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Look Out for Customer Experience Strategy Sinkholes!

If your company’s customer experience (CX) strategy is either lacking or not up to par, much of your efforts to improve customer experience fall into a sinkhole that sucks out the time, resources and effectiveness of the entire customer experience program. Because of this, the efforts of many companies to improve customer experience are wasted and unsuccessful. A recent survey of customer experience professionals by Forrester Research identified “the lack of a clear strategy as the biggest obstacle to customer experience success.”

These days, too many companies either don’t have a CX strategy, or they have one that’s not very good. According to the May 2016 eMarketer report “The Customer Experience Mandate,” although 6 in 10 marketing executives state that they have a customer experience strategy in place, only 1 in 10 describe the strategy as strong enough to inform their decision making.

The diagram below illustrates how a well-built CX strategy acts as a bridge from one group of business disciplines to another. This structure ensures that the experience the organization intends to deliver does indeed happen in an informed way, on a daily basis, from the CEO to employees to customers. Without a customer experience strategy, actions will be random, wasteful, and sometimes conflicting, no matter how hard the organization tries.

Customer Experience Sinkhole - bridge graphic

With a proper CX strategy in place, your company is more likely to live up to its brand promise, meet or exceed customer expectations, know what success looks like, and spend resources in the most efficient and effective manner.

So what should your customer experience strategy look like? It needs to be clear, specific (not vague) and memorable. And once defined, it needs to be shared with everyone in the company, as well as partners. They need it to create the ideal customer experience. One of the better examples of a CX strategy as communicated to employees is found here by Ritz Carlton.

One way to get started on developing (or redesigning) your CX strategy is to take a look at each input on the left hand side of the bridge and evaluate whether it should be included in your CX strategy.

For example, look at a single experience attribute. Let’s say Customer Understanding tells you customers value and expect you to educate them in order to achieve greater benefit from your product/service, and that in return they will give you greater loyalty. At this point, customers have told you it is relevant for them. As a company, you should then ask several questions around educating customers as a potential component (you could have many) to your CX strategy.

  • Is it something your organization is capable of delivering?
  • Do you have enough credibility with customers in delivering that?
  • Do employees credibly believe the organization can deliver that enough to get behind it?
  • If you did educate customers, would it provide competitive differentiation or at least make you more competitive?
  • Is “educate” part of your current brand strategy and/or promise? If not, should it be?
Follow this same set of questioning for each of the inputs on the left side of your bridge, and eventually you’ll have a draft CX strategy that you can socialize and then test through market research.

If you think your company’s customer experience isn’t delivering compelling results, it’s best to revisit that strategy to ensure it stands as a sturdy bridge, not a ruinous sinkhole that will undermine your efforts. As Sun Tzu famously said in The Art of War, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Make sure your program doesn’t just make noise, but instead has a winning CX strategy.

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