The C-Suite Leader was asking a seemingly straightforward question: What is customer experience, really?
Now, this person was no slouch. This was a high-achieving, take-no-prisoners, BOSS of a person who I respect. And I was struggling to answer.
I didn’t want to insult this person. I didn’t want this leader to feel like I was condescending. But in my brain, I was asking, “Do you REALLY not know? Or do you just not WANT to know?”
But let me be clear about one thing. This person did not have Customer Experience in their title. There was nothing related to CX in their official role. This was a typical, traditional C-Suite executive who had worked their way up through various operations and marketing roles. They were frustrated, annoyed and rightfully resistant to add one more thing to their to-do list.
I could hardly blame the person. Leaders today are charged with big, bold initiatives like “Cultural Transformation” without a playbook or even a proper goal.
But it got me thinking. We are asking our CMO’s and COO’s and CTO’s to embrace job descriptions that are no longer the straightforward paragraphs of “here’s what is expected.” Instead, we are implying C-suite Leaders need to have skills AND results that are a Venn diagram of overlapping yet consistent activities that lead to success in an omnichannel, multigenerational, always-on world.
No wonder they are frustrated. No wonder executives can barely hang on to their job for more than a year. No wonder they are seeking the latest in gadgetry, tech, and education to (fingers crossed!) really solve their issues.
The very issues they’re looking to solve are often addressed in ways that lack the serious focus and overall understanding of customer experience needed. I’d argue the way we talk about CX, including the very words we use, needs to change so we’re not pigeonholing customer experience as something it’s not.
I see this show up a few different ways. Do any of these sound familiar?
Three common details C-Suite leaders overlook when discussing Customer Experience:
#1: Using “Customer Experience” interchangeably with the metric used to measure it.
Instead of talking about the actual experience you’re delivering to customers, we’re talking about percentage points.
This shows up in questions like “how’s our CX this month?” and ends with answers like “not much has changed, we’re down .02% on average. But don’t worry, we’re still pretty average for our industry.”
That conversation is not serving your customers.
I recently was introduced to an intern who was hired to set up the spreadsheet that collected the data from a satisfaction survey. “Joe here runs our customer experience program.” This is a tall order for Intern Joe, but that’s how he was introduced. Leaders honestly believed that the collection of customer feedback WAS a customer experience program.
Collecting feedback, measuring Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction rates or any combination of metrics is not serving your customers if you don’t think bigger about what all of that data means and how you should act on it.
CX measurement is not customer experience. It’s a vital part of a comprehensive program, but it takes more than that to serve your customers.
#2. Focusing on the Customer Experience Management platform, not how it’s used.
Another way we don’t really talk about CX is when we talk all about the Customer Experience Management (CEM) platform.
One place I see this show up in job descriptions. The head of Customer Experience is really supposed to be the person who understands the CRM or CEM system the best. The role is reduced to being forever linked to the platform they happen to use to slice up the data.
CX is not about the platform we use to record data and understand our customers.
The system is a tool, not a goal.
Gaining adoption and engagement with those platforms is certainly a huge undertaking and an important part of CX, but it isn’t actually the experience your customers have with your brand.
Forcing adoption for adoption’s sake is also not helping your customers or your employees. Connect the ways the program actually changes things for the better, and isn’t just another system to use.
I’ve seen posters that say things like “Take 5! Enter 5 records to get a chance to win…” But this is an empty strategy. There is nothing about that engagement that explains the outcomes those records lead to.
Technology and digital transformation are huge parts of the customer experience now. It’s not surprising we’re talking about them so much. But as the CIO of the Australian Bank ANZ Gerard Florian declared recently, “getting our staff closer to the people doing the work – closer to our customer,” was one of the top three parts of the vision for their digital and cultural transformation.
Technology is a piece of the puzzle, but human connection remains vital to actual CX success.
#3. Believing that CX is a goal with a timeline.
I can’t imagine a world where the sales leader would be asked, “so when is your sales program going to be completed?”
Have you ever heard a CFO declare that now that the internal audit is complete, her work is done?
Of course not. That would be silly.
Why do we treat customer experience as if it’s a project and not just part of the business?
If CX is a short-term mission of creating a journey map or setting up a reminder that we should put customers first, then we’re doing things wrong. Saying things like “2020 is the Year of the Customer!” implies that 2021 won’t be. What does that look like, exactly?
Not surprisingly, according to Hotjar’s Customer Experience Guide from November, 2018, those companies who identify themselves as “Mature” in their Customer Experience journey recognize themselves as MORE customer-centric than profit-centric.
These types of organizations see their number one priority as serving the customers they have. And they use “old school” techniques like market research to really understand them.
This is not a one-time thing. They are constantly tweaking the ways they leverage customer feedback and seek out answers. They are using ongoing methods to innovate and improve the experience for customers.
Customer Experience is as much a part of a business strategy as sales or marketing or finances. Let’s start talking about it that way.
Time to take action.
If you’re a C-Suite leader, please know I’m not picking on you. Of course, it’s not just the business leadership that gets this language wrong. But if the leaders aren’t paying attention and setting the stage, then we’re doomed to fail.
Are you, as a leader, using the right language around customer experience? If not, what’s stopping you?
If it’s because you don’t have “Customer Experience” in your title: It doesn’t matter! The words you say matter far more than those in your title. Make them count for your customers.
If it’s because you aren’t sure how to talk about Customer Experience in the best way: Let’s spend 15 minutes getting you clear.
Whatever the case, When you’re sure you’re talking about Customer Experience the right way, you can rest easy in the knowledge that not only are you creating fewer ruined days for your customers™ — you’re creating fewer ruined days for yourself, too.