How to Turn Reactive Customer Experience into Proactive CX

by Jeannie Walters

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Is Your Organization’s Customer Experience Proactive, or Reactive?

Customer Experience is about designing the right experience, actively working to understand customer needs before they tell you, and supporting the backend processes and employees who deliver those experiences.

That is oversimplifying customer experience, but for the sake of a definition, it works.

And while leaders in organizations nod along and agree, many aren’t walking the walk. Customer experience is unintentionally demoted to reactive measures, and before long there’s very little proactive about it.

Is your organization guilty of reactive customer experience?

Examples of Reactive Customer Experience… And How to be Proactive Instead


Reactive CX: Metrics  are Measured for Measurement’s Sake

Watching numbers can be addictive. They go up, we get a thrill! They go down, we feel defeated. But look! They’re up again!

Gathering customer feedback and objectively reviewing cold, hard facts in the form of metrics can be a job in itself. Reviewing, organizing and reporting out data representing how our organization is doing with customers can take hours of work each week.

The result of that work can be really powerful… or it can amount to counting beans.

I’ve watched as leaders actively respond to these reports with earnest, but not very future-focused, responses. “Wow our Customer Satisfaction Rate really went up this week!” or “Looks like our Net Promoter Score took a tumble.”

In a May 2020 Fortune magazine article about Net Promoter Score, The Simple Metric That’s Taking Over Big Business ,  author Geoff Colvin states:

“As NPS becomes ubiquitous, many companies, especially those below an industry’s top tier, have taken to ignoring the first law of NPS—it isn’t about the number—and issuing press releases bragging that they’ve achieved the highest NPS in their industry. Be skeptical of such claims.”

The power of these metrics, of course, is in the insights they provide.

  • What does it mean when your NPS drops during a six-month period?
  • Why is our churn rate going up just a little each month?
  • What is causing the dip in our CSAT after product delivery?

These are the questions metrics need to prompt.

It takes more work, but going beyond the numbers to identify key insights is absolutely critical. Those insights are what can provide us with how to create better experiences for our customers.

 

Proactive CX: Metrics are Treated as the First Lead in a Larger Investigation

How can we turn number-watching into something more proactive?

We need to be detectives. 

The rich data provided by customers is the first ingredient in the art of innovation. The clues in those metrics provide insights into where the customer experience is or isn’t delivering on customer expectations.

We need to report more than just numbers. 

If you’re only reporting numbers, you’re not reporting the most critical information. Once you’ve identified where the customer experience is or isn’t delivering, you need to report that, too.

For example: It could be easy to report “an increase in transactional Customer Satisfaction after an experience with the contact center.” But what’s behind the numbers?

  • Perhaps new contact center training seems to be having an impact.
  • Maybe one specific complaint seems to be resolved based on new options that have been presented for the customer.

Then, we need to take action.

When we understand and communicate the actions that drive the numbers, it becomes easier to adjust those actions, implementing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Instead of guessing what to change, your numbers help you prioritize what to tackle next. Proactive CX leaders take the metrics and look for what actions to take. As a result, they’re not just watching numbers fluctuate — they’re actively driving those numbers towards significant, lasting improvements.


Reactive CX: Journey Maps Live on the Wall for Months or Years

My son’s preschool teachers always stressed the idea of “process over product.” They encouraged parents to avoid focusing on the outcome of an activity. The act of finger painting, for example, wasn’t about a completed painting. The outcome wasn’t what was teaching the children. It was the process that was critical to a child’s growth.

The same rules apply to journey mapping. The process is the power.

Your customer experience is in constant evolution, even if your products or services aren’t currently evolving.

  • The marketplace changes.
  • Customer expectations change.
  • Heck, the whole world changed pretty dramatically in 2020.

But too often, our customer journey maps remain static. When customer journey maps are treated as artifacts instead of tools, they become a historical document. A journey map that lives as an illustration on the wall for an extended period of time isn’t a tool, it’s an artifact.

Why does this tend to happen?

Well, customer journey mapping requires a lot of effort to build from scratch. It’s like running a 5k race —  when you feel like you’ve crossed the finish line, it can be easy to congratulate yourself, call it complete, and head off looking for snacks.

But customer journey mapping is more like training for a marathon. Completing your first customer journey map is a major milestone that should be celebrated… but it’s only one step in a series of consistent, ongoing work.

Proactive CX: Journey Maps Live, Work, and Grow With You

I’m a big fan of journey mapping, but not because I consider myself an archeologist. I’m not interested in artifacts.

Instead, I’m a fan of the process… And that means creating a way to update, learn from, and experiment with journey maps. Because the best journey maps are used to create better experiences, understand specific customer segments, test new products and services, and ultimately deliver more for customers.

That’s not to say it’s easy.

In a recent roundtable discussion , 25% of customer experience leaders reported challenges keeping journey maps simple enough to manage, maintain, share and use.

It’s a delicate balance of creating a tool that is simple enough to use and detailed enough to provide real insights.

But therein lies the beauty of a living, breathing document: You don’t have to get it perfect the first time. By committing to revisit and refine your customer journey maps over time, you free yourself to create something that can serve your organization today and continue to serve you better in the future.

Proactive CX means leveraging what’s learned in journey mapping and applying those insights to innovation. Journey maps can be powerful communication tools. Proactive leaders use journey maps to tell the story that leads to action.


Reactive CX: Treating Customer Service as Separate From Customer Experience

Customer service and support is, by its very nature, reactive. That’s exactly how it should be, as customers need help, support and responsiveness. With that said, contact centers are really CUSTOMER contact centers, and this can’t be ignored.

Contact centers are often treated as transactional parts of the experience. Organizations often house customer service in one part of the organizational structure and customer experience in a totally different part. These two groups may not communicate very often, leading to missed opportunities and customer frustration!

As Deloitte Digital reported in 2019:

“Reality shows that management often has no transparency about the ongoing operations or the outcome of CX initiatives, which can turn these projects into silos. This results in misaligned activities, a waste of already scarce resources and false prioritization.”

Proactive CX: Weaving Customer Service Into the CX Leadership

CX leaders need to connect with Customer Service to hear directly from customers, understand the trends agents are seeing, and provide proactive solutions for customer complaints.

This is more than just the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing. This is about a cycle of communication and ideas.

  • CX leaders who are designing new processes or parts of the journey need to communicate proactively to the customer service leaders.
  • Customer service leaders who are hearing specific feedback need to communicate directly with CX leaders.
  • By collaborating to focus on the customer, these teams can create more efficient and effective processes.

What’s Your Plan to Be Proactive?

Proactive customer experience means connecting dots throughout the organization and the customer’s journey. The above examples are just some of the ways customer experience can end up being a reactive fix instead of a proactive design. But there are many more opportunities to focus on proactive CX.

The foundation of customer experience success includes proactive steps like creating a Customer Experience Mission , defining your Customer Experience Success Statement , and following best practices around customer experience governance. How well is your employee experience designed for this type of customer experience success? What about the technology and tools used?

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to customer experience. Without a plan, it’s easy to slip into a place of doing but not necessarily acting on behalf of the customer.

What’s your plan to be proactive?

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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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