If you look at the latest Forrester data, customer experience efforts seem to be hitting a wall. In spite of big language and increased investment, the needles are barely moving. Some companies even consider to give up and compete on price or focus on easier domains.
Many of these problems come from an addiction to ‘easy solutions’ and ‘low hanging fruit’. While there is nothing wrong with the occasional quick win, real change requires a more structural approach. Only those companies that are willing to bite this bullet will succeed at the customer-centric change required to stay competitive.
So, if you're one of the people who are willing to look beyond the branded content stream of 'feel good' articles and 'quick fix' template, the five suggestions in this article are for you.
They are based on the Customerfit benchmark data and highlight 'big wins' which should be relevant for a majority of companies. None of them are necessarily easy, but if you want to play for real in 2019, you may want to consider them.
BIG WIN #1: Stop chasing scores and focus on capabilities.
Any sports coach can tell you that top performers don’t prioritise the scoreboard. They focus on process and capability. Hit the ball in the right way. Eat the right food. Practice every day. Get those things right and the scores will follow.
But many businesses forget this. They launch initiatives to 'improve their NPS score' or 'drive loyalty'. They forget that these are merely scoreboard outcomes for having played the right game in the first place. As a result, initiatives only deliver a fraction of their potential and the drive for customer-centricity fails to build momentum.
2019 RECOMMENDATION: Shift the customer experience dialogue from results and initiatives to 'organisational readiness'. Map all the capabilities that your business needs to achieve its CX goals. Then, develop a customer fitness programme to help develop these capabilities and systematically measure progress. Accept that the scores will only follow if you stick to your practice schedule. And if this takes time, don’t run off to find the next silver bullet. Do what any sports champion does. Train harder.
BIG WIN #2: Before you journey map, set clear customer experience standards.
Almost every company says it wants to provide a great customer experience. But in spite of all the research and journey maps, many struggle to articulate what this actually means. What is a good experience? And when exactly does it become great? And how do both concepts evolve over the span of the customer relationship?
This causes employees to make their own assumptions. Sometimes this goes well. Sometimes it doesn’t. The only certainty is that - with the best intentions - the customer's experience depends on who ever happened to be running a given touchpoint/episode and their related journeys.
2019 RECOMMENDATION: Formally articulate your company's CX standards. What is the minimum experience your business needs to provide at every stage in the customer relationship? How exactly will you delight customers? When are you doing too much? How will you turn these efforts into money? By giving your people clear guidance on each of these parameters, they won’t just get better at providing the CX you promise. They can do it consistently.
BIG WIN #3: Build the customer into your mid-term plan.
In our mission statements, customers are "at the heart of everything we do". Tactically, they are part of our efforts to fix issues or capture opportunities. But typically, they don't appear in our mid-term (3-5 year) operating plans.
This is problematic. To structurally improve the customer experience, multiple silos need to co-operate over a number of years. If the operational targets and resources for this co-operation aren’t written into the mid-term plan, they will never be more than nice intentions. After all, a vision without resources and KPI's, is called a day-dream.
2019 RECOMMENDATION: Clearly embed your customer goals in every department’s mid-term plan. Let each team demonstrate how it will help create and capture customer value in the short and medium term. Then allocate resources based on this contribution (note: this is easier when you’ve created the customer experience standards above).
BIG WIN #4: First think customer, then technology.
I love my technology-minded friends dearly, but ‘how can I digitally transform my business?’ is the wrong question.
Sure, it can make a business feel that it is on the path to modernity. People get to participate in glitzy workshops. Everyone is busy doing what the gurus say, and the organisation is spending a lot of money. Surely, this must be good. But unless a digital transformation is rooted in customer, market and competitive insights and underpinned with a clear business case, it’s a very expensive distraction.
2019 RECOMMENDATION: The late Steve Jobs said it well: "You have to start with the customer experience, and work backwards to the technology". So check whether your digital transformation efforts focus on the jobs your customer is willing to pay for. If these require AI infused, blockchain-based, 3D printing protocols, all power to them. But don’t chase technology for its own sake. 'No customer insight’ means 'no project'.
BIG WIN #5: Show the business the money, but this time for real.
Everyone assumes that customer experience investments will generate a financial return. But it’s still too rare that this assumption is made explicit in financial targets, or even a rudimentary business case.
But worse, is that a large number of companies leave money on the table. They create 'promoters' but have no programme to systematically capture all the profit from these happy customers. And as my grand dad used to say, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.
2019 RECOMMENDATION: If you haven’t yet got one, make a (rough) business case for your experience efforts. Even if the data is shaky at the start, it’s better than flying blind. And even more important, launch an initiative to help your business capture the maximum amount of value from every customer it turns into a promoter. And ask your CEO to add these extra profits to your customer experience budget 😉.
It is possible to do all of the above at the same time. But unless you're truly committed, this may be a bit ambitious. So if you want to make a dent in your company's customer-centric universe, pick the one that you feel could have the biggest impact.
2019 is a time where the market will start separating the CX players from the wannabe's. This means it's time to start reaching for the apples at the top of the tree.
If you'd like to discuss any of the above topics for your business, feel free to get in touch.
This article first appeared on www.alainthys.com.
About this blog
Whenever inspiration strikes, I use this space to share my thoughts on customer experience management, storytelling or what ever else crosses my mind.