Where Customer Experience ‘Top Performers’ Turn For Outside Expertise

In last week's post, “How Customer Experience ‘Top Performers’ Get There: Outside Expertise,” we talked about the reasons why more than 75 percent of customer experience “top performers” turn to outside experts for help to get there. Here, we’ll talk about where they turn to get it.

The Customer Experience Improvement Landscape

TCX-Landscapehe customer experience landscape has only recently developed – just five years ago, Google searches didn't even register the phrase. Today, it’s on everyone’s lips. Despite its comparative youth, customer experience is widely recognized by corporations as one of the most urgent strategic imperatives, as well as among the more complex and disconnected.

The importance of customer experience management is reflected in the fact that most firms now have an executive in charge of improving experience across touchpoints. Yet as important as it is, the role (and discipline) is relatively new. In fact, more than 80 percent of these “customer executives” have spent less than two years in the position, with just more than half on the job less than one year–another reason why “top performers” look to outside experts to help jump-start customer experience initiatives.

The critical nature and complexity of experience transformation are big reasons you must do your homework when shopping for outside expertise. Since the industry can seem big and fractured if you're looking at it for the first time, some clarity concerning the kinds of firms that can help is an important first step.

First in 2010 and again in early 2012, Forrester Research researched the customer experience consulting sector and published a report, entitled “Enterprise Customer Experience Transformation Consultants.” In it, it identified two types of firms: management consultants and boutiques. Many can help you develop strategies and design transformation road maps; some can also help with change management and implementation. Based on what we’ve seen work in our nearly decade of focus on customer experience improvement, I’ve added a third category: service design firms.

  • Traditional management consulting firms:  Including companies like Accenture and Deloitte, many established management consulting firms have added customer experience practices in recent years. Given their traditional strengths, these firms are particularly well-versed at the relationships between customer experience and areas such as change management and technology, and have the “bench strength” to help implement related initiatives.
  • Boutique customer experience consultancies: Smaller customer experience consultancies, such as Smith+Co and my firm, MCorp Consulting, are experts at helping companies develop customer experience strategies, the business cases to support them, and the implementation road maps to guide experience improvements. Senior leadership is more often in a hands-on role, and an understanding of the linkage between business, brand and customer experience strategy drives desired results.
  • Service design agencies: Unlike most management consulting firms and customer experience consultancies, service design firms, such as Engine Service Design, have experience designing end-to-end customer experiences, often influencing strategy, HR, marketing, and corporate structure–directly influencing enterprisewide customer experience improvement.

Your End-Goal: An Internal Customer Experience Competency

While there are dozens of experts who can help your company achieve your goals, it’s important to recognize that many “customer experience experts” have recently adopted this positioning as the topic moved from back burner to mainstream. Ranging from CRM and technology companies to myriad ad agencies, marketing research firms, brand strategists, and digital design firms, many of these organizations have changed their taglines and messaging in the past few years to (now) trumpet their “customer experience management” focus.

Yes, all of these companies have a role in the overall transformation effort. Marketing research and data analytics drive customer insights; brand strategy sets experience expectations and aligns your employees. And technology is critical for enabling a single view of the customer across the enterprise.

But customer experience is much more than any one of these things–it’s a complex ecosystem of people, processes, touchpoints, and expectations that must be effectively orchestrated and managed with a deep understanding of strategic dependencies and ramifications.

This is why the “right” customer experience consultant will work side-by-side with you to employ and integrate the appropriate disciplines, methodologies, and processes to manage and improve customers’ interactions with your company. They should play a consultative role at each stage, and have the ability to “mentor and guide” you and your efforts as they transfer the knowledge, methodologies, and artifacts you need to educate and guide your team on an ongoing basis.

After all, any company serious about changing experience across the enterprise must build a robust customer experience management competency internally. At the end of the day, any firm interested in transforming customer experience needs also to transform itself–which is why partnering with the right external experts is such an important step.

And that is also why, if you decide an outside perspective would be helpful, you’ll want a partner that has been in the field of customer experience improvement for some time, has been recognized as experts by independent sources, knows how the pieces fits together–and can teach you how to do it.

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