Is Customer Experience Too Big?

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Long before we had the term Customer Experience, I was doing the work associated with it. I have had a front row seat to watch the evolution of CX and I am seeing the same path I have seen for many other hopeful initiatives. I think it is key that we understand the trends and ask the right questions before it is too late.

The Beginnings of CX

CX has its roots in various areas of business. I started in CX as part of Customer Operations with the expressed goal of creating a different experience by phone. The call center is the hub for our relationship with our Customers, yet it is often the most neglected part of the experience. For far too long operations have focused on bad metrics leading to worse Customer experiences. It is no wonder we have such a bad view of Customer Service. As we started to look at the call center, this inevitably led to reviewing other experiences such as marketing and the website. This was a common first step to CX. Another common path was through marketing. As we have witnessed with social media, the Consumer now controls the brand image and smart marketing professionals have looked at CX as a way to add value to Consumers using CRM data mixed with content. Finally we also saw a path involving user experience and user design. As technology garnered greater importance in business, so too has design and user experience. This brought rise to the design side of CX.

Friction, Culture and the Realities of Business

We often point to failures in business as being caused by culture of the organization, but, in my view, it is more nuanced than simply a word such as culture. Ultimately we all want success in our work life, to better provide for those we love. Poor decisions throughout organization usually are because people are going to be out for themselves. A lawyer sees success in mitigating risk, so they add terminology to the terms and conditions. A product specialists sees an opportunity to increase revenue by sneaking in a new fee. Why do they do these things? Because ultimately they want to do the best job they can within the way their own performance is measured. These decisions may be contradictory to the Customer experience a company intends to create. CX has been the promise to address some of these things, but is that even possible?

Another major friction within business is the short term view we take on results. CX was never designed for immediate payback, but instead a longer term focus that creates advocates for the brand. The goal for many brands is becoming the subconscious choice of Consumers, but unless you are already at the level, getting to that point is extremely hard and tedious. It does not happen overnight. Many early adopter companies started CX investments very early as CX started to gain popularity. Now I am watching many of those same companies scaling back on these efforts. There are multiple reasons why, but one of the key aspects is they did not see the results they wanted to see. This was not always due to the CX teams, but instead the expectations these executives built up in their mind.

We have also been caught up in buzz terms such as omnichannel experience or Customer journeys. Omnichannel experience, or creating a seamless experience across Customer touch points is a great goal, but is often to difficult to achieve without full ownership over each of the touch points. The key is understanding your business and your Customer. We should bring focus to the key channel and allow other channels to catch up, but do you know what the key channel is for your business? Many would answer digital, and this may be correct but it also may vary. If you are a convenience store or gas station, I would expect the key channel will be in store or at the pump. For others it may be a key business strategy to move interactions to the web, so for them that is where the focus should be. I have never heard of a startup organization wanting to build 1000 seat call centers. Instead these startups often focus on creating the best mobile experience possible so you would never have to call.

I love the idea of Customer journeys, which in my view is understanding the emotional triggers throughout a Customer journey. I have looked over many journeys created and they are not always living up to their potential. Often these journeys look similar to a process map, but they fail to recognize that I am different from you, and have different emotional triggers. Journeys should never be linear, but we are using the same skills we used in six sigma process maps and trying to call them journeys. We are missing the boat with our own buzz term.

We also have a major issues the inflicts pain throughout organizations. It is easy for us to point fingers at the fiefdoms and their impact on the Customer experience, but I have also witnessed these same human behaviors impact CX. We have seen a fight for ownership between operations, marketing and user experience. Instead of working together these groups fought to build their own path, vying for the attention of senior staff, and more importantly, budget. The challenge is these fights lead to poor investments and eventually really strong people losing their jobs.We have to recognize one of the key failures in business is ourselves.

Finding Success with CX

Over the past year I have seen many strong CX people leave their employment. Some left for greener pastures or trying to avoid internal challenges, while others were caught up in internal politics or executives looking for shorter term results. This does not mean I see CX as a failure. In fact in reality this invigorates me in helping people find the right path for success.

  • CX must have focus with shorter term wins that can lead to the longer term focus we all strive for
  • Deep understanding of the Customer has always been key, but I would suggest understanding the motivations of others within the organization is more important
  • Build bridges within the organization instead of fiefdoms
  • Success comes from each of the pillars: Customer, Marketing and Design
  • Don’t chase ideas of others, but instead bring focus to what you d0

CX can and should be the future, but it is up to each of us to work together to bring about the right results. We are all human with many positive and negative attributes. Sometimes we must look in the mirror!

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