Building and executing on a customer experience (CX) strategy is one of the most pressing areas of business modernization. The Internet has created new interaction models and channels, as well as created an expectation of immediacy. Companies are struggling to keep up with the expectations and new interaction models. The explosion of new and changing communication channels and methods adds to the complexity and makes consistent response to customers challenging. 

It's not all negative though, there are a lot of interesting opportunities for businesses that sort out these changes quickly and can become a source of competitive advantage. When surveyed businesses report that consistency of message is one of the biggest challenges. The only way to get to consistency is to operate in a way that creates enough transparency and connectedness that employees can see and understand what is being and has been said to a customer. This is vey different from the silo'ed and hierarchical approach that most businesses use today. In that sense the business modernization efforts in CX are interrelated to many of the other areas, particularly workforce transformation. 
I’ve written about CX quite a bit over the past few years, here are a few of those posts and presentations (strategy, data and CX, CX and transformation, customer service, collaboration and CX - only a small sample) for reference. In building a comprehensive CX strategy I think it’s critical to start with the data and then work through people, process and technology. That will probably be common advice through the whole series, but with CX, it really is the foundation for the strategy. So what are the most common data issues? Here are  a few:

  • Data is silo’ed / not integrated. This can be the result of applications that are not integrated, particularly in organizations where the business units have purchased specialty systems as point solutions to business issues. Not that this isn’t an understandable situation, it’s just that integration is a critical part of system management and often can’t be done without the participation of the IT organization. 
  • Incomplete data
  • Data quality
  • Customer identity

Data sources:

  • Listening tools
  • Transaction systems
  • Engagement or interaction systems
  • Mobile applications / devices
  • Customer community
  • Data clouds / external providers

What to do to address data issues:

  • Comprehensive integration approach
  • SMM tools
  • Purchase data to complete picture
  • Engage IT

Once you have worked through the data issues it’s useful to do an exercise that I’ve called CX modeling. This is a modification to the traditional customer journey mapping exercise that many marketing organizations have undertaken. The key difference is in identifying both the potential interaction points and triggers and the potential engagement actions that might drive the intended outcomes. For more on this process you can refer to this post (part series). In post two of that series I talked about building the model, I'll repost that here since it's extremely relevant to this conversation.

Generally building the model uses this process:

  1. Define stakeholders

  2. Define data sources (really critical to make the model data driven. Collecting as much social and transaction data about your customers to use a basis for the model is critical)

  3. Data collection

  4. Data analysis

  5. Output / fill in detail tactics in the matrix

  6. Continuous feedback and refinement

One of the biggest pitfalls of mapping or modeling exercises is the porblem of projecting. We all have the tendency to project our own understanding or bias onto any analysis. In may types of analysis this is very useful but in this particular instance it is problematic. You'll notice the model process is ripe with data steps and this is really the underpinning of and the key driver of a successful model. Basing the model on customer data or "fact" will minimize the problem of projecting and instead help the team to build the model from the customer perspective. The data leads you to identifying and understanding the customer behavior that will trigger a specific set of actions (or action choices) and hopefully drive outcomes that are favorable to your business.

The second type of silo that is a road block to successful CX strategies are organizational. Organizational silos create collaboration and communication issues for customers by restricting interaction between employees and partners. In other words employees (and partners) don't have the capability to see across all customer communications and interactions so they cannot help ensure consistency. Inconsistent communication and actions is one of the biggest problems reported by customers (and by companies building a CX strategy) according to the IDC CXIT survey conducted earlier this year. Breaking down organizational silos is cultural and administrative but can also be assisted by transparent collaboration tools like enterprise social networks (ESN). Collaboration needs to be baked into everything from management and executive messaging to pay and incentives.

The other big employee / partner barrier to effective CX strategies is training. All employees and partners need to be educated on the CX model (the appropriate parts for their specific role that is) and understand their role in executing on providing a good CX. Customer "facing" isn't just in sales, customer service and marketing but reaches throughout the company. One approach that can help reinforce that new CX role is bringing the voice of the customer into the ESN via the customer community. In fact the customer community can play several important roles in the execution of a comprehensive CX program, including:

  • Provide visibility for employees and partners into customer opinions, ideas (existing and new product and features), and issues
  • Provide a convenient place to introduce prospects where existing customers can share experiences and information (part of the prospect education process)
  • Help fill in missing customer profile data
  • Capture useful product / service content for reuse
  • Provide peer to peer support to improve CX and help existing company support processes
  • Provide direct marketing and product feedback

A CX strategy impacts a wide variety of business processes across the company. A part of building the strategy (and part of implementing the technology solutions that support it) is integrating processes across business functions. In particular the traditional "front office" processes like marketing, sales and support have to be tied into "back office" functions like finance, operations, product development, logistics, etc.

There are many technologies that can be a part of an effective CX strategy. Probably the most important technology is integrating systems across the company to eliminate data silos and communication silos. In addition companies can incorporate technologies like:

  • Community platform(s)
  • Social media monitoring and management
  • Integration / social network management with customer service systems
  • ESN
  • Social marketing automation
  • Sales intelligence and enablement tools to get contextual information to sales in real time
  • Learning and training for onboarding and ongoing employee education
  • Talent and performance management that includes CX defined role definitions, position descriptions, and competencies as well as collaboration and CX driven incentives
  • Embedded analytics tools, particularly enabling real time mobile analysis of a broad set of customer and company data
  • Mobile CX applications that provide a specific CX strategy defined set of customer capabilities (these mobile apps are very specific to each industry and individual business)

What can you do now? Well, there's no magic recipe for building out a complete strategy. The hardest thing is to get goals established that support the effort of building a strategy that is far reaching enough to really make a difference. If you have organizational support for the effort it will take (no small task, but absolutely essential) then there are a few obvious places to start:

  1. Do an overall and quick assessment to determine any critical failure areas taht could dramatically improve CX in the short term while building and implementing a more comprehensive strategy (which needs to be, and most likely would have to be rolled out in phases over time). These quick fixes might be communication channels, support focused, implementing a customer community and peer to peer support process, using an ESN to "integrate" people and/or data across current silos, etc.
  2. Usually the best place to start the more strategic CX process is to focus on a few types of data: a. complete customer profile and data model, b. collecting "as is" data to use as a baseline for defining the improvements including current processes, customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), c. employee and partner satisfaction data, d. business and market benchmarks
  3. Analyze collected data and build a team and plan to use that data as the foundation of the CX strategy. The team must be cross-organizational and cross-functional. 

From these three "simple" steps (which honestly will take quite a bit of effort and time), you will have a plan to start executing. I won't go through all the project management how-to's, that's not the point of this post, but suffice it to say that this is a big, and important project that deserves the support (people, capital, technology, etc.) and formal project process that will ensure its success. In post three I'll look at commerce.