Seven strategic questions that only 10% of CX leaders can answerby
Doing your daily job, managing the fires in operations, and reporting to shareholders and stakeholders tend to take up much of your calendar. But customer experience leaders also need to find time to answer these strategic questions.
It’s time for an update. A few years ago, we went over some of the essential questions for your clients. However, in reviewing that content, I realised I was in sore need of an update. Therefore, we will discuss the seven key strategic questions updated for the new year.
Before we get started, you should know that typically, people don't know the answer when I ask these questions, which is why I ask them. Or should I call them provocations? The idea is to get people thinking about things they had never considered before and help them reframe their experience through the lens of the customer rather than operations.
#1: What is the experience you are trying to deliver?
This one is an old one that I have been asking for 20 years, and not many organisations can produce a coherent reply for it. Yet, interestingly enough, individuals can answer the question. The problem is that no two answers are typically the same, nor are they something the organisations have agreed upon and set a deliberate strategy to deliver.
This question is a vital strategy point—and so is having a coherent reply. Without consistency, every individual in the organisation will end up doing something different.
Michél Patterson from Maersk Line, the world's largest shipping container company, was recently a guest on the podcast. As you might recall, Beyond Philosophy was able to help Maersk Line improve their Net Promoter Score by 40 points over 30 months, leading to a 10 percent rise in shipping volumes. Maersk wanted their customers to feel they could trust Maersk, that the company cared for them, and be pleased with Maersk's service. A finer answer to this question is hard to imagine.
You might notice that all these things that Maersk wanted are also emotions. That was unusual. When I ask this question, clients typically say they want to be convenient, reliable, or both. Those things are essential to an experience you deliver; however, they are not emotional. So, if you get a similar answer to your query, I will implore you to encourage your client to dig a little deeper to find the emotions of the interaction.
#2: How customer-centric is your organisation?
Customer-centricity is foundational to delivering an excellent Customer Experience. Many organisations tend to be pessimistic in their answer regarding this one. They often tell us that they are not customer-centric at all.
We measure customer-centricity on a model from low to high.
- Naïve companies could not care less about customers.
- Transactional companies care about customers, but not as much as they care about operations.
- Enlightened companies realise that customers should be their focus but aren't there yet in practicality.
- Natural companies put the customers at the center of everything they do.
Right now, in all but the Natural companies, we see a backslide away from customers and a renewed internal focus. Customer satisfaction scores reflect a 17-year low. In part, it's the residual effects of COVID and the Great Resignation, which are a big hit for many organisations. However, at least some of this backslide is because leopards don't change their spots.
Eventually, things will turn back around in favor of the customer. Meanwhile, I would continue to pose these two questions to organisations, particularly if I suspect they are Naïve or Transactional.
#3: How would customers articulate the time they spent with you?
In a recent podcast, we hosted Lou Carbon, author of Clued In, and Joe Pine, author of The Experience Economy. We are the Three Amigos because we have all worked in this area for 20 years. We talked about this third strategic question at great length.
Joe has three categories for the answers:
- Time well-saved: was it easy, frustrating, complicated, or frictionless for customers?
- Time well spent: Did they enjoy themselves, or was it a waste of time?
- Time well invested: Did they get what they needed out of the time with you?
Which way would your customers answer these questions? If it isn't what you want, how can you revise your experience to get them to change their answer?
#4: What do customers want, and what drives or destroys value?
This strategic question plays into the last one well. How customers articulate their time with you is an example of customers expressing that they did or did not get something they wanted out of the experience. Moreover, if their future behaviour is affected by that last experience, it shows what they value.
However, as I have said before, asking customers what they want or value is not the best way to determine the answer here.
It sounds counterintuitive, I realise. After all, who would know better than the customers?
The problem is what people say they want or value is not always reflected in their behaviour. The difference here is best illustrated in my oft-used example of Disney Theme Park guests' responses to a survey about the food offerings in the park. For example, many customers told Disney they wanted the option of a salad in the park. However, Disney also knows that salads don't move in the garden; chicken nuggets and burgers do.
It's not that the customers lied. The customers thought they would want a salad. However, when push came to shove, customers still chose junk food instead of healthy food.
However, theme park guests aren't the only ones that surprise you with what they want. We did work with a construction equipment company some years ago. Now, you would think these customers would be price-driven or overly concerned with things like horsepower or torque. They are concerned with those things, of course, but they are also looking to feel cared for as a person. Who would have thought?
So, the critical question is, what do your customers want, and what value does the experience provide? Knowing these answers is essential to gain growth in today's business environment.
#5: How well do you predict customer behaviour?
This year and over the next decade, we will see the competitive battleground in experiences shift to predictive Customer Experiences. This strategic question addresses an organisation's ability to leverage customer behaviour inputs from the past into anticipating customers' needs.
For example, Apple can predict what music I want to listen to by what time it is and will offer to play it. When I went to Starbucks, my phone pulled up my app.
How will you do that kind of helpful stuff for customers? You probably aren't a phone manufacturer, so these examples are not practical. However, there are possible ways that you can anticipate your customers' needs at various moments in the experience.
#6: How well are you embracing the new wave of customer science?
I have discussed customer science before, blending customer data, artificial intelligence, and behavioural sciences. Customer science is the next wave of customer experience. It facilitates the predictive experiences we talked about with our last question.
However, you must use all three formula parts to get a reliable readout of customer science. If you only have data and AI, you miss out on a critical factor: the "why" of things. You see what people are doing and what they will do next, but you don't know why.
#7: Are the memories you build with your customers deliberate?
We have talked about the critical nature of customers' memories before. You might remember how I like to say customer loyalty is a function of memory because they come back based on what they remember you provide.
Are you doing that with precision and strategy? Do you provide an experience that evokes emotions you want customers to remember?
If not, you are not alone. Most organisations haven't thought about this part of the experience. However, it is essential. Without that memory, you can provide an excellent experience to someone and never see them again.
So, now that you know them, use them
These seven questions uncover the areas that will comprise the future of customer experience and everything else. Every organisation should be able to answer those questions, but only around ten percent can.
It's understandable why they can't answer them. Doing the job daily, managing the fires in operations, and reporting to shareholders and stakeholders tend to take up much of the calendar. So, we focus on what is in front of us and run with it.
However, by taking at least some time to address these strategic questions, you can change course and focus on those long-term adjustments that lead to year-over-year success. Isn't that worth the time, too?
It's a new year. So, you can't change the past. However, you can change the future through what you do today. Focus on what needs to be done in the next several years instead of the next several hours, and you might have a different future for your organisation, too.
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Colin Shaw is an original pioneer of 'Customer Experience.' LinkedIn has recognized him as one of the 'World's Top 150 Business Influencers', where he has 291,000 followers.
Shaw’s Customer Experience consulting company, Beyond Philosophy LLC, has been recognized by the Financial...