Customer Experience Sustainability: don’t let your CX house fall down!

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CX sustainability

Have you ever wondered why it is still more common than not for us to have to endure experiences as a customer that fail to meet our basic expectations? On an almost daily basis, customers are faced with companies across a multitude of industries who fail to deliver promises; provide service from employees with a less than acceptable attitude; confuse and disappoint by inflexible rules and procedures…. I could go on.

It does not matter if you are in a retail store; interacting online; sitting in a queue on the telephone; or standing in a queue in an airport – the ability of organisations to deliver consistently good experiences is still a long way from becoming an everyday reality. What I find interesting though, is that many of these same organisations have been very keen to serve up a healthy serving of rhetoric when it comes to Customer Experience. It is undeniable that the majority of businesses around the world are ‘upping their game’ when it comes to talking about ‘putting the customer first’. From articles written in annual reports, to statements made to the media; senior executives are queuing up to convince the world that they are serious about meeting and exceeding the needs and expectations of their customers.

CX Challenge

Yet as I have written in the past, talking about Customer Experience is the easy bit – starting to do something about it is hard, whilst embedding a customer focused mindset is the hardest thing of all. In recent weeks, I have been continually reminded of the fact that companies still find it so hard to embed a sustainable approach to Customer Experience – this has led to me wanting to investigate the issue once more. Here are my ‘top 5’ thoughts on the causes of the problem:

  1. Leadership failing to ‘operationalise’ Customer Experience – as the saying goes, ‘talk is cheap’ – no-one ever changed anything just by talking about it. Too often I see businesses all too happy to talk a good game when it comes to Customer Experience, but the game ‘pauses’ when decisions need to be made to actually change something. Failing to ‘operationalise’ Customer Experience will make it impossible to sustain a customer centric approach – if there is a desire to become more customer centric, then make it happen!!
  2. Lack of organisational stability – the word ‘restructure’ strikes fear in many a battle weary employee. It is remarkable just how many organisations seem to have a restructure as an annual event. Every time a restructure occurs, whilst it not only creates instability, it often leads to a change of direction and priorities. Sustaining a customer focused strategy is extremely challenging in these circumstances. Like a soccer team changing its manager after one poor result, all organisations need stability to stand a chance of delivering any form of sustainable success.
  3. Short term focus – Customer Experience is a long term business strategy. If you want short term results, then Customer Experience transformation will not be the way to achieve it. In any transformative environment, patience, belief, courage and a resolute temperament are required to deliver the ultimate vision. Too much short term pressure applied by stakeholders who are not bought in to a customer centric strategy will ultimately lead to failure.
  4. Lack of skills and competencies – I have said many times that a lack of education is holding many businesses back from become more customer centric. It is very challenging to start a focus on Customer Experience, let alone sustain it, if your organisation does not possess the skills and competencies to enable you to get there. And when it comes to developing knowledge, I mean at all levels of the organisation. Leaders are not exempt from continuing to learn, yet too many are absent when faced with the opportunity to increase their understanding of a skillset that is relatively new to most.
  5. Failure to put ‘people’ first – sadly, we still live in a world where businesses are failing to put people – both employees and customers at the forefront of their thinking. Failing to put your own people first is a sure fire way of making it impossible to become customer centric. It always amazes me how many employees would not choose to interact as customers with the companies they work for – largely this is down to the fact that they do not believe in their own organisations ability to deliver the experience. Too many ’employees’ are just ‘doing their job’ – acting as completers of tasks, whilst unable and unempowered to use their very capable brains.

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When I consider my personal ‘top 5’ reasons for a lack of CX sustainability, I am always reminded of the analogy of building and maintaining a house. A newly built house is an exciting place to be. Everything is shiny and new – everything works – it is a pleasure to live in something that is cutting edge at the moment you move in – it is exciting. When a company embarks on its Customer Experience ‘house building’ journey, the feeling and emotion is much the same. There is hope and expectation of something better – even if there is concern as to whether or not you can actually afford it!!

At the start of the Customer Experience ‘house building’ journey, all the plans are carefully put in to place. The foundations are laid with the identification of accountable stakeholders and governance processes. The bricks are carefully settled with the customer strategy, customer journey maps and measurement systems; and the roof of the house is overlaid through communication and engagement with employees across the organisation.

However… there is always one of those…. if you are still with my house building analogy, this is where the problem starts. When you build a house, you cannot just walk away and never do anything to the house ever again. All buildings require ongoing maintenance over the years to ensure that it remains standing in the condition you expect. At some point, the roof may need replacing. The interior of the house will need re-decorating, whilst bathrooms and kitchens need to be updated at some point. Eventually, without appropriate maintenance, the value of the house – your investment – is likely to fall. The longer you leave it without looking after your investment, the harder, and more expensive, it becomes to put things right.

Sustaining your approach to Customer Experience is no different. The creation of a customer strategy is NOT a one off event. Neither is customer journey mapping. Customer feedback mechanisms MUST be reviewed on at least an annual basis to ensure they are still relevant, accurate and reflective of the truth. Knowledge of people needs to be continually refreshed – both in skills and competencies as well as the strategic intent of the business. I can tell you now, that whilst most business are good at doing all of these things in the first instance, it is shocking how many FAIL to refresh and repeat many (if any) of them.

If you do not maintain your approach to Customer Experience, very much like your house, you run the risk of it falling down around you. I once said that Customer Experience is for life, not just for Christmas – and I stand by that statement. Customer Experience sustainability is reliant on a number of things – but whatever you do, don’t let your CX house fall down!

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