While there may not be a magic pill to guarantee the perfect customer experience, there is one thing that every organization needs to transform into a customer-centric business. And that is a customer experience strategy. Customer experience strategy in 2021 is not something you save for later when you can afford it.
Today we continue our discussion of 2021 customer experience trends. Let’s start by thinking about what happens if you start 2021 without a defined customer experience strategy. Say you are in healthcare. With no customer experience strategy, you will end up having to scrap massive tech programs that can cost you up to $100MM. If you are in aviation, you are looking at $50MM. No one can afford this coming out of the challenges of 2020.
What is Customer Experience Strategy and how can it save you from financial demise in 2021?
Customer experience strategy is a blueprint of how you envision what your customers’ experience should be. Having it empowers you to communicate your vision to your organization so that every member of your team understands the goals of your organization. And that is half the battle. Sometimes, it is more than half. So start 2021 with this work, and you will have a great year.
One thing to flag. By itself, a customer experience strategy does not create great experiences. Your teams create those through a customer experience program that acts on your strategy, is funded by you, and is sponsored by your executive team. Let’s see this in practice. Say you are Microsoft and you have a vision statement “to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.” A customer experience strategy can be “deliver the right services and products, to the right customers at the right time.” Ok, now your teams know that you need to KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER in order to create all these value propositions.
Your teams also know the work going forward must start with the customer vs. the engineering team. To create actual experiences, your next step is to build a customer experience program that brings this to life. A program may include a customer research project that informs you about your customers’ aspirations. In your customer experience program you may also have a consulting engagement that identifies products and services you need to scrap. Yes, I know. This is hard to do. But if products and services no longer fit your strategy, they need to go.
Leadership and Strategy Create Transformation
Finally, your customer experience program can include a roadmap to build capabilities that meet customers across channels vs. only online. That’s expensive, I know. But the funding for this comes from the misaligned products and services you scrapped. For retailers, new channels might be physical stores. Or apps, or even augmented reality tools that appeal to a new generation of customers.
All of this requires your leadership and commitment to your customers, employees and the future of your organization. Strategy is the best tool to transform your organization. Notice this word: transform. This is an important 2021 word.
If you aimed to do business the way you were doing it before, you could have gotten away without a customer experience strategy. But that is not the case in the coming year. Next year, all business leaders need to redesign spaces, policies, procedures and services without changing their brand fundamentals. It’s the only way to prevent financial demise and to achieve the success we all want in 2021.
Customer experience strategy will not only define your success, it will become the reason for your success.
If you are an event planner creatively reimagining the new event experience, or a retailer designing a private shopping journey, in 2021, you need to put a strategic framework around your customer experience. Are you investing in technology that will manage the inevitable lines at the entry? Are you going to have an app that has engagement tools and is not just a wayfinding tool? How are you going to sell sponsorships in the new world? What are you selling? These are the questions you must answer as you build the future of events.
Take the time to gather smart people you respect. Together, do some soul searching to understand what you and your brand can do differently and what commitments you can realistically make to your 2021 customers.
For retailers, how exactly will this private shopping experience happen? Is it going to be digital only, or physical? What principles will guide the team in the design so the transition from website to store is seamless? The answers to these questions will help you build your customer experience strategy. A side note, your customer experience strategy should be your differentiator. In other words, what works for Warby Parker may not work for Macy’s. And they can both be successful.
Strategy Enables You to Build the Pieces You Need
Once you have a customer experience strategy, the executive alignment is half-way done. After all, there is no alignment when there is nothing to align on. Your customer experience strategy serves as the glue that connects the executive team.
I have the privilege to be the Co-Chair of the Patient NODE for NODE.Health in New York. That means I get to represent the patient and his/her pain points in front of the various stakeholders of the American healthcare ecosystem. It is pretty well known that the American patient is not having good experience. Many industry experts have written thousands of pages explaining why. Regulation, bad technology implementations, wrong and diverse incentives are all on the list. Today, we add one more driver of bad patient experience – the missing patient experience strategy. By definition, strategy comes BEFORE execution. When there is no patient strategy, all actions of the healthcare system in the US are built and executed without the patient experience in mind. This is what happens when you do not have customer experience strategy.
Unfortunately, the same thread is coming up in travel. When I was moderating an aviation leaders conversation two weeks ago, the conversation kept revolving around passengers’ pains and needs. Let’s take concessions for example. Travelers starve today, because the concessions are picking and choosing when to work and airports cannot communicate ahead of time food and beverage availability. My colleagues did not seem to have post COVID customer experience strategy that would solve that pain for their customers. So, if the mandate is empathy driven experience, you figure out how to get some predictability from the concessions so you can send a communication to travelers.
Without that mandate and the strategy that supports it, we all go hungry. And that is not what I want for 2021. What about you?