Do we manage customer experience strategy like playing Jenga? (Jenga is the game with a stack of blocks where players take turns to remove one and balance it on top.) The game is supposed to start with a robust foundation, and in the quest to rise to new heights, holes are made to re-allocate resources, weakening the structure until it topples over.
In managing customer experience (CX), new heights are attempted by betting the farm on shiny silver bullets such as loyalty programs, CRM, technologies, digital marketing, content management, social media, and other customer engagement methods. These endeavors are often referred to as a customer experience management strategy, yet they lack the essential building blocks that will logically win customers' hearts for the long-term. As the Forrester 2013 State of Customer Experience report discovered: "Despite 90% of respondents saying that CX is a top strategic priority for their firm, a shocking 86% said their companies don't actually expect to get much value from it."
Customer Experience Management Success Factors
From the get-go, we're cutting corners with communication gaps between managers of various customer experience processes. Although coordination among those who manage different aspects of CX is not yet common, the companies that do coordinate formally do have stronger business results tied to CX, according to the Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study. In fact, correlation analyses indicate that some of the least common practices are indeed the most lucrative. Lack of intention to mold the company's processes, policies, and mindsets to build-in customer experience excellence causes severe structural weaknesses in the quest to achieve financial results.
Think about it: if those who manage different parts of customer experience across the company don't talk regularly with one another, how can we expect to excel in an omni-channel world (a seamless experience; reaching the customers wherever they are)? How can we expect solid relationships with customers (as implied by CRM and loyalty programs) if we aren't fully managing the holistic customer experience?
Customer Experience Management Mindset
We start with a rickety foundation when we don't set the tone for transforming processes, policies and mindsets before collecting customer feedback or mapping customer journeys and touch-points, or beginning any other aspect of CX management. A minority (only 5-15%) of organizations seeks to transform business-as-usual to truly customer-centric operations, according both to the Temkin Group's 2013 State of Voice of the Customer Programs study and to the ClearAction study. Most executives place greater emphasis on stock market pressures, industry analysts' recommendations, internal politics, and management's instincts than they place on customer inputs. This may also be a reflection of the breadth of usable content from customer surveys relative to what's needed to inform management's decision-making. The ClearAction study shows 40% of firms with executives that treat CX management as a formal process, influencer of major decisions, and competitive differentiator. The same number of firms report company-wide deployment of CX strategy and/or customer-centricity (degree that customers' welfare is at the center of the solution provider's decision-making and actions).
Employee Engagement in Customer Experience Management
Other critical holes that make our customer experience management a lot like a game of Jenga revolve around lack of widespread employee engagement in managing their impact on CX excellence. There's a snowball effect from the remotest corners of a company, as hand-offs and deliverables successively impact the internal value-building chain until customer-facing employees, and customers themselves, feel the brunt of it all. Systemic resolution of root issues to prevent recurrence for all customers is what will move the needle the most in CX business results. Don't be duped into lipstick-on-a-pig thinking; make sure the substance (quality of product, service, experience) is there before focusing on sizzle (customer engagement).
Cross-functional collaboration must become a way of life, breaking down silos, minimizing customer pain and employee pain, and cleverly creating value that causes customers to be naturally enthusiastic about buying again, buying more, and telling everyone they know how wonderful your company is. To do this, change management, organizational learning, quality tools (e.g. six sigma/lean, Pareto, fishbone analyses, etc.), and systems thinking are absolute musts in every CX strategy.
Customer Experience Strategy Building Blocks
Somehow, our piecemeal strategy attempts are expected to achieve meaningful differences in financial performance. And when push comes to shove, many of these pieces are vulnerable to scrapping or skimping, weakening your strategy's capability to produce sustainable results.
First, make sure you have a complete customer experience strategy, with the right inputs (C5: customer experience strategy, customer-centricity, customer voice, customer intelligence and customer lifetime value), followed by the right actions (I2: improvement and innovation of CX company-wide), accompanied by promotion that fits (B2: branding internally and externally).
Don't be deluded about a loose confederation of tactics posing as a robust strategy. Then guard your Jenga tower like you would any other major asset in your company: don't allow raiding, corner-cutting, or bad-mouthing. Give it all you've got if you want significant sustained results.
See extensive advice in the consolidated 2013 ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study (http://ClearActioncx.com/benchmarking/).
Contact the author, Lynn Hunsaker, to find out how to customize these practices to your situation.
- Model for Customer Experience Strategy
- Customer Experience ROI Trajectory
- Customer Experience Management is More than Engagement
- Customer-Centricity Goes Beyond Customer Experience Management
- Don't Confuse Technology with Customer Experience Management
- 6 Success Factors for World-Class Performance in Customer Experience Management
- Customer Experience Management is Doing the Right Thing
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