How do I get my customer experience where it needs to be?
You understand your customer needs but how do you change your CX to match requirements?
At the end of 2017 we invited corporate leaders to two events to examine the question: “How do I transform my customer experience to generate meaningful competitive advantage and better commercial returns?”
The half-day workshops drew senior practitioners from a broad spectrum of business sectors including hospitality, finance, real estate, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and third sector.
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Priorities and barriers
Before each event, participants were asked to think about a couple of key strategic questions and there was considerable alignment in their answers:
Where are we now?
When asked to assess the state of play for CX within their own organisations using the following adoption scale, the majority of participants placed their organisation at level 3 or between levels 3 and 4, suggesting that customer experience transformation is the principal stumbling block facing many leading businesses.
Put another way, what’s missing is the ability to inspire, equip and enable an organisation to change the way they operate to deliver the customer experience that their customers demand – and to stay competitive.
Having agreed on shared priorities, challenges and starting position, the focus turned to immediate next steps; the essential, and often most demanding catalysts required to get a transformation programme up and running.
Following frequently animated discussion in small working groups, consensus emerged that the two primary requirements were:
1) a compelling business case with a robust financial justification, and
2) a detailed change plan to guide the change process over its entire lifespan.
What’s missing is the ability to inspire, equip and enable an organisation to change the way they operate to deliver the CX that their customers demand.
Compelling business case
The overwhelming conclusion was: “If we can’t convince senior colleagues of the commercial and financial benefit of investment in improving our customer experience, we shouldn’t expect to win the required investment. And there are no excuses, we simply have to acquire operational and financial knowledge required to put a compelling justification together and develop a network of internal alliances to help make our case.”
Several excellent examples were given of working closely with colleagues from analytics, finance and the operational department to ‘crack the code’ of producing plausible evidence of business lost through sub-standards customer experience delivery (resulting in switching and churn), or potential business gain from incremental improvements in customer satisfaction, acquisition and retention.
It appears the key lesson for CX leaders is not so much to know all the answers, but to ask the right people the right questions and then steering the business process.
Other good ideas to emerge from the business case brainstorming were:
- Sponsors: Convince the most influential (and possibly sceptical) C-suite members.
- Alliances: Ask finance and operations colleagues to co-present the business case.
- Make it real: Get the C-suite talking directly to customers about their experiences.
- Leave the office: Have the C-suite to mystery shop their own customer journey.
The key lesson for CX leaders is not so much to know all the answers, but to ask the right people the right questions
Some tremendous suggestions for best practice in practical change planning emerged:
- Have a clear starting point and end game: assess and benchmark the current business impact of your customer experience and clearly define an end game with specific performance KPIs and behaviours across the organisation at all levels.
- Be rigorous and thorough in building a bottom up action plan with realistic time scales and rigorous cost assessment for the entire project, and contingencies in case of changing business situation that will almost always crop up.
- Create milestones in the change journey to help monitor progress. Celebrate reaching these milestones across the business to build momentum and engagement.
- Tie CX transformation to delivering wider business priorities – such as financial targets and building brand strength – that are critical to overall business success.
- Get CX delivery embedded into balanced scorecard KPIs, employee performance metrics and rewards programmes. Linking purpose to pay check produces results.
- Use the knowledge and support from across the business early on in the planning process to highlight risks at every stage of the journey.
- Use A/B testing to cost-effectively pilot and build proof-of-concept. Do your research at the beginning to make your plan steadfast.
- Be clear on what your measurement indicators will be throughout the journey. Understand what the data is telling you, and why it’s important.
- Make your plan substantive but flexible – ensure your destination matches your leadership team’s vision. And at each stage of the journey tie it back to why you are making this transformation in the first place.
Tie CX transformation to delivering wider business priorities – such as financial targets and building brand strength – that are critical to overall business success.
From the conclusions draw at the events, here’s the recipe as I see it to get your CX to where it needs to be:
Take one robust business case, add a liberal amount of rigorous planning, spice it up with plenty of collaboration and engagement and simmer for a couple of years, stirring in dollops of measurement, communication and milestones to keep the pot boiling. Serve in bite-size portions with a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down!