I would find it highly unlikely for anyone in marketing or retail to say they haven’t recently read an article related customer experience (CX). The term is popping up everywhere nowadays. We all know the customer’s overall experience with a brand has a significant influence over his/her loyalty, but how do we best go about implementing the infrastructure that will support a focus on optimizing CX?
I had the unique opportunity in my latest role to create and operate a comprehensive CX practice within a complex manufacturing, retail and wholesale organization offering many customer touchpoints. It was a “case study” in learning — i.e., what to do and not do. An opportunity to start with nothing and create a team, develop processes, and deploy supporting technology.
If you're thinking about or are in the middle of creating a CX practice within your organization, you might consider the following in your efforts. I found these to be key in my own personal success.
10 Key Things to Consider in Developing Your CX Practice
- Set CX as a priority at the executive level. It starts at the top. Your CEO, president and leadership team must agree that CX becomes a corporate goal and priority before attempting anything else on this list. Failure to do so will prevent your chances of success.
- Engage ALL areas and functions of the organization. You'll naturally gravitate to include the more customer-facing departments of your company (e.g., marketing, sales, customer service), but don’t forget to include representatives from merchandising, manufacturing and fulfillment in your CX strategy development. They need to be aware of and understand how their activities and actions can influence and impact your brand’s overall experience.
- Establish formal ownership and resources. Strategies, processes and goals without owners typically don’t result in completion or success. Creating a CX practice is no different. You must identify someone and/or a team within your organization who will be accountable for the results of your CX initiative. Due to the holistic nature of CX, it might be best to establish ownership outside of existing departments to help ensure an unbiased view of the various areas of the organization that have influence over aspects of brand experience.
- Address communications and experiences holistically. Marketing is intended to drive an action or response. Make sure you think about and strongly consider the result of this action. Where are you driving the customer? What's the experience your marketing is taking them to? Was the customer satisfied with the experience? Your marketing strategy must be comprehensive and holistic — the action driver, the experience the action delivers, and the level of satisfaction with the ultimate experience.
- Conduct deep customer research. Gain as much insight into your customer base as possible. Segment if possible, as different segments of your customer base will likely have different expectation and needs of your brand. You’ll likely have a depth of data around transactions, but go a little deeper to understand customer motivations as well as relevant lifestyle and behavioral insights. Speak to your customers. Go into the field, leverage brief surveys, or even conduct focus groups to learn as much as you can to optimize the experience you hope to provide.
- Capture customer feedback. Listen to your customers and proactively respond to and address issues and challenges. Implement easy mechanisms to capture customer feedback across all brand touchpoints. Don’t ask the customer to answer too many questions. Keep it simple. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a somewhat universal approach to quick and actionable customer feedback, and is fairly easy to deploy. While you're capturing and monitoring feedback over time, make sure you've identified and established the appropriate resources and processes to provide adequate service recovery for customers who experience brand friction. Make sure you monitor the customer satisfaction levels of your service recovery efforts as well. Lastly, if you have a call center, record select calls that represent “poor” brand experiences and play them back to your organization. It’s a great way to expose service pain points and will motivate your company to better understand, address and develop resolutions.
- Leverage technology when and where possible. Technology can help, but may not always be available. Advanced CRM systems can provide significant support for your CX efforts, but can be very expensive. At a minimum, monitor changes in your customer base over time — e.g., average purchase and time since last purchase. Augment this with some measure of satisfaction (NPS score) so you're able to correlate changes in revenue to changes in satisfaction.
- Map key customer journeys. Thoroughly understand the key experiences customers have with your brand. It can become overwhelming if you attempt to understand and document each experience your customers have. Start with the ones that occur most frequently — e.g., order placement online or over the phone, the return or exchange process, etc. Involve all team members who play a role in these processes as you seek to identify potential challenges and pain points. Most importantly, look at each journey or experience through the eyes of the customer as well as from an internal perspective. Leverage your internal viewpoint to identify potential drivers of experiential friction.
- Establish a comprehensive set of CX metrics. Make data-driven decisions regarding your CX efforts. Establish appropriate customer-centric metrics to assess the level of satisfaction customers have regarding your brand experience. Utilize retention-oriented analytics like churn and lifetime value. Leverage NPS score, call-center service levels, and insights from surveys. Also, consider metrics affiliated with fulfillment — e.g., processing time, speed of delivery, etc. Every business is different. Ask the customer what's important to him/her when it comes to the “best” service and employ metrics that will allow you to effectively assess your success rate.
- Ensure the customer is ALWAYS the primary focus. You may have heard the concept of placing an empty chair in meeting rooms to represent the customer in planning or strategy meetings. Not a bad idea. If that's what it takes for your organization to maintain a steadfast focus on your customer, then I suggest you do it. You, your marketing team and the entire organization must consistently prioritize the customer. Always ask questions like the following: Does the customer want this? Will this message be relevant to the customer? Will the customer find this experience satisfying?
Establishing a CX practice in your organization will require significant time, effort and diligence. Make sure your company is behind you on this effort. Educate the C-suite. Illustrate the impact of a satisfying and relevant experience on customer loyalty and revenue growth. Leadership will have a hard time refuting the data you provide that correlates improving service and customer satisfaction to revenue growth.
Above all, be patient and methodical. The final result and impact on your customer, his/her loyalty, and the overall revenue will be well worth it.
If you're about to start or are in the middle of building your CX practice and would like to share thoughts and ideas, please reach out. I would love to connect and discuss.
Kevin Metz recently served as chief marketing and digital officer for Stuller, an international manufacturer, distributer and retailer of fine jewelry and associated products, services and software.
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Kevin Metz recently served as Chief Marketing and Digital Officer for Stuller, a large international manufacturer, distributer and retailer of fine jewelry and associated products, services and software. He was responsible for the company’s branding, marketing, digital, events, sales and customer experience strategies and programs. Prior to this, Kevin held marketing leadership roles with a number of large omni-channel retail brands including ULTA Beauty, Yankee Candle, The Limited and Bass Pro Shops.
Kevin is currently seeking his next leadership opportunity in branding, marketing, digital and/or customer experience. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.