Raising the Bar: Getting Aggressive on CX

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Z-Z-Z . . . That is the sound of many CX programs. Capture scores. Report scores. Celebrate or commiserate. Repeat.

Face it: for many firms, CX is little more than a score-keeping activity. Mired in their legacy work and unwilling to make changes, programs have become lethargic, running on auto-pilot. Instead of pushing, prodding and poking, some CXers have become complacent, going through the motions instead of taking on the fight.

It’s time to get aggressive. Whether it’s to affect change, up their game or simply make the job more relevant, CXers need to raise the bar on their programs. Get scrappy, demand more from your CX program and lead the charge to reinvigorate the corporate commitment to the customer experience. Here’s one possible game plan.

1. Start with a critical self-assessment of the level of maturity of your program. Using a structured approach that has been tried and tested, have the CX team evaluate their program against a standard set of criteria. This isn’t an exercise in self-flagellation or congratulation; it’s to level-set, turn the mirror inward and assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of your program. This is best accomplished using a proven tool and a third-party facilitator. Done properly, it also should shed some light on setting priorities for improvement.

2. Begin connecting the dots between your customer feedback data and operational and financial data, as well as employee experience data. Isolated bits of information are like the individual brushstrokes in a Monet: to see the larger picture CXers must link customer feedback to other data. This is essential to connecting CX to the business, such as, for example, making the economic case for CX, understanding how the customer experience shapes customer behaviors and determining how the employee experience affects the customer experience. Forge the connection between the customer experience and the outcomes on which senior leadership, lines of business owners and functional area managers are focused. Prove the impact of CX on those outcomes; that will get everyone’s attention and shake things up.

3. Consider moving beyond satisfaction scores, as “satisfying” customers is too low of a hurdle. Targeting satisfaction creates a number of problems: the scores tend to be absurdly high; they neither reflect reality nor leave room for improvement; and the scores show very little “variance” so they don’t differentiate between outstanding, good and OK performance. Accepting satisfaction as the standard is like going into a Häagen-Dazs store and everyone is having a one-scoop cup of vanilla. Use a more demanding measurement stick that differentiates better, such as performance relative to expectations and meaningful labels to distinguish between ratings. Scores will be lower, but they will be more meaningful and provide a more accurate direction on what drives customer delight.

4. Start orienting the company towards the importance of playing defense, especially when they are starry-eyed over sky-high satisfaction scores. While it is more uplifting and positive to focus on top scores, there often is more to be gained by reversing the lens and concentrating on reducing performance failures. Risk mitigation may not be as sexy as striving to boost top scores, but it is a high-value strategy for protecting against the impact of disappointing customers. Reducing the share of disappointed customers from 7% to 6% will always have more of an impact on the business than boosting satisfaction scores from 93% to 94%.

5. Stop talking about the importance of customer emotions and start building the emotional dimension into the program. Functional performance is, of course, critical. Marketers have long since realized, however, that rational assessments miss the emotional dimension, and it is the emotional dimension that is key to human behavior. CXers acknowledge this – and then promptly go out and ignore customer emotions because they are too difficult to measure and address with specific actions. Sure, it’s much easier to measure and improve speed, size and even quality than emotions. But ignoring emotions doesn’t make them less important; it’s an ostrich strategy and just means that you are guaranteeing that your CX program is missing what might be the critical component of the customer experience.

6. Re-evaluate/validate your KPIs and create realistic stretch goals. Are your KPIs explaining or predicting the outcomes or behaviors you want to see from improving the customer experience? Are there better metrics (AKA metrics that are better at explaining or predicting those outcomes)? Chasing scores is bad enough; chasing scores that don’t even explain what you are trying to achieve is worse yet. Confident that you have the “right” KPIs, start advocating for stretch goals, along with recommendations for how to achieve those goals. But be careful: goals need to be realistic to be credible and motivating; linkages to compensation can be effective, but also can be a quagmire that backfires with unintended consequences; evaluate the best “level” (individual, team, department, business unit, etc.) at which to set goals.

7. Take action, propose strategies, develop tactics, evangelize. Turning your CX program from a theoretical exercise into a transformative force requires changes. This is always the hard part. Start small: use a closed-loop feedback process to redress performance failures; document outcomes; develop a few case stories to share with appropriate leadership. Add a process to actively solicit employee feedback on solving issues frequently cited by customers and propose fixes. Conduct (or have conducted by others) Action Planning Workshops with line managers, staff and other relevant players to digest the feedback and turn it into a tactical plan. Take the proof points you have developed in steps 2 and 6 above and present the economic case for CX to senior leadership, business units leads, functional area managers… the entire company.

Whether your CX program just needs a tune-up or a complete re-start, now is the time to get aggressive. Why now?

  • The ground has shifted. The pandemic has redefined everything. This singularity is a perfect time for a reset.
  • Senior leadership in many firms is getting impatient. Many have only partially bought in to the promise of CX and are getting itchy for results, especially because of the seismic shifts in the face of Covid.
  • Not to wax philosophical, but “If not now, when?”

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