Maybe you are already “doing” CX

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“You’re soaking in it.”  Do you remember that commercial for dishwashing soap that was supposed to be so incredibly good for your skin that the lady who’d gone in (to see Madge, remember?) for a manicure was unknowingly enjoying its benefits, thinking she was dipping her fingers into some wonderful skin tonic?  Or have you heard the concept of fish not realizing they’re wet because they’re surrounded by water?

This occurred to me the other day when I was speaking with a potential client about his organization’s CX efforts.  Some folks simply don’t see the forest for the trees and others overcomplicated the idea of Customer Experience so much so that they don’t know where to start.  This company was administering surveys and even had the beginnings of a Walking in the Customers Shoes program in that the CEO from time to time would take a step back and attempt to experience their offerings from the outside perspective.  (The organization was small enough that it wasn’t totally possible for him to accomplish this with complete anonymity, so his efforts were somewhat limited.)  He and his leadership team talked a good game about Customer centricity, and the rest of the team seemed (at least from his perspective) to be on board with that.  They weren’t really doing anything with the insights they were gathering from this VoC program, and there wasn’t even much of a tracking mechanism.

He was a bit frustrated.  “We’re not really doing CX,” he lamented.

Well, I don’t know about that, I replied.  I wanted to channel Madge and tell him he’s actually soaking in it.

See, those of us in the profession of Customer Experience can see sprouts of even a nascent CX program and appreciate the work for what it is:  A good start.  But sometimes, what with all our certifications, our discussion groups, our conferences, even our own language at times, we may not realize that we’re making CX sound like more work than it really is.  It’s not brain surgery and it’s true that any organization can “do” CX.  In fact, many who think they aren’t, actually are.  I suppose what delineates a company that is from one that isn’t “doing” CX is simply structure.

The organization led by the CEO above has a (albeit not necessarily robust) Voice of the Customer program.  It’s got the beginnings of a Customer-centric culture in that its leadership is at least talking the talk.  Walking the walk only takes really a few tweaks and maybe some guidance…a few tangible things leaders can actually set their minds to.  As I’ve written before, culture can be tricky, but like CX itself, sometimes people make it more complicated than it really is, and there are actual, operational things one can do to work on a Customer-centric culture.

But that really goes to the heart of what it takes to “do” CX (as with a lot of things that aren’t ‘brain surgery’):  Sometimes we just need some structure.  By the way we talk about it in CX circles and on our blogs and in our webinars, those not in our CX club may mistake it as some sort of rarified field of study and practice.  While it’s true that the profession of Customer Experience does take study and practice, the foundational building blocks have been around for quite some time.  And lots of folks are already doing it.

Surveys have been around for a long time.  But if an organization simply surveys its Customers and calls it a day, it’s not really doing CX:  There needs to be some sort of action.  Likewise, if a company relies only on surveys to glean insights into the Customers’ experiences, that is not going to answer the mail on how its Customers truly feel, and they’re likely to be surprised when they lose Customers.  A robust and integrated CX effort requires curious VoC vehicles (to include, but by no means limited to, surveys) and analysis of the results as well as system-wide Process Engineering programming to take action on what those VoC insights uncover.  What’s funny is that the company I was speaking with actually has a great PE organization and has been delivering tremendous value from a process improvement perspective for quite some time.  I asked if they’d considered slightly shifting the focus of those efforts toward the insights from their VoC program (rather than solely on resource or cost savings), and a light went on for them.

That’s where the leadership and cultural aspects of your CX strategy come into play:  By talking about being Customer-centric, you’re bringing it into the minds of your team.  By actually prioritizing the investments of time and energy (in this case, the leveraging of your PE resources) with respect to improving your CX, you’re walking the walk, and that goes a long way to driving a Customer-centric culture.

All the pieces and building blocks were in place, they just needed to put some structure and strategy to work to bring it all together.  Ask yourself and your organization if you think CX is something you “do” or not.  Then take a look around.  You may be soaking in it.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Not a CX “expert” here, but working with clients who know this better than me, I can tell you three things: 1) when you develop a CX think about the end result (what do you want it to do?); 2) create a way to measure its success (i.e. – more conversions, less customer complaints about a particular issue, processes are streamlined); and 3) make sure when you build the program, you get as many people involved as possible – from programmers, to sales, to current clients, so you don’t create more problems when the CX Is up and running.

    This basic framework sets clears goals and you can build a CX that serves your company best.

  2. I’ll channel another famous TV commercial icon (who also happened to be a manicurist). It’s Clara Peller, well-remembered for asking “Where’s the beef?” in a series of Wendy’s spots. Looking for the beef in a hamburger is a lot like looking for the personalized value in an organization’s CX program. Whether a company is large or small, and whether the VOC system, culture, and support processes are at beginning or mature stages and actively produce perceived customer value. the enterprise may need to review and reset so that stakeholders don’t have to ask “Where’s the beef?”

  3. Everything is about a better experience. Have you looked at Customer Value Starvation, where simple, small acts of omission or commission cause pain the the customer…inability to get a problem solved, having to deal with wrong telephone numbers or product specs, having to repair a brand new product that does not work.
    Solve these and go to zero complaints, and the CX will increase dramatically.

  4. For me, the fish in water analogy is spot on for the question asked. Your organization has been doing CX from the day it opened for business. The moment the owner decided that improving the customer experience would improve the business, the fish started to realized they had been in the water their entire life.

  5. Thanks for this post. I echo Michael’s great remembrance of Clara Pell with the Wendy’s ad. However, her next prophetic line in that ad speaks to CX and leadership, “I don’t think there’s anybody back there!”

    Too many leaders think the goal is a CX program. In the words of a great CEO and former client, “We don”t need a damn diversity program, we need diversity!” The same sentiment applies to sustaining a superior customer experience as determined by the ultimate judge—the customer!

  6. All to often I speak with organizations that claim to have all their needs met in terms of CX. When we go a bit below the surface, it becomes apparent that these organizations are only conducting a transactional VOC survey with the support of technology. While this practice is a part of the journey toward CX maturity, it is far cry from the complete VOC program of a customer centric organization. To actively improve CX, organizations must be using the information provided by their customers to draft and implement improvement initiatives. To do this effectively, complete CX or VOC programs must collect feedback from multiple sources throughout their customers’ entire lifecycle. Don’t get me wrong, closing the loop with a less than desirable sales or service experience is a key component of any program. However, to actively improve CX and continue the journey toward customer centricity, organizations must take a proactive approach to advance their organization’s CX. This proactive approach will not only benefit their customers but also have positive impact on their overall performance.

  7. In my experience, most of companies have lack of CX soul. In many cases they only launch VoC programs cause they just want more incomes due to they have heared that it leads them to success.
    This movement needs to start in the company culture and then count on true professionals to help them in following the trip

  8. Great post, my friend. This reminded me of a story. I managed in a contact center for about 10 years before I knew what a service level was. So excited about a new metric I calculated our service level for the last 10 years and found we were answering 90% of our calls in like 60 seconds or less. We had been overstaffed for a long time and the company was OK with that because it meant customers didn’t have to wait a long time for support.

    That’s just one example but I became very aware of just how customer-centric our company leadership was, long before we knew what the heck CX was.

  9. Years ago when speaking about CRM, I would ask the audience how many were “doing CRM.” Only a few people were brave enough to raise their hands. Then I’d ask how many had customers, and all the hands would go up.

    Then I’d say: “If you have customers, you’re already doing CRM. The question is — how good a job?”
    This was to get people out of the rut thinking they could only do CRM if they had installed some CRM software.

    These days, it seems that “doing CX” means collecting survey response. Of course there’s much more to CX Management (CXM = doing CX). Or is there?

    On the one hand, every company delivers a customer experience. So every company must be “doing CX”, right?

    I don’t think that’s terrible helpful, so 5 years ago I wrote a post about the Top 5 signs you’re doing a REAL Customer Experience Management (CXM) initiative, including:
    >>
    1. Know your brand purpose and promise. This is not your customers’ decision (although they will have a vote on whether they agree).
    2. Take outside-in perspective. Without customer research (loyalty drivers) and feedback management (VoC), you’re just making things up and hoping for the best.
    3. Develop Customer Journey Maps. Because just upgrading a touchpoint is so 2015. Comparing existing and desired experiences is a good foundation for a CX plan.
    4. Empower employees. I don’t care how “e” your company is, unless employees are prepared and motivated to deliver the right experiences you won’t succeed.
    5. Create a business case. You must connect CX improvements (what customers want) to business outcomes (what CEOs demand). Because CX plans without funding are just a dream.
    >>

    This post stirred up some good debate but no real agreement. Since then, many consultants have built models on CX maturity and the like, but still leaves open the question about what a real CX initiative is. Or isn’t.

  10. To me, there is a balance. On one side when I speak to clients I explain that CX is about doing the same things as you are doing today, but in a Customer focused way. So on one side of it’s just about having a Customer mindset. On the other side, I see a lot of CX programs fail as people think they understand what they need to do to change, but truly don’t. With these people as they see the issues they face they give up as they are not truly committed. I think senior people in the organization need to understand what it means for them to ‘do’ a CX program, the commitment, time, and resources it will take, critically along with the ROI this will bring. Then they can make a decision armed with all the information.

  11. Everybody is doing CX. The question is whether they are doing it well or not. Measuring means nothing if you don’t take action. Talking about it means nothing if you don’t implement at all levels. Thanks for writing an article that pushes us to ask some important questions.

  12. Ha. If i could stand and clap i would. Well heck, there i just did. CX is about action. So many companies get complacent with just measuring stuff. I remember an auto client being disappointed that their CX scores didn’t go up just because they had a metric system in place (not kidding). As far as ‘already soaking in it’ i think that could be a dangerous observation for some. For the “A” student that’s fine…but for the “D” CX student one could convince themselves they are “doing” something but are not. Ironically that is where metrics do play a role. Ask yourself a few questions 1) is are retention rate increasing or decreasing 2) is our profit margin increasing or decreasing 3) is our conversion rate increasing or decreasing and 4) is our cost of sales increasing or decreasing. Depending on how you answer these questions you may be “doing CX” but whatever you think you are doing (or actually doing) may not be working. Connecting activities to business outcomes mediated by CX metrics is a way to figure out what’s working or not. Of course means you are definitely not soaking in it. Thanks for the great read and discussion.

  13. Sure, you could say he’s doing CX. Similarly, even a manufacturer with a 90% defect rate is “doing” quality. The label doesn’t much matter.

    What’s more important is to analyze WHY he says he isn’t doing CX. And I suspect he’s seeing employees who aren’t focused on customers but are doing things the way they want to do them. They may have some of the components of a CX program, but not the mentality to act on the results.

    If the CEO says his company is not doing CX, I believe him. He clearly has a vision for how his company can better listen to customers and act on the results. Rather than disagree that he’s not doing CX, I suggest changing the conversation to: “What would it look like if you were to do CX? How would results be different?” Then use that to define a way forward.

  14. Great comments here. To piggyback on Chip’s reference to leadership, I’m reminded of the empty chair that Jeff Bezos famously included at the table during meetings to represent the customer’s voice/perspective. I also recall a hotel GM who ended meetings after 5 minutes had elapsed without anyone mentioning the customer.

    Everyone in those settings, regardless of the sophistication of their formal CX programs, was acutely aware of the real priority: the customer.

  15. Great article, Nicholas, and thank you for elevating our CX conversations. My livelihood is about DoingCXRight®‬ (not just talking about it). We all need to hold brands accountable to deliver on the customer promise and NOT check a box. Obviously that includes Doing Employee Experience right too. They go hand in hand. So much to say….too little space here.

  16. Let us think about the Purpose of a Company: The Business Roundtable talks about creating Value for all stakeholders. Can CX create value for all stakeholders by giving a great experience to society and to the environment?
    Can CX be expanded to stakeholders?

  17. Where does one start with such tremendous insights from Nicholas and my esteemed colleagues? I’ll keep my response short and smidge contrarian. In every organization with whom I’ve worked, people are trying to make the lives of others better (create an improved experience for internal and external customers). Successful CX involves aligning and force maximizing those efforts. For me, that is best achieved by culture, governance, design, and proper measurement. That’s my 2 cents. Thanks for the provocative thread.

  18. It’s true that from the founding of an organization it’s already managing customer experience, whether informally or formally. Nobody invented customer experience. The first CX was when the first humans on earth bartered. Managing CX is not the same as CX itself: the first is what the provider does, the latter is the recipient’s ratio of “reality (i.e. perceptions) versus expectations”. The goal of managing CX is to drive a 1:1 CX ratio. You want to drive to 1:1 or higher more often than your competitors do. All too often CX is far less than 1:1, and this is the brand-customer gap.

    I like this article and the comments shared here: for customers, it’s about the outcomes more than the methods.

    Better to close the gap sustainably than to get on a hamster-wheel of measure-engage (“where’s the beef” of actioning between those 2 buns?), or analysis paralysis (max-out bandwidth on listening posts and one-by-one closed-loop rather than focusing on using CX insights for how the business is run), or journey mapping obsession (enthusiastic Post-It note workshops with narrow/short-term impact on your customer base), and so on.

    When starting or re-setting a CXM strategy, always give credit for things that are indeed closing the brand-customer gap. Build on those strengths. Approach CXM not from the recipe book of your CX technologists/researchers/analysts, but rather from the standpoint of what makes the most sense to your customers, and secondly by what makes the most sense to your managers. Adopt formal CXM methods accordingly, but never take your eye off brand-customer gap closure as the goal. This cannot be achieved through customer touch-point-based NPS increases; it requires helping every employee (yes, procurement, legal, facilities, audit and all groups play an important role and cannot be excused) adjust their decision-making and hand-offs to what’s sacred (a north-star mantra) about your core-growth customers’ CX. That will get you further than any CXM technology or CXM technique.

  19. My two cents worth: At its simplest, a CX strategy consist of three steps…
    1. Find out what your customers want
    2. Do your best to give it to them better than your competitors can
    3. Keep checking to make sure it’s all on track.
    Have we over-complicated things a bit too much sometimes?

  20. Echoing some comments already made, CX (understanding, managing, designing, optimising) is a business discipline like others within an organisation but the one that arguably uniquely aligns functions, if the customer is really at the heart of what they do.

    If the ‘doing’ or discipline drives the right customer centric behaviours, decision-making, action and customer focus to ultimately deliver the best experiences based on customer outcomes – then they’re doing it (well).

    Calling CX a ‘program’ (particularly if it’s focused on nps, feedback or voc) has muddied the waters as to whether organisations are ‘doing’ CX or not ‘doing’ it.

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