Not surprisingly, I’m frequently in conversations with people about customer experience.
What’s the best way to tackle CX? How can we drive a consistently great customer experience across all delivery channels? How long is this going to take? How much will it cost? By the end of these conversations, at least one thing is abundantly clear: there is no one “right” set of answers to these questions. Here’s why:
It all depends on where your organization is right now in your Customer Experience journey.
Like planning a trip to a geographic destination, you can’t map out your route if you don’t have a clear understanding of where you are now.
CX is like that. So, what’s your starting point?
Janelle Estes emphasizes that fact in her recent article for cmswire.com. You need a roadmap to get you from where your organization is now to superior CX performance. She calls it the organizational “CX Maturity Level.”
Before you finalize your CX strategy, figure out where you are along a 4-point CX Maturity continuum. I’ve summarized that section below.
Stage 1: Awareness
You know CX is important. You’ve read the growing volumes of studies and surveys, linking CX to loyalty, profitability, even employee satisfaction. You may have begun looking at performance measurements and survey results through a CX lens, generating leadership discussions about how the results reflect your customers’ experience with you. But so far, you’re reacting to lagging indicators and, for whatever set of reasons, haven’t yet implemented a defined strategy or ongoing CX tactics.
Stage 2: Reactive
Just as the name suggests, you’re acting on some CX goals but it’s all reactive. There isn’t yet a clearly defined strategy that is understood and embraced by your organization. As a result, strategic decision making around your organization’s investments in infrastructure, processes, hiring, training, coaching, reporting, and technology are not integrated with driving superior CX.
Stage 3: Optimized
As Estes describes it, if you’re a CX-optimized organization, you have clear programs and investments in place that support customer-driven decision-making. Your senior leadership team embraces and supports these efforts. You’ve moved from “fixing” customer issues after they arise, to predicting – and therefore, preventing – those issues before they can occur. You have measurements in place that show how you’re performing, how your customers perceive you, and how they’re impacted by changes. And you’re reporting these findings to the organization in order to continue improving.
Stage 4: Visionary
Here, your CX vision, strategy and practices are embraced throughout your company as integral to your organizational values, starting with your executive leadership team and including everyone. Current and planned technology investments are geared toward managing customer experience, and CX reporting tells everyone on your team a clear, actionable story of how you’re doing, what’s working, and what needs to improve. Here, in organizations at the visionary stage, says Estes, there is “a culture of endless curiosity to drive disruption.”
How to Find Your Way to the Customer Experience Promised Land
By Janelle Estes
Customer experience has become so important — even more important than products themselves — that more than 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for a great one, according to research by Capgemini. And yet the same report showed that while 75% of companies believe themselves to be customer-centric, only 30% of customers feel this is the case.
Quite a disconnect. So what’s stopping more companies from improving their customer experience?
In some cases, executives are reluctant to invest in customer experience (CX) because they find it hard to project the ROI of these initiatives — despite studies like one by Forrester last year that determined CX has a tangible effect on revenue, customer loyalty and even stock performance.
Secondly, improving the CX a company provides necessitates a cultural shift. It requires a company-wide commitment and sense of ownership for customer experience by every employee. That’s a big leap when many businesses have no established process or budget for improvements.
How then can a company overhaul its approach to CX and reach the promised land of brand loyalty? You wouldn’t try to navigate an unfamiliar city without a map app, and the same should hold true for the CX journey. You need a blueprint.
What Is Your Customer Experience Maturity Level?
The first step, as obvious as it may seem, is to establish where you currently are.
What is the organization’s CX maturity level? Maturity levels can be classified as: aware, reactive, optimized and visionary.
- Aware:In “aware” organizations, we often see: no strategy or established program for customer-driven decision-making; merely one individual or group advocating for the importance of listening to customers; some technology but it’s typically focused on post-release measurements; no governance or process; little measurement within siloed groups; and overall, a general recognition of CX-related issues, but teams are not empowered to address them.
- Reactive:Here, there is just an ad hoc program with some leadership support for customer-driven decision making; issues are addressed as they arise in live experiences; technology investments are focused on post-release measurement; very little governance or process; little to no measurement exists on the impact of changes or improvements; and overall, a process of addressing CX-related issues as they come up with no chance to “get ahead” of issues before they arise.
- Optimized:In an “optimized” environment, an organization or team-specific programs for customer-driven decision making are in place with executive support and sponsors; technology is in place to manage the customer experience pre- and post-release; issues are addressed as they arise as well as proactively (before they become issues) in live experiences and production; some measurement on impact of changes or improvements; and overall, a process that is focused on continually improving the customer experience.
- Visionary:In this highest level of maturity, a company-wide program has been established, driven from the C-level, and fully supported by all leadership; technology is in place to manage pre- and post- release customer experience issues; issues are addressed across the lifecycle of product and experience development; a sophisticated measurement practice is in place to capture the impact of changes or improvements; and overall, there is a culture of endless curiosity to drive disruption.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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