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Three critical things successful CX leaders get right

29th Mar 2019
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What can we learn from today's customer experience leaders, and how can we apply it to our own businesses?

When we look at customer experience leaders today, it’s unsurprising there are a number of things they have in common. From a macro level, we see that many of the individual strategies and tactics these leaders deploy roll up to three high-level areas of strategic focus.

Each of these leaders is exceptionally focused on:

  1. Customer centricity
  2. Digital transformation
  3. Operational excellence...

...and the areas where the three intersect.

We see this brought to life in companies of all sizes, ranging from hyper-growth startups to some of the most successful technology and financial services companies you can think of.

The good news is no matter what business you’re in, you can learn from these folks, and apply these lessons to, your business as well. 

1. Customer-centricity: Put the customer at the centre of your business

First and foremost is a commitment to customer-centricity – essentially, putting the customer at the centre of decision making and your business. This means making a deep understanding of your customers part of your organisational DNA. Knowing who your customers are, and who they aren’t is essential to fostering a successful customer experience from start to finish.

It means making sure you deeply understand what your customers want and need, and organising your business to design and deliver the products, services and experiences that exceed your customers’ expectations. In other words, prioritise customer goals over operational objectives and habits.

2. Digital transformation

As we all know, digital transformation is a fundamental shift in the way business is done. The use of technology to radically improve business performance and keep up with ever-smarter customer relationships is changing everything.

Whether across the end-to-end customer experience, digitally enabling products and services, integrating data and cross-organisation analytics and metrics systems, this means recognising that today’s customer is very much digital first — but not digital only. Which means it’s critical to recognise that your customers really, really like digital solutions... until the moment they don’t.

3. Operational excellence

Which brings us to a focus on operation and execution excellence. In part, this means the ability to respond to your customer how and when they want to be responded to. This also means you focus on operational and execution excellence — systematically and continually improving your business and operational processes across revenue, cost, and risk.

Together, this focus allows an organisation to build and maintain connections across all processes with the right measurement and metric systems in place, optimising the effectiveness of their people, process, information and technology, and demonstrating the results in clear business and financial terms.

Follow the leaders

We don’t mean to suggest that every CX leader focuses simultaneously on “being the best” in every one of these three areas. Most pick a primary focus (customer centricity, operational excellence, digital transformation) where they strive to win against every competitor. Then, they do their best to compete as effectively as possible on the others.

Some companies, of course, do all these things very well. Consider Amazon. Their primary focus, from Day 1, has been to focus on customer centricity. But they’re also very good in the other areas... with decision making driven by putting customers at the centre of their business.

The results for all CX leaders speak for themselves: outsized top- and bottom-line growth, beating their competition, and dominating their markets. Because doing all three of these things well helps organisations deliver world-class customer experiences underpinned by world-class business operating models.

Replies (2)

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Sampson Lee, founder of Global CEM and creator of PIG Strategy
By Sampson Lee
01st Apr 2019 15:48

Hi Michael,

I don’t think follow the lead of Jeff Bezos is a good idea.

In Customer Experience: Is Amazon Going Downhill?, Iqbal narrated his ‘ugly’ service experiences with Amazon.

Global customer service expert Shaun Belding responded, “I am seeing a rapidly increasing number of articles and posts indicating a growing disenchantment with Amazon…. there are very clear signs, as Maz points out, that they are obsessing over cost control.”

Amazon is also listed as one of The Top 10 BAD Customer Service Stories of 2018. “Imagine that you’ve ordered three cartons of toilet paper from Amazon. The cost: $88.77. Then imagine that you are charged $7,455 for the shipping costs…. She (the customer) complained to Amazon six times. She wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos…. It wasn’t until she took the matter to a local television station and the story went viral for Amazon to take action. Two-and-a-half months later, she was finally reimbursed.”

The above aren’t just rare occurrences. You can uncover many more of Amazon’s poor service experiences as shared by numerous customers on the web

You may, nevertheless, argue that the above evidence is insufficient to deduce that Amazon isn’t customer-centric. Please take a good look at Amazon accused of treating UK warehouse staff like robots and Amazon Working Conditions: Urinating in Trash Cans, Shamed to Work Injured, List of Employee Complaints reported by The Guardian and Newsweek respectively.

One of the core components of customer-centricity is employee engagement or experience. Happy employees lead to happy customers. Makes perfect sense. What would you say about Amazon’s employee experience?

Don’t you think that Amazon is NOT customer-centric, not to say the earth’s most customer-centric company anymore? Emulating Amazon for its customer-centricity would not be a wise choice, I think.

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Sampson Lee, founder of Global CEM and creator of PIG Strategy
By Sampson Lee
01st Apr 2019 16:04

Hi Michael,

I also don’t share the same view that “First and foremost is a commitment to customer-centricity – essentially, putting the customer at the centre of decision making and your business.”

Customer-centricity has three limitations – exclusive to service-focused/related brands, perplexing definitions, and unachievable for most enterprises. (See “What are the three limitations of customer-centricity”

Certain customer-obsessed organizations are pursuing customer-centricity as their ultimate goal. Big mistake. Customer-centricity is not the end; but rather, a means. Since customer-centricity is the engine of conventional CX and most CX initiatives have persistently failed to provide tangible benefits, maybe it’s time to drop the means that has a high failure rate for years and is unattainable for most enterprises. (See “How brands are achieving customer success without being customer-centric”

Your thoughts?

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