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Applying the six Ps of customer experience

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7th Jul 2016
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Despite the concept of customer experience (CX) being around for a few decades, only recently has CX become more tangible as a potential differentiator. This has been driven by a combination of social technologies, mobile, increasing competition and customer expectations.

The implementation of CX is varied; as are the skillsets of the people brought into implement it. The positions and the levels within the company also appear randomly selected, which has a significant impact on the levels of progress and success. Some people think the CMO should be in charge of customer experience. Others think it is the CIO's priority. Some say HR has a huge part to play in delivery. 

However, the differing opinions about ownership often mean there is little implementation consistency across industries or even within specific industries making the determination of success and impact difficult to establish. E.g. people with a CX responsibility can be found within marketing, pre and post sales, operations, with their own board level brief, or even in PR.

A recent article from Monica Dozier talks about operationalising customer experience: that a specific clients pre and post sales teams had to work together to create success. CX can be the responsibility of the few or the many. With this in mind, it is time to create some standard principles for CX practictioners.    

To lean on the traditional 4 Ps of marketing, here are the six Ps of CX, divided into two core areas 'Setup' and 'Delivery': 

Setup

People: Who is overseeing skills development? There are currently a wide variety of skills and experiences populating the CX positions coming from a variety of disciplines. This variety of skills and experience brings a mix of thinking and beliefs the table that I believe will solidify over time into what will become a mainstream customer experience discipline.

There are a few organisations setting out to provide skills development and qualifications. In the UK we have the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Institute of Customer Service and the Customer Experience Professionals Association. Cranfield Business School provide a 2 day course. The question is, do these carry any real weight and does the training make a difference to the individual or business? Have any of the major UK business schools taken this up yet? A more collective approach to CX needs to be fostered from these organisations, in order to align progressive thinking on the topic.  

Position: Where does the CX capability sit within the business? A study found that 25% of CMOs say leading customer experience is the most-increased expectation CEOs have of them over the last year.
This question really gets to the heart of how seriously any company is taking the impact of customer experience. There has been a big shift to give the accountability for developing customer experience to marketing.

This may be due to the recognition that the role of marketing has to change, but in my view this isn’t it. Other areas proposed and used are operations, IT, sales, post-sales, to name but a few. I believe it needs to be at board level, the reason being that apart from the obvious impact at senior level, customer experience is impacted by everyone in the business. If it’s left to one specific organisation then history has demonstrated it will be only that organisations fault when it goes wrong. This is about spreading the accountability across the business so that everyone owns it.

Purpose: What are the application options, focus and remit to determine if the wider industry specific implications? Different companies put in a customer experience capability for different reasons. These can vary from resolving a particular problem with regards to PR, service levels, losing market share, even stepping up digital presence or building a better service centre.

A recent blog from Jeanne Bliss identifies three at a strategic level. Companies look for wider opportunities, creating the capability to enable the business to move further forward and create a greater competitive advantage. Neither are right or wrong but there may be a link between Position and Purpose. Whatever the purpose, it is important to have a vision of what things will look like when they’re done and the stamina to sustain. Why the capability has been set up will determine the funding and stamina of the organisation to stick with the program, especially when the initial expected returns don’t materialise and the costs of the recommendations start to increase, as they inevitably will.

Delivery

Progress: This is really where the rubber hits the road. In the early days, the customer experience programme becomes as much a talking point as providing any real progress, with a lot of energy being expended for minimal or no tangible impact. A lot of time is spent justifying, communicating and planning. The challenge is always how to make progress and deliver to or beyond the expectations, which in themselves maybe a bit of a moving target in the early days.

Identifying and demonstrating real progress as a result of the investment is vital. This could be a good opportunity to adopt an agile approach to the program which will help in the communication of progress as well accommodating shifts in direction and expectation. Many CX initiative will falter at some point, usually after the initial enthusiasms have worn down due to too much discussion coupled with cynicism and ‘day job’ responses. A way of making progress is to highlight best practice (Bright Spots) and identify, promote and reward these bright spots where things are working well. Then build on these bright spots through scaling what went well and introducing them to other parts of the business. Create cross organisational teams to improve the interaction across these teams looking for where each team can learn and benefit from each other. Become the key aggregator across the teams bringing all the pieces together to create the success.

The biggest challenge will be that of culture change, many departments, especially back office won’t necessarily see themselves as customer focused and in some cases front office staff will have become jaded and cynical about customers due to complaints and lack of motivation and support from the management teams.

Payoff: Progress may well be being made, but how much of it is realised and acknowledged, and what was the impact from the CX team? How the customer experience capability is measured and acknowledged is extremely important if continued investment and business benefit is to be realised and the company continues to benefit from this capability. A blog by Ross Beard identifies three metrics: response times, customer satisfaction at touchpoints and overall customer satisfaction. Others such as Carlos Molina discuss NPS (Net Promoter Score), CES (Customer Effort Score) and CA (Customer Advocacy).

Even when obvious progress has been made how is it not seen as grabbing the glory for other departments’ efforts? Getting the success criteria defined and agreed at the beginning will ensure that what is provided to the business is tangible and can be linked to future success. There shouldn’t really an expectation of immediate and large impacts, not that anyone thinking about this realistically will have that expectation. What will be looked for are small changes, step functions, people and culture shifts. The measurements need to be a combination of Outside-In performance as well as Inside- Out measurements. Including, customer trends , enquiry resolution performance, overall satisfaction ratings, customer touch satisfaction, sell up, sell out and resell changes, net promotor scores, to name a few. It is important to focus on the right areas and not try to track everything.

Plan: Customer experience, like everything else will never stand still with the need to stay ahead of the game always present. Industry shifts, competition, markets, technology and not forgetting customers will always be presenting new innovations and needs. So it is vital that the CX team are looking ahead, developing their skills, creating new concepts whilst keeping the business aligned and communicating. So as well as making sure that the current activities remain on track it is equally as important to take the longer view to anticipate to ensure seamless transitions with new technologies, business practices etc. Taking a PESTLE approach will help with an environmental scan as will PORTER especially bargaining power of customers and not forgetting suppliers.

Getting the right balance across these 6 P areas when developing a customer experience capability will enable a more pragmatic and practical approach. Start with what already exists and build out, looking for and encouraging innovation from across the business.

As much as is possible bring the other business organisations with you making them part of the development remembering this is about people much more than its about technology or organisational structures. In many cases, changes will have made so having the other organisations on side is important. Make the CX team part of the success of the business, this may sound obvious, however at a recent customer service seminar I heard one speaker say, ”Get the programs in place before the CX police come down on you”. This type of attitude is not going to get any business anywhere and the CX teams need to be seen as valuable partners not a policing action. Transparency is another key attribute being open and honest with what is and isn’t working. Get this right and the likelihood of success will increase significantly.

Customer experience may not be in its infancy but it is still a comparatively new capability within any business. With customer expectations galloping ahead and businesses struggling to catch up, the demands on this new discipline will be enormous. Having a better understanding of the dynamics will help both establish a better team with an improved set of expectations and allow improved better anticipation of challenges and way to overcome them.

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