Customer Experience Management (CXM) is the latest impossible to define, understand or implement concept coming at the enterprise. We think it might have something to do with Marketing or Customer Support or Metrics. It is owned by the CMO or maybe the COO or IT or Sales. Oh – it’s a corporate-wide initiative. We love those. We have maturity models, so it must be important, and tantalizingly, some organizations are very successful with it.
But what is it? And how do we get a grip on this swirl of a (dare I say wicked?) problem? How do we organize our thoughts and our actions around it to reach that green light at the end of the dock, the customer experience that customers love.
You want to be wanted and valued. You want people to want to associate with you. You want people to think of you as an example. You want them to enjoy your company, so to speak. Because the most financially successful companies are the ones that are cherished. It is more than that, of course. You want to be cherished because, other than a few poikiotherms on the financial strategy team, the people in your organization would rather be great than not.
Interestingly, customers (alternatively known as “users”, or more colloquially, “people”) also want to be cherished. They want to be valued, they want to be accommodated, and they want to get at least fair value out of their investments of time, energy and money.
If you want this kind of emotional response from your customer, you have to convey a dedication to purpose and sense of values that make your brand and your brand experiences meaningful. You have to aspire to be great.
I am proposing a model of CXM that is based on three key principals: Meaning, Value and Accommodation. These principles set up a pattern for thinking about your work that will help your organization make the many small moves on the many, many fronts that will lead to success.
2. Meaning, Value and Accommodation
Research in the 1990’s showed (not surprisingly) that, for consumer brands, the more positively people feel about the brand, the more financially successful the business is. In the newly social world, this is increasingly important. In the case of complex B2B and B2G companies, it is critical. This is why “no one ever got fired for choosing IBM” or Microsoft, for that matter. Malcom Gladwell dubbed this effect “Blink”, Simon Sinek calls it the Golden Circle. This is perhaps even more important when you are not selling to an individual, but to a team -- as is normally the case in B2B and B2C sales. That emotional connection is one of the few shared “truths” of that entire team. This kind of truth makes your brand a very, very good investment.
But what does it mean to invest in your brand in the context of customer experience? It means three things: 1) Meaning 2) value and 3) accommodation -- not always in that order.
Meaning -- What do we mean by meaning? A meaning or a purpose is the notion that your brand and your organization stands for something beyond a simple product or service. That there are values and aspirations you strive to embody and enable. Apple means design, power, cool, simplicity. Buick is the rebirth of Detroit. Levis is about the American experience. Disney is about family friendly entertainment. Zappos is about perfect customer service.
In most cases your aspiration or your meaning comes from a sense of where you’d like to go, and how you’d like to get there. In B2B business, it includes a sense of expertise, leadership and empowerment: expertise in the subject area, leadership in terms of helping customers understand how to move forward, and empowerment in terms of how the technology quality.
Everything you do can embody your meaning. Your website and its contents, your social media presence, your customer service process, your billboards and your billing. Look at each as an opportunity to be meaningful.
Value -- As in any commercial transaction, the buyer should feel as though they are getting good value for the time and/or money they are investing. The measure of this varies widely, but the concept is simple.
Accommodation -- Here’s the key to great customer experience. How easy, comfortable and accommodating is your product, website, customer service, etc? Ease of use, convenience and a sense of being catered to -- of being valued is critical at every stage of the relationship. Do your customers feel as though they are held hostage? Many banks, airlines and cable companies are held in this sort of contempt. To earn devoted customers and fans, make sure your product is a delight to use, and all of the other associated assets -- your website, billing and customer service are equally.
3. Know Your Customer
To truly be valuable and accommodating, you need to know and love your customers. There are several ways you must “know” your customers.
- Intimately understand the market and people involved. Who are these people? What do they do with their time? How do they make decisions? What do they care about? Engage them in conversation -- either through social media or IRL (in real life).
- As much feedback as you can gather about how they feel about you and your products from surveys, conversations, sentiment analysis and more.
- Consistent and accessible customer information so that whenever anyone is talking or otherwise communicating with a customer, they know all they should about that customer’s history and relationship with the company.
- Know your customer experience map. If you want to create a great experience you need to be aware of how your customers needs change at various point in your relationship. As you develop the design and content for each interaction, think through who’s coming to it, at what stage of their relationship, and with what goal in mind. Customer experience maps will vary from business to business, but will have this general shape. Consider your map a cheat-sheet for understanding the impact of each interaction, and what you want that impact to be. In general, you’ll be trying to move them up the slope to a closer relationship. What does this person need from you to move forward?
Customer Experience Map - General shape
4. Build High Quality Experiences
Products, websites, self-service portals, customer communications, customer support, must all reach for excellence in their meaning, value and accommodation. That means that they must do the right things, convey the right message, and do it in the most easy to use way possible. They must each demonstrate a careful consideration of the users needs and preferences.
5. Ensure a Cohesive and Coordinated Experience for Every Customer at Every Stage
If you’re a company of any size, it is not that easy for an individual to know or recall every bit of what you have out there at any time. This is where the principles of meaning, value and accommodation really come in. If everyone on the team is deeply attuned to purpose and message; and the marketing ops, service ops and creative teams have shared resources, capabilities and access, a beautifully consistent and emergent whole can arise. Ensure that everyone understands the customer experience map (and the customer) and takes it into account as they plan and execute.
You may not have perfectly strict, choreographed consistency (or you might, if that’s your thing) -- but that has its upside. It allows for learning and evolution.
6. One Ring to Rule Them All: Your Team
Every word, experience or image you exchange with a customer is created and delivered by your team. Your team is the driver of your customer experience. Interestingly, there are all kinds of interesting data about how employee engagement is a great predictor of customer satisfaction, and then of revenue, and even growth.
This -- in addition to the fact that we all would prefer purposeful, engaging, self-actualized work to mind-numbing, conforming mediocrity -- not to mention the limitless and breathtaking potential for invention and re-imagination that such engaged people have -- is the best argument for investing in your team. Hire good people. Talk to them a lot. And give them fantastic tools for communication, collaboration and the execution of their work. Make certain they are meaningful, valuable, and a pleasure to use. (We also like a good dental plan and coffee.)
The Tempkin Group recently delivered a report that they publicly summarized in this chart. It shows that companies with more engaged employees have better customer satisfaction.
Aberdeen recently published this research (underwritten by my employer, OpenText). It shows that great CXM makes a very big difference indeed, especially, (but not surprisingly), in customer retention.
Roll up your sleeves, there’s work to do. Forrester says excellence here is yet rare. But focus that work on earning the respect and affection of the people who matter -- our customers and ourselves. Enjoy how it feels and what it produces. Be adored.
The best is yet to come.
Editor's Note: More on Customer Experience Management:
- Social Employees: The Driving Force Behind Social Business Success by
- The Seven Hats Content Managers Will Wear in 2012
- Back to Basics: Event Analytics for the Non-Analytical by