No matter where you are along the Customer Experience journey, you can always be further along; you can always be doing something else to improve your CX. Annette Franz describes it as a never-ending journey and I’ve borrowed heavily from an infinity symbol for my company’s logo for the same reason.
In this article, I’ll look at three hypothetical scenarios, organisations that are at different stages of their CX maturity – let’s call them Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced – and I’ll make recommendations for what they could be doing to improve their CX strategy.
SCENARIO 1 – The Beginner
The Beginner organisation is a state-based utility company that interacts with its customers solely via a large call centre. The contact centre manager recognises the need to become more customer centric but knows the CEO isn’t committed to the idea. A 90 day customer feedback trial has just been completed and the results have uncovered a number of areas where the company could improve the service they are offering. The call centre manager wants to implement a customer feedback system but knows that unless she can provide an airtight business case to the CEO that it will not get approved.
The first thing the contact centre manager needs to do is get executive buy-in. Without the CEO’s continual and vigorous support the long term changes in behaviour that will be required to support a CX program simply won’t occur. The CEO needs to understand the value of better CX (customer loyalty) to garner his support for a program that aims to improve it.
Once the CEO is on board, the company needs to define their intended customer experience, how it links to their overall corporate objectives, and how it aligns with the organisation’s brand values and attributes. To increase buy-in, this should be developed by a cross-functional group made up of areas such as Marketing, Operations, Sales, Customer Service, and HR. The key at this point is to be realistic about an experience that can be consistently provided across all channels. In this energy company’s case that has been simplified because they only use Voice as a customer service channel.
When the intended customer experience has been defined, the company can then align the CX strategy with the company’s overall strategy. It can do this by reflecting the brand’s values and organisational mission when defining the required experience principles and specific employee behaviors. This will impact areas such as personnel hiring criteria, training, coaching, and performance measurement.
At this point I would recommend a Customer Journey Mapping session to get an outside-in view of just how far the company is from delivering their intended experience. It would highlight where their existing experience is lacking, the root causes of that, and perhaps allow them to get some quick wins on the board which will help win over any potential critics.
With an understanding of the CX strategy, the next step is to articulate the operating plan, investments, and tactics that will be required to deliver it. In the energy company’s case, the initial investments would be for the purchase of a survey module from their contact centre software provider to get transactional feedback data and an update for their CRM to attach that feedback data to customer records. It also includes the introduction of new processes into the company to deal with the management of customer feedback and continual improvement.
Finally, to engage employees at all levels of the organisation in the elements of the CX strategy, communicate, communicate, communicate. Ensure everyone is aware of the strategy, why it has been created, and what part each of them plays in its success. Ensure the CEO is very much part of this and I’ve found in the past that process maps are a very good way of delivering this line of sight.
SCENARIO 2 – The Intermediate
The Intermediate organisation is a national telecommunications company that has a defined customer experience strategy and a CEO that supports it. Other members of the executive team aren’t as enthusiastic, believing that reducing costs and improving operational efficiencies would deliver higher results to shareholders. At times this had led to poor customer service situations and negative online opinion expressed on social media and in forums. The company has been collecting customer feedback for two years and uses the NPS metric to measure customer satisfaction. With over 10,000 staff in a large number of geographically disparate locations, employee engagement is not where the company would like it to be and this too on occasion has led to an indifferent attitude towards customer service.
Aligning all levels of the company behind the CX strategy will be the key to moving this business forward. The CEO needs to engage everyone from her direct reports down so that each and every person understands and can clearly communicate the importance of the strategy to the organisation’s business goals.
Her first step is to get her direct reports on board by motivating them. She should clearly articulate the benefits of following a CX strategy using financial data from companies both within and external to the telecommunications industry. After two years of results, a baseline will have been established and so a Key Performance Indicator for customer satisfaction - in this case, an aspirational but realistic companywide NPS target - should be included in, at the very least, executive remuneration and ideally in all employees’ remuneration.
The direct reports then would cascade the message down using internal marketing and communications with a particular emphasis on alignment to the company’s overall strategy and the specific employee behaviors that will be required to make the strategy successful. Education on these behaviours should be included in all induction and ongoing training provided by the company and their reward and recognition schemes should be modified accordingly.
SCENARIO 3 – The Advanced
The Advanced organisation is a national health insurer that, at the insistence of the CEO, developed a CX strategy five years ago and has been improving its CSAT ratings and market share ever since (although the gains these days aren’t as great as they once were). This company offers customer service via voice, web, email and social and across all of them in a consistent experience. There is a high level of engagement amongst employees, who can articulate the strategy and have a portion of their income dependent upon the achievement of a CSAT target. All new staff are hired based on their cultural fit with the company first and their job knowledge second. The company’s internal systems all communicate with one another to provide a single view of the customer and customer feedback is shared freely throughout the different functional areas of the company.
The desired experience is being consistently delivered across each of the company’s customer service channels and customer sentiment is tracked in real time using a survey tool which operates over each channel. The CEO continues to drive the program, constantly communicating to both employees and the wider market, the company’s commitment to customer service. The company is consistently meeting, and indeed setting, customer expectations making it harder and harder for its competitors to keep up.
After five years, the CX strategy has been successfully operationalised at this company. The course of action for a company like this is to continually improve.
Cross-functional teams from across the company should be brought together regularly to ideate around how remove obstacles to the desired customer experience and find new and innovative ways to delight customers.
To do this I would recommend a framework like Jobs To Be Done, Integrative Thinking, or the Kano Model to come up with improvements that could be made to existing processes and systems that would improve the overall experience.
About Ben Motteram, Founder and Principal, CXpert
CXpert is a boutique customer experience consultancy based in Melbourne, Australia that helps businesses improve customer relationships, increase loyalty, and grow by engaging staff and delivering exceptional service. A specialist in aligning companies around the voice of the customer, Ben has worked with some of Australia’s most well respected brands to improve customer centricity and overall profits. He can be contacted via Twitter at @CXpert, Facebook at CxpertConsulting or through LinkedIn.