What gives? I wrote about that massive gap last year and cited two reasons that Bain offered up for its existence: (1) a focus on acquisition over retention, and (2) a misplaced focus on collecting data, analyzing ad nauseum, and improving metrics. There are different behaviors happening when companies are focusing on acquisition over retention, and when they focus on moving the needle on these metrics rather than on improving the experience. Acquisition often includes discounts, while metrics include free candy bars and oil changes in exchange for a 5-out-of-5 rating. Not exactly the stuff that improves the customer experience; that requires a magnitude of effort that can't even be compared to free candy bars and 20% off coupons.
A customer experience transformation is a lot of work. Most folks have no idea what all it entails. In this post, I'll give you just a taste of what's included. For starters, I've compiled a graphic (above) that depicts the building blocks of a customer experience transformation strategy. It looks overwhelming - and it can be, especially if you don't know what you're doing.
Yes, there are a lot of blocks! A successful transformation requires all of the right pieces to be in the right place. I don't have enough room in this article to go deep on each block, but I'll provide some quick highlights for each one.
There are fundamental, foundational elements that must be in place in order for a customer experience transformation to be successful, namely the following:
- Core values that are supported with examples of associated and acceptable behaviors that are in line with your customer-centric goals
- Mission, vision, purpose, and brand promise that are clearly communicated and lived.
- Executive commitment to the transformation and to the work that lies ahead.
- Leadership alignment, which means the leadership/executive team has chosen to commit and support each other in achieving the goal.
- A deliberate focus on the employees and their experience, with the acknowledgement that they are the driving force behind a great customer experience.
- Customer understanding through listening, developing personas, and mapping customer journeys and corresponding service blueprints, with decisions made and actions taken based on what is learned. Don't forget about linking your operational data to each of these learnings.
- A governance structure that outlines not only the people involved in the transformation but also their roles and responsibilities as wells as rules and guidelines on how they'll execute the various components of the strategy (think change agents and change management).
- Organizational adoption and alignment, which means employees must understand the what, the so what, and the now what - and be involved in both the decisions to be made and the work to be done; attempting to execute a strategy when employees are not engaged or aligned with it will prove to be futile.
At the core of your CX transformation is the vision. What is the intended future experience for your customers? What are their desired outcomes? What are the business' desired outcomes? A vision without a strategy is just an illusion, right? How will you achieve that vision? What's the plan?
The organizational infrastructure includes your people, processes, systems, and tools. These are all necessary to implement and to facilitate the customer experience you wish to deliver. As part of the transformation work, you must identify and understand how each one of these components of your infrastructure contributes to the experience. You can't fix what's happening outside unless you fix what's going wrong on the inside. It's amazing how many companies want to simply apply lipstick to the pig, but you've got to get to the root cause, i.e., the problems with people, processes, and systems, and correct those issues in order for the customer to see a real difference in the experience.
Your strategy is useless if you don't put it to work. Knowing what you need to do and doing nothing with it is really a crime. There are a lot of things that fall into this category, and your strategy will outline them in more detail, many of them covered in these building blocks:
- Design and innovation are critical next steps to achieving your vision and desired outcomes. Customer understanding work done earlier will feed into this, as well as the rest of the Action items, in order to design and to deliver the experience your customers expect.
- Strategic improvements are longer-term, broad-based, and company-wide but are not to be confused with tactical improvements, which are operational in nature, are made at the department or touchpoint level, and are often the source of quick(er) wins.
- Personalized responses include service recovery efforts, often with at-risk customers, and follow-up with customers who indicated they've experienced issues that haven't been resolved.
- Closing the loop with employees and customers is an important and necessary part of the transformation work. Letting them know that they are heard and valued and that you've done something with what they've told you is critical to continuous improvement efforts.
- Coach employees on those areas where they need improvement (and recognize them for jobs well done) and train them on what customer experience is, who their customers are, how they impact the customer experience, and how to deliver the best experience.
- Communicating with both employees and customers about what you heard, what it means, what you'll be doing with that information, and more is a critical part of the customer experience transformation journey. it's also an important part of the actual customer experience.
The payoff for doing the work is achieving your desired outcomes. These can be outcomes for the business, for the customer, and/or for employees. In the Core section, you defined the vision and you outlined the desired outcomes. At a high level, business outcomes might fall into one of these buckets: (1) people-first culture, (2) reduced costs/operational efficiencies, or (3) increased revenues. For the customer, outcomes might include: (1) achieving the job to be done, (2) an improved experience, or (3) expectations met. Your research will help you identify desired customer outcomes.
And finally, success! But you don't know if you've achieved success without measuring it. Early on, you should have defined your success metrics. Track those metrics along the journey.
What's next? Don't rest on your laurels. This is a continuous improvement process. It's never-ending. It's a journey. Keep listening to customers and updating the experience as their needs evolve, the business evolves, products change, the world changes, etc.
If I've missed any blocks, let me know. Trust me, there's a lot more detail behind the ones that are depicted than I wrote about here
Respect the building blocks, master the fundamentals, and the potential is unlimited. -PJ Ladd