Craig T. Watkins
Ecrion Chief Revenue Officer
The vast majority of B2C companies today claim to differentiate themselves primarily on experience–even over price. They’ve undertaken large CX projects, and the vast majority of them think they deliver exceptional experiences. But a very small percentage of consumers agree. So the project didn’t accomplish much. What is the cause of this disconnect, and how can we make more customer experience programs a success?
I contend there are three primary reasons CX activities have not delivered: 1) Companies don’t properly define success for their projects before they begin, 2) CX Providers (consultants, technology vendors) don’t proactively manage their customers’ success, and 3) Because of the preceding two points, projects are not designed to deliver on concrete business fundamentals.
Since there have not been clear objectives, with observable metrics, success has been assumed. Companies therefore believe (by virtue of having undertaken their CX project) that they are delivering the superior experiences that their customers know they aren’t.
Before I go any further, let me state that I’m a practitioner and proponent of the Customer Success (CS) movement. Customer Success is about ensuring B2B customers achieve their desired outcomes from the relationship with their vendor. There’s a strong parallel between Customer Experience in the B2C world and Customer Success in the B2B. I will argue below that Customer Experience providers need to be better Customer Success practitioners.
Defining a Successful Customer Experience Project
In light of the recent, sudden economic uncertainty, defining a successful customer experience project up-front is even more crucial. To steal a phrase from Greenspan, it appears the CX movement has gone through a period of irrational exuberance. CX projects were justified as a business imperative, and at times claimed an obvious, yet nebulous impact on the top line. Rarely did they include concrete objectives with clear metrics that could be measured.
Resources have been allocated to projects with promises of improving the customer experience, which would increase market share, reduce churn and grow revenues per customer. The CX movement created such hype that adherence to business principles became suspended. Many companies entered into projects without a stated objective of, say, improving NPS by X% (which equates to $Y in increased revenues), increasing up-sales/cross-sales by $X, or improving customer retention by X% which would grow revenue by $Y.
It is easy to say that the true impact of CX projects can’t be measured, and that there is therefore no use in trying. Can true Customer Experience Champions eschew this idea, define clear metrics for their projects, and better promote their successes accordingly?
Providers Must Manage the Success of CX Projects
Nick Mehta is one of the foremost thought-leaders of the CS movement. He and a couple of colleagues published a book on the topic in 2016 that included a chapter titled “Customers Expect You to Make Them Wildly Successful,” written by Nello Franco. Nello would have you, as a provider, ask three questions about your engagement with your customer:
- How are they measuring success?
- According to that metric (or those metrics) are they achieving success?
- What is their experience along the way?
Regardless of the CX project–Customer Journey, Voice of the Customer, etc.–many consultants and technology providers have been content to ride the irrational exuberance wave. It is easy to take an amorphous objective from a customer and manage to that. But don’t we owe it to our customers to provide them with a better experience?
The Challenger Sales Model would have a salesperson: Teach (your customer), Tailor (your approach to their specific situation), and Take Control (of the sale by pushing the customer out of their comfort zone). Should we allow a customer to enter into a relationship with us without solid business objectives and measurable metrics? Is it our job to challenge them up-front, to help them define success in a way that can be managed and measured against business fundamentals?
Once solid business objectives (AKA outcomes) are defined, do you ensure your customers achieve success against those objectives?
Can your customers expect you to make them wildly successful?
Achieving Success in Customer Experience
So, how do we achieve success in CX programs? As argued above, a successful project must be based on improving business fundamentals in a measurable way. By not focusing properly, we have strayed from this foundation–and that has led us to our current situation.
My belief is that most CX projects fall short of actually executing necessary changes. The lack of execution means the project ultimately does not deliver on objectives that tie to business principles, and thus return on investment. The only way to execute quality, consistent B2C customer experiences at scale is to automate them.
Customer experiences are defined by interactions with your brand. Interactions are rooted in communication. Customer Journey Mapping, Customer Analytics, Voice of the Customer, etc, etc, etc. These are all well-intentioned projects, but without tying an automated communications layer into the project, you likely won’t achieve a measurable business impact.
The Successful CX Project
Admittedly, it’s a bit of a stretch to compare the current CX space to the tulip bubble. That being said, projects have strayed somewhat from the fundamentals of business, and senior leaders across industry are taking note. We can all do ourselves a favor and go back to basics.
To ensure that your customer experience project is a success, define measurable objectives that tie to business fundamentals. Select a vendor that pushes you to think about problems and solutions in a new light, and aligns to your desired outcomes. Finally, be aware that project success will ultimately be tied to your ability to execute on any findings.
Article originally published on LinkedIn on March 19, 2020