Customer experience-inspired corporate strategy is rare, according to a recent poll in a strategic planning LinkedIn group.
In my 5-year study of B2B CX practices, we asked: “Is customer experience (1) a determinant or (2) a subset of corporate strategy, or (3) is it unrelated?”
If you define “customer experience” as as post-sales retention, or programs, or a department, or interactions, your answer may be “2” or “3”. However, our study revealed higher financial results among the minority of firms that allow customer-inspired corporate strategy.
Does this surprise you? Re-think “customer experience” (CX) as brand integrity: delivering what you promised.
- After all, the programs and departments associated with CX are making up for what wasn’t delivered, but was expected.
- Further, customers are the source of salaries, budgets, and profits. Investors and you rely on them for your existence and growth.
Brand integrity gaps are the window to huge growth potential. When you avoid brand integrity gaps, your margins expand and your magnetic attraction and retention opens many strategic advantages.
3 Keys to Customer Experience-Inspired Corporate Strategy
Three untapped opportunities for customer experience-inspired corporate strategy are (1) Convert Costs from wasteful gaps to better uses of budget, (2) Embolden Expansions with customer insights guiding choices from the start, and (3) Straighten Strategies among every business unit, support function, and alliance with crystal-clear focus on their efficient contributions to customer priorities.
- Convert Costs: almost all you’re doing to make up for something that went wrong is reversible. We had 100+ single-page strategies simultaneously to convert costs, every year for several years. How? Each product team, account team, and support function focused on root cause resolution of the top 2 issues they were causing for customers. That’s determined by cutting the data from your relationship survey (or via data mining from Support comments, etc.) for each group’s own report. Next, correlation analysis identifies key drivers of loyalty. Then, Pareto for comments reveals the Vital Few aspects of a key driver. Each work group did a 5-Why’s exercise, and their single-page strategy action plan addressed each 5th why. We recaptured millions in hours and dollars for customers and ourselves.These savings are marketing/sales gold for attraction and retention, sales velocity, and margin expansion. Previously tied-up resources and budgets were re-assigned to higher-value opportunities. I call this XM annuities. Think of the value freed-up to avoid shrinkflation, austerity, and other value limits! Permanently resolving these prevalent issues strengthened brand integrity.
- Embolden Expansions: every new market, product, upgrade, business model, merger, etc. is riskier when it’s not rooted in customer insights and agile development. Strengthen success by data-mining to guide each growth effort from the start, not as an afterthought. My presentation to the US CX Awards last month gives you more ideas for how to do this. This is key to minimizing costs to serve, and maximizing revenue and much more.
- Straighten Strategies: double-check your ideal customer profile (ICP) to ensure this attractive customer group matches your operational ability to serve them expertly. If costs to serve are high for them, redefine a better match. You want to thrive with ideal customers, as their clearly preferred provider. Everything every work group does should cater first to them and secondarily to other customer groups.Get crystal clear with performance standards, accordingly, for both non-customer-facing and touchpoint groups. Ask your CX teams to adjust the ways the collect, communicate, and champion customer insights to educate every work group. Everyone’s strategic plans should be in-line with this. Otherwise, you’re allowing a lot of waste, squandered opportunities, mediocre performance.
For customer experience-inspired corporate strategy, insights can be mined from a wealth of existing sources in this information age. Look for patterns and you’ll find 2 to 4 overall expectations emerge. These overall expectations are the showstopper or ultimate purpose for a customer’s relationship with you.
Accordingly, these overall expectations are your intentional experience: the culmination of everything your firm does. Anything deviating from it is wasteful, letting revenue go out the window, and letting profit go down the drain. Intentional CX is the proper basis for your North Star.
Since customers are the hand that feeds employees, partners, and investors, what else is a more logical determinant of corporate strategy?