In recent years I have observed increased attention on a very hot topic: Customer Experience Management (CXm). This is because organizations across various industries, especially those who operate in the retail environment, understand that we have moved out of the service economy and are well into the experience economy. It’s not that the customer was not important before, but it was traditionally the sales channel that as taking most of the responsibility in delivering good service.

Today, it’s the responsibility of every function within the business to understand how they can contribute to the delivery of an exceptional experience, the way the customer dreamt it.  

In the current socio-economic context, consumers are not satisfied with simply buying a product. They are asking for deep and meaningful interactions that lead to memorable experiences with the brands they decide to enter in touch with.

The emergence of digital technologies, mobile and social media in particular, has shifted the decision-making power from the company to the customer, who today is the true protagonist of the shopping experience. This is a scenario radically different from just 10 years ago (if not less) where customers had to adapt their needs to whatever was available in the market.

Today, tables have turned. Organizations who wish to enter into an authentic relationship with their customers (they would be crazy not to want to!), must anticipate the needs and motivations that take the very same customers into crossing path with their brands. And that’s when the whole world of Customer Experience opens up to us professionals! The CX is the aggregation of all micro-moments that the customer matures and make up the experiences, emotions and memories in relation to your company brand across all phases of its life cycle.
The customer develops awareness, expresses a need, discovers the products and services that satisfy it, is attracted to them, develops expectations towards the brand, interacts with it through various points of contact and multiple channels and if they are happy, they may return or advocate for you.

CX goes beyond the organization control. It is affected by logistic partners, by the weather, by traffic, by how your floor staff and how they slept last night, by you name it. It goes beyond quality, service or price.

CX has become a true competitive asset for organizations, that’s why a CXm system should be viewed as a long term commitment, an ongoing investment and internal program that require every function’s buy into. It’s not a 6-month project and it’s not about achieving fast, short term growth or profits. It may take 12 to 24 months to organizations that are ready to invest in strategic customer knowledge to integrate a solid CXm system, depending on the existing systems in place and complexities. And then it will take another 6 to 12 months to gain an evidence-based picture on the sustainable return on investment.

The elements of a successful Customer Experience

In my experience, there are some obligatory stages that lead to a path of CX excellence and consistency. First and foremost, having clarity on what the CX looks like. A very valuable exercise for that is creating CX journey maps. How do you do that? In very, very simple words this is what you do.

  1. Create a Data Management System – You cannot look at CX if you don’t have an analytics infrastructure designed to collect, manipulates and report on all sorts of financial, operational and marketing data. Data is always your starting point, be it transactional data, voice of the customer data, marketing activity data etc. A centralised platform that provide “single view of the customer” is ideal.
  2. Segment your market – based on the data, understand your target audience (which involves making a decision on who your target audience is, and no, it is not everybody out there). Understand their demo, socio and psycho graphics. Create avatars to refer back to.
  3. Customer journey map – chart the emotional, intellectual and behavioural journey of each segment across the various stages of such journey. An example of different journey stages may be: need/dream/think – research – buy – consume – post consumption – repeat.
  4. Unpack the ideal experience – At each stage of the journey, ask these questions: what is the customer wanting to achieve and why (“Triggers” and “Goals”) ? What are their pain points and frustrations (“Pain points”)? How does that make them feel (“Emotions”)? What opportunity do we have to interact with the customer at that stage (“Touchpoints”)? What can we do to relief the customer (“Opportunities”)? What would happen if we didn’t act on it (“Threats”)?
  5. Create an action list – at the end of (4) you should be left with a long list of actions to implement across a variety of company departments such as floor operations, content, marketing, product, technology etc…
  6. Test and validate – prioritise your changes,  don’t try to build Rome in a day. Start from a test patch, measure and validate (or change) your thinking. You need to continually fine tune your current position by listening to the voice of your customer.

Sounds complicated? It is. Luckily, there are some wonderful technologies available today that do a lot of the above for us, such as the ability to collect data from multiple channels, perform analysis, combining operational data and feedback, provide predictive models, which simulate financial returns based on improving the CX before you actually change everything.

CX is not a fancy program available only to large organizations. With different level of complexity and investment, CX can be embraced by any organization, big or small. However, a worthwhile CXm system is a commitment that starts from the CEO and waterfalls across the whole organization and is integrated within the vision and strategy of the business.