Customer experience strategy is the foundation to achieving business results — not only as ROI for your customer experience efforts, but also for your business as a whole. In this season of planning for the new fiscal year, it will pay to get it right.
In a customer experience (CX) conference, several roundtable options were aimed at about a dozen attendees each, yet 57 people — with standing room only — piled into the CX ROI roundtable. The pressure to demonstrate business results is high, but year after year, studies show that less than half of companies aiming for CX excellence actually have a CX strategy! Top obstacles to customer experience success are typically cited as lack of CX strategy, lack of cooperation among organizations, lack of CX processes, and correspondingly, lack of budget.
Top obstacles to the success of customer experience goals — Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study, 2010-2013.
The shocking consequence of CX strategy sloppiness is described in the Forrester 2013 State of Customer Experience report: “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.”
For other endeavors in business, would we settle for such half-heartedness or incompleteness in our annual operating plans? Whenever the answer is yes, certainly we can agree on a low likelihood of success. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water just yet — you have an opportunity to be wholehearted and complete going forward!
Here are 3 keys to getting it right for 2015: be holistic, bust silos, and integrate.
1) Be holistic: For something as important as THE source of your company’s funding — customers — think big and comprehensively. Piecemeal attempts yield piecemeal results.
- DO THIS: Deploy an end-to-end system that connects customers’ feedback to internal improvements and innovations, and then to customer engagement. Nothing in business is an island — think of customer experience management as a system of interconnected efforts that must be synchronized and fully deployed before lasting results are reaped.
- NOT THAT: A program or technology is not a strategy — market research, CRM, references, engagement, and repurchase/renewal efforts are components that must be connected in order to “move the needle” for CX ROI. Our 4-year study indicates that ongoing coordination among managers of all these CX programs is a CX ROI success factor.
Furthermore, don’t forget the “middleware” — customer intelligence connects the dots across disparate sources, customer lifetime value (CLV) prioritizes efforts and motivates action, CX improvement must be systemic to prevent recurrence of issues, CX innovation must be anticipatory of customers’ expectations and contribute to customers’ capabilities, and engaging internally must be in alignment with all of the above. Our 4-year study shows that this middleware is not typically part of what’s considered to be a “CX strategy”.
Do: Think of it as centering your business on customers and centering your employees on customers. As the source of your company’s lifeblood, why would you center it on anything else?
2) Bust silos: Customers think of a company or brand as “one”, so it pays to manage customer experience accordingly.
- DO THIS: Get your C-team “on the same page” with customer-centered CX terminology, vision, and strategy. Unify your business units and support functions in their views and roles, and understanding of their joint responsibility for the ripple effect on CX goals of their handoffs and decisions and mindsets.
Align data and methods across your whole company, allowing flexibility as needed to address customers’ needs, while simplifying and creating consistency that will serve customers’, employees’, and shareholders’ well-being alike.
- NOT THAT: Silos built-in to your CX effort waste a lot of opportunity. While pilots of methodologies and technologies are useful, lay the change management groundwork for pilots to be rolled out horizontally and vertically, to minimize silos in the way you manage customer experience.
The same goes for data, systems, and methods — design it right the first time, and iron-out the legacy kinks. For sustained CX ROI, manage business in the ways that customers need us to portray ourselves.
3) Integrate: Since customers are integral to business success, integrate their viewpoints into everything you do.
- DO THIS: Weave CX goals into all of your strategies, plans, rituals, processes, policies, and day-to-day work — at every level of management and across all the business lines, accounts, and support functions. Rituals include staff meetings, ops reviews, all-hands meetings, performance reviews, succession, planning and budgeting, and so forth.
- NOT THAT: Customer experience is not an interaction, touch-point, usage instance, event, aura, or domain exclusive to front-line employees. Everything across your company can influence the experience your customers have. Like healthy habits for physical bodies, the best results come when health-centered actions and thinking permeate every aspect of your life. If you want long-lasting CX differentiation and ROI, build it into the way you live.
A sensible approach to CX strategy is what’s needed for sustained CX ROI. In fact, companies that view customer experience as a determinant of corporate strategy — rather than a subset of corporate strategy, or unrelated to it — appear to have cracked the nut for drawing strong value from CX efforts. Be holistic, bust silos, and integrate customer experience in all you do as you plan your company’s future.