Is CX dying? Seven ways to save customer experience

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Research suggests that CX initiatives are stalling. So what's going wrong? And how can we stop the rot?

I am concerned. I recently read two pieces of research about customer experience that worried me. The first was from Nunwood, a UK-based research company with a customer experience index, and it showed that improvements in customer experience were not happening. The second was from Forrester, and it said the same thing: no increases in customer experience improvements.

With all the effort that companies are putting into improving their Customer Experience, why are there no improvements?

The C-Suite want to see a return. If this continues, I am sure the investment in resources and money dedicated to the effort will stop—and rightly so. However, if that happens, I worry customer experience as a movement will die.

Contrast this outcome with our clients’ that dedicate resources to improving Customer Experience. Maersk Line is an excellent example. Maersk, a global shipping company, improved their Net Promoter Score +40 points in 30 months, which also lead to a 10% increase in shipping volumes.

So, what is happening? Having been in the industry since the beginning, I have seen many changes and in my opinion. On my recent podcast, I shared the following seven issues that are causing this situation.

The seven reasons customer experience is dying

  1. Senior management doesn’t get the customer experience concept. The challenge is that everyone thinks they know what it takes to improve a Customer Experience, but few really do. If senior management did get it, they probably wouldn’t be in the mess they are today.
  2. The c-suite is not brave enough to disrupt the status quo. Not only do they not get it, but also they don’t want to try it because the changes feel uncomfortable and challenge the status quo. Too many organisations do not leap and instead stick to what they know.
  3. Customer experience teams are not effective due to many factors. They are not the right people to do the job in the first place, they have not had the proper training, or they have no authority and cannot enforce the new way of working. Change is hard; people will resist it. When you have no power to make change happen, you can end up being ineffective.
  4. Organisations tinker around instead of tackling significant issues. Fixing little things is excellent for quick wins. However, improving customer experience involves more weighty problems than the small stuff., Many times these issue needing the most work are from foundational elements of how your company interacts with customers.
  5. Everybody wants a simple solution for improving customer experience that doesn’t exist. It is not new software or a refreshed marketing campaign that enhances Customer Experience. A simple solution would be fantastic. However, improving Customer Experience is complicated; there are no simple solutions.
  6. Companies do not focus on what drives value for customers. You have to know what matters most to customers so you can fix the right stuff. Otherwise, you can spend a lot of time and money on a factor that does not matter that much to them.
  7. Organisations try to make changes from within. Sometimes the difference has to come from the outside. Internal employees often struggle to convince co-workers that customer experience is worth the trouble.

Is customer experience dying? Maybe. But we can change it.

Seven ways to save customer experience at your organisation.

Those are the problems. What we need now are solutions. As a global Customer Experience consultant since 1998, before Customer Experience was a glint in its father’s eye, here’s what I say you need to do.

1. Help everyone above and below you understand customer experience.

You could sign everyone up for a five-day training session, but it isn’t practical (and senior management wouldn’t attend anyway). Instead, you have to teach people about it yourself.

Well, not by yourself, exactly. You could send them our podcast, have your coworkers listen to other podcasts or watch videos about Customer Experience. You could invite them to a conference.

Also, consider hiring outside consultants to talk to them about customer experience. You could send them examples of what other organisations have done, case studies with results that show how improving customer experience increased revenues.

My point is, there are a lot of resources out there. Pick one. (If you want help, reach out at BeyondPhilosophy.com/contact. I am passionate about this topic, as you might have guessed.)

2. Embrace disruption.

If you are not disruptive, you are not doing your job. Status quo with a few tweaks is not enough to create an outstanding Customer Experience. You have to start thinking about which changes have the most significant impact; those are the priority.

Tinkering around at little stuff will be easier but have less impressive results. Tackling the big issues is difficult, but the rewards are extraordinary.

Let me be clear, if you are happy tinkering around, then, by all means, tinker away. Just don’t be surprised that in a couple of years you haven’t made a significant enough impact to justify your job (or your program) anymore.

3. Research what drives value ($) for customers.

People don’t always know what they want. They can tell you, of course, it just might not be what they really want. It is vital you undertake research that identifies the hidden drivers of value to ensure you are focused on the right things.

For example, when we were working with a hospital system, we were told patients wanted to spend more time with the doctor. As a result, our client was going to increase the time doctors spend with patients at a significant cost to the hospital.

However, through our Emotional Signature research, we discovered it wasn’t actually about the time people spend; it was just how the patient articulated it. The “hidden” reason was patients felt doctors weren’t listening to them. By training the doctors how to show patients they were listening, we increased patient satisfaction considerably and saved our client costs.

4. Focus on the parts of the organisation that will work with you today.

There is no point trying to push water uphill. Choose the parts of the organisation that are on board, prove that it works with those parts by being disruptive, and then you can expand into other departments. You will be surprised how much easier it is to get all the departments on board with the program after you have some results.

5. Measure your results.

Glenn Laverty, president and CEO of RICOH Canada worked with our global Customer Experience consultancy and improved his Net Promoter Score 34 points in 30 months. Laverty told me he wished RICOH would have put Customer Experience performance measurements on all of the team two years earlier than they did.

Why would he say that? Because what gets measured gets done.

Have a metric for every member of your team, from Sales to HR to IT tied to Customer Experience improvement, and you will have every member of your team working to improve the Customer Experience. It is difficult to do, but it facilitates these changes in behavior that you need to be successful in improving your experience.

6. Always be educating.

Send people to training courses. Sign up for webinars. Hire consultants to run a workshop. However, impromptu education is fantastic, too. Send around blogs and share podcasts on customer experience. You might be surprised at the impact these smaller more spontaneous training efforts can have.

7. Disrupt or disembark.

Finally, if you are not disrupting the organisation, and not making the significant changes to the day-to-day culture of putting the customer first, I would leave.

A bit harsh? Maybe.

However, disruption and overhauling are two crucial parts to making customer experiences great, and without them, you will not have the success your organisation expects. You might want to leave before you find you are no longer welcome.

I am passionate about customer experience and what it takes to make one outstanding. All of these things are vital to moving an organisation where they want to be, to the next level of thinking. Without them, customer experience will continue to plod along and eventually founder as a movement—and you may find yourself moving along to a new job. Don’t let that happen. Take action now.

If you want to benchmark your organisation’s performance in the new world of behavioral economics against other companies, take our short questionnaire. Once you submit, we compare your answers against what we know about the market and send you a free personalised report about where your organisation is today.

Hear the rest of the conversation on “Why Customer Experience is Dying — And What to Do About It” on The Intuitive Customer Podcast. These informative podcasts are designed to expand on the psychological ideas behind understanding customer behavior. To listen in, please click here.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

About Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw

 Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of worlds first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of six best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy has a proven track record. They provide consulting, specialised research & training from Sarasota, Florida and London, England. Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

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10th Jan 2019 09:00

Comment from Jamie Thomas Haughey in LinkedIn group CRM & Customer Experience Professionals:
93% of all CX initiatives are failing. There is genuine concern that investments in CX will evaporate as executives get distracted by competing strategies.

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to LinkedInUser
10th Jan 2019 13:03

Interesting stat, Jamie. Could you possibly share the source? Would be interested in quoting this in forthcoming work. Thanks Jamie.

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11th Jan 2019 09:05

Comment from Sven Esser in LinkedIn group CRM & Customer Experience Professionals:

CX, like most use it is just buzzword-bingo. True CX needs a change in mindset and to re-organice theentire organization. Think there are less people who really understand this... and from this who understand it, many just understand it in theory, they don't know how to implement it. There are some very less people who have the potential to bring it on the road... but most of them say or think "yes, but...." and go the old-school way.
From this it looks like CX will be dead... but it is not dead, it needs much much more time. In future, companies who do not implement true CX will be dead and the competitors will make the race. Think about Amazon, this is a good example of it.

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18th Jan 2019 08:31

Hi Colin,

I agree with you that “CX is dying”, but for a different reason.

When CX initiatives don’t deliver, CEOs reduce their support. It’s a vicious circle. Since CX practitioners should fully recognize that “connecting CX with business results” is the key to gaining buy-in from CEOs, why has ‘the disconnect’ prevailed for years even to this day?

CXPA’s co-founder Jeanne Bliss said, “CX is a company’s delivery of its brand promise.” I couldn’t agree more as it makes perfect sense. When a brand delivers its promise, it drives business results – first-time purchase, repeat purchase and referral.

Obviously, there are strong ties between brand promises and business drivers. For instance, the No.1 repeat purchase drivers of IKEA and Louis Vuitton are ‘product pricing’ and ‘exclusive feel for wearing/owning LV products’ respectively.

Notwithstanding that both brand promises and business drivers include ‘pricing’ and ‘product’, not just ‘service’, numerous CX professionals are overwhelmingly focusing on “Serve Customers Better” irrespective of what the brand promises are and what drive business results.

Forrester’s research director Harley Manning remarked, “CX transformations are massive, take years, and cost millions.” Even with ‘service’ as the brand promise, most ordinary brands are not equipped for a CX transformation – the full-scale “Serve Customers Better” approach.

When the majority of industry players continue to put forward the full-scale “Serve Customers Better” approach to all companies with different kinds of CX challenges, it’s no wonder that the disconnect between CX and business results will continue and most CEOs still won’t buy into CX.

To improve customer experience, my suggestion is to give up Conventional CX and take up Real CX. See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/stop-practicing-fake-cx-sampson-lee

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