THE ULTIMATE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PRIMER
This guide will serve as a comprehensive starting point for Customer Experience Management. f you are interested in taking a deeper dive in to customer experience training, we encourage you to check out ICMI’s Customer Experience Accelerator Bootcamp.
There are more and more business leaders being called upon to guide Customer Experience (CX) initiatives. It’s no longer an optional function of the organization, but it has risen over the past decade to become one of the most critical and strategic disciplines. To quote Forbes, "89% of businesses are competing primarily on the basis of CX...up from only 36% in 2010." Organizations that wish to survive the new global economy must not only practice Customer Experience, but they must learn to do it exceptionally well.
If you are new to the wonderful world of CX, welcome! You will find Customer Experience professionals to be among the most generous, kind, intelligent, and passionate people in the corporate universe. Even so, this path you've discovered can be overwhelming. While I often say that Customer Experience is the best work in the world, it is also the hardest. The good news is we are going to provide you with a massive head start. This resource has synthesized years of learning to teach the core fundamentals of Customer Experience Management. We will begin by laying the groundwork, continue with a step-by-step guide on how to perform the four key disciplines, and provide ongoing education with a curated list of the very best resources the CX community has to offer. Let's begin this journey to unforgettable experiences!
WHAT IS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?
Customer Experience (CX) is quite simply “How customers perceive their interactions with your company” (Forrester). While related, CX is very different from Customer Service. Customer Service is just one of the many critical pieces in a larger puzzle. It's the work of the CX professional to unify all the disparate parts of an organization to create a "one company" experience. One could say the CX role is scientific in nature given it is made up of repeatable steps and behaviors, however it’s artistic in the sense that you are dealing with human emotions as the measure for success. Because of this dynamic, it requires a very special type of person to be a CX leader. We must be capable of telling compelling stories through a combination of both the empirical and the theoretical, be fluent in the language of every organizational function, as well as being masters in change management and culture building. If you are not up for a long-lasting challenge, CX will not be the line of work for you. But, while it is difficult, the fruits of this labor are second-to-none. When we design exceptional Customer Experiences, we are making people's lives better and easier. It's wonderful that doing the right thing for our customers is also what will grow the business and differentiate us in the marketplace!
True to the definition above, CX work is all about perceptions. We want our customers to have a meaningful relationship with our brand and to think highly of it. So highly, in fact, that our customers become brand ambassadors to their friends and family. This customer perception will be formed from a series of “touch points” or moments in which a customer interfaces with your organization. It’s the job of the CX leader to identify and analyze each of these touch points, thereby isolating key CX improvement opportunities and enhancing overall customer journeys. There are many tools, techniques, and best practices that CX professionals use to accomplish this objective. We will equip you with these by exploring the four foundational disciplines of Customer Experience Management: CX Strategy, Voice of the Customer, Experience Engineering, and closing with Employee Experience. In order to continue your education beyond the basics, we will curate for you the very best thought leaders, communities, and live events to help you accelerate your career as a CX professional. The navigation buttons below will bring you quickly to each core discipline. If I was with you in person, I'd give you a high-five and wish you the very best of luck on your quest to design remarkable customer experiences! This hand emoji will have to suffice for now. ✋😄
CORE CX DISCIPLINES
DISCIPLINE #1 - CX STRATEGY AND LEADERSHIP
"You must start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around." - Steve Jobs
A well-formed Customer Experience strategy is the lifeblood of a competitive organization. Product innovations can be ripped-off and replicated nearly overnight, but there is no short cut to designing memorable experiences. As a company decides to initiate or expand Customer Experience Management, one of the very first questions will be where does CX belong? This is one of the most common questions I receive as a coach, and rightfully so. If the Customer Experience function is not anchored in a part of the organization where it can effectively influence change, the effort is doomed to fail. In fact, Bob Thompson recently reported that less than one third of CX initiatives are successful. Statistically speaking, the odds are not in our favor. But despair not, friends. We've learned a great deal both from the successes and failures of our predecessors...and we have the power to change this number together.
THE CX CHANGE COALITION
One thing we know is that the Customer Experience function must be established in such a way that it can influence change across the entire organization. CX cannot be it's own team on the outskirts of the company hierarchy. It cannot be a re-branded version of the customer service center. In order to be successful, CX must have meaningful authority and representation inside of every major department. This requires a strong CX Change Coalition as guided by a Chief Customer Officer or similar leadership role. By uniting established leaders from each group into a change coalition, the "us versus them" mentality is eliminated. We bring people together using a compelling customer narrative (as we will discuss in the next section - Voice of the Customer) and to create a sense of urgency toward the things that matter most.
As you develop your long-term strategy as a CX leader, it's important to recognize the need to patiently and effectively influence the organization around you. I can say from personal experience that it's easy to try and play the role of Moses...coming down from Mount Sinai with golden tablets of VoC data in your arms, casting judgement upon the masses for their failure to serve customers. This is not the best way to intrinsically motivate people. Gandalf from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy provides a far superior model. The White Wizard created the Fellowship of the Ring under a single compelling purpose...and awakened the very best in each of them individually to achieve something incredible. This is the power of a strong CX Change Coalition!
Speaking of power, it's essential to consider the organization's "power core" in the context of a CX strategy. The power core of a company is the primary center of control when it comes to decision making. Jeanne Bliss has a wonderful section about this in her book "Chief Customer Officer 2.0" which is an essential read for anyone performing this work. Its typically the role of the CX professional to gently redirect the existing energies already at play...rather than becoming an adversary to them. The idea of bursting into a complex company and dropping the customer right into the center of everything is just not realistic. Alternatively, if you identify the primary power core and engage them as a Customer Experience ally, your chances of success are exponentially higher. Earn the right to perform CX alongside the power core, and expand your influence outward from this position of strength. Consider the following four common power cores and try to identify the one most relevant to your situation:
Especially large and complex companies may have multiple power cores, each wrestling for maximum control and budget. CX is an opportunity to unify them under a greater purpose. Instead of department heads making assumptions about what the future of the company should look like, point them toward the reality of the customer journey and the benefits of delivering a "one company" experience.
ACHIEVING LEADERSHIP BUY-IN
As with any change initiative, obtaining leadership buy-in is a required step in the Customer Experience strategy. Establishing a strong CX Change Coalition is a perfect start. The continuation of this work includes securing the support three distinct employee populations:
Executive Level / CEO - Without a customer-centric CEO who is an active advocate for CX change, you will be fighting a major uphill battle. The CEO and executive team are required to create a sense of urgency and drive accountability over the long-haul. By directly associating Customer Experience to revenue gain, you will attract and keep executives attention as the business evolves. Be sure to read Jeanne Bliss’s article entitled “Yes Good CX is Tied to Revenue Gains” as well as “3 Strategies to Sell the CEO on CXM” from a variety of top practitioners written by Bob Thompson.
Line Managers - The mid-level management tier is where behavior and process changes actually happen. If the executives talk a good CX game, but fail to gain commitment from the line managers, failure is inevitable. These managers survive the sea of shifting agendas by focusing very intentionally on the things they are accountable for. With competing priorities coming at them from all sides, line managers will choose the ones that are measurable and non-negotiable...effectively screening out the lessor objectives. To win the support of the line manager, the CX professional will have to prove to them that Customer Experience is not a "here today, gone tomorrow" type of initiative. Ensure that at least one of their core priorities is associated back to the Voice of Customer program and demonstrate how improving the customer journey will actually enhance the work experience for their entire team.
The Front Line - Leadership buy-in is critical, however one should never underestimate the power of a "grass roots" movement. By simultaneously building a ground swell the change cycle is dramatically accelerated. It's very easy while inside the daily grind to lose sight of the customer's journey. We have to remind them. Through creative and frequent communications, allow every member of the organization to feel both the customer's victories and their pain. Resist the temptation to utilize only corporate-wide communication with this group, as it will get lost in the noise. You must make CX relevant to each individual, generally through 1:1 conversations, educating them on the critical role they specifically play inside of the larger Customer Experience. Additionally, every employee deserves a chance to actively participate in CX design!
It’s important to begin with a realistic outlook concerning the impact of a CX initiative. When it comes to moving the CX needle, it’s a marathon…not a sprint. Improving the Customer Experience is a major culture shift for most organizations. Considering culture is “the way we do things,” you will be asking people to make a change in order to positively impact your customer’s lives. Any modification in human behavior takes a great deal of time and repetition to finally sink in. Equip yourself, your leadership, and your CX Change Coalition with the long-term perspective required to persevere.
Using a "crawl, walk, run" methodology when approaching CX is essentially a requirement. Your strategy will not be perfect...and that is okay. Focus on the essential things first and slowly build up momentum. In the words of Boaz Maor: "I've seen a lot of people design the 'perfect' CX program and fail to get there because the scope is too grand. They struggle to get buy-in and budget and establish momentum. It is critical to devise a plan that can assess where you are on the path towards 'perfect', acknowledge the good work that has been done, and then lay out multiple phases to move forward with check points on each one to ensure incremental success."
Many would offer the advice of creating a "Customer Experience Mission Statement" or something similar. Personally, I do not recommend this. The company should have only one statement of this type..the overall company mission! Customer Experience Management is a critical step in making this mission a reality. When we separate CX from the core objective of the organization, we can under-mind our own efforts. Great CX is what makes the business successful. Take every opportunity you can to prove this connection.
It's also important to recognize that Customer Experience is often just one of many strategic initiatives vying for attention. As an example, Digital Transformation is on the minds of nearly every executive. As this HBR article demonstrates, CX should be at the heart of any digital transformation effort. When we incorporate things such as Digital Transformation into our Customer Experience strategy, we are tapping into natural harmonies and removing potential barriers.
The groundwork is being laid! To recap our strategy and leadership section:
Establish a strong CX Change Coalition
Identify the organizational "power core"
Achieve leadership buy-in on all levels
Set proper expectations on timelines and ROI
Partner with other strategic initiatives such as Digital Transformation
Using these steps as a foundation, we are now ready to start building up the Voice of Customer engine. This provides us with valuable insights required to develop a tactical CX strategy. Resist the temptation to jump in and start making changes based on assumptions. Its very common to skip steps based on what we think we know about our customers. Until we hear it directly from them in a clear and organized manner, we are not ready to take action. Let's move on to the next discipline and find out what our customers really think of us!
CORE CX DISCIPLINES
DISCIPLINE #2 - VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER
The way a brand collects and responds to feedback from their customers says more about their CX maturity than anything else. Establishing a robust Voice of the Customer or VoC program is absolutely critical, and will act as the cornerstone for the entire CX strategy. VoC is the process in which the organization monitors, collects, analyzes, and reports on all feedback associated with your brand. It may be the voice of the customer, but it’s the heart of Customer Experience Management.
The first question to ask when establishing a VoC program is how and where are customers expressing feedback about your products or services. The ways in which customers articulate brand feedback has evolved dramatically over the past ten years with the rise of social media platforms, third party communities, and review sites. Sadly, many organizations are still only collecting feedback using traditional surveys. While surveys are still an essential part of the VoC, we must break the legacy "survey mentality" and learn how to effectively listen in same channels where customers are providing feedback. This requires us to collect both structured and unstructured VoC data:
A modern Customer Experience Management platform such as CloudCherry, Qualtrics, or Medallia offers the ability to take all these various types of feedback and funnel them into actionable insights. Unless you have an extremely low volume, it will be very difficult to process customer feedback manually. Voice of Customer is the primary stage in which a technology investment will really help to drive your CX initiative. It's quite remarkable how good these tools have gotten when it comes to measuring Customer Sentiment through text analytics, voice analysis, and even video analysis.
Additional types of customer feedback that should be centralized in a Voice of Customer funnel (but are often overlooked) include:
Themes from Win / Loss data
Insights from RFP's (request for proposals)
A customer feedback mechanism built directly into a software product
Feedback from product demos
Feedback from training or new customer on-boarding
Most VoC programs are still anchored with an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey. If you are new to NPS, begin with this fantastic series by Jennifer Rowe at Zendesk. Historically, organizations have implemented some form of an “NPS” (Net Promoter Score) program and subsequently checked the VoC box. This is an out-dated approach to CXM. It's very dangerous to over-rely on NPS (or any one) metric. The reality is fewer and fewer customers are taking the time to fill out traditional surveys. By creating organic “listening channels" as referenced above, one will greatly increase the quantity and the quality of the data received. Imagine how much you’d learn if you could holistically view all verbatim comments coming in through your sales staff, support team, implementation group, finance team and every other customer-facing group inside of your organization combined with feedback from structured channels.
Pro Tip - One “hack” that I’ve used to get employees excited about and using the listening path channel is to purchase USB webkeys. This is simply a button with your CX program logo on it that connects to the employees docking station. Whenever they get meaningful feedback from a customer, they press the button and go straight to the simple form. The adoption rate resulting from this inexpensive gamification technique has been amazing. Talk about a CX easy button! Learn how to implement your own VoC button system here.
In the event a survey is used to collect customer feedback, be sure it's a good one. After all, the survey experience itself is part of the customer experience and should be designed with the customer in mind. Below are a few tips to ensure your surveys are optimized and will generate the maximum return:
KEY METRICS FOR CUSTOMER SUCCESS -
BUILDING YOUR CX DASHBOARD
A huge part of any VoC program is creating a vehicle by which to communicate customer insights to a widespread audience. If you are about to embark on an effort to improve the Customer Experience, it’s critical to establish a baseline of customer related data as soon as possible. How else will you be able to validate the positive or negative results of your actions? Before your organization will truly invest in your initiatives, you must be able to prove the ROI of this work with a dashboard of CX and revenue-related metrics. NPS and listening paths are a great start, but you will need additional data points and perspectives to drive change. Below are the most essential metrics for effectively measuring Customer Experience. It is likely additional metrics will be needed depending on your audience and industry.
CES - The Customer Effort Score was introduced by the CEB (now Gartner) in 2013. According to extensive research by a variety of firms, CES has a powerful correlation to customer loyalty. The “effort” question would be asked on your surveys and is simply “how quickly and easily were you able to resolve your issue.” It’s more transactional when compared with NPS, and is great for measuring the customer service experience specifically. This will be covered in more detail in discipline three.
Additional Reading - “Stop Trying To Delight Your Customers” on HBR
NPS - People love to bad-mouth Net Promoter Score. Yes, it’s a bit dated (2003)...and no it’s not perfect...but regardless NPS absolutely has a place on any CX dashboard. NPS was helping companies understand customer perceptions long before Customer Experience was a mainstream function. Introduced by Fred Reichheld, Net Promoter Score is calculated on a 10 point scale by asking “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” The goal is to turn “detractors” into “promoters” under the assumption that promoters will help you to generate more business and spend more with your brand over time. When you consider the ability of NPS to measure the holistic customer experience, as well as it's benchmarking capabilities, there is nothing else like it in CX space today.
Additional Reading - “What Is Net Promoter?” on netpromoter.com
Customer Growth Engine - Your customer base is the organization's most valuable asset and should be managed as such. Introduced by Jeanne Bliss, the power of this metric is it’s ability to create a “mic drop” moment with your leadership team. On a quarter by quarter basis, measure how much you were able to increase your customer base by volume and value, followed by how many customers were lost by value and volume. Customers lost subtracted from customers gained is your Customer Growth Engine score for that quarter. Part of the power is to use whole numbers instead percentages. These straight-forward terms allow you to see how many customers are entering the journey, versus how many are choosing to leave. If your customer base is in decline, the obvious question is why? This one heavy-hitting number should accelerate a robust dialog and a sense of urgency among stakeholders. There is quite a bit more to this metric then the simplified version presented here, so be sure to pick up Jeanne’s book below.
Additional Reading - “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” By Jeanne Bliss on Amazon
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) - While it focuses on a specific interaction or event, CSAT is a helpful companion to NPS and CES. There are several CSAT related questions that can be asked on a survey, but the core question is “how would you rate your experience with (fill in the blank). There are typically five answer choices ranging from very satisfied down to very dissatisfied. This could be a support interaction, a purchasing experience, a demo, or just about anything else. It’s calculated by establishing a percentage of those answering either “satisfied” or “very satisfied.” Checkmarket has a helpful chart showing comparing CSAT, CES, and NPS HERE.
Additional Reading - “CSAT: The Happy Customer KPI” on Emolytics
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) - Customer Lifetime Value is a measure of all the money a customer spends with your brand over the entire relationship. There are many ways to calculate this, (most of which are extremely complicated) but it doesn't have to be. A simple version can be achieved by taking the annual profit per customer, multiplied by the average number of years a customer remains, and then subtract the cost of customer acquisition. CLV can be a powerful companion to NPS if you can show how much greater the lifetime value is for a “promoter” versus a “detractor.” This provides a direct association between NPS and revenue growth. CLV Calculator has an Excel template for download to as well as some examples. For a more robust option, Optimove has a formula and tool used to calculate CLV below.
Additional Reading - “How To Calculate Customer Lifetime Value” by Optimove and “Understanding Customer Lifetime Value: A Non-Geek’s Guide” by Adam Toporek
Renewal / Churn Rate - If your business deals in subscriptions, customer renewal rate is your life blood. This is the percentage of customers who, given the option, decide to remain as a customer versus discontinuing service. The inverse to renewal rate is called the “Churn Rate” and is often used within SaaS businesses. This is simply the percentage of customers who stop subscribing to a service. As is made abundantly clear in this great collection of statistics from Insight Squared, increasing your renewal rate is essential for long-term revenue growth. Considering how hard it is to acquire new business, a SaaS company with a high churn rate likely won’t be in business for very long.
There are two primary ways to measure renewal / churn rate, and we recommend doing both. The first is gross renewal, which is simply the percentage of customers renewing in a given window of time. The second is Net Renewal, which adds consideration for up-sells and expansions within your existing customer base: renewal + up-sells - churn. This "loaded" renewal rate can help greatly to depict the power of referenceable and happy customers to the bottom line.
Customer Health Score - On the "crawl, walk, run" mentality referenced above, attempting to measure Customer Health would certainly fall into the "run" category. While it is difficult and time consuming to measure, it is also tremendously valuable. This would be a "composite metric" providing a value of health associated with specific customers based on a series of selected inputs. The power is by selecting inputs associated with various touch points, resulting in a simple number that spans the holistic nature of Customer Experience. Many organizations will generate a Customer Health Score for just their top 100 customers as an example, or customers in a particular strategic segment. For more on calculating CHS and recommendations on inputs, see "How To Score Customer Health" by Dan Stienman on Gainsight.com.
A complementary metric to Customer Health Score is the "Customer Maturity Index." This takes the individual customer focus even one step further to consider how capable the customer is to derive value from a vendor's solution. This too is a composite metric with various custom inputs. For more on measuring CMI, review this article from Boaz Maor and Ralf Wittgen.
Regardless of which metrics you choose, a great CX dashboard will tell a story. It will show the true correlation between the Employee Experience, the Customer Experience, and business results. We can talk all day long about how important EX and CX are...but until we prove it using this dashboard, we run the risk of becoming a victim to shifting organizational tides. For a Customer Experience leader, a robust dashboard is both your offense and defense to build up the CX function!
TELLING THE CUSTOMER'S STORY -
With all the great data you're receiving from your VoC program, you are ready to use a powerful storytelling vehicle that brings this information to life. Enter the “Customer Journey Map.” This is a summarized and "storified" depiction of key interactions (or touch points) that a customer experiences with your business. Designed through the lens of the customer, it will explore the emotional state, priority objectives, established expectations and most importantly, pain points for each key interaction. Much of the journey map's power is drawn from the simplicity of a narrative format. The CX professional is required to take complex, abstract data and make it meaningful to anyone in the organization. Journey maps are fantastic for this. Your litmus test for success is as follows - within a couple minutes of looking at your map, anyone in the company should understand what the key moments in the customer’s journey are and how they specifically play a role inside of it. There are four primary types of Journey Maps used by CX professionals:
Current State Map: A visual depiction of the actual journey your customers are experiencing today. It is backed by actual customer feedback data and can be used to show where the high and low points are in the journey. Used to educate and rally the organization toward improving the lives of the customer.
Hypothetical Current State Map: Same as above, except instead of real-life customer VoC data we are making assumptions about the customer, their needs, and their pain points. This is a good way to get started as you build up the VoC engine.
Future State: Depicts the idealized future state of the customer journey once improvements are made. Great for sharing the vision of how CX can evolve over time.
Service Blueprint: More tactical diagram, merges the customer journey with the internal supporting process, technologies and people responsible for delivering the experience on a particular touch point.
Organizations will often begin with a hypothetical current state map, and work towards a true current state map driven by real customer data. There is nothing wrong with this at all...even the process itself of creating the hypothetical map will be extremely insightful for your leadership team. One note of caution: executives in particular will often struggle to design the journey map from the lens of the customer. They will often try to turn it into an internal process document consistent with how they see the company. Resist this temptation and help them understand the difference. If they insist, go the route of the "service blueprint" as referenced above. This will allow you to design a true journey map overlaid with internal process documentation.
The first step in creating any customer journey map is identifying “personas” or groups of customers who share similar touch points. It's important to create separate, individual maps for all the major customer personas. I’ve seen leaders push back on this and try to consolidate everything into one massive map. This will typically become too large and too complicated to be of any use. This guide from UXPressia is perfect for facilitating an exercise to create your own core personas.
Next, identify the key touch points that comprise the journey of your persona. A "touch point" is simply a point in which a customer interacts with a business. This will be everything from when the customer became aware of your offerings, to the continual relationship or support stage. What you do from here is really up to you. Journey maps come in thousands of different formats and contain all sorts of different relevant data. The ultimate goal is to capture the story of the customer and their experience in a compelling, easy to follow visual. This article by Paul Boag on Smashing Magazine has a ton of great recommendations and creative ideas for effective journey mapping. You will also want to follow the world's foremost expert on journey mapping, Annette Franz. Her blog is CX-Journey and there is a ton of great advice both on mapping and voice of the customer in general.
While journey mapping is the most popular, there are other story-based vehicles that can be used to educate stakeholders. One such tool is a “CX room.” This is a space dedicated to providing an immersive experience for your guests and employees to understand the customer journey. It can incorporate all of your senses and be highly creative in order to consolidate a whole customer life-cycle into 10 minutes. Read more about CX rooms and the brands that use them on this blog from Forrester.
In conclusion, a successful VOC program will give you real-time insight into what your customers are actually experiencing. This feedback will allow you to identify both your “moments of truth” (most critical touch points in the customer's journey) and your key improvement opportunities. Your CX dashboard will allow you to depict the relationship between customer experience and revenue, as well as creating a sense of urgency for CX improvements. Now that your data engine is in place, let's talk about how to use it.
CORE CX DISCIPLINES
DISCIPLINE #3 - EXPERIENCE ENGINEERING
So much has been covered already...however the real work is only beginning! In discipline one, we covered the creation of a holistic CX strategy. Discipline two (Voice of the Customer) has allowed us to understand our customers and isolate key improvement opportunities. Discipline three might be the most important of all. In this stage we move beyond the hypothetical, and change lives through improved Customer Experiences.
This is probably as good of a time as any to reveal a tough truth facing CX professionals today. The reality is that over two-thirds of Customer Experience programs are failing to make a significant impact. Don't let anyone tell you CX work is not difficult...you are attempting to change the way the entire business thinks and operates based on customer feedback. While it may be some of the most challenging work in the world, it's also some of the most important. Our chances of success are dramatically increased when we set proper expectations and go about making the right changes in the right ways.
As we enter this "execution" stage, every CX program will require significant customization. Each business is unique, with their own culture, customer groups, and supporting processes. While there may not be a "one size fits all" approach to change management, there are several proven principles we can leverage inside of our CX strategies. One of the most critical things to remember is the organization can only handle small increments of change at time. Whenever possible, we should tap into existing momentum versus attempting to create things from scratch. Leveraging the existing change methodology inside of your organization is a good example of this. Most organizations have already selected a framework for change. Doing so provides a common language and framework for cross-functional collaboration. I've included a list of four common change methodologies to help make identification easy:
Once you've identified the primary change methodology at work, I'd highly recommend becoming very proficient in this way of thinking. Immerse yourself in the framework and achieve any certifications you can. Doing so will greatly enhance your ability to influence peers and gain traction on CX-related projects.
If your organization does not yet have a clear change methodology in place, take heart. This also presents an opportunity. It could be easily argued that the greatest change management frameworks of all time is that of John Kotter in Leading Change. This will act as a wonderful starting point to take VoC-driven projects and achieve meaningful results.
Trying to do too many things too quickly is one of the largest temptations CX professionals face. Considering that CX is made up of every single process within a business, there’s an endless number of things to be improved. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. The key is to identify the right priorities for maximum impact, as made clear by your VoC program. Additionally, here are three simple principles that may help to narrow the focus:
Maximum Impact / Minimum Effort - A bit of "agile" thinking can go a long way. One framework would be take your list of improvements and assign positive point values to each in accordance to their impact potential. Now assign negative point values based on how much perceived effort is required to solve the problem. The top of your list should be those improvements with maximum impact and minimum effort. This is a great exercise to do together with your CX Change Coalition.
Leadership Synergies - Do you know what keeps your CEO awake at night? If you are on the fence between various customer improvements consider which of them have the most impact on your key internal stakeholders.
Quick Win? - It's always a good idea to get a quick win and build positive momentum before tackling any big hairy monsters.
EFFORT REDUCTION -
A KEY THEME IN BOTH EX AND CX
One key theme of your experience process improvements will be effort reduction. When Gartner / CEB released "The Effortless Experience" in 2011 it was like an awakening within the CX field. Their research has been overwhelmingly validated in the past eight years and is still increasingly relevant. At the end of the day, customers value their time above essentially everything else. Much of your work will be finding methods to reduce the amount of time and energy a customer spends to achieve success with your brand. As it happens, our customers are not the only ones for whom we need to be protective of time. We need to also consider how we can equip our employees with the tools and knowledge to facilitate effortless resolutions.
The best starting point to begin measuring customer effort is in the Customer Service area. On this touchpoint, even more so than the others, the ability to save time and ensure a friction-less resolution is paramount. In order to measure this, simply add the "effort question" to your Customer Service related surveys. There are many ways to calculate an effort score, however the method below is the most common.
The feedback collected through your VoC program will hopefully make it clear how to best reduce effort for your customers. As you undergo various improvement projects, watch how the effort score is impacted. Having such a strong correlation to customer loyalty, it will likely be a small leap to connect a positive change in Customer Effort Score to a favorable revenue impact. Doing so will fuel the work of CX long into the future!
While the formal "effort question" above may only be applicable to Customer Service, it's still critical to measure effort across the other touchpoints as well. A great example question is "how easy is it to do business with X company." This can be asked at essentially any time to establish an "ease of doing business" benchmark. For employees, a great question to ask would be "are there barriers preventing you from doing your best work." A question like this would need to be an open text field so employees can identify the specific barriers. I've seen so many cases where an employee wants to serve customers well, but they are prevented from doing so by poor supporting processes and tools.
Another common "effort generator" is a lack of quality, accessible knowledge. When reliable information is not immediately available for people to perform their jobs, a tremendous amount of time and energy is wasted hunting down simple answers. At the end of the day, it's the customer who pays the price for these delays. It's also a major factor in employee burnout. Adoption of a knowledge management framework such as KCS (Knowledge-Centered Service) can quite literally change the culture of an organization.
When we are intentional about reducing employee effort, enhanced customer experiences are the natural result. Speaking of the connection between EX and CX, discipline four is all about the employee experience!
CORE CX DISCIPLINES
DISCIPLINE #4 - THE EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
It’s become abundantly clear over the last several years that the backbone of any CX initiative is the employee experience (EX). It’s not enough for a CX leader to focus on the needs and perceptions of just our customers. We must also become an advocate for those representing the brand every day. Imagine the organization as a car you are responsible for maintaining. Focusing on the Customer Experience alone would be like keeping your vehicle perfectly washed and polished on the outside, but in reality the vehicle is falling apart on the inside due to a lack of critical maintenance. This car would look very nice as you passed it on the side of the highway...waiting for a tow truck. A CX leader is not just a champion for their customers. This person is a force within the organization, helping to create a customer-centric culture and motivate employees to excel for those whom they serve.
Given the overlap of objectives, one key member of your “CX Change Coalition” will likely be your HR leader(s). Take a look at this fantastic article on Forbes by Christine Comaford. "According to Temkin Group’s research when HR is significantly involved in CX the organization is 50% more likely to be a CX leader." She goes on to say that "HR owns the cultural programs, so it’s key that they are first looped into Employee Engagement (EE) so they can help support CX. First a strong mission, vision, values sets the tone for your tribal purpose and code of conduct." When it comes down to it, employees have to want it for themselves. We can't do CX on their behalf, and we can't force them. The million dollar question is this: how can we motivate employees to take pride in their work and care deeply about customers?
The best resource I've seen on this topic to date is "Primed To Perform" by Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor. To summarize, it breaks down the various motivators that compel people toward certain behaviors. The positive intrinsic motivators outlined below are the building blocks to exceptional EX and CX. By increasing the presence of these positive motivators and reducing the negative ones a highly engaged workforce is made possible. Let's look at each of the three key motivators in turn:
▪ Play is the most powerful motivator of them all. When employees have a sense of curiosity and excitement, customers can feel this immediately. Alternatively, a customer can usually tell when they are interfacing with staff who are burned out or bored. This is much more than putting a ping-pong table in the break room. Developing a culture of play requires leadership to put forth engaging challenges and give employees the opportunity to discover new things. When done well, play and innovation go hand-in-hand. Customer-centric cultures are consistently asking their employee population how they can serve customers better and even giving them the autonomy to experiment with new ideas.
▪ Purpose is an excellent motivator when work offers a compelling response to the question of "why?" Why shouldn't your employees not only show up, but offer the very best they can everyday? When a CX leader successfully closes the gap between employees and the customer's experience, it creates a lasting sense of purpose. When someone shares both the customer's pain and successes, they will be highly motivated to produce quality work. Employees who do not understand or care about the customer journey will work only hard enough to not lose their job. Also, don't forget to weave your organization's unique mission into your CX vision. There is something your company does that no one else can do. Be sure to tap into your "uniqueness" and use this as a motivator.
▪ Potential motivates when work moves an individual toward their goals. Channeling an individual toward their ambitions requires a leader to really get to know that person. Only then can the leader challenge them and provide opportunities that will grow their career. Also, be sure leadership is not sending a mixed message in regards to what they value most in people. When organizations recognize employees who take good care of customers in the form of promotions and rewards, everyone takes note. Alternatively, if an organization says it values it's customers, but does not back this up in the way decisions are made, employees will become frustrated and revert to selfish behaviors.
Measuring Total Motivation (ToMo) - The presence of these positive motivators can actually be reported out in the form of a ToMo or Total Motivation score. This gives you an excellent data point as a measurement for the employee experience at your organization. When added to your CX dashboard, it provides the ability to correlate EX and CX together. The article “How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation” on HBR has everything needed to get started using ToMo, including a link to their free survey.
VOICE OF THE EMPLOYEE (VoE)
As CX leaders, we work very hard to understand the thoughts and perceptions of our customers through our Voice of the Customer program. In the same way, we should be equally if not more concerned with the thoughts and opinions of our employees. Historically, most organizations have depended on on annual employee survey of some kind. This is not enough. More and more organizations are adopting a "pulse survey" program to collect robust, real-time feedback on the employee experience.
One such pulse survey that I've used is called "OfficeVibe." It will establish for you not just an overall engagement score, but sub-scores in 10 key areas of the employee experience. We've never had such tangible insight into the hearts and minds of our employees as when using this tool. In addition to surveys and reports, the anonymous feedback portal within OfficeVibe is outstanding. You may think you don't need the ability for your employees to converse over an anonymous feedback channel, but trust me, you do. I can hardly believe the quality and quantity of information we've seen through this effort. It doesn't have to be the tool I've recommended here, but there needs to be a dedicated channel for employee voice. It will also provide you an "employee engagement score" which is perfect as an EX metric for your CX dashboard.
Time for the most crucial element, culture. My favorite definition is simply "the way we do things." At its core, changes to both EX and CX are culture changes. There is no shortcut when creating an organization capable of delivering a positive human-to-human interaction across every touch point. It can only be done when all employees are part of a purpose-driven culture, hence mirroring their experience to the customer.
The most crucial stage is hiring and on-boarding. Consider how difficult it is to change the behaviors and motivations of tenured employees. There may be some people who are on the fence and just need a nudge, but this is likely a small percentage. The best brands attract new hires who are already demonstrating the organizational values. This is where a partnership between CX and HR can have a massive impact. Work together to bring people in the company who will naturally align with your culture. It may take longer to fill some roles, but in my experience, it's well worth the wait.
BUILDING A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC CULTURE
Once the right talent is in the door, it's time to keep them motivated and engaged. One great way to infuse both the play and the purpose motivator mentioned above is utilizing a system such as Kudos. When an employee demonstrates customer-centric behaviors, peers or leaders can easily award them points. These are redeemed for fun things like gift cards at the end of the month. The beauty of this is in the simplicity and the collaborative nature of the program. There are also many great gamification platforms out there, but be cautious before implementing as many of them are unnecessarily competitive. This can work against creating an atmosphere of helpfulness, which is essential for consistently great customer experiences. Source of image - Kudosnow.com.
Tapping into these motivators is what creates an engaged, capable, and loyal workforce. Refer to the "ToMo" metric in the "CX Dashboard section to learn how you can measure for total motivation in your company. While we may have put the employee experience as the third core discipline of CX, it's really the foundation. The other CX activities may have a short term impact, but without the base of engaged employees and a customer-centric culture there will be no lasting CX improvements.
While we may have put the employee experience as the fourth core discipline of CX, it's really the foundation. The other CX activities may have a short-term impact, but without the base of engaged employees and a customer-centric culture there will be no lasting CX improvements. Know that making improvements to the Customer Experience is a culture change at it's core. This is the primary reason why it takes so long for CX programs to make a real impact. Going back to the definition of CX, it's all about managing people's perception of a brand. It's the fundamental desire for a human to connect to the brand in a meaningful way. There is no short cut to creating an organization capable of delivering a positive human to human interaction across every touch point. It can only be done when all employees are part of a purpose-driven culture, hence mirroring their experience to the customer. If you take nothing else from this resource, watch this video below from Bob Chapman. Above all else, truly human leadership is the way we design outstanding experiences for our employees and our customers. Special thanks to Annette Franz for introducing me to this video.
We sure hope you've enjoyed and benefited from "The Ultimate CX Primer!" We will be adding to and updating this document regularly, so be sure to bookmark and use it as an ongoing resource. Our final gift is a curated collection of all the best CX thought leaders, books, conferences, podcasts, and more!
THE VERY BEST CX RESOURCES
FUEL FOR CX CHAMPIONS
Now that you've been "primed" in the preceding sections, it's time to accelerate your results by tapping into the greatest CX resources available today. The customer experience function is still relatively new, and like most disciplines it’s constantly evolving. With tens of thousands of blogs, whitepapers, and webinars out there, and hundreds more being added every day, it can be incredibly overwhelming. New perspectives are being added on a regular basis, so staying fresh is essential. This curated list will tell you who to follow, tools to use, and conferences to attend to keep you on the cutting edge of Customer Experience best practices.
And as mentioned earlier, if you seek to delve into this topic further and engage in quality, interactive training, we encourage you to check out ICMI’s Customer Experience Accelerator Bootcamp.
TOP CX THOUGHT LEADERS
Jeanne Bliss, CCXP
Jeanne quite literally wrote the book on Customer Experience. She has been a pioneer in this space since the beginning and continues to innovate and set the bar year over year. She is an expert when it comes to establishing sustainable CX methodologies inside of enterprise level organizations. Book - Chief Customer Officer 2.0 Twitter - @JeanneBliss
Matt is one of the primary brains behind "The Effortless Experience," and has been a major influencer in the CX space ever since. His fresh approach to Customer Service will be the wave of the future. Book - The Effortless Experience Twitter - @MattewXDixon
Jeannie Walters, CCXP
Jeannie is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext. She has almost 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Walters is also a co-host with Adam Toporek on the popular podcast "Crack The Customer Code". Twitter - @jeanniecw
You may recognize Jeff's face as one of the over 140,000 who have taken his Customer Service courses on Lynda.com. Jeff is the ultimate problem solver, combining a deep understanding of both people and process to create a customer-centric culture. His most recent work, "The Service Culture Handbook", has taken the Customer Experience space by storm. Book - "The Service Culture Handbook" Twitter - @toister
Kaye has a great learning and development background, which she has very successfully applied to Customer Experience for a unique perspective. Kaye is an exceptional writer and has many of the best CX tweets you will ever see. Twitter - @kayechapman
Nancy Porte, CCXP
Nancy Porte is the Vice President of Global Customer Experience for Verint. She is an advisor on CustomerThink authoring the column "A CX Practitioner's Playbook." Nancy has several created ground-breaking CX strategies for enterprise organizations and is a wonderful resource for aspiring Chief Customer Officers. Twitter - @nporte
Dan Gingiss is absolutely your guy when it comes to creating great Customer Experiences on social media. He has a ton of energy and a great way of explaining things. Book - "Winning At Social Customer Care" Twitter - @dgingiss Podcast - "Experience This! Show"
Denise Lee Yohn
Denise is the foremost expert on integrating brand and culture. She will challenge your way of thinking and help you to make correlations you otherwise would have missed. Book - "Fusion: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World's Greatest Companies" Twitter - @deniseleeyohn
There are few conversations about Customer Experience in which Shep Hyken is not brought up. He's an extremely dynamic speaker and the a leading authority on Customer Service. HIs podcast, "Amazing Business Radio" is essentially required listening for CX / CS professionals. Book - "Amaze Every Customer Every Time" Twitter - @Hyken
A big part of the Customer Experience is how a brand communicates through the written word. Leslie is an author, an online writing expert, and a sought-after speaker. She helps customer service organizations improve the quality of the email, chat, and social media messages their front-line staff write to customers. Twitter - @LeslieO
Annette Franz, CCXP
Annette is the best CX mentor around. She has 25 years of experience in the field, and has become widely known as the world's foremost expert in journey mapping and voice of the customer programs. Twitter - @annettefranz
Justin Robbins has been a force in the CX / Contact Center space for over a decade. You can't helped but get caught up in his enthusiasm when he gets going! He brings a great deal of diversified experience to the table having served as a CX practitioner, community director, consultant, and content creator on the technology side. Twitter - @JustinMRobbins
Becky has coached major organizations through CX hurdles of all types. With a wealth of knowledge in marketing, CX operations, transformation, and employee experience, Becky can see the big picture and make magic happen quickly. Twitter - @BeckyRoemen
Ian Golding, CCXP
Ian's approach to CX is both brilliant and accessible. He has a wonderfully authentic and relational tone in his writing, but can also go deep into solving big problems as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. You will want to follow Ian for advice and inspiration on big process improvements. Twitter - @ijgolding
Mary is a rising star in the CX world and a fantastic resource on all things Voice of Customer. Both her blog and her podcast are extremely thoughtful and should not be missed! Podcast - "Voices of Customer Experience" Twitter - @drumondmary
For me personally, Jeremy is one of the reasons I got into Customer Experience. He has an amazing gift for helping people and educating others on CX concepts in an approachable manner. He is also one of the top rated authors on CustomerThink! Blog - Customer Service Life Twitter - @JtWatkin
Besides being one of the kindest and most encouraging people out there, Jenny is a wonderful CX resource. She has been doing Customer Service and Customer Experience work inside of a wide variety of environments and at several different levels. Jenny is also a well-known authority on workplace wellness as it applies to employee experience. Twitter - @Jennysuedempsey
If you are looking for an extremely high-energy and exciting take on Customer Experience, James Dodkins of "Rockstar CX" is your guy. Perfect for motivating the front line to care about customers, as well as giving the entire audience good laugh. Twitter - @Jdodkins
Erica is a wonderful advocate for the Customer Experience space. As a community manager, content director, Twitter chat host and so much more, she can do it all. She is not only very gifted at giving others a voice, Erica has an exceptionally sharp CX perspective of her own to share. Twitter - "@EricaMarois"
Boaz is known as a godfather to the "Customer Success" movement. He has introduced many new critical concepts to the CX World, including the "Customer Maturity Index." Learn more about Boaz on his LinkedIn page.
Brad Cleveland has been a strong voice in the Customer Experience space globally for over two decades. You may recognize him from his popular Lynda.com courses or one of his many appearances on major television networks. As both one of the most credible and personable leaders in the space, Brad is a must-follow. Books: Call Center Management on Fast Forward and more Twitter: @BradCleveland
We were first introduced to Aimee Lucas on Twitter, and knew immediately that she was something special. Aimee has a wonderful perspective on the overlap between Employee Experience and Customer Experience. She is a brilliant and long-time analyst in the space, but knows just how to keep it fresh for a new generation of CX pros. Twitter - @Aimee_Lucas
Ben is one of the smartest and kindest people in the CX space. He is determined, energetic, and continually learning...and is very generous with that knowledge back to the community. His success can be attributed to a dedication to understanding and consistently exceeding customer expectations in a variety of roles. Twitter - @CXpert
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry, with an international reputation. His expertise been featured by The Economist, Social Media Today, Computerworld, BizTech Magazine, and many others. For many years, Roy has also been a host of the popular twitter chat #Custserv on Tuesday nights at 8 PM CT. Never attempt to engage Roy in a battle of puns. He will win. Twitter - @RoyAtkinson
Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP
Julia has a great deal of international CX knowledge across all kinds of industries. She has an excellent framework for achieving customer-centric results and has been very generous to share it through her new podcast. Twitter - @JuliaAhlfeldt Podcast - "Decoding the Customer"
Alex has deep practical knowledge of customer service & contact center best practices, as well as digital transformation as it relates to CX. Alex is a challenger (in the best way) and always has extremely thoughtful content he is creating and posting through LinkedIn. LinkedIn - Alex Mead
Nick is one of those amazing folks who has used a strong contact center foundation and morphed into a Customer Experience generalist. He has deep knowledge in the areas of digital transformation and process improvement He is a wonderful person to brainstorm with on CX challenges, as he always brings a fresh approach and is very generous with his hard-earned wisdom. LinkedIn - Nick Glimsdahl Podcast - Press1ForNick
Clare has been described as “one of the most prominent and valued millennial voices in CX today” international consultant, keynote speaker and soon to be author, ‘The CX Nomad’ is a proven Customer Experience leader who unites the digital and physical world to create value for customers and businesses, by design. LinkedIn - Clare Muscutt
As someone who spent nine years of active Air Force service as a Russian linguist and ops analyst, Nick has a "no fear" attitude when it comes to CX. He has more certifications than I can list, and when combined with his extensive experience in CX roles, makes him capable of solving even the most complex issues with powerful and proven frameworks. LinkedIn - Nicholas Zeisler