There’s little debate that customer experience (CX) is the new growth engine for businesses. In fact, an astounding 97 percent of senior executives consider it “critical.” Of that group, 93 percent have made it a top three priority. But unlike the brand, innovation, and digital revolutions that preceded it, the burgeoning CX revolution is not a “bolt on” growth driver.
Pouring millions of dollars into experiential trinkets matter little when companies fumble the fundamentals. Got a new in-store VR app? Cool. But not cool enough to soothe your shopper’s frustration that her favorite yogurt flavor is out of stock. Again. Great CX is not about quantity of novelty. It’s about totality of quality. That means offering fluid, contextual, personal, and delightful experiences at every touchpoint. This isn’t only a go-to-market challenge.
It’s also a culture, structure, incentives, talent, business model, and operations challenge. Leaders must fundamentally rebuild their organizations around the customer to deliver superior CX. Not everyone is ready to run headlong at this multi-headed hydra, though. Fire drills rearrange priorities. The necessary investment of time, money, and people isn’t available.
The conversation about reskilling teams is mind numbing while the suggestion of unifying internal fiefdoms sends chills up the spine. Of all these challenges though, the toughest one is the first: where to begin? Sixty-three percent of executives are still looking for an answer. The truth is, there is no one perfect place to start; but there are five sensible places. They’re high-reward, low-cost leverage points. When simultaneously enacted, they make overcoming all the other challenges possible.
Leverage Point 1: Free The Capacity For Change
Companies are fantastic at adding initiatives, less so at eliminating them. Becoming a CX leader, means having the capacity – time, money, and people – to do so. Every department, directive, position, process, initiative, and incentive should fall under the microscope. Is it ineffective? End it. Is it frivolous? Pull the plug. Is it redundant? Hit “stop.” Change only happens when organizations create the capacity for change.
Leverage Point 2: Lower The Percentage Of Project Work
In recent years, leaders have dumped retainer relationships in favor of more experimental and non-committal projects. And their companies aren’t any better for it. Crowded partner rosters introduce all sorts of inefficiencies. It inflates the time and effort to manage them. Initiatives often emerge disconnected from a larger company ambition.
Conflicting objectives and project redundancies are common. Project relationships disincentive partners to work together, so they don’t. What the customer gets, in the end, is an inconsistent, balkanized, friction-filled customer experience—the opposite of her definition of “quality.” Building a superior customer experience requires strategic leadership from one, consistent partner – one who will:
- Establish and manage a holistic CX perspective
- Speak hard truths to you
- Build with you a portfolio of CX initiatives to roll out in a manageable way
- Partner with you to drive change throughout your organization
Leverage Point 3: Elevate What You Value
The purpose of a business, to build on Peter Drucker, is to create and take care of a customer. But purpose and practice rarely align. Customers feel it: a whopping 8 percent believe companies deliver great CX. The rift exists because the customer isn’t valued. That may sound harsh, but a company elevates what it values. Look in most c-suites and you’ll see what their organizations exalt: operations (COO), marketing (CMO), information (CIO), and finances (CFO). These c-suites unconsciously inspire cultures concerned with the management of business functions. Not the creation and caretaking of customers. For them, the customer will always be an input, rather than the point. For aspiring CX leaders, why not include a “Chief Customer Experience Architect” in the C-suite? A simple addition at that level can be a powerful symbol of reevaluation and reorientation for a company.
For aspiring CX leaders, why not include a “Chief Customer Experience Architect” in the C-suite? A simple addition at that level can be a powerful symbol of reevaluation and reorientation for a company.
Leverage Point 4: Measure What You Value
Companies also measure what they value. Measuring behaviors, beliefs, or sentiments for specific touchpoints is common. But customer satisfaction as a cumulative score of experience across touchpoints and time? That’s surprisingly rare. It should be a priority since cumulative satisfaction scores are more predictive of business outcomes — high revenue, repeat purchase, low customer churn, positive word of mouth — than any individual touchpoint score. Forming a CX analytics team and a CX tracker is a low hanging fruit with big benefits. It doesn’t require any proprietary systems, infusion of cash, or reskilling of talent. It requires merely a shift in research orientation to return a wealth of insights that can fuel organizational change and CX improvement.
Forming a CX analytics team and a CX tracker is a low hanging fruit with big benefits. It doesn’t require any proprietary systems, infusion of cash, or reskilling of talent. It requires merely a shift in research orientation to return a wealth of insights that can fuel organizational change and CX improvement.
Leverage Point 5: Chart Your ‘Share Of Experience’ Expansion
It’s tempting to think of “customer experience” as a customer’s contact with a business. This point of view isn’t wrong; it’s just incomplete. People don’t think in terms of “customer experience.” They think in terms of “my experience” – one described as a goal and defined by a series of activities. While an online retailer might use the language “shopping experience,” a soon-to-be father is more likely to describe it as “my experience prepping for the baby” – a recent experience for me. Yes, included in it are store visits and purchases, but it also includes many touchpoints:
- Reading about baby’s needs
- Creating a wish list
- Soliciting ideas from friends
- Researching suggestions
- Researching product toxicity
- Hunting for nursery design ideas
- Watching how-to videos for crib assembly or putting on wraps
- Wife’s baby shower
- Figuring our how to store the baby items
- Baby proofing the home
- Returning items baby didn’t like
- And so on…
Throughout those activities, multiple companies dip in and out. Rarely does any one expand into adjacent phases or own a whole touchpoint. Therein lies the opportunity for savvy CX leaders. Defining experience as the father does reveals opportunities to extend a company’s value in authentic and relevant ways. This is the essence of “share of experience.” By expanding its value, a company can enrich its relationship with customers. In addition to being a source of innovation and differentiation, it’s also a source of growth: Acquiring a new customer is always more expensive than growing value for existing customers. It costs six times more to get a customer than to keep one. Furthermore, a mere 5 percent increase in retention can generate a 75 percent increase in profitability.
The reason the brand revolution gave way to the innovation revolution and then that of digital is because the competitive advantage each created was not sustainable. Advertising campaigns were, at best, superficial gains. Innovations were easy to mimic. Looking forward, the same parity will occur in digital as leaders add similar capabilities, services, and properties. The CX revolution is different, though. As noted, achieving superior CX requires systemic change across an organization: from operations to culture to go-to-market. The learning curve is steep and long. Companies that act early and fast will gain a first-mover advantage. The associated complexity and necessary costs of CX imitation will deter most would-be copycats. Those who do attempt imitation will find little reward. While they struggle to ascend the learning curve, CX leaders will move with the efficiency found at the top of the curve. Not only will the competitive gap yawn, but also the customer loyalty leaders earn
Not only will the competitive gap yawn, but also the customer loyalty leaders earn will shore up them up against aggressive tactics of desperate imitators. Thus, the advantage given by CX endures precisely because it is so difficult to achieve.