Customer experience (CX) is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. HBR articles, McKinsey and Accenture reports all assert that CX is a key area of focus for senior leaders. We’re also seeing a demand to speak at an increasing number of CX events worldwide, and there are more CXO’s being installed in larger companies.
That said, whilst activity and “noise” on CX is increasing, this isn’t necessarily matched by the level of business-wide understanding of what a customer experience actually involves. The definition, scope and impact can vary greatly, even amongst the senior leadership level in the same company.
In the rush to drive action (not necessarily outcomes), some briefs and RFPs are being circulated without a clear understanding of CX, the proper “do now, do next, do later” planning and customer or competitor context behind them. Effective CX requires effective cross business collaboration. As a consequence, it can be hard and regularly fails, so lack of clarity and planning at the key starting stages will curtail the potential success of a nascent programme.
Think of the story about three men in the dark, encountering an elephant. One man feels only the elephant’s trunk, and thinks it’s a branch. One feels only the elephant’s ear, and thinks it’s a fan. The last feels only the elephant’s tail, and thinks it’s a rope. Just as it is possible to only understand what an elephant is by turning the light on and understanding the entire animal, it is only possible to implement an effective CX plan by understanding the end-to-end experience for customers. And, how employees engage with this and a clear view of the scope and the whole picture of what a CX programme can accomplish.
As a discipline, CX is still young, and people’s direct experiences of it will vary from role to role and person to person. To one person, it’s a CRM database. To another board member, it may be a survey of customer attitudes. There will not only be different levels of understanding but also different levels of credibility and confidence in the CX program and those leading it. So, how can businesses keen to improve their CX, efficiently plan to improve their customer experience with fully open minds, and reap the rewards of a successful ongoing transformation?
First, it’s essential that CX starts small. A best case scenario would involve a “tuned in” business leader, or where there’s “blood on the floor”: ideally both. The business has little to lose and a lot of motivation to change and adopt CX tools and approaches to tackle this problem.
Proof points provide meaningful context, build credibility, confidence and potentially momentum. With hard evidence, everyone, from uppermost senior leadership on down, has an “in company” example of CX. They can then understand and start to buy into the full potential, the scope and capabilities required for the effective design, deployment and optimisation of the rational and emotional components of an end to end CX.
Defining the challenge, getting started on proof points, establishing CX governance and in so doing effectively “educating” the management team on the whole CX picture is key. So for a programme to be set up effectively, consider rethinking the brief, make it action focussed (“do now, do next, do later”) with the emphasis on pilots and learning.
CX also needs to be approached from an employee perspective, so it can be understood and embraced by every area of a business, and every member of the board needs to understand how it touches their area of responsibility. So as well as taking functional responsibility for their part of the experience they need to look at CX and understand it together as a leadership team – have a clear view of an ideal future customer, plan back from there how long it may take to get there, and think about the “proof points” to deliver on that journey.
Its key for any leadership team to take external perspectives to ensure they’re not going down the same path: listening to employees, customers, (direct and indirect) competitors from outside the business in this process can be useful in keeping the brief for CX focussed on what’s going to deliver value. Establishing appropriate governance to own the overall strategy, the brand goals, and to regularly review delivery of the CX strategy is a capability the organisation needs to develop over time. Ongoing benchmarking of progress of the organisation by the leadership team should help to keep CX delivery and its potential front of mind.
CX may seem like a tricky and daunting task. However, starting small, learning, and accumulating proof points is proven to be a successful strategy. Building a map of the current customer experience across all customer touchpoints, in every environment, across physical and digital, is a good place to start. Using the customer map helps businesses to understand key moments of truth and potential pain points in the customer journey, and identify high leverage actions to address these areas and give highest returns on effort.