It's the Year of the Customer.
Among the most promising trends to watch in the area of marketing is the Customer Experience (CX) as a driver of growth and revenue.
That CX has emerged as a top business priority drives change within organizations seeking to create and capitalize on loyalty, but none of it really matters unless you begin with the customer to define “experience".
The biggest mistake any business makes is to think they can define it for them, and not the other way around.
Perhaps the second biggest mistake is to consistently think of CX with limited vision that rightly emphasizes the B2C value but fails to apply the same principles and strategies in its B2B relationships, and among employees.
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The Customer Experience is No Longer an Option
In a very real sense, everyone knows that getting CX right isn’t an option anymore, but the multiple layers may seem daunting.
This can mean big changes within the organization, requiring operational and process shifts, and implementing new technologies and aligning IT goals with those of other units.
It may mean new products or positions, new mobile-driven advertising and rewards programs, new vendor relationship structures, and new reporting or compliance requirements, too.
As everyone in finance knows, it means investment in a future driven by CX as defined by the customer, not you, and that may seem risky and counter intuitive when expenditures are significant.
When you’re trying to evaluate the ROI of what was once seen as essentially a structural cost center necessity, if not problem, rather than the cornerstone for generating revenue.
You need definitions you trust to increase market share and grow the firm, and it’s hard to rely on the customer’s voice.
But here’s the thing: Getting good metrics and moving beyond them to gain a nuanced understanding of customer experience is an end in itself, because customers are the only reason you have a business.
Data is Critical
Yes, the data is critical when you’re creating the financial rationale for CX strategies and the buy-in you need to support them, whether in the call center or the C-suite.
That trend will continue as predictive analytics and the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) drive the connections with our customers, and now they’re personalizing their own experiences.
In our work with clients, we apply and value techniques that help us to assess customer experience from within, including key stakeholders and the customer-facing employees, to discover areas for process and other improvements.
They yield insights that lead to decisions, new opportunities, they refine forecasts with better data, and they foster an environment for innovation that welcomes employees to collaborate on ideas, and challenges, that shape CX initiatives.
But if you want to know what delights the customer, you have to ask them, and build a company that competes on the basis of CX.
That's especially true in the social media environment, because customer experience really is the new marketing, and managing reputation and brand within that connectivity is critical to both you and your empowered customer.
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As I point out in “The Curated Experience,” my 2015 book on CX, far too many firms focus on fear as they play defense in the marketplace and seek to prevent damage or customer defection.
What they’re missing is the point: This is a positive environment of opportunity and engagement, so find out what CX really means.
That begins with measuring the current state of satisfaction with your customer service and corporate responsiveness, and setting benchmarks in evaluating that service within the complete operational setting.
CX Isn't Always about Social Media
The customer-obsessed model isn’t merely about YouTube videos and Facebook messaging that appeal to specific market segments or demographic groups, and at the other end of the spectrum it isn’t just about your investment in IT upgrades or unified communications systems, because it’s about all of the people in between.
When we emphasize to our clients that integrated improvements have to align with meaningful goals based on comprehensive assessments, we’re really talking about how to create and maintain an organizational culture to support CX through its employees.
Here are several reflections about measuring customer experience, so that your outcomes create the internal energy for change that ultimately enhances experience and brand value:
First of all, customer feedback is fluid and it doesn’t fit neatly into checkboxes.
It never did, and certainly never will again as sophisticated customers with high expectations expect a personal experience.
What usually happens with customer feedback forms is that data gets collected, but it doesn’t drive improvement because it’s not really actionable in ways that directly impact customer service, and often enough, it’s not asking the right questions, so the business never sees answers that matter.
Good design, with carefully crafted questions available across communication channels, will get to the heart of what CX looks like from the customer’s point of view.
For example, the call center cares about the easily-measured length of a customer contact, but the customer just wants a solution that works.
The value to the customer is based on feeling heard, getting answers, and having problems fixed.
The customer doesn’t care about your script, your automated logs, or who your staff member is unless something has gone terribly wrong.
Begin by asking the right questions, questions that reflect how much you care about your B2B partners or B2C end users, and then listen.
Once the right questions are asked, and employees, not just the customer facing ones, have carefully listened to the people who define what CX actually means, the business knows where to begin.
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The process is ever-evolving, and the assessment exercise is never really “over”, but neither is the customer journey, if you put a customer’s definition first.