This blueprint needs the same methodical thought and processes that goes into a marketing or sales strategy.
It’s common for me to open my keynote speaking engagements by asking the audience two questions, so I can gain context around where they are at in their customer experience development plans. The first question is:
“Please raise your hand if you have created a marketing plan in your career to attract new customers.”
It’s typical for at least 75% of the room to raise their hands proudly.
The second question is as follows:
“Now, raise your hand if you have ever created a customer experience plan to acquire and retain new customers.”
I would estimate that only 2 to 5% of my audience has ever raised their hand.
You see, we are beginning to understand that customer experience must be a pillar in our business to become successful. What I’m hearing executives say when I work with companies is:
“What do we do next to improve our customer experience?”
Recognizing that this is a common question for many business professionals, from around the world, I hosted a webinar on this very topic on October 6th titled “5 Things Your Customer Experience Strategy Needs to be Successful.” You can download the recording of the webinar by clicking here. With 175 professionals from around the world having registered, I knew that this was a very important topic and needed answers.
#1 – An Operational Flag-Bearer
You’ve heard it before: the CEO of the organization must lead the company’s customer experience. Let’s look for some evidence. Richard Branson visibly advocates customer experience at Virgin, Tony Hsieh promotes the experience at Zappos and Howard Schultz proudly defends Starbucks’ efforts.
RELATED VIDEO – Why the Best CEOs Invest in Customer Experience
While these CEOs are often in the media, talking about the company’s customer experience, they usually aren’t doing the work. That is why I included the word “operational” in this point. If an organization is going to have a strategic plan, it needs a leader that will get in the trenches, lead operational teams, and work on the strategy and deployment of the program.
To be successful, this leader needs a customer experience background or a burning desire to learn and lead. When my customer experience career began at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I didn’t have a formal background in customer experience. However, I compensated for this lack of formal education by self-educating myself for thousands of hours, learning from other organizations and discovering best practices.
This single point of accountability (SPA) must attend industry events to learn from others and continuously educate themselves. Here is a short list of great customer experience events from around the world.
- The IQPC hosts several premium customer experience and customer service events around the world.
- CXPA is a leading association for customer experience professionals, hosting events for both members and non-members.
- You may recognize Salesforce for their massive event, Dreamforce, but did you know that they also host events focused on customer service? Check the lists of their events here.
- Aspect, a leading contact/call centre software provider, host an event titled ACE. While the date and location have yet to be announced, be sure to keep your eyes open for when it is.
- Frost & Sullivan host contact centre and customer experience events in cities around the world.
- Clarabridge hosts a yearly event in London called ‘Customer Connections’ that I’ve heard great things about.
Note: I would like to put together an exhaustive list of yearly customer experience events to share with my clients and email subscribers. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know of your annual event.
RELATED POST – 4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer-Focused CEOs
The CEO doesn’t have to lead, but they do have to believe in the influence customer experience has on the success of a business. Similar to marketing, sales, or business development, customer experience needs an operating budget, and it must be respectful enough to influence positive change. Your operational leader is going to need a budget to hire her team, purchase SaaS software, and cover other operational needs like an employee engagement budget.
#2 – Vision
If I wanted to drive from Vancouver (where I’m based) to Miami, Florida, I could do one of two things:
a) Get in my car and head southeast, hoping I get there in a decent amount of time and without spending too much on gas.
b) I could build a plan before I start my trip and well before I start driving. By doing so, I will get there faster and I’ll be well-rested (because I would have planned what states I would stay overnight in a hotel), all without spending too much on gas.
Ultimately, planning and having a vision for how you’re going to accomplish something helps you actually accomplish the goal rather than flying by the seat of your pants. Building a customer experience strategy is no different – you need a plan!
To build your vision, one that will help you succeed, you must ask yourself the following five questions:
- What is your strategy’s definition of success?
- How will you measure success?
- Who is a part of the customer experience team?
- Who will do what by when?
- What is the operating budget?
Nearly ten years ago, when I first started my career in customer experience, I selected five companies that had a world-class focus on customer experience and I committed to studying the inner workings of their organizations. I did this because it helped me understand how a company goes from vision to execution. When building your customer experience strategy, I highly recommend selecting three companies and study everything about them: read everything you can online (i.e. research papers, articles, etc.), watch YouTube videos where their CEOs are interviewed, and even go as far as calling them and asking if you can visit their headquarters to ask questions. Even to this day, I still study as much as I did in the early days so I can understand what world-class companies are doing.
#3 – Alignment
Nearly all companies believe they are aligned; after all, admitting that you’re not is not something you want to showcase. Not being aligned will prevent you from having a customer experience that will rival the best. In fact, I believe it’s impossible to have an exceptional customer experience without true alignment.
I was recently working with a bank and one of their executives told me a story that showed him that his team wasn’t aligned. The story goes something like this.
His marketing team created a campaign that, on the surface, was a success. It increased the amount of savings accounts that their target customers opened with his bank by 15%. While the marketing team was literally pouring champagne, the company’s call centre was singing a different tune.
You see, the marketing team neglected to inform the call centre management team that this initiative was being created. The influx of calls, which was generated by the marketing campaign, increased call volume by 30%, which the call centre wasn’t properly staffed for.
(As an aside, call centre workforce management teams don’t receive enough recognition for the important work they do. They are the glue that holds the machine together!)
While the marketing department was celebrating, the call centre and customers, particularly the ones who had to wait for 15 to 30 minutes to get through, were regretting their efforts and misalignment.
You see, these are some of the things that can happen within ANY organization. It may have even happened to you.
To create alignment, the first step I recommend is for your company to host a Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) workshop. If you’re not familiar, a CJM session is where your company comes together (with at least one person representing each department) and collectively map out the entire customer journey. To have you think differently, break the group up into smaller teams and have every group outline each customer touch point. At the end of the session, each group should present their findings. It’s very common that this will be where you find that your team isn’t aligned, as each group outlines a different customer experience.
Note: There are many other steps that go into hosting a CJM workshop, but, for sake of brevity, I’ve highlighted a few key steps.
This session isn’t run to simply show misalignment. Rather, the purpose is to bring awareness to an opportunity that can be resolved as a team. Whether it’s your organization, or a professional sports team, company alignment matters, particularly when it comes to creating a customer experience strategy.
#4 – Measure Through Metrics
I’m a fan of Net Promoter Score (NPS) because I’ve had success with it for years! I understand there are NPS naysayers, but the ones I meet tend to have weak arguments. Do I believe that NPS is the be-all-end-all? Not at all. But I do recommend that it be integrated as part of your customer experience strategy.
If you’re motivated to look and feel better, you would workout and eat healthy. To measure success, you may weigh yourself or have a body fat percentage test done.
Customer experience is no different, in that you must measure your success. NPS is a great way to do so. The reasons I recommend my clients use NPS is for the following reasons:
- It has a low barrier of deployment and doesn’t take too much effort to begin using it within your company.
- All team members, regardless of business acumen, can understand it.
- It’s very actionable (when you do it right).
- It’s easy to find trends (when you categorize verbatim comments properly).
Whether you’re using NPS today or not, I would highly recommend you look into bringing it into your organization to listen to your customers’ needs, wants, and aversions better.
#5 – Invest in Education
My team built Experience Academy, my online customer experience course, for a few reasons. One of them was that we didn’t believe there was premium customer experience education available online for people around the world.
Earlier I told you that I still spend hours, roughly 2 to 4 hours each day, studying and investing in my education, even after I have achieved success.
Because my biggest concern is that I will become irrelevant to my clients and audience when I speak at an event. I don’t want to be that guy who tells the same old stories and becomes forgettable. I take pride in knowing about the latest software or companies who are customer experience leaders before my competition.
If you want your company’s customer experience strategy to be the best then you must invest in your own education. There are several affordable ways to invest in your education:
- Read books
- Attend conferences
- Join LinkedIn groups and engage on social media
- Join associations
But, by far, the best resource to invest in your education is online courses. According to Forbes, the online course market hit $57 billion in 2014 – and it’s expected to DOUBLE in 2015. Statistics like these are not why I believe in online courses though. The primary reason why I recommend using online courses to invest in your education is because, if the course is built correctly, then you are able to take action on the education. It’s often more valuable than simply reading a book because, in most cases, the course will allow you to watch videos, download resources, and take end-of-module quizzes to ensure you retained the knowledge.
Extra – Learn How to Properly Survey Your Customers
To create a customer experience strategy that will support the growth of your company and make you an admired brand you absolutely MUST have a well-thought out plan. Without a plan, you simply have a desire; regardless of how badly you want to achieve your goal, it won’t happen unless you take a methodical approach.
On November 3rd, I will be hosting another webinar titled Why Your Customers Aren’t Filling Out Your Survey (and How to Fix That). Click here to register (it’s free)! Be sure to share the link with your colleagues who you believe should attend.