For CX success, re-evaluate your purpose


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May I offer a modest suggestion about CX?  Here it is:

The purpose of Customer Experience as an endeavor (a department, a practice, a field of study, etc.) is to improve the alignment between what your company says it’s all about (call it mission/vision, corporate values/principles, or simply Brand Promise) and the experience your Customers have when they interact with your brand.

Notice that there’s no mention in there about revenues, sales, or market share.  That’s on purpose, because the more I think about the “ROI of CX,” the more I realize that we in CX are writing checks that the Customers’ experiences alone (no matter how awesome they may be) can’t cash.  As valuable as you may think NPS is, for example, as a top-level CX KPI, and as many white papers and studies you can point to that show advocates (Promoters) are more likely themselves to return and repurchase, there’s no way you can prove a causal relationship between your CX efforts and the outcome of improved sales and/or revenue absent other factors.  In fact, I’d argue that any company with a true dedication to CX and a Customer-centric attitude is likely to be getting a lot of other things right that have nothing to do with these efforts…the cumulative effect of which is all those sweet, sweet increased sales.  Simply slapping post hoc ergo proctor hoc as the last slide of your CX presentation ain’t good enough…there’s a lot more going on, and taking credit for it (or promising it ahead of time) is flirting with danger.

So why even bother?  Given the purpose I proposed at the outset, isn’t it simply logical that sales and revenue would follow anyway?  What I mean is, if we in the CX profession strive for Brand Promise alignment as our output, instead of a magic elixir for increased sales and revenue, we’d be on much firmer ground.  It’s about giving CX the proper position: as a vital part of your company’s structure, intrinsic to its proper operation, as opposed to some silver bullet brought in from some other world to crack the code of revenue magic.

Let me analogize:

Nobody would deny that an important (vital) requirement for success in any organization is the recruiting, development, and retention of top-notch talent.  And it’s no stretch to emphasize that, in recruiting, developing, and retaining that talent within your company, you’re setting yourself up for improved sales and revenue by virtue of having a high-performing team that’s building and delivering spectacular goods and/or services for your Customers.  Clearly an essential—indeed, crucial—component of market success is that team, nurtured by the very culture so deliberately crafted by your HR Department.  But notice that your HR Department nonetheless rarely if ever feels the need to “justify” its existence.  Nor does your Head of HR declare a predictable revenue return for this or that program.  This isn’t to pick on them, quite the opposite:  it’s to acknowledge that nobody doubts the value of an elite team of professionals that were carefully selected and are intentionally cherished.  There’s no need (and nobody’d believe it anyway) to say, for example, that, if we invest in our engineers at the level of $XXX,000 in salary and benefits, we’ll see $YY,000 in monthly recurring revenue.  That’d be a preposterous suggestion.

So why should CX be any different?  Ask yourself as a leader (or if you’re not, but are bold enough, ask one of them):  If our Customers—and potential Customers—regularly see our values and principles reflected in their interactions with our brand, won’t that lead to more loyalty, and therefore increased sales and revenue?*  I think by trying to draw some clear point-A-to-point-B straight line between this or that CX initiative (and the investment it takes) and a directly resulting revenue goal is missing a huge intermediate step; not to mention the myriad other factors that will also impact Customer behavior, some of which have nothing to do with your company whatsoever, let alone the cool things your CX team has cooking.

So how about if we readjust the expectations of CX?  How about if we use a different way of measuring the success of a CX program?  (Here’s a starting point, where I recommend using the Brand Alignment Score.)  If we can appreciate a more rational (and for that matter, intrinsic) goal for Customer Experience as an endeavor, we can avoid frustration or confusion if we don’t see pie-in-the-sky market share magic as an immediate and direct result.  We can also keep our beloved profession from falling into disfavor among business leaders as merely a fad that didn’t live up to the hype.  It’s not about the old practice of under-promising and over-delivering; it’s about knowing the true value of this important work and setting the proper expectations of those who we’re hoping to buy into it.  The result will be a proper place for us in the constellations of business practices with a no-kidding earned reputation of delivering on the value we offer.  We could be the next HR.

*It’s worth acknowledging here that this begs a question or few:  Do we really believe in our corporate values, our Mission, and Vision?  Do we really think that these guiding principles are the key to success?  When you think about it that way and bring it out into the open, this can be a really good reflective exercise for the leadership of an organization…and what better vehicle to drive such a conversation than the actual interactions you’re having with your Customers for whom you’re in business in the first place?  If you can’t honestly and unflinchingly declare that you believe living by and up to (while, granted, it’s always aspirational) your core corporate values will result in more revenue, sales, and market share, maybe they need a review, no?  What’s more, it may be that the Brand Promise you corporately feel is so wonderful simply doesn’t have much demand in the market itself.  At least if you dedicate yourself to that Brand Promise (instead of revenue as a goal), you can fail honorably.  But if what it takes to thrive in your market is something other than what you purport to say are your North Star guiding principles, what have you earned to believe that’s what got you there if you do succeed?  Eventually, that house will fall down, if you don’t mind my mixing my metaphors.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.


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