With much of the online conversation taking place around customer experience innovation, it almost feels like everyone is focused on customer experience as a way to 'make a dent in the universe' as Steve Jobs so eloquently put it. Unsurprising, as Forrester Research Inc. reports that a “whopping 80% of customer experience (CX) professionals say that their firms' goal is to be a CX leader in their industry, or across all industries.”
But as they point out, the reality is, only 11% of companies succeed in delivering an excellent customer experience. Which brings us to customer experience improvement. The reality is, most organizations we work with are putting a majority of their resources and focus to this decidedly less-sexy but equally important objective; after all, a little bit better is much better than not better at all.
With that, below are some best practices for a more modest (but potentially more realistic) goal. No, this isn’t everything and by its nature top-level and directional at best, but we’ve seen each of these 7 best practices drive significant customer experience improvements across dozens of organizations. The more you’re able to spin up, the greater your improvements will be.
And if you do these well enough, it’s possible that the “innovation” word might just start creeping into your organizational vocabulary: innovation, after all, is just a really big improvement.
- Align your business and brand strategy with CX strategy. Understand and focus on the implications of your business and brand strategies – and how that informs the experiences your customers expect. By identifying unmet customer wants and needs in this context, you’ll be able to deliver on the promises your brand makes, and the expectations set as a result. (Put another way: identify and solve real customer problems in a way that is relevant to you.)
- Customer experience improvement is a discipline. Treat it accordingly. Engage in a proven, defined process – customer experience management (and improvement as part of that) is a discipline that requires hard work. Sorry. Shortcutting the process not only wastes time and money, it can lead to the erosion of faith in the power of customer experience. Doing it ‘right’ will drive measurable success, and allow you to replicate that success – and improve on it – across your business.
- Understand what your customers see when they interact with you. You see things one way; your customers see things another way. To improve their experience, look at your industry and your company through their eyes, from the “outside-in.” Customer listening (e.g. VoC Programs and other research tools) can help you see and adopt their view of your world, creating the understanding and empathy that can help drive customer-centric decision making.
- Fix the small things – but keep your eye out for the big things. Keep your eye firmly on those “incremental improvements” to customer journeys, journey stages and individual customer touchpoints – in aggregate, small changes can add up to big improvements. But stay focused on innovation in the process, and don’t settle for simply meeting expectations. Innovations can help exceed expectations, whether a small fix to an existing process, or a radical change to the ways your customers find, get and use what they need from you.
- Know your return on CX improvements before you invest in them. The end game is, of course, greater customer loyalty. Countless studies support the links between it and better CX, driving outcomes from retention and wallet share to greater lifetime value. But it is critical to model ROI at a more granular level; a business case can build support for customer experience improvements, and provide specific objectives against which to measure success.
- Customer experience improvement is a team sport. Customer experience is typically driven and delivered across organizational silos, and touches all your customers. To improve it, you’ll need to engage with other stakeholders, employees and customers throughout the process. From defining customer journeys to mapping improvements, it typically does “take a village” to find pain points, prioritize initiatives to eliminate them, and test and measure the success of your solutions.
- Get used to it – you’ll never be “done.” Your customers change. Your company, products and services will change, too. As will your market and the competition. As a result, customer experience improvement is an ongoing process. From reacting to changing conditions to prototyping, testing and refining new or improved services, experiences and products before they are taken to market, the art and science of listening to your customers and giving them what they need is both an ongoing and highly rewarding effort.