So much research today emphasizes the customer experience (CX) and the technology that either makes it or breaks it. Gartner, for example, predicts that more than 40% of all data analytics projects will relate to some aspect of the CX by 2020.
Brands know this good and well, with most currently or planning to invest more in technology to drive the CX. Still they tend to come up short. In fact, IBM’s “2017 Customer Experience Index (CEI) Study” reports an average CEI score of 33 out of 100. Scores ranged from as low as 4 to as high as 85, a span of 81 points separating the highest and lowest performers.
Long gone is the question of whether companies struggle with CX. Rather, we need to know why and how improvements can be made. The way I see it, the answer can be found by backtracking. For executives and decision makers, this means retracing steps past technology and even the CX itself. Allow me to explain…
The Art of Working Backwards
As Steve Jobs once said, “You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.” I’d like to take this one step further and say that you must start with your brand vision and work backwards to the customer experience. In other words, before planning, acting or optimizing, you must discover. You must learn about your organization and solidify its core pillars. This business discovery process is critical for driving the CX and maximizing the impact your organization makes.
Why do I say this? Because in today’s world of constant change, trust—in an organization’s vision, culture and level of customer commitment—is now more important than ever. Case in point: over half of customers will not believe a company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives until they have proof.
Executives must be careful that their pursuit of innovation does not cloud their brand vision. Consider that 64% of consumers agree that the number of visionary brands has increased over the last 15 years, while only 49% say the same for trustworthy brands. Overall, almost half of brands have fallen off the list of “top 100 leader brands” between 1997 and 2014. I can’t help but wonder how these brands’ vision (or lack thereof) contributed to this decline.
The Need for CX Introspection
There are, of course, brands that have persevered throughout the decades. Consider the big four: Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. These digital giants are dominating nearly every market, from communications to entertainment to e-commerce to fintech. So, what are these innovators getting right? They all implement cutting edge-technologies, but they first and foremost have a customer-centric vision—and they stay true to that vision.
Consider, for example, Amazon’s “About Us” page (a dynamic, seven-fold elaboration). In it, the company explains: “We get our energy from inventing on behalf of customers.” Meanwhile, Google writes: “The relentless search for better answers continues to be at the core of everything we do.” Facebook Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg sums up his brand vision simply: “Our philosophy is that we care about people first.”
We all know that the customer comes first, but does our brand vision truly reflect this belief? If not, how can we gain customers’ trust? How can we create unparalleled experiences—not the kind we want to deliver, but the kind our customers want and need?
CX introspection requires executives to take a few steps back before they go any further. This process involves asking the tough questions that help them understand their own brand vision and the journey their customers are currently on with their organization, flaws and all. This means being open to understanding possible issues within the organization and working to reprioritize based on customer needs. It’s not easy, but our customers are always worth this effort.
Getting Started on the Right Foot
So, how can organizations begin sharpening their vision and seeing CX improvements? Here are three suggestions:
Focus top down: Ensure every management team (marketing, IT, sales) is aligned with your organization’s vision and the CX outcomes you hope to achieve as a result. Similarly, ensure a solid understanding of any problems you’re trying to solve, and what resources are at your disposal to do so. You may want to schedule a recurring meeting in which you regroup to report on progress and stay on task.
Use the same vocabulary: It’s common for words or phrases to mean different things across different departments. Be sure to implement a common language between all teams when discussing CX/branding initiatives to ensure a consistent, unified effort.
Joint KPIs: Not only should there be alignment around what your brand vision looks like, but this vision should be owned between every line of business. The goal here is to break down internal siloes to create external impact. One team should never define an organization’s brand vision. Similarly, one department will never transform the CX on its own (after all, CX isn’t contained to just one department; rather, it extends across the entire organization).
Almost half of companies today believe the CX has become too difficult to master. It seems this number would quickly, and sharply, decrease if more companies prioritized strategy over operational capabilities. Organizations can make unbelievable gains and create significant impact; however, the key is starting from within.
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