In recent years, “Customer Experience” (CX) has become a growing buzz-phrase in branding circles as businesses find that their products are more and more difficult to differentiate or stay differentiated, and messaging struggles to reach the eyes and ears of target customers.
Meanwhile the great, inspiring, if-I-hear-about-it-one-more-time-I-might-barf brand success stories of our time—Apple, Starbucks, Southwest, to name a few—are undeniably the great successes they are because of unparalleled experience.
Recently, leaders in customer experience from around the world gathered for the IIR Total Customer Experience Leadership Summit in toasty warm Sunny Isles Beach, Florida to share ideas, challenges and best practices related to customer experience.
If the attendee makeup of the conference is any indication of the customer experience landscape—customer experience is all over the place. As it should be. Market researchers, human resources leaders, marketers, social media managers, customer relations managers, innovation gurus and strategy leads gathered and asked: Whose responsibility is it to manage customer experience? How do we provide an optimal customer experience? How do we measure it? How do we convince senior leadership it’s important?
We’ll try to address each of these questions here:
Whose responsibility is it to manage customer experience? The question of who owns customer experience is an interesting one. At Brandtrust®, we would argue that customer experience should be an organization-wide prerogative, guided and monitored by a cross-functional customer experience team. All too often, customer experience lives and struggles to survive in its own silo, or as a one-time-program within an existing silo, like marketing. Customer experience isn’t a program. To truly make an impact, customer experience is an organization-wide way of life.
How do we provide optimal customer experience? However diverse the crowd was gathered at the conference, we were united by one rallying cry: EMOTION. Presenter after presenter, roundtable after roundtable, underscored the importance of understanding and affecting customers at an emotional level. Within the context of developing an optimized customer experience plan, emotion can help us identify the key moments in the customer experience journey. With hundreds or thousands of potential customer touchpoints, an organization that’s newly focusing on customer experience could easily become overwhelmed by the idea of managing each and every one. But by understanding the moments in the customer experience journey that are most emotionally resonant with customers, organizations can focus on optimizing the most important moments and touchpoints to have the greatest impact. This concept is grounded in Daniel Kahneman’s Peak-End Rule, which states that past experiences are judged almost entirely on the intensity of emotions at their peaks and the end point, the most salient resolution of a brand encounter or experience. With this rule in mind, our organizations can focus on the most important elements of the customer experience first.
How do we measure customer experience? Here’s the bottom line about the bottom line: Great, sustained customer experience will positively impact every metric an organization uses to measure success: revenue, employee engagement scores, customer satisfaction—you name it. But we must be careful not to mistake customer satisfaction or customer engagement for customer experience. Customer experience is a pure focus on ensuring an organization is meeting and exceeding customer needs at vital (or if you’re Disney—every) touchpoints. Customer experience is about better serving your customers when and where it matters most. At its core, it’s about being a better company. Confusing customer experience with customer satisfaction can remove focus from what’s important and trap us in the weeds of desperately trying to bump customer sat scores.
How do we convince senior leadership customer experience is important? The most consistent challenge in implementing a customer experience focus shared at the conference was the hurdle of convincing senior leadership to make customer experience a priority. Though elements of customer experience have existed for decades, today’s customer experience leaders are pioneers in the field, and pioneers will have to do the work of cutting a path for themselves and those that follow. These tools were suggested throughout the conference:
- Persistence. Excellent customer experience is vital to your business, and it’s the right thing to do. Don’t lose sight of this. Network with other customer experience professionals for support!
- Socialization. To succeed, your customer experience initiative must begin with a shift in mindset. This does not have to start at the top of an organization. For any initiative, success is more likely if it is “caught, not taught”—share stories of your own and other organizations’ successes, and stories of what great customer experience could look like for your organization.
- Storytelling. While customer experience leaders are pioneers, there are already terrific success stories to share, and those stories aren’t limited to the obvious or to specific industries: We Energies, Harley-Davidson, The Hartford , and Intel, among others all have fabulous customer experience successes that can be used as examples of what customer experience can do for an organization.
- Science. If you haven’t already, pick up Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow to dig into the peak-end rule. Or, as a shortcut, take a look at our Customer Experience whitepaper. There’s a plethora of social scientific research to support the case for a customer experience focus.