It’s business unusual, & successful businesses have changed the conversation
For years, we have been listening to stats like “companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in customer experience”, or “86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience”. Unfortunately, despite heavy investment into CX, the reality is that very few businesses achieve the kinds of experiences that they are trying to create for their customers.
Those that do, however, not only stand out from competitors, but achieve the kind of mind share that even the largest marketing budgets can’t buy easily. Take, for example, the Ritz-Carlton, which talks about “anticipatory service” and a corporate philosophy of “unwavering commitment to service”. The Florida Ritz-Carlton recently proved it walks the company talk, going the extra mile to ensure that an experience that could have ruined a customer’s vacation – through no fault of the hospitality company – turned into a positive story the family will be telling for years.
A young family that spent a few days at the hotel returned home only to realise they their son had left his beloved stuffed giraffe, Joshie, behind. The son was distraught when he realised, and the parents had no choice but to tell their son that Joshie was “just taking an extra-long vacation at the resort”. The team at Ritz-Carlton called that same night to let the dad know they had found Joshie, and the dad was so relieved, he shared the lies he had been telling his son. A few days later, a package arrived from Ritz-Carlton, including Joshie along with some hotel branded gifts.
This is where most companies would have ticked the CX box, potentially asked for customer feedback, and moved on. However, there was one extra item in the package that took the experience to the next level. The hotel included a binder that outlined Joshie’s extended stay at the Ritz for the son to see. There were photos of Joshie at the pool, getting a massage and even riding a golf cart.
In a world where customers have started expecting companies to not only meet their needs, but to anticipate them and provide superior personalised experiences, this type of interaction should be the norm, not the exception. Decision-makers are starting to wake up to this fact.
The past few years have started emphasising the importance of actually achieving this type of amazing customer experience. Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated global lockdowns and business interruptions, a Walker study found that at the end of 2020, customer experience would overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Two years after that deadline, we know that this is truer than anyone could anticipate, and yet hardly touches on today’s business realities.
In 2018, an organisation providing an average customer experience could stay competitive just by tweaking its pricing. In 2022, after experiencing the (largely unnecessary) product and service shortages caused by the pandemic and international unrest; the digital demands of customers, whether they are B2B or B2C; and the self-service, technology-driven customer landscape, no corporation can afford to ignore what customers want, nor can any organisation ignore the impact of CX on the business.
Those companies poised for success are not only paying attention, but the changes at an organisational level are creating digital-first collaborative enterprises that have integrated CX into their operating models as well as their balance sheets.
The one thing these successful companies have in common is their understanding that the corporate landscape must reflect the customer landscape, and vice-versa. There are some brave new voices around the boardroom table, and these professionals are bringing CX back into the business conversation, trying to address new challenges in an evolved environment with a fresh toolset.
As organisations across the globe continue to grapple with the new business reality defined by increasing digitisation and growing customer demands, inflation and a recessionary environment are putting additional pressure on operating models. Add to that the labour shortages and supply chain issues we have seen over the past year, and it’s no wonder that customer service has degraded significantly.
Wait times in contact centre queues have tripled this year. High volume organisations like the airlines have reached a point where they don’t want customers calling them because they just can’t answer. Companies looking to stay profitable have had to not only prioritise CX, but have started integrating it into the strategic corporate agenda, diminishing the traditional disconnect between CX executives and the rest of the C-suite.
The alignment of CX priorities with those of the CEO and the CMO is creating a focus on customer retention and efficient acquisition, rather than the “spray and pray” approaches of the past. Older standards like loyalty, CSAT, and NPS are being replaced by a renewed focus on the customer journey, with 81% of business leaders saying they have increased their focus on creating more cohesive journeys, according to Gartner.
All of this is enabling multi-disciplinary leadership teams that are driving customer-centric solutions through collaboration and digital transformation. The customer journey has now become as much a part of the boardroom conversation as the P&L, and business leaders are increasingly starting to appreciate the agility this enables.
Leading with agility
In today’s business environment, organisations can’t afford 18 month or two-year product cycles. Nor can they get away with delays in responding to customer demands and feedback. Successful companies are therefore investing in technologies that enable rapid innovation and rapid iteration cycles for shortened time to value.
As business leaders increasingly appreciate the need for real-time data so that they can respond to the real-time needs of their customers, multi-disciplinary teams are becoming more common to provide greater insights, faster. A multi-disciplinary approach enables a holistic view of the customer’s entire experience across channels, departments, and silos. This allows the business to understand the opportunities in dealing with a customer from the moment they walk through the door.
For example, experience, marketing and commercial lenses for the same customer journeys would allow the business to answer whether customers are satisfied, how they cross-sell to those that are, and what the ROI on the company’s efforts is. New tools are therefore needed to enable organisations to identify opportunities and benefits from each customer experience as the experience happens.
These need to be digital-first and multi-channel, as well as able to ingest and process real-time data from a real-time market to model the customer experience in granular detail. Once experiences and actual journeys are discoverable, the business needs to be able to optimise those journeys for success.
As business leaders increasingly appreciate the value CX offers, the brave new voices in the boardroom are calling for better ways to create authentic experiences and relevant engagements. The good news is that it doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in – improving the experience for customers has been proven (time and time again) to increase retention, satisfaction and revenue. With customer expectations at an all-time high, opportunities abound for agile companies to better align with customers’ purposes and forge new relationships that accelerate growth and strengthen loyalty.
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