How To Prioritize Customer Experience Efforts

by Jeannie Walters

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Customer Experience requires action… and action requires effort.

Customer experience efforts lead to lists of action items. And those lists can get long!

Creating a CX strategy means having a plan to execute that requires getting other leaders and teams on board with an aligned mission.

Customer journey mapping efforts lead to areas to improve and challenges to overcome.

Simply listening to customers regularly leads to complaints that could be the impetus for large improvement efforts.

Yet who is to say what’s most important?

This gets tricky quickly in customer experience. CX leaders can’t simply decide on their own where the organization will spend money or invest resources. They can’t unilaterally change a culture or implement a new technology because of one insight from a journey mapping session or a well-worded customer complaint.

And when they try to align others, it can become an internal battle of budgets and attention. The CMO wants the priority on email lists. While the Customer Service leaders are begging for better ways to access customer data.

What are the best ways to prioritize customer experience efforts?

Not surprisingly, it comes back to keeping the customer at the center of these efforts while aligning them to larger organizational goals and outcomes. Regardless of how you tactically prioritize, you first need to ensure you have a centralized view of successful customer experience at your organization.

That means having a CX Mission Statement and a CX Success Statement are vital to prioritizing well.

Even if you don’t have these foundational tools, you can still use these techniques to prioritize improvements to your customer’s journey and your CX organizational success.

Three ways to prioritize Customer Experience efforts

Here are three ways to prioritize CX efforts when it feels hard to do so!

1. Use a priority matrix.

It’s easy to say things like “prioritize what’s most aligned with your goals” and then leave it at that. But if you have a long list of improvements to make, some will be easier to complete than others.

It can be tempting to prioritize all the quick wins and just pretend those big, scary changes will happen someday. If you KNOW your current digital experience is broken, and you have the data and insights to show how important it is to address, then a matrix can help others see why it might be worth the investment to change.

A matrix is a bit of a “back of the napkin” approach to this, but it can be a great way to get everyone on the same page about what’s most important.

We’ve included this matrix in our Customer Journey Mapping Workbook because we find this works very well in a post-mapping discussion.

The matrix is also very helpful in keeping a CX team accountable. Just like with a CX Charter document, a CX Priority Matrix can quickly communicate why certain programs and efforts are prioritized. A matrix also encourages discussion focused on the customer, regardless of the department or internal silo.

2. Start with voting.

When you have cross-functional support or a team dedicated to CX efforts, it’s critical to keep them engaged in the decision-making around priorities. One way to do this is to invite each person to vote on what efforts they think are most important to address.

One of my favorite ways to do this after journey mapping is to brainstorm and get specific first.

Ask: which of these efforts is solving our top challenges?

Then get specific about what actions will be needed.

For example: if a top challenge is responsiveness time to customer requests, stating the solution as “improve responsiveness time” isn’t clear enough to help everyone understand what action to take. Sometimes the next action is simply figuring out how to solve the problem.

So the action might be “track responsiveness times for two weeks” and then “create standards for acceptable responsiveness times.”

These actions might require a small task force or could be owned by one person.

Create a single page of description for this and either hang it on the wall (if you’re in person) or create a whiteboard virtually. Then do that for each issue that is identified as “important.”

I’ve seen this lead to rooms with 50+ ideas for improvement that various team members think are important!

Give everyone in the room a few sticky flags which they use for voting. They get 5 only. 3 Green, 1 Yellow and 1 Red.

A vote with a green flag means they think it’s one of the most important places to put effort and resources.

A vote with a yellow flag means they think it’s not as important as the green ones, but they’d be ok if this became a priority.

A vote with a red flag means they don’t think this is worth the effort to invest time or energy.

After a few minutes, survey what you have. Find the top vote-getters and narrow down the list. Review the options available now and then give each voter just ONE green flag. They vote on their top choice and the very top vote earners become a unified, aligned list of top priorities.

For extra credit, assign a project owner right there. They are responsible for creating the task force, reporting on actions, and being accountable to make the changes.

3. Invite customers to help.

Plenty of customer experience priority lists seem great – until you ask the customer. They might tell you that while eventually an improved product return system would be great, TODAY they really need a better way to manage their deliveries.

You can certainly do this by tapping into a Customer Advisory Board if you have one, or survey a select group of customers. Their feedback might surprise you.

Or you can invite some customers to give you their vote. Starbucks created My Starbucks Idea in the mid-2000’s and collected ideas directly from customers, who could then vote these ideas up and down. The mobile drive-through and cake pops are just a few of the ideas that earned enough votes to become reality!

There are many ways to do this, and it doesn’t have to be as complex as a customer community or special app. Simply asking customers what their preference would be out of a few top ideas can help the leaders in your organization see how important it is to invest in one area of the experience.

An independent bookstore asked customers at checkout if they’d rather have gift wrapping available or curbside pickup during the holidays. Curbside pickup won but not by a lot. So the bookstore prioritized the curbside pickup process, but invited a local charity to set up a table for gift wrapping for donations.

Finite resources make prioritization key.

Not everything is either/or. Prioritization is crucial in any business because we only have so many people, dollars or hours in the day.

Leveraging the right ways to prioritize CX efforts will lead to the best outcomes that customer experience can bring – happier customers, engaged employees, higher revenue and successful businesses.

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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, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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