Among 2017’s many lessons, one of the biggest is that customer-centric business models are here to stay, but only when they deliver real value. Over the last year, brands have continued to recognize the insufficiency of business-first mindsets and operations. Price is no longer the sole factor motivating consumers’ purchases – shoppers are now interested in more valuable and enjoyable brand interactions and are in the position to take their business to those companies offering them more than just a deal.
Many brands are funneling resources toward improved customer experiences (CX) to address these changing expectations. In fact, more than half of organizations will have made investments to customer experience innovations by this year. However, on the path toward greater investment, many brands struggle to treat CX like other business disciplines. So much so that 30% of marketers, CEOs and CCOs from the US and UK still feel unclear about who should spearhead these efforts.
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Embracing CX’s new role isn’t as simple as buying new technologies and running fancy analytics. It also requires that brands work through the ambiguity of who owns and manages the endeavor, how CX initiatives will support larger business objectives, and the role of leadership in transforming their culture and operations to this new mindset.
Company Stakeholders Must Take CX Seriously
Customer experience isn’t just the concern of the front line. In fact, to be successful it must be embedded across all departments. But CX isn’t just a responsibility. Executed with intention and mined for intelligence, customer experience can create new efficiencies, increase revenues, decrease churn and even reduce employee attrition. Establishing and executing a strategic CX plan first requires strong executive leadership, including a designated executive sponsor. This person won’t be responsible for seeing through every last CX need, but he or she must serve as the driving force behind all customer-centric improvements.
This requires a unique set of traits, including a strong understanding of the politics and influencers within the organization, technical acumen and the savviness to make clear connections between customer experience goals and bottom-line business metrics. This first characteristic is the tougher ask. Most CEOs aren’t prioritizing CX investments just yet, so it can be an uphill battle getting them to create space for related ideation and research. It can also prove tough to get business leaders to care about CX goals, or to show enthusiasm when team members make progress.
However, directly mapping out how CX initiatives further business objectives across the entire organization will help sell stakeholders on early CX investments. Then, measuring and reporting on the outcomes, and how they’re supporting leaders’ KPIs, will help decision makers see the value in building out larger CX programs. Greater transparency into ROI and other value improvements will encourage stakeholders to keep investing and positions an improved customer experience as every company’s best future.
True CX is a Company-Wide Responsibility
No matter who or where the customer experience is owned or managed within an organization, it should infiltrate every aspect of a business. Brands will struggle to see through their investments if all departments cannot align around CX initiatives. Fortunately, not only does widespread involvement with CX better divvy up the workload, but more people focusing toward this singular goal also creates a necessary cultural shift.
Additionally, inviting more people to have seats at the CX table can reveal business opportunities that may otherwise remain hidden. For example, sales associates are an on-the-ground line into what makes consumers tick and what keeps them coming back for more – insights a c-suite member likely won’t have. Similarly, IT experts can pinpoint exactly where shoppers experience frustrations or hiccups when browsing a brand’s website or mobile app. Businesses must develop communication channels and implement technologies that encourage constant conversations with both employees and customers in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of how and where to invest. Most companies significantly underestimate — and thus underutilize — the wealth of intelligence that comes from these two important audiences.
Listening programs and their supporting technologies can both aggregate information about the customer experience to surface localized and brand-level trends, and facilitate successful resolution with a single customer complaint. In addition, these technologies can identify when individual problems are connected to larger issues like supply chain inefficiencies or training lapses. Understanding both the macro and micro view can help organizations move beyond a band-aid approach with customers, empowering every area of the business with the necessary intelligence to target root cause issues, and preventing continued harm to their customer relationships. Ultimately, an all-hands-on-deck philosophy for CX improvements helps move the entire organization away from business-centric practices and toward a more customer-focused future. And in 2018, shoppers will settle for nothing less.