1. Know thyself and thy customers
As alluded in prior sections, great customer experience requires a clear understanding of not just what your customers need and want, but also your brand’s core values and promises. Customer pain points will provide guidance on what the experience needs to solve for, and equally as important is your brand that will provide guidance on how you will go about solving them.
Know Thy Customer. A winning CX creates delight and value, which intrinsically motivates customers to return to your products and services. To achieve this, you must ask a series of questions to develop a strong understanding of your customers and the technological and cultural trends that surrounds them, such as:
- Who are your customers?
- What are their biggest struggles and issues? What motivates them as individuals and/or as a segment?
- How do they make decisions? Who influences them? What touchpoints do they rely on to gather information and make decisions?
- How do they currently perceive your brand and that of your competitors?
- What kinds of tasks and questions do they have at each stage in their customer and decision making journey? Are they relying on commercial or non-commercial sources to fulfill them?
- How do they utilize technology in their daily life and their journey?
- What are their unmet needs? What cultural problems or struggles might be unique to this generation or customer segment?
If you are willing to create bold, innovative solutions, tackle their biggest and deepest cultural problems. If you are more willing to make small improvements in experiences, focus on optimizing the purchase funnel through identifying drop-off points and roadblocks.
Know Thyself. As you might have noticed, some companies have an easier time identifying and aligning on the “How to Solve” than others. Smaller, single-product companies and/or startups are the ones who have an advantage over this category because they are typically founded with a purpose of resolving a very specific and well-defined consumer problem (think Uber).
So, are well-established enterprises and portfolio companies without clear core values or purpose doomed? Not necessarily. They just have to take a more philosophical journey to identify and align on them. Jim Collins’ book Built to Last provides a high-level direction to identifying this:
Who should be involved in articulating the core values depending on the size, age and geographic dispersion of the company, but in many situations we like to suggest a “Mars Group” … Imagine you’ve been asked to recreate the very best attributes of your organization on another planet. Who would you send? They are the people who likely have a gut-level understanding of your core values, have the highest level of credibility with their peers, and the highest level of competence … The “Mars Group” can also be used effectively to articulate core purpose …
Competitive differentiation through CX requires the customer to be able to identify uniqueness and to feel delight in the experiences you offer. Delight will be felt when you resolve the customers’ problems. Uniqueness is perceived when it is done in a way that is consistent with what your brand stands for.
2. CX must be omnichannel
The main difference between CX and UX is that customer experience is not confined to a particular channel or touch point; it’s rather the sum of all relevant customer interactions within a given journey.
An often missed but critical nuance about CX is that individual touchpoints need not to always involve your brand. One of the most common mistakes made by non-customer-centric agencies, consultancies and client-side stakeholders is that they try to infuse the brand into every single touchpoint just because they can. When they identify all of the relevant touchpoints (e.g., media channels, devices and influencers), they think “we can engage our customers in all of them!” rather than asking themselves “do we have empirical evidence suggesting that our customers want to be engaged in those touchpoints?” and “is there a unique value we can provide our customers through those touchpoints in exchange for them paying attention to us?”
The difference in the outcome is stark. By taking the first route and trudging into the customers’ lives, brands run annoy, interrupt and intrude the very people they must help and delight. It’s not where you can engage, but it’s where/when/how your customers want you to engage with them.
Omnichannel CX strategists and marketers must understand the full landscape of their customers behaviors and the online and offline touchpoints they leverage, and then take a step back to determine when/where/how best you can engage your customers based on their needs and desires.
3. CX and business strategy must go hand-in-hand
At the end of the day, CX is the means to the ends of driving business growth. No matter how much delight or value your CX strategy can bring your customers, if the cost exceeds the return it cannot be justified as a business activity.
At the same time, implementation costs of great CX will naturally be expensive if the enterprise is not currently set up to deliver it well. You might need a new CRM platform, content studio, create a new position for a Chief Experience Officer, revamp and implement training programs for customer service staff, redesign in-store experiences, etc.
That is why industry, customer and cultural research is so important. If there is enough data and insights to make a business case about the mid-long term value of the CX strategy, than the CX strategy should also influence the business strategy and business/operating models to deliver delightful, valuable and profitable customer experiences better, faster and more cost-effectively than competitors.
CX and business strategies must inform one another.
4. Customer experience planning and management must be iterative and cross-disciplinary
Customers don’t know or care which department or business unit is responsible of what aspect of the experience–may it be using a website, interacting with an app, shopping in a retail store, or receiving a package by mail.
Brands must acknowledge that different functional areas each touch different aspects of the customer experience, and therefore must all come together to plan for, experiment, test, execute and optimize it. Another way to look at this is, no single team or department can single-handedly resolve a customer’s problem across their journey.
To create effective, captivating and profitable CX solutions while embracing uncertainty, brands must more aggressively employ agile methodologies, sprints, cross-functional workshops, prototyping and testing. This will not only result in faster and higher-fidelity decision making, but also is a lot more fun in its process.
Speed is the new currency. Today’s macroeconomic environment is permeated with uncertainty and consumer-choice overload. Enterprises must have access to quality customer data and insights, and also have the agility to experiment small initiatives with focus.
In order to engage your customers in ways that can provide unique and differentiated value, you must have a strong understanding of who your customers are, how they make decisions, how/when/why they want to engage with your brand, what needs are currently unmet, and how your brand can uniquely resolve those problems by leveraging core values, promise, assets, business capabilities, processes, and business and operating models though cross-functional collaborations.