Three ways companies with best customer experience got there—and how they stay ahead of the pack.
Sometimes, the ability to deliver a great customer experience (CX) happens right out of the gate. Some combination of skill, strategy, focus and customer obsession align to show that an organization “gets it” from Day 1. And more importantly, they continue to focus as they grow and change over time.
Many of the companies with the best customer experience are the leaders we all know, such as Amazon, Zappos, Ritz-Carlton and USAA, to name a few. But they also include thousands of other less well-known firms around the world that deeply understand and successfully delight their customers on a regular basis, though on a smaller stage.
Whether huge or focused, these companies share several common traits. Because they all recognize that even if you deliver a great customer experience today, it isn’t going to stay that way on its own. They know (as you will discover) that the art and science of customer experience success requires a LOT of ongoing adjustment, awareness and work.
If your firm delivers a great customer experience today—and wants to keep doing so as you grow, or as markets, competitors and customer habits inevitably change—here are three of the most powerful success factors that enable today’s customer experience leaders to continually lead:
- Aligned Business, Brand and CX Strategies
Looking to the 1980 business classics, Competitive Strategy, and 1993s The Discipline of Market Leaders, there are only three, basic business strategies: The first is cost leadership, or value (think Costco). The second is differentiation, or product leadership (Apple). The third is a segment or customer intimacy strategy (USAA).
You’ll see that CX leaders always tightly align their business, brand, and CX strategies. For example, Apple is a product leader, and customer expectations are for innovation. And the brand promises...and delivers*...on those expectations. What drives your economic engine is clear. Customers know what to expect, and your people know what to deliver.
*Does Apple still deliver? They’ve definitely had their challenges the past few years, and even the most Apple-centric customer can't help but acknowledge that they’re struggling...or coasting. For now we’ll let them keep their spot but it may be time to find the next product leader.
- A Customer-Centric Culture
Creating and maintaining a customer-centric culture is one of the hardest things any organization can do. It’s also critical. Why? Because only through a shared understanding of values and the behaviors required to deliver on the promise of the brand can an organization make continual progress towards its customer experience goals.
Organizations like Amazon and Zappos are relentless in their pursuit of this culture. Executives lead by example, and vision is clearly communicated. Customers are at the center of decision-making. Employees know what is required of them, and are incented to behave in those ways. And supporting systems—technology, data and processes—are aligned to enable them.
- Customer Understanding
Most organizations collect customer feedback, but less than a third systematically drive these insights into decision-making. CX leaders do. Well beyond “data,” they have a crystal clear picture of who they’re serving. They know their customers well enough to empathize with them, and recognize that only through this understanding can they continue to deliver against (and beyond) customer expectations.
They have true Voice-of-the-Customer programs, where insights are continually gathered, analyzed, shared and acted on across their organizations. They have rich segmentation models, defined customer personas, know the journeys most important to each, and use these insights to continually improve.
Well-aligned and properly implemented strategies are critical for companies that want to keep delivering great customer experiences. A customer-centric culture is core to delivering on those strategies. And deep customer understanding is required to deliver a complete picture of who your customers are, what they want and feel, and how great the customer experience actually is.
In a world of ever-smarter customers and myriad competitors working to differentiate by customer experience as well, modeling the skills, strategies, focus and customer obsession that have kept leaders continually delivering ever better customer experience is the best way to keep your firm’s customer experience on track as well.