According to Forbes (2020), customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that do not keep the focus on the customers’ experience (CX). If CX is known to significantly improve the bottom line, then why is the success of companies like Amazon, Ritz Carlton or Apple rated as highly customer-centric, so hard to replicate? The answer, I believe, lies in the common misconception between marketing (products and services) and CX. In this article, I introduce the reader to CX as a business discipline and provide an outline of where to start.
What is CX?
Let me start by stating what CX is not. CX is not customer service. Many organizations struggle to see the distinction. As a result of the misconception, budgets and task allocations often become the responsibility of client relations or customer service teams.
For an organization, the easiest way to understand CX is to place yourself in the proverbial shoes of the customer. Now as a customer of a particular company or brand, your experience is shaped by the overall “journey”. In the eyes of the customer, “journey” is the sum of all the touchpoints with a particular brand or service provider.
Nowadays a customer’s likely starting point is seeing an ad or a visit to the company’s website. From there it may move to human interaction (getting information, understanding their offering, negotiating the package/price etc.). Where there is an exchange of goods or services further contact points may include invoicing, receiving support, returning goods, consulting and many others. When the economic exchange is finally concluded, the customer’s feelings i.e. their satisfaction or disappointment will be informed by their overall contact with the company.
It is worth repeating, that CX is the sum of all experiences that customers have with a service provider or brand. Importantly, the perception of the company will depend on whether the overall sum of the experiences was more positive or negative. From the above, it is clear that CX is the responsibility of the entire value chain. To restate, CX is not the job of one department, team or individual. Instead, CX requires a clear organizational strategy, with stated strategic objectives, and sufficient resources effectively executed.
Important elements of CX
In order to provide a good customer experience the company first and foremost needs to make a conscious decision to become customer-centric (which means making all business decisions with the customer in mind). It is often easier said than done. But the good news is that it’s also not that complicated.
It is impossible to provide consistently good CX if the company does not have a clear CX strategy. In other words, the first step is deciding what kind of customer experience we want to create. This important step requires deep reflection about what is possible to deliver consistently. The brand “promise” must survive robust interrogation. Common pitfalls to brand promises include being “the best, the cheapest, the fastest, the most competitive and global leader”. These promises are considered moving targets and therefore impossible to keep.
CX is favourable when the following three conditions are met.
- Functionality (the good/service needs to do the job that it was purchased or hired to do).
- Accessibility (it needs to be easy or relatively hassle-free conducting business).
- It also needs to “feel good”. The emotional element of the experience is perhaps the most interesting of all. Research shows that in order to have a really good customer experience, the company needs to surpass the customer’s expectations i.e. to outperform their competitors. In other words, besides wanting functionality and ease of doing business, customers are expecting a special touch.
The first step of strategy development is being clear on the organization’s customer-centric purpose (i.e. why do we exist). Thereafter it is important to define the kind of client experiences to create and establish ways to translate those into a consistent brand promise. The CX strategy developed in alignment with the overarching organizational strategy has the following widespread benefits,
- Clear CX strategy offers a common terminology to use within the company;
- Employees have a clear purpose. They no longer sell products and/or services. Instead, they create experiences.
- It promotes and rewards behaviours that are consistent with the CX strategy.
- It guides all business activities that include, but are not limited to marketing materials, staff training and KPIs.
A clear CX strategy empowers you and your employees to create a consistently rewarding customer experience. A well-communicated and executed CX strategy ensures that everyone within your organization AND amongst your clients knows what to expect (brand promise). Understanding the customer’s needs, and defining and successfully executing a CX strategy that meets and exceeds customer expectations is how you become a company which is known as “the earth’s most customer-centric company”(Amazon) or the one which “accelerates the world’s transition to sustainable energy”(Tesla). CX strategy is what separates the good from the great organizations.
Author: Milda Nair (Co-Founder and CCXP)
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