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Chanice Henry

Customer Care

Why Customer Experience Is a Marathon Full of Sprints

Meeting customer expectations is a nonstop race

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - 12:02

According to CX Network’s latest “Annual Global State of CX Report,” showing return on investment (ROI) from customer experience (CX) projects is one of the top challenges troubling CX practitioners.

The report saw nearly 270 responses from the CX community, with each participant providing insight on the trends, challenges, and investments shaping customer experience. Just over 70 percent of those participants were part of the decision-making team in their organizations.

Evidencing ROI was highlighted by almost half of the respondents as the biggest block to gaining approval for future CX investments.

Some CX initiatives are relatively simple to justify financially because they have obvious cost or operational advantages that benefit both business and customer. The real challenge comes when rationalizing outlay to improve the brand’s customer experience based solely on predictions of increased future revenue.

As mentioned at the 14th Annual Global Summit for Customer Experience Management in Telecoms, to tangibly improve business results, companies need to approach customer experience projects with the awareness that CX sprints are part of a much larger journey.

Sprint toward the points of most value

When research respondents were asked for the solution to this ROI problem, one common craving was for better visibility on the initiatives that would have the biggest impact. This visibility is critical to prioritize the projects with the highest forecasted return.

CX projects with the most return will be rooted in the elements that customers value most. To detect where this value lies, you must build your awareness on what matters to your customers in their experiences with you.

Be warned: This may not be what you are expecting. For instance, radical feedback from a mother of five to a room of C-level executives led to phenomenal product innovation at Verizon. In reaction to the product the mother had suggested, Justin Reilly, former head of customer experience innovation at Verizon, says, “... No one in the room, some of the smartest people in the world, had come up with a switching product. So we built a switching product that went as far as the lawyers would let us go, and it’s been phenomenal. If you actually analyze the metrics of building it, it’s cheaper than building a product with discounts and all these things that we think customers want when they [in fact don’t.] Deep, personal research into what your customers want is often very time-consuming, but if you get that right once a year [that can make a major difference].”

Internal cross-functional innovation teams are also crucial for breaking down silos of information and communicating the customer journey as it stands and where it needs to be. They can pinpoint the touches that are most crucial to the journey and in most need of improvement.

A group of CX practitioners based in Australia and New Zealand said the three critical make-or-break moments in their customer journeys are:
• Finding answers to basic questions quickly
• Resolving customer service
• Receiving relevant and personalized offers and recommendations

And the areas in most need of improvement? You guessed it; it’s almost a direct match:
• Resolving support issues
• Resolving customer service (nontechnical) issues
• Selecting a product that best suits buyer needs

This self-awareness is key to knowing which factors are likely to move the needle the most on your customer index.

In the “The Global State of Customer Experience 2018” (report pdf), Mark Gubbins, business performance and insight manager at British Airways, pointed to the driver model the airline developed from customer feedback. The model “... uses regression techniques to predict the impact on recommendation of any particular CX initiative based on the number of customers affected and the importance of the affected journey touch points to our recommendation metric,” he notes. “In this way, together with understanding the value of the customer segments affected, we can compare very different CX initiatives and prioritize those which deliver most for the customer.”

This sort of research helps CX teams build a business case that clearly articulates what they expect to achieve. References to historical improvements in the net promoter score can be useful to rationalize investments.

This business case will lay the foundation for a formalized road map for the CX sprint. This clear view of the CX sprint allows participants to track trajectory and make necessary adjustments.

Businesses often fall down by having CX processes and strategies that are too flimsy. In these instances, firms enjoy financial returns but struggle to link it to the hard work put into customer experience projects.

Take a pit stop

After or during the CX sprint, it is important to make sure movements in your customer index or metric actually correspond to the reality. This is needed in businesses that have relatively healthy satisfaction and net promoter score levels but still suffer from concerning customer churn rates.

When providing direct feedback, customers can say one thing but inevitably do another.

To untangle this strange dynamic, teams should measure customer sentiment using tools such as text analytics to discover signals that indicate what is actually making customers leave your business. Once you uncover these pain points, instead of focusing on the net promoter score, use these stumbling blocks as your main employee metrics. This method will ensure your brand is improving the factors that are of real value to customers and influential to their retention.

Remember CX is a marathon

Firms that run inconsistent CX programs that are measured independently of each other will greatly struggle to see improvements in business results. This lack of strategic vision can negatively affect the company and its financial return.

Businesses can suffer from the temptation to use driver models to calculate the economic benefit of every customer initiative, however small.

“It is very easy to get too granular and to think of the customer journey as a series of business processes rather than view it holistically through the customers’ eyes,” warns Gubbins. “Don’t expect to find a simple mathematical relationship between net promoter score and revenue. At BA [British Airways] we have explored such relationships and have concluded that the critical thing to understand is the relative importance that customers put on the various elements of the customer journey.”

Instead of seeing CX initiatives as self-contained entities, businesses need to think holistically about how these projects connect in the story. This holistic view will reveal new tangential opportunities for CX wins.

It’s all about endurance, so always keep watch

Be sure to frequently assess your CX initiatives to spot opportunities for improvement and inform the next CX investments.

It can be tricky to isolate the impact of a CX initiative amidst the many variables influencing a business. CX expectations are fast moving, so initiatives may begin by providing marginal benefits but then evolve to provide revenue protection if the competitive set changes.

“CX programs to meet new expectations are not nice-to-haves; they are vital to stay in the game,” adds Gubbins.

The businesses that enjoy the most CX traction and see ROI from projects hold onto that holistic, long-term view while they operationalize individual best practice improvements.

First published March 13, 2019, on the CX Journey blog.

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About The Author

Chanice Henry’s picture

Chanice Henry

With a BA in journalism, Chanice Henry is a seasoned editor at CX Network. Henry produces a range of premium-level content for senior customer experience, service, insight, digital and marketing leaders.