Paul Cole, President, inQuba North America
The customer relationship management movement, birthed in the mid ’90s and popularized by enterprise software vendors, such as Siebel, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.com, told us that market success is all about building and accessing customer data to enable a more meaningful and sustainable relationship, one in which we treat different customers differently based on their needs and economic value. The ability to create a single source of truth and a system of record about the customer was a big step forward at the time. However, looking back, many would question who the true beneficiary of this movement was: the customer or the company? Too many CRM programs devolved into applications implementations rather than the intended customer relationship transformation. Where was the “C” in CRM?
Leaving aside the issue of whether or not it has met its promise, CRM set a needed foundation in the evolution of customer centricity. It helped us better understand who the customer is. By contrast, customer experience management addresses how you deliver what you deliver. In an era of feature and price matching, it’s quickly becoming an increasingly valuable differentiator. If you can orchestrate that experience in a manner that activates those emotions that resonate most when customers are considering, buying, using and talking about your products and services, you will generate brand advocacy.
Bringing Your Brand to Life (BX for CX)
Let’s begin with a definition: A customer experience (CX) is the set of activities and interactions that correspond with a customer’s efforts to discover, investigate, purchase, use and maximize perceived value from the products and services that a company promotes, provides and supports. It’s a personal journey, the outcome of which is a perception or emotion, either positive or negative, that is then stored as a memory.
Why does it matter? First, research has repeatedly shown that when you align your brand promise, your product or service, and your approach to customer interaction with a compelling customer experience, it can generate superior shareholder value.
As the CX movement continues to gain steam within the corporate world, a tremendous amount of energy and investment is being applied to rationalizing the customer’s tactile journey with the myriad touch points that connect a brand to the customer, such as your sales force, the brand’s website, customer service reps, IVR, etc., and ultimately deliver the experience. In formulating this CX blueprint, it’s vital that your company remains mindful of its brand values, ensuring that the design of the customer experience will evoke emotions that reinforce your brand promise.
Let’s use the example of one of the major hotel chains. The company has identified five key stages of its guest’s journey: eat/drink, have fun, relax, connect and transition. This is a useful construct in helping management to define and design the activities (sub-journeys) that need to be orchestrated in order to deliver the desired experience. Importantly, to ensure that the ultimate configuration remains true to the essence of the brand promise, management also filters their improvement decisions through the lens of the company’s overall brand values.
Who’s Conducting Your CX Symphony
A big question that looms over the whole CX movement is, how do you orchestrate a seamless end-to-end customer experience in a world of departmental and P&L silos? Most financial systems and, consequently, organizations are set up to manage and track product, geography or process based revenue, cost and profit, not the financial and operational health of the customer portfolio. As such, no one individual or function orchestrates the entire customer experience. Marketing is still largely responsible for finding and attracting the customer, sales manages the transaction, and customer service brings up the rear, supporting customers’ post-sales requirements. But as we all know, in this structure in which no one “owns the customer,” the whole often ends up being less than the sum of the parts, at least in the all-important minds of the customers. In fact, most CEOs are reluctant to take the risk associated with a radically redesigned business model just for a better customer experience, so the structure, processes and measures remain at odds with the overall ambition.
Making a connection between your customers and your brand requires new ways to not just stand out to the right audience with the right message at the right time, but also building on that connection to create a strong and trusted relationship. This is only achievable through effective CX orchestration – which must permeate the entire organisation in order to be successful.
Source: Watermark Consulting: 2013
Research has shown that when you align your brand promise, your product or service, and your approach to customer interaction with a compelling customer experience, it can generate superior shareholder value.
For those companies that originally were founded or designed from the beginning with the customer experience foremost in their thinking and behaviors—Nordstrom has it in its DNA, for example—the notion of appointing a single executive to assume transversal responsibility for leading the orchestration effort would be an unnecessary intervention. However, for those that still need to shock the system into this new paradigm, it may make sense to appoint a chief customer officer or chief experience officer, if only as a transitional role. This would be similar to how many companies responded to the quality movement in the 1980s. It’s also critical that marketing has a seat at the table to ensure brand and customer experience alignment end to end. At the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring that your brand promise becomes your customer’s reality.
Understanding the context of what the customer is saying is therefore key, and easily achievable through CX orchestration.