What role do customer experience professionals play in brand purpose?
Customer experience professionals who understand and leverage the central role of a deeply embedded customer-centred purpose have the opportunity to make a transformative impact on their company and customers.
Nearly every company has the ability to find its customers within its corporate purpose. Several even make customers the focal point. In this way, it is not hard to imagine why so many consider themselves customer-centric to some degree.
However, what differentiates companies in terms of elevating the role of the customer and their experience is not the extent to which the customer is central to their purpose, according to our recent sponsored research with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. It is found in how deeply that customer-centric purpose is embedded throughout all aspects of the organisation.
We refer to these as customer-committed companies - and they are not common.
Customer-committed companies act on their customer-centric purpose in fundamentally different ways. Their leadership teams prioritise purpose and promote it at every opportunity. And their corporate purpose is always the why. The why the company exists. The why behind all decisions and actions. The why behind the role every employee plays. And importantly, the why behind a different approach to investment - one that disproportionately invests in data and analytics, employee culture and experience, customer-centred business transformation, and human capital.
Their formula for success is incredibly simple: Invest in bringing the corporate purpose to life in meaningful ways for customers and empower employees to act on that basis.
The missing link between employee experience and customer experience
For years, customer experience thought leaders have stressed the impact of the employee experience on customer experience. In the absence of a highly engaged frontline, it stands to reason that the customer experience would and does often suffer. Yet despite the obvious importance of this relationship, most companies still manage these aspects of their business in silos.
Responsibility for the employee experience often falls within the domain of human resources - generally the one function with little direct accountability for the customer experience. Separately, the customer experience is increasingly owned by dedicated CX functions, or in some cases, through functional or cross-functional teams in marketing, digital, operations, or sales.
Given that the segregation of employee experience and customer experience is the norm, it’s interesting to note that the significant connections between, and opportunities for, bringing these two important areas of management together are not novel. Long before the terms EX and CX were in the vernacular of businesses, the Service Profit Chain (1994) introduced leaders to the idea that employee satisfaction was inexorably linked to customer loyalty and business profitability.
And even though our understanding of employees and customers has moved well beyond the product- and service-centred ideas of the Service Profit Chain, the vast majority of companies today continue to struggle with the fragmented nature through which employee experience has the ability to drive an elevated customer experience.
While there are plenty of barriers explaining why this has stubbornly persisted over the better part of 30 years, the good news is, a relatively simple solution exists: Purpose. Our research shows that companies who embed purpose in the mindsets and actions of employees see important linkages between the employee experience and customer experience.
In fact, customer-committed companies report both a significantly stronger employee experience and customer experience, demonstrating that a purpose-driven strategy has the ability to elevate both. They report that their investments in purpose have not only resulted in significantly stronger customer engagement and loyalty, but that this directly translates into accelerated growth. And at a time when customer experience is under increased scrutiny for showing a return on investment (see Forrester’s Predictions 2020: For CX, It’s All About Proving Business Results), this connection back to the simple idea of purpose has the opportunity to be profoundly important to the future of CX.
The role customer experience professionals play in purpose
There are two key things customer-committed companies do much better than others. First, they report regularly on how their business and/or function is fulfilling on their purpose. And more importantly, they recognise employees who make contributions to the realisation of their customer-centred purpose. Simply stated, customer-committed companies empower and reward their people to act in the best interest of the customer and company, which are deeply aligned through a non-financial purpose.
Professionals focused on elevating the customer experience have a critical role to play in both cases, regardless of where they sit within their company or where their company may be on their customer-committed journey.
For those professionals who do not enjoy a leadership team’s unwavering commitment to a more deeply embedded customer-centred purpose (which will be the majority of readers based on our research), the imperative requires an obsessive focus on customer, and employee, data and analytics.
Key here is the identification of meaningful new insights that have the ability to connect your company’s purpose with customer-focused opportunity. This is not a one-and-done initiative targeting your company’s leadership team. This is a sustained emphasis on creating a data-driven dialogue with them that shines a new light on purpose- and customer-centred growth opportunities—not merely existing goals and objectives. We know from our research that this is the first step that truly differentiates companies on the path to customer centricity.
Once this data-driven dialogue has been established and is leading to different types of conversations with your leadership team, the focus needs to shift to new areas of investment that transform these opportunities into reality. According to our research, this often requires an increased focus on investments in employee culture and experience, customer-centred business transformation, and human capital that enable your company to truly begin to act in more customer-centred ways:
- Employee culture and experience means working within your capacity to embed a culture of customer centricity and empowerment across all levels of the organisation. Accomplishing this is no easy task. It calls on customer experience professionals to take on the role of chief customer advocate. This involves extending influence beyond specific functions and line-of-site priorities. Ask yourself: What are the most effective ways for connecting the customer voice to executive-led strategies and priorities, regardless of where they fall in our company’s operating model?
- Customer-centred business transformation means helping fellow leaders within the company understand how the organisation can generate new revenue and profit to better serve both customers and the business. This is about disruption, not the standard way of marketing and selling products and services. Ask yourself: What are the most important pain points our customers are encountering today? How can we generate new growth opportunities that transform established customer pain points into new customer profits?
- Human capital means influencing and guiding decision making around the organisational design and resources that are needed to elevate the customer experience, and the employee experience in the process. Help other leaders in your company connect the dots between your customer experience insights and priorities, and the teams that are best positioned to act upon them. Ask yourself: What structural improvements might be necessary to fulfill on your company’s purpose in ways that align with the customer-centred opportunities identified?
The path to the virtuous cycle of an elevated customer experience through an improved employee experience is one paved in your company’s purpose.
Yes, the complexities and challenges of business today are no less challenging than they were nearly 30 years ago, when these ideas were first introduced. However, customer experience professionals who understand and leverage the central role of a deeply embedded customer-centred purpose have the opportunity to make a transformative impact on their company and customers.