are external.
21) Stop under-preparing CCOs! The role of CCO is certainly as vital as your CHRO, CMO, CIO, CFO, etc. These leaders are best when they are well-versed in business savvy and well-rounded in their craft. Your CCO’s craft is described in the 20 points above. Stop referring to CX programs. Treat CXM like HRM and other support functions: CXM is a way of life, a vital gap-closing function, the conscience of your end-to-end ecosystem. Your CX strategy must cover all customer experience components. Yet, all of these components do not need to report to the CCO. In fact, it’s even better when they do not, because it allows your CCO to be positioned as facilitator of every group doing their part toward almost-automatic CX excellence.
22) Stop separating business management from customer experience management! Customers’ success spells your success, which maximizes gains to your investors. Put the horse (customers) before the cart (running the business and delivering to investors). Voice your internal goals and guidance in terms of how they will help customers help you. Ironically, mainstream management practices tend to do this the other way around. Is intentional customer experience the North Star for your C-Suite’s decisions? Does it guide your structure, business models, policies, culture, processes, communication, reviews, approvals, and handoffs?
23) Stop assuming you know everything about customer experience! Although customer experience has existed since the first people on earth bartered, we’re still learning a lot about it. Formal management of customer experience began in the late 1980s, evidenced by ISO 90002 and by Fred Reichheld et al in their 1990 Harvard Business Review article about the value of customer retention, Zero Defections: Quality Comes to Services3. Digital, economic, social, and innovation forces on customers and business mean there’s a continual evolution of dynamics for customer experience excellence. I’ve been in this field since the beginning, and I learn new CX truths almost every month. It’s continual alignment, an exciting and fulfilling field, and a constant quest for all of us. Refresh your CX understanding on an ongoing basis.
These 23 faulty customer experience practices are the source of current executive disillusion, CX profession immaturity, and dwindling performance in CX studies globally. Cleanup your lenses, re-align your trajectory, and reap much higher rewards from customer experience this year, and for your future prosperity.
Let’s aim for almost-automatic CX excellence by adopting these 23 changes. Borrow this guidance for employee experience and partner experience management, too. When you do that, you’re migrating from customer experience management of yesteryear to what I’ve coined as experience leadership. Experience leadership is company-wide alignment to expectations of the 3 hands that feed you: customers, employees, and partners. It’s the most efficient, effective, and growth-promoting way to run an organization of any kind.
1The Highs of Marketing, Drucker Institute.
2ISO 9000, American Society for Quality.
3Zero Defections: Quality Comes to Services.
Image licensed to ClearAction Continuum by Shutterstock.
And, to your great post, I’d add one more practice. Stop NOT proactively and consistently including, or superficially considering, the insights and actions of employees as key elements in CX and brand advocacy success: https://inmoment.com/blog/recognizing-high-cx-value-of-employee-advocates/ Recognize that, when companies excel with customers, or experience customer risk, and even loss, many causes of this are invariably linked to employee behavior.
Right, Michael! Indeed, it was tough to stop at 23, once I got going on the initially daunting challenge of 23 things to stop.
For employee experience and customer experience, my greatest wish is to stop asking for feedback from your company’s point of view primarily, and their viewpoint secondarily (or not at all). Switch that around. For example:
1) What are your values? What are you trying to achieve in your life through our brand?
2) How well are we contributing to that?
So much unhappiness, churn, massive disruption and cost could have been prevented, I believe, if this had been the prevailing EX and CX practice pre-pandemic. Why it has not yet shifted, is surely a shame. Stuck drinking our old Kook-Aid, old traditions defying more thoughtful, sensible, other-centric approaches.
Is the World Happier with Customer Experience & Employee Experience?