Founder The Academy of Service Excellence
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Seven elements that will make or break your CX programme in 2020

Chris Daffy has helped hundreds of organisations implement CX programmes over the last 20 years, with research indicating the results achieved are far above industry averages. Here he leans on that deep experience to share advice on how you can make your customer experience programme a greater success in 2020.  

13th Jan 2020
Founder The Academy of Service Excellence
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Customer experience failure

There’s been an explosion of interest in and focus on customer experience by many organisations over the past few years. This is not surprising because if it is properly understood and skilfully implemented it can have a positive and worthwhile effect on both growth and profitability.

But research is emerging that indicates that this is not what many organisations who are investing in customer experience management programmes are experiencing. In fact, a 2019 study in America suggested that only about 20% of around 300 CEOs that had embark on customer experience programmes could claim they had noticed a worthwhile return on investment. This raises the question of why this is happening? And as with most things like this, there is no single or simple answer.

I and my colleagues have now spent over 20 years studying this subject and developing practical ways of helping hundreds of organisations implement programmes to make their approach to customer service make a worthwhile difference to performance and results. I was therefore concerned that perhaps the organisations we’ve worked with were getting equally poor outcomes.

In response to this, I triggered a short study of our own and was delighted to learn that over 80% of the leaders we spoke to in organisations we have worked with would claim that they have had a worthwhile return on investment. So there seems to be something we know that many others don’t! Therefore, I thought I would share some of the things we have learned, in the hope that it might help more organisations also achieve greater success in 2020. So here is a short compilation of what we’ve learned and key elements that make a difference.

1. Conviction

Sustainable success needs leaders to be absolutely certain of the business value and strategic importance of a customer experience programme. Otherwise the approach will be tentative and half-hearted, which is a sure route to failure. Projects rarely go as planned. There will always be unexpected problems and disappointments (as well as delights) along the way, and leaders need to be prepared for this and convinced that the eventual outcome will justify the investment and effort.

This usually means leaders should be prepared to commit sufficient time, (usually 2 to 3 days), ideally with an experienced subject specialist, to learn about the key elements that must combine for success. They then need to pledge as a team to making sure all these elements are or will be in place and that they will see it through, with conviction, to the end goal.

2. Communication

Once they are convinced of the business value, leaders need to be seen as the champions, cheerleaders and pace setters for the programme. This means making sure it is at or near the top of the agendas for all meetings. It means looking for and focussing attention on all successes along the way. And above all, it means injecting the programme with a sense of urgency.

This sense of urgency is critical because as John Kotter of Harvard Business School, and my own experience has shown, without it most organisational change programmes are likely to fail.

3. Customer loyalty

Always keep in mind the core purpose of the programme. Why are you doing this? I suggest it should be to create outstanding, sustainable customer loyalty. This means it cannot be simply about managing customer experiences. Experiences are obviously important, but for success you also need to become highly skilled at managing two other core elements of customer loyalty.

The Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has shown that most of the decisions we make are not based on the experiences we have. Instead we make them based on our expectations of what future experiences will be like, and/or the memories of what past experiences were like. It is therefore equally important, (my experience suggests it is actually more important) to develop the knowledge and understanding necessary to become highly skilled at also managing customer expectations and customer memories. And that requires a different set of knowledge and skills to those needed to manage customer experiences.

4. Commitment

Many programmes have failed because of a lack of genuine commitment to their success. It is therefore essential for leaders to demonstrate their commitment by making available whatever resources are needed for success. This obviously relates to budgets, but it is just as importantly about people and time.

The best people possible should be selected and made available to work on the programme. They must then be given the all the time they need to make sure it is a success. This often means making it a full-time job for some people. Otherwise it’s like planting a seed but then starving it of the nutrients it needs to grow. That will surely cause it to wither and die, as sadly, do many well-intentioned customer experience programmes.

5. Competence

For success the people selected to work on the programme must be or must become fully trained and highly skilled practitioners. Too many people have simply changed their title to one that includes the words ‘customer experience’ without first making sure they fully understand what it is and how it is implemented. There’s also a growing number of people that are brandishing the title ‘CX Professional’, having simply attended a few days of classroom training and sat a short, written exam. But no-one ever became a professional at anything with so little study and experience.

What is needed for success is a team of people that have developed a depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that equips them to skilfully and confidently design and implement the programme. And if these people don’t exist in-house, then an external advisor should be appointed to guide them through the process.

6. Customer intelligence

Having got a programme started the implementation team will need a constant flow of up-to-date information that will keep them focussed on what will make the biggest differences.

What’s needed for this is a customer intelligence gathering and reporting system which is fed by event-driven, real-time feedback from customers and is intensely focused on what really matters to them; and not what the organisation thinks matters to them. This information must then be made immediately available to anyone interested in it, especially but not limited to, people from the implementation team, who should be empowered and encouraged to use it quickly to make whatever changes they think are necessary to boost customer value and loyalty.

Two key points for such a system to be effective are:

  • Frequency of information will always trump quality of information. There cannot be too much information coming into the customer intelligence system.
  • The information coming into the system should not be filtered in any way. Let people decide for themselves what they want to focus and act on.

7. Consistency

Too many programmes are knocked of track when the going gets tough, problems or poor results arise, or diversions occur. But these will always happen when attempting something new. The final key to success is therefore to be consistent and work through all these hindrances or setbacks. Nothing worth doing happens without hiccups along the way. So a clear and unwavering focus on the value of the end goal, with a determination to see it through to the end, is an essential element of success.

These are some of the key elements of success that we have found make a big difference to outcomes. I hope you find them useful and helpful in the design and implementation of any customer experience programmes you or your colleagues embark upon in 2020. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you would like to learn more or chat about any of the matters this raises.

Replies (1)

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14th Jan 2020 04:29

We need to build a world class customer experience program to start improving customer loyalty and value in the organszation. When the customers have a great experience, they'll be more loyal and less inclined to switch brands.

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