5 Golden Rules of Customer Experience

It’s no surprise that customer experience will remain a top priority for executives as we move into 2017. Forrester research this year shows that 72% of businesses say improving their customer experience is their top priority. This is why we hear time and again that one of the strongest differentiators for organizations is the customer experience (CX) they are delivering. While customer experience has bubbled up to the top of many executives’ lists, only one in five companies is actually delivering good or great CX.

Having spent nearly 20 years consulting (and a lot of that in customer experience), I always listen to the music — hearing the themes and issues facing my clients and the market. This year’s music brought forth “5 Golden Rules of CX”. Tenets to provide a simple, clear gut check.

A gut check on: How well are we doing our work? How might we evolve quicker? How do we leave a legacy of change and impact?

1. If you aren’t measuring CX, you aren’t doing CX: As refreshing as the ice bucket challenge, many still profess to do CX work, and there is goodness in that. Ultimately, if you cannot prove it or your impact on customers, stakeholders, and executives – it’s not a sustainable platform. Do you have established key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics for the initiatives you are spending time and money on? Have you communicated these across the organization and the reason for their importance? Do you benchmark yourself against competitors using a Net Promoter Score (NPS) or other customer loyalty metric? Everyone loves hard numbers and seeing the needle move. Start somewhere, track your progress, and share updates with everyone at your firm.

2. To start, intentionally design experiences; to break through, intentionally design your organization for CX: Upshot here: CX is not UX (user experience). Don’t confuse or contort the two. Both require design thinking, but successful CX is about organizational design and operational execution. In Forrester’s report Why CX, Why Now? published last month, the top four challenges facing CX professionals were: organizational culture (54%), organizational structure (45%), organizational processes (41%) and peer support and alignment (38%). As you can see, it’s an uphill battle on how to design your organization to best support your CX initiatives. You don’t need a dedicated CX team to be successful. Companies that are towards the top of CX lists don’t rely on one team. Customer experience starts at the top level and the value is communicated down through everyone within the organization. Since the early days of Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos has used an empty chair as a visual reminder to represent their customer in every meeting and program.  If your organization is designed with your customer at the center of your business, operationally (and financially) you will perform better.

3. Change culture by changing the way you spend money and allocate resources: There’s a chorus in the music I hear about getting CX to stick—it has to become part of an organization's DNA. I believe culture change is the outcome of how money and resources are allocated. Two of my colleagues wrote a blog, “Why can’t I get people to think differently?” focused on some of the most successful activities to understand and influence new behaviors including: identify desired new behaviors, focus change management on those behaviors, utilize goal-based learning, align leadership to behaviors, and reward and sustain desired results. I recommend focusing on where you are spending money, allocating resources, and building the case for change at an operational level using some of the tips above – with financial (and operational) success the culture will follow.

4. Work the diagonal – influence up, down, and across silos: Influence is three dimensional, and practice around CX requires knowing and understanding the feedback coming from the front line. Aim to educate up to the CEO and Board, while working across teams and barriers within the company. A CEO may be driven by increased revenue and the bottom-line where operational teams would likely appreciate efficiency gains and reducing costs. Take time to understand which factors and numbers are most valuable to which teams and speak their language as you are carrying the CX flag within your organization.

5. Connect customer journeys to business processes to achieve operational efficiency: Wow, how’s that for business jargon? Yet each word has a purpose. Connect the journey from outside through to your operations using value stream mapping. Business processes are the link to drive impact to customers and your bottom line. Operational efficiency is often forgotten, replaced by the grandeur of top line growth. Many companies are not realizing the full benefit of their CX strategies due to a disconnect with their operations. Where we see the most potential is when companies tie journey mapping back to their operating model. Of the 64% of companies that are going through the process of journey mapping, only 20% tie back to the operations. By answering key questions around your processes, technologies, and customer, you can simultaneously improve customer experience and reduce costs of doing business. We like to call this LeanCX. CFOs are becoming more involved in CX programs and governance, and LeanCX resonates with financial minds.

These five golden rules will hopefully provide a starting point, some encouragement, and serve as friendly reminders as we all keep pushing the importance of customer experience in our organizations. What music will you hear in 2017? How will you respond?


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