While customer experience (CX) is a very popular management term today, the concept of CX is not new. The good news is that leadership teams are recognizing the importance of CX on their growth, innovation and brand strategy (or at least they don’t want to fall behind.) The bad news is that there is still tremendous variation on understanding what is customer experience and how to organize and deploy it within organizations. It is important that leaders take a very strategic approach to CX and recognize the unique nuances of their market and company when organizing for CX. It is just as crucial that leaders take an approach that balances the intangible and emotive demands of customers with those that are visible and easily measured.
Customer experience is the ultimate manifestation of a company’s brand and culture from the perspective of their customers. It is as much about tangible moments-of-truth that is easily measured to those intangible attributes that are more ambiguous and elusive. CX is not limited to service companies or customer service departments. Every function in an organization, from sales to accounting, creates moments that shape the experience for a customer. CX triggers both the obvious and subconscious desires for your customer to do (or not do) business with you.
Before deploying a CX strategy, one must understand the traits that define customer experience and gives it depth and value.
Customer experience should be Authentic
An authentic customer experience is where the tangible and intangible meet to express the essence of a brand in a meaningful way for customers. Authentic experiences translate to authentic brands that build trust. Authentic experiences come from the experiences being core to a brand and culture vs. just an afterthought. It requires a level of vulnerability to learn and innovate through the lens of the customer while having an aligned and empowered organization.
Customer experience is bigger than service (and digital)
With CX having roots in call and service centers, it is not uncommon for company leaders to relegate CX initiatives to customer service functions and activities. The same could be said about limiting CX to customer facing digital activities with the focus on user experience for digital interactions. It is not wrong to focus CX activities within these areas and in some businesses this is the strategic driver of growth. It is a mistake to limit your scope of CX, especially in businesses where service or digital is just a component of the overall customer journey.
It is important for the success of customer experience in an organization to recognize that CX applies to all functions, not just “customer service.” From how your sales team interacts with customers to how finance measures success all have impact on your CX success.
Customer Experience must be measured and deployed “Wing to Wing”
During my time at GE, a phrase that we commonly used when determining how to map and measure a process from a customer’s point of view was “wing-to-wing.” The term came from GE Aircraft Engines where they improved the turn around time of repairing the engine at the repair shop yet customers were still not happy. GE was measuring the process from what they directly controlled (the shop) vs. from what the customer felt which was from the time the engine was removed from the wing to the time it was reinstalled. A successful CX approach needs to measure to totality of what the customer feels not just what the company controls.
When measuring CX it is key to have metrics that align and support your brand and strategy. To measure effectively wing to wing you need to have a measurement system that creates a transfer function to your ultimate CX metric. This will give leaders visibility to the overall perception of the company from the customer while having the ability to know what specifically is working and where improvement is needed.
Customer experience is strategic
Customer experience requires commitment, resources and strategic leadership. It should be rooted in the company’s strategy with its performance monitored as part of the companies operating mechanism. CX also needs to be clearly linked to the brand since it is an expression of it and part of the organizations cultural DNA. Without this, the ability to be authentic is almost impossible. These connections will help make sure that resources are allocated and talent strategy is aligned while executing the intent and design of your brand and strategy.
Organizational empowerment is fundamental to authentic experiences
An authentic experience is not a mechanical experience. Scripts, automation, and decision trees all serve a purpose in the CX equation but decisions, behaviors and the moments of truth with customers ultimately drive the perception of your company. Authenticity comes from sincere and empowered interactions between the company and your customers. How company’s hire, train, measure and compensate employees have a direct impact on the ability for employees to behave in an empowered fashion to deliver the customer experience promised in the brand. Organizational empowerment will keep CX embedded in the DNA of the company and enable a critical feedback from employees.
Customer experience is a strategic growth reality for all companies regardless if they are B2B or B2C. While it is easier to just manage what is controllable through mechanical methods, an authentic experience is the most impactful and sustainable. This requires a strategic commitment from the company and a comprehensive approach that is part of the company DNA. Executed effectively, a CX strategy will not only enable sustainable growth but will unlock innovation from the perspective of the customer.