To Master Customer Experience Strategy, Master CX Mindset

by Jeannie Walters

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What’s Your Organization’s CX Mindset?

Customer experience leaders are often told to “create a better customer experience” with little more than a pat on the back and an annual customer survey. There is a lack of understanding around what customer experience really is, and perhaps more importantly, what it takes to deliver it.

Customer experience done well is a part of the business, not something to bolt on as an afterthought or consider as a short-term “campaign.”

CX leaders need to set themselves up for success, and that means understanding, defining and living the commitments it takes to create a Customer Experience Habit at their organizations. The brands who create a habit of putting the customer first, defining success for both the organization and the customer, and developing best practices and business discipline around execution are the ones who can truly be customer-centric. Not just for a program, but as part of their brand DNA.

Customer Experience Strategy Depends on the Right Mindset, Vision and Plan

It’s not enough to ask our teams to “create a better customer experience.” We need to begin by asking questions to get everybody in the organization thinking about CX in the right way:

  • What does “a better customer experience” mean in the context of our customers and our organization?
  • What does success look like? For us and for our customers?
  • What do we need to get there?

A customer-centric mindset often flies in the face of traditional business education and legacies.

  • Business plans include sections on Products and Services, Sales, Marketing, Management and Finances. They rarely include the word customer beyond discussing how to acquire them.
  • Business leaders are asked to report results in the form of dollars and cents, as well as providing shareholder value or share of wallet. The human customer is literally removed from the equations.
  • Executives are often the furthest removed from the daily interactions with customers. The higher up in the organization, the further away from dealing with customers directly.

It’s easy to believe your brand is thinking of customers when in reality the leadership simply isn’t ever asked to do so.

Consider this case study:

For more than three decades the Business Roundtable, the association of CEO’s from America’s leading companies, had encouraged corporate leaders to consider the goals of their businesses to be focused squarely on shareholder value. This led leaders to have quarterly, short-term visions instead of long-term, customer-focused strategies.

After 30+ years, it would have been easy for them to stay the course, using one of the oldest objections to new CX initiatives in the book: “It’s always been done this way.”

But instead, in 2019, things changed.

The Business Roundtable released an updated “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” to reflect a more robust and well-rounded viewpoint. The new statement lists “delivering value to customers” as well as investing in employees.

The move was heralded by the The Editorial Board of the Financial Times , who declared this new statement a beacon toward better results, and called it:  “A new corporate purpose has the chance to generate wealth more sustainably and to share prosperity more evenly.”

But consider how long leaders had been told to deliver shareholder value on a quarterly basis at the cost of everything else.

Customer Experience leaders must first dedicate themselves to a customer-centric mindset, bringing the customer’s perspective and experience to everything they do.

This new mindset takes a while to create, develop and nurture in any organization. CX leaders need to create the vision around what it means to serve customers well at their specific organization. Then they need to communicate it throughout the company.

But mindset and the vision don’t get the job done. For that, CX leaders need a strategy.

How A CX Mindset Can Help To Build a Customer Experience Strategy

I have seen a lot of Customer Experience role descriptions, and there is one thing that is often missing. How is success measured?

CX leaders are asked to change the entire culture, move customer mountains, and do it with a smile. They may not have the staff, the resources or even the right data to make that happen. No wonder leaders are seeing shorter and shorter tenures in senior positions. They are asked to perform miracles with little more than a wish and maybe a nice dashboard.

Your customer experience strategy should aim to tie the customer experience design, measurement, insights and improvements with the desired organizational business outcomes.

1. Start with your company’s goals.

Creating a Customer Experience Habit means knowing what success looks like. Not just for the leaders, but for the entire organization.

What is most important to your brand’s strategy? Don’t lose sight of this as you build your CX strategy. The customer experience investment needs to provide a return for your organization. Financial outcomes are certainly part of this, but it could include other goals. CX leaders must understand what metrics matter at their company.

Let’s look at an example:

A software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider had an annual goal to become the most preferred brand in their industry. They measured this by what share of the market they earned. It was a well-communicated, aspirational goal.

So the customer experience strategy had to be tied to this by aiming for goals that would support this overall brand goal. This meant the strategy included ways to increase referrals, improve retention rates, and more.

Starting without company goals is where a lot of CX strategies get stuck. C-Suite leaders can be discouraged when they hear strategy as “let’s be nice to customers” instead of “let’s build the right vision, strategy and outcomes around customer experience to meet our overall goals.”

Tie goals to concrete outcomes to get buy-in from the rest of the organization.

2. Ask the questions you’ll need to design the right customer experience.

There is no one perfect way to build a CX strategy, just like there’s no perfect way to build a business. So after you’ve started with the goals, start asking questions that will shed some light on what you need to prioritize.

Questions to answer might include:

  • Do we know who our customers are?
  • Are there personas and/or customer segments?
  • How are we measuring customer experience? What metrics are used?
  • How often are we gathering customer feedback? Is it consistent?
  • Are there customer journey maps, empathy maps, stakeholder maps, etc?
  • How are we prioritizing customer experience improvement initiatives? (Spoiler alert – use a CX Mission!)
  • Do our employees understand how their efforts are tied directly to the customer experience?

3. Turn those answers into plans.

A business strategy of any kind is really a plan to develop processes, systems, tools and behaviors to achieve the overall goal. A CX strategy is no different.

CX leaders need to define what they CAN do, with whatever resources they have. Consider the timing, limitations and potential obstacles to success, too. If it feels daunting, break down the goals into short-term, actionable goals and a longer-term, evolving strategy.

Plans around CX strategy might include steps like:

  1. Understand our customers better by creating journey maps.
  2. Create ideal experience journeys based on feedback and data from customers.
  3. Track employee engagement with CX by partnering with Human Resources on the annual employee feedback survey.

It could go on for many more steps or it could be just a few. The key is to think about what plans need to be made to implement the processes, systems and actions required to deliver on the overall goals.

4. Don’t forget to plan for measuring success!

What does it mean to understand our customers more? A journey map is a great goal, but how do we know if it’s a successful endeavor?

Create a way to measure success for each part of the strategy. Measuring project deliverable output, like a journey map, is one way to do that if you are just starting out on your customer experience programs.

It’s better to tie that outcome to those business goals, too.

For example, success might be measured for a retail brand by “completing one customer journey map for the Hannah-in-a-Hurry persona.” But take that one step further and it can add clarity and focus. The goal of that customer understanding might be “To improve Net Promoter Score (NPS) results for Hannah within the next 12 months.”

Remember how you started with the overall company goals? If the overall goals tell you that improving NPS results will lead to higher revenue overall, this is a clear indicator of success for the organization.

Take the time to understand and communicate how success will be measured for each part of your Customer Experience strategy.

5. Develop how improvements will be addressed.

Customer insights are only useful if they lead to action. Leaders throughout the organization will be a part of those improvements. CX leaders can suggest improvements to the mobile app, for example, but aren’t typically the ones responsible for making those changes. Your CX strategy should have a plan to develop cross-functional leadership to fix what’s broken quickly, develop and execute improvements, and innovate around customer needs.

Consider how leaders from various departments might need to support or approve your efforts. Leaders from technology, marketing, learning and development, sales, product development and even compliance can help solve customer issues faster and provide valuable insights into experience design. Include them early and keep communicating.

Strategy and Mindset Lead to Discipline

It’s not enough to have a vision and a strategy. Those are simply plans to be executed. The rubber hits the road when those plans are turned into behaviors, best practices and business discipline to execute on those ideas.

A Customer Experience Habit is created when leaders know and understand their regular responsibilities around CX. It’s not just a project, it’s a way of doing business.

Discipline shows up by:

  • Leveraging the CX Mission in both words and actions throughout the organization
  • Understanding how success is measured, both for customers and the company
  • Communicating regularly about CX insights and outcomes
  • Delivering real business results from customer experience efforts
  • Starting with the customer, from designing new products to sending invoices and everything else along the journey

Vision, Strategy, & Discipline Can Reduce Overwhelm

It can feel overwhelming to lead the customer experience efforts at any organization, especially when it can be defined so differently across organizations and even departments within the same organization. CX could be defined as just gathering the customer feedback, like the Voice of the Customer program. Or it may be defined as what happens in the contact center.

Those definitions have one thing in common: They are short-sighted ways to create meaningful change throughout the company.

Customer experience is exciting because it can include so many things. That’s also what can make it overwhelming. When CX leaders know what the vision is, what strategy they need to get there, and what business discipline is required, the overwhelm is reduced and the excitement is boosted. Defining what success is makes it easier to get there.

Of course there are other customer experience commitments needed to develop the Customer Experience Habit for your organization. Don’t worry, we’ll be tackling those in this series in upcoming weeks.

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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