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Want To Make Sure Your Customer Experience Work Stays On Track?

Manage these Seven Inhibitors of Customer Experience Work Success

1. Starting with a mantra, not an action plan.

  • Often companies decide that they want to get some early traction by telling everyone to “focus on customer experience.”  What happens next is that people realize this is a big corporate priority and begin making plans, creating new scorecards, and taking action.
  • This proliferates the silo-based approach to actions that is contrary to the discipline of experience development and management.  A lot of action occurs, executives get a “false positive” that action is occurring and traction is happening, but it eventually stalls out because the actions don’t tie together and aggregate up to improve complete end-to-end customer experiences.

2. Failing to define the customer experience and gaining alignment on the path of actions.

  • This is similar to first point, but I am stressing it separately because defining the experience consistently and gaining alignment has major downstream implications if it is not done correctly and if the time is not taken to get alignment.
  • The organization needs to agree on the stages of the customer experience and the definitions of success.
  • This is important because we want to give leaders a new language set to use to ask questions and drive the business, and we want to establish the key cross-functional metrics for the development of key performance indicators (KPIs) for priority touch points.  This is critical also to database management, as the stages of the experience interrelate to one another.
  • Without creating this framework first, the risk is to experience the same failure that happened when (most) corporations around the world rolled out customer relationship management (CRM). They automated current processes without rethinking the business.
  • Customer experience is about redefining the operation of the business to be driven from the customers’ point of view— their experience with the company at every touch point .
  • This new attitude and approach to talking about and managing the business is key to achieving the cultural transformation.  It’s only when we drive the experience from this vantage point—and hard-wire this approach into language, leadership and operations— that it will become sustainable.

3. Not breaking the work into actionable pieces and not understanding what “success” is.

  • Initially the work on the customer experience journey should be considered successful when “enabling infrastructure” actions occur, such as:
    • Treating customer data like an asset by bridging the data silos, proactively managing customer data with technology such as data quality and master data management (MDM), and empowering customer-facing employees with an understanding of  each customer’s value to the organization
    • Engaging leaders in personally becoming connected to customers’ lives by calling them and  visiting employees
    • Teaching the organization the competency of working together across the organizational silos to solve and improve one (or two) end-to-end customer experiences
    • Changing the communication from leaders to drive customer experience accountability
  • What often happens is that instead of building in (and celebrating) these new competencies, so critical to the long-term sustainability of the business, people want to attach a score.
    • “we will be successful when our satisfaction rates are x” or “we will be successful when our net promoter score is y”

4. Attaching early metrics to outcome metrics rather than operational metrics people can impact

  • It’s very enticing to jump to the outcome metrics such as survey scores.
  • The challenge with this is that the outcome of a survey score is impacted by numerous factors, not all of which can be impacted by areas of the organization that  are given the outcome metrics as their performance score.
  • For example, it’s more powerful to identify the operational KPIs that people can impact
  • If the outcome metrics are added to early, before the underlying processes and culture change and coaching and development are put into place – people WILL want to achieve great scores – but they will rely on involving the customer in helping them to achieve a better score (follow up – any reason you can’t give me a ten?, etc.)
  • They will also focus on actions so minute that it might move the needle a little on the score, but the overall approach to sustaining that skill or even building that skill is compromised.  It’s very hard to sustain this type of “go get a good score” approach.

5. Not having executives engaged in the effort.

  • Often executives will say that they want to focus on the customer experience – but they hand off the work to a department or area to work on.
  • This work is not like a typical project.  Setting up a great project plan and executing on tactics and actions will get the infrastructure built (such as VOC systems) but it won’t drive the change in culture and the development of cross-silo competencies.
  • Leaders must commit to being personally involved – beyond a perfunctory monthly “check in” meeting.  They need to engage in the process of the work.  Without executive involvement driving the new prioritization, driving out the actions that are in the way and giving people permission to work together – it is hard to sustain this work.

6. Not having clear communication to the organization that walks people constantly through the roadmap, and actions, and behaviors to model

  • It’s not enough to do the work behind the scenes. The organization needs to be constantly kept up to speed on what is happening and what it means to them.
  • As new decisions are made that focus on customer experiences – people must be kept apprised of these decisions – and given permission to model this type of decision-making.
  • Leaders must emerge as constant communicators of why we are taking the actions we are.
  • The organization must be kept up to speed on actions and successes.
  • Without this constant communication and “permission setting” and “decision guidance” the organization will view the customer experience  work as another in a long string of exercises or programs that will go the way of the others – away.

7. Taking actions based on what they think, not based on understanding what customers need.

  • Many companies, especially those long entrenched in their business, believe they know what customers need.
  • Even when they do research, they make the research about “validating” their plans rather than beginning with an open mind and asking the customer about their lives and what they need.
  • This approach will compromise the outcome of the new experiences that are built – and in some cases will completely backfire.
  • Customer experience differentiation comes when companies begin by truly understanding customers’ needs – rather than beginning with current processes and asking customers what they like or don’t like.  Many companies fall into this trap – from experience building to customer satisfaction scores that indicate that “they are doing ok”.  Customers are forced to react to the box of the experience you are currently giving – they aren’t given the chance to really talk about what they need.
  • Learn more about how to improve customer experience by listening to a recent webcast, Online Guide: 5 Questions Companies Must Tackle to Attract & Retain Customers.

About Jeanne Bliss



Jeanne Bliss began her career at Lands’ End where she reported to founder Gary Comer, ensuring that in the formative years of the organization, the company stayed focused on its core principles of customer and employee focus.  She was the first leader of the Lands’ End Customer Experience.  In addition to Lands’ End, she has served Allstate, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker Corporation and Mazda Corporations as its executive leading customer focus and customer experience.  Jeanne has helped achieve 95% retention rates across 50,000 person organizations, harnessing businesses to work across their silos to deliver a united and deliberate experience customers (and employees) want to repeat.

Jeanne now runs CustomerBliss (www.customerbliss.com), an international consulting business where she coaches executive leadership teams and customer leadership executives on how to put customer profitability at the center of their business, by getting past lip service; to operationally relevant, operationally executable plans and processes.   Her clients include Johnson & Johnson, TD Ameritrade, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals, Bombardier Aircraft and many others.  Her two best-selling books are Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

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