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Four Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience Strategy

The world is moving fast, and the customer experience world is no exception.

I have prioritized staying connected and learning everything I can about the technology and systems that impact our experiences. Conferences, gatherings, and learning opportunities have been essential for helping me see the difference between the flash and the facts.

These events provide some of my favorite opportunities to connect with fellow customer experience change makers, unpack our challenges, and provide much-needed group support.

I’ve been fortunate to attend a handful already this year, including the recent Qualtrics X4 Summit. This massive conference brings together 10,000+ experience management professionals to discuss what’s next, share case studies, and more.

Across the sessions and my hallway discussions, I noticed a few themes kept coming up:

  • Data Silos: Breaking down data silos and integrating disparate sources of customer data remains a significant challenge for many organizations.
  • Change Management: Implementing large-scale experience transformations often requires overcoming cultural resistance and fostering buy-in across all levels of an organization (which is no easy feat!).
  • Privacy and Trust: As organizations collect and leverage more customer data, maintaining privacy and building trust is a critical concern.

These challenges aren’t too surprising, considering our teams have faced them since the dawn of customer experience. But we now have new technologies and an evolving success playbook that make it possible to overcome these hurdles and supercharge your customer experience.


Improving Your Customer Experience Strategy – Lessons From CX Leaders

To learn more about the challenges CX teams are facing and how leaders are driving their programs forward, I spoke with four change makers at the show who offered an inside look at their successes. They shared the following advice:

Give Customers Power Over Their Experience

Maggie Gentry, Director of Experience Analytics at Community Health Network, started asking patients what their experience expectations are, and it has helped her team deliver better experiences faster.

The team consolidated its many experience management functions into the Office of Transformation, which empowers employees with customer insights and data. They strive to meet patients where they are and design experiences around their preferences.

“There is no sole office or one sole individual that owns the experience anymore. We refer to ourselves as caregivers, and everybody in the network is a caregiver because we all touch patients and we can all influence patients.”

(How great is the term caregiver, by the way? This applies to not just the medical professionals but everyone on staff. This means those who schedule appointments for patients, clean the rooms, or valet park their cars are caregivers, too. I love the idea of how communication and “titles” can empower people across the organization to give everyone a better experience.)

“We consolidated all of our experience management into the Office of Transformation. We empowered and democratized our data and said front-line leaders, this is what you need to do to make an impact.”

They have found as an organization that leveraging location-based insights helps them provide more personalized service. And they focus on asking their patients what’s important to them.

“We’re really trying to understand what the patient needs are and how to meet them where they are. Healthcare has always been ‘Patients, you come to us.’ And we’re trying to look at it differently and say we’ll come to you and let’s meet you where you want to be met.”

This also means focusing on the providers. Sharing positive feedback on a regular basis is inspiration that helps prevent burnout.

Customer insights can now drive changes at every level of the organization. And by aligning CX metrics with key business metrics, Maggie’s team has created powerful visibility and responsibility for achieving those goals.

“We’re starting to look at the data a little differently and really changing our approach. Three of our five network-incentivized metrics are now patient experience metrics, which is incredible. Folks are really inspired to change these. And if they can impact what the board is looking at, that trickles all the way down to the front line.”

And that means listening to the customer and providing what’s most important to them becomes one of their definitions of success.


Create an Ongoing Customer Feedback Cycle

Jignesh Shah, Vice President of Products and GTM Leader at Blackhawk Network, reinforced how ongoing feedback collection enables real-time changes for customers and employees alike.

“The inflection point came when we realized we get a lot of great information back from our customers — Why are we doing it only once a year? Could we go to a motion where this is ongoing feedback?”

His team used Qualtrics to create listening posts and more actively ask customers for feedback, significantly scaling what they could accomplish before. This also provides more timely insights for them to address issues or scale their successes.

“We went from ad hoc feedback collection to ongoing feedback collection. So now we’re getting a few hundred customers responding on a monthly basis. And now we are not waiting 12 months to see a trend or a problem, right? We see it in close to real-time and the right people are notified.”

The customer feedback also adds perspective to other business metrics.

“The big impetus is: Can the listening post provide a direct customer perspective and context to the behavior we are seeing in the other instrumentation we have around the business?”

Jignesh’s leadership team meets monthly to review the customer feedback and identify issues with the customer journey. Importantly, they assign one function to take ownership of each issue. This strategy is perfect for driving ongoing improvements… just don’t approach your customers with surveys that impede their experience, Jignesh warned.

“Less than a third of customers who have a negative experience bother providing [feedback], and that number can go down if you don’t make it easy to get the feedback from them. We have to be careful with how often we ask for feedback. And when we ask for feedback, we have to make it matter.”


Build Your CX Foundation as an Organization

Suraj “SUV” Venkitachalam, Senior Director, Customer Voice Strategy and Execution at Cisco, attributes his team’s CX success to the alignment they’ve driven in the organization.

“There’s a culture component to it, a conscious culture change around how we think about customers. How we think about putting them and their voice in the center of everything we do as an organization.”

Cisco is a large and growing company with a wealth of data at its disposal. That said, SUV knows that data access does not mean data intelligence.

“As an organization that grows both organically and inorganically through a number of acquisitions, how do we bring together all of that data so—as mentioned in this morning’s keynote—we don’t stay data rich but insights poor.” (Brad Anderson, president, products, user experience, and engineering for Qualtrics used this memorable phrase in his keynote that morning.)

SUV has focused on streamlining how the company listens to its customers, which required him to inventory Cisco’s listening tools and channels.

“I’ve been with Cisco for 2.5 years and a great part of that time has been streamlining how we’ve listened to our customers across the entire organization and show up as we call ‘One Cisco.’ That transformation journey started with taking inventory of all the different kinds of listening that we had and understanding how we can drive consistency.”

With this foundation laid, SUV led a customer journey mapping session to realign the entire company on how customers navigate their journey.

“For every touchpoint, interaction point, or moment of truth across the journey, we joined hands with our broader customer teams and had a journey mapping exercise. We were able to map the overall customer journey, to which we added a number of touchpoints where appropriate. And we continue to adaptively manage that.”

The organization now has an agreed-upon definition of success and a fresh look at the customer journey, too!

“The decision was made to have a Cisco NPS that covers the entire experience with Cisco, regardless of whether you are a customer for one product or multiple products or services.”

From here, SUV sees great potential to refine the customer listening strategy and use those insights to fuel the overarching customer experience strategy.

“Customers talk about us whether we ask them for feedback or not. We should be able to bring that in, learn from that, and incorporate that into our holistic view of what our customers think about us.”


Align Your Culture With Experience

Alpa Vyas, Senior Vice President, Chief Patient Experience and Operational Performance Officer at Stanford Health Care, reflected on how her team upleveled the insights they needed and used them to drive a cultural change.

“What I was hearing was: We don’t have information that is as real-time as we’d like. And the information we do have is not precise enough for us to design good improvement projects around.”

Interviews and surveys became an integral part of her patient experience strategy. With a better understanding of what patients and care professionals expect and need, Alpa’s team saw the opportunity to apply these insights and fundamentally change how the team works.

“We interviewed patients, family members, care team members, physicians, and administrators around what actually matters. We learned a lot and started designing our own surveys. Once our questionnaire is developed, it goes out in real time, and we get data back within one or two days.”

Importantly, Alpa documented what the patient experience should be and detailed how all team members can fulfill the experience mission.

“When we first actively started on our patient experience improvement journey, it was really about implementing a communication and behavioral framework. How do we actually interact with patients and their families and, oh, by the way, each other? We made sure that every staff member was trained and any new employee coming in knew the expectations were there.”

The team partnered closely with physicians to help them improve their care quality using direct patient feedback.

“We started to think about if we could start a pilot program of physicians who, once they saw feedback from patients, they wanted to do something about it. Those who participated, not only did their outcomes improve from a patient experience standpoint, they had better well-being and engagement with their work. Because we were actually trying to give them tools to make those interactions better.”

Alpa’s program scaled and her team started receiving requests from other team members seeking new customer experience resources. By staying consistent, Alpa has created a system that ensures ongoing experience refinement.

“It really is transformational in building this into the culture. You have to keep focused at it. Culture is very fragile, and if you don’t tend to it, it has the potential to fade away in the background.”


Taking Your Customer Experience to the Next Level

Each of these customer and patient experience leaders is accomplishing incredible things at their organization, and those changes are driving a real difference in their customers’ lives.

As you seek to improve your own CX strategy, I hope their stories help you overcome your challenges and uncover your opportunities faster. As a starting point: Look at your customer listening strategy, and see how you can more actively seek or apply these insights.

If you’re looking for more strategies to improve your customer experience strategy, download my free quick-start guide to customer experience leadership .

About Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CSP

Jeannie Walters CCXP CSP small square photoJeannie is an award-winning customer experience expert, international keynote speaker, and sought-after business coach who is trailblazing the movement from “Reactive Customer Service” to “Proactive Customer and Employee Experience.” More than 500,000 people have learned from her CX courses on LinkedIn Learning, and her insights have been featured in Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and NPR

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