The Single Most Important Element to Improve CX


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What is the single most important thing I can do to move the needle on our customer experience? It’s a question clients frequently ask us as a customer experience consultancy. It’s also one that is likely best answered with more questions.

For starters, are you looking for a CX revolution or evolution? The more you aim to change (particularly if those changes are IT related), the more money it requires. No surprise: Extensive can mean expensive, which is fine if you have a solid plan that gets you — and your customers — your money’s worth.

Photo by PeopleImages via iStock

A revolution also takes more time. Case in point: In the early 2000s, Wisconsin utility company We Energies was at the bottom of the barrel, according to JD Powers. A change in executive leadership spurred a revolution: not be just better than the bottom, but No. 1. The revolution required new thinking, new tools, a longer-term vision, and an obsession with providing the ideal CX. It took several years, but eventually We Energies became the top company in their industry as ranked by JD Powers.

Contrast that with more evolutionary approaches, which typically start with understanding your customers. This can come in the form of journey maps and customer research, but they all focus on understanding what currently is taking place. Of course, the next step is to address those gaps through process improvement tactics and likely bring on new vendors for “voice of the customer” analytics. It’s a solid approach that works well.

So the answer to “What is the single most important thing I can do to move the needle on our customer experience?” depends on whether you need to completely transform or evolve. Are you on the threshold of a revolution, or are you more inclined to evolve to keep pace with the industry? Knowing this will certainly lead to your silver bullet.

What’s Your Current CX, and How Close Is It to Where You Want It to Be?
If you’re still on the fence, a few more questions can help determine whether a revolution or evolution is in order:

•How are you measuring your current CX? The Net Promoter Score is one common tool and there are various other ways to measure satisfaction or ease. Regardless of which one you use, you’re getting a scale that shows you how much better you can do. The distance from the other end of that continuum helps show whether a revolution or an evolution will get you there. You’re also getting a metric that you can compare against later to quantify the progress.

•Is your company poorly ranked according to external analysis/surveys, and how have you been trending? We Energies was rock bottom, thus warranting a revolution. And like the aforementioned internal measurement tools, the external ones show how far you need to go and, afterward, how much CX has improved. While you might not be rock bottom, it’s also important to look at how you’ve been trending. If things aren’t heading the right way, you might need that revolution before you get all the way to rock bottom.

•How does CX affect each of your business goals? For example, is CX a major factor in churn? What about revenue? As Forrester Research once put forward in a March 2016 report, The Customer Experience Management Maturity Model, “Knowing what CX can and can’t do for the business helps executives choose how much to emphasize and invest in CX.”

•Do you believe you can connect the dots between all of the internal programs that touch your customers? This is no small feat. “To succeed at scale, CX practices must be well defined and deeply ingrained organizational habits,” the Forrester report explains. “Otherwise, there is no way that thousands of people can work together to consistently deliver the experiences that are associated with large quantities of products across dozens of channels.” A revolutionary makeover might be what it takes to get everyone on the same page.

One more proven way to decide is to measure your internal capabilities. Andrew Reise has a capability maturity model that has proven useful during many CX Strategy development programs. It often helps identify the work that will make the greatest impact and prioritize it accordingly. While there are many models that often have dozens of capabilities to measure, we feel it is important to narrow it down a bit, focusing on the capabilities that matter most to your industry and your particular situation. So please don’t just take a blind approach to assessing capability maturity, but a measured and thoughtful one.

In the meantime, we’re offering Forrester’s full report—“The Customer Experience Management Maturity Model”—as more food for thought. It’s packed with insights into why so many CX pros struggle to figure out what to do differently, and examples of ones who have.

And then let us know what you think…or just connect with us if you want to learn more. Connect with us.

Tim Carrigan
Tim Carrigan, Consulting Vice President at Andrew Reise Consulting, helps clients develop and deliver on their customer experience strategies. He recently co-authored the Customer Experience Fiasco, Learning from the Misguided Adventures of a Customer Experience Executive, now available in hard copy or Kindle version through More information on the book, along with other customer experience case studies and guides, is available at Follow Tim on twitter (@timjcarrigan)


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