The Customer Experience Process

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Companies seeking to become more customer-centric should define the customer experience as a formal end-to-end process in their organization.

Business leaders that subscribe to the process-centric approach to business improvement understand the importance of having well-defined end-to-end processes. Typical end-to-end processes that are well-defined and optimized in businesses today include:

  • Plan to Profits (Budgeting & Finance)
  • Order to Cash (Operations/Order Fulfillment)
  • Procure to Pay (Procurement)
  • Recruit to Retain (Human Resources)
  • Idea to Market (New Product Innovation)
  • Forecast to Delivery (Manufacturing & Distribution)
  • Market to Sale (Sales & Marketing)

For those organizations that have formally adopted a process-centric approach to business, the process is often formally defined, measured, monitored, and continually optimized. This level of discipline is critical to deliver a process that is high performing, predictable, efficient, effective, and error-free.

In order to become more customer-centric, businesses should add the customer experience end-to-end process to their portfolio of strategically important processes.

The customer experience is a process. Like any process, the customer experience process can work perfectly (or go horribly wrong), may contain numerous scenarios, and it can be analyzed, re-engineered and optimized. The customer experience process does not begin and end at the store, sales representatives, web site or call-center. It extends from the moment the customer becomes aware of a company and may last until they die, move, or leave for a competitor. In short, the customer experience process is broad, deep, iterative, and (hopefully) long running.

The customer experience process is comprised of three distinct phases:

  1. Customer Attraction (before): Customer attraction represents all of the touchpoints and interactions encountered by your customer during initial sales and marketing activities.
  2. Customer Interaction (during): Customer interaction represents all of the touchpoints and interactions encountered by your customer during payment, service, and delivery activities.
  3. Customer Cultivation (after): Customer cultivation represents all of the touchpoints and interactions encountered by your customer after a purchase or transaction that includes loyalty, reward, and ongoing communications management.

Great customer experiences don’t happen by accident. They require a keen attention to detail, a focus on every touch point, and an orchestration of all customer encounters regardless of how each customer may navigate the company. Mastering the customer experience must begin with mastering the end-to-end customer experience process.

At any time that a customer is involved in the process, the ultimate goal is to deliver a customer experience process that sells more, increases buying frequency, and broadens the relationship. A critical first step to improve any customer experience should be to map the entire customer experience end-to-end process. By doing so, companies can develop a deeper appreciation for how the business interacts with their customers.

To achieve the focus and discipline that the customer experience process deserves, businesses should add a new end-to-end process to its portfolio of strategic processes. By defining the customer experience as a strategic end-to-end process, the customer experience process can be studied, measured, monitored, refined, re-engineered, optimized, and improved. The process will become much more disciplined and receive the attention it deserves in the organization.

Robert Howard
Robert G. Howard, Partner at Kurt Salmon, has more than 20 years of experience designing and implementing innovative customer experiences across web, retail, customer care, and mobile channels. Mr. Howard is the co-author of the The Customer Experience Fiasco, and 7 Steps to Customer Experience Domination.

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