A female manager sticking post-it notes in empathy map on a whiteboard - CX concept
PHOTO: Adobe

Companies are becoming increasingly aware that knowing their customers means growing their business. In fact, an IDC report noted that in 2020, customer experience (CX) has jumped from priority 8 to priority 2 among C-level executives. With numerous options to collect insights from customers, it has become much easier to go from non-existent or bad CX to providing good CX. But only a small percentage of brands manage to take customer experience to greater heights.

So why do companies find it hard to raise CX from good to great? Companies that excel in this area are the ones who make CX a core of their brand identities and take action on implementing a holistic program that closes the customer experience management (CXM) loop.

As we plan for the year ahead, here are my top 5 actions that brands must take to achieve great CX in 2021.

1. Accelerate Your Digital Transformation

The decision to go digital is no longer an option. It’s become imperative that all brands reach and service their customers digitally. Many companies were forced to accelerate their digital transformation this year — much faster than they had planned.

Companies now need new ways to digitally attract customers, enable their entire buying cycle and provide post-sales services. This need has driven numerous organizations to completely redefine their value proposition to customers. Equally critical (as we’ve seen this year) is the ability to digitally seek customer feedback to keep track of their evolving needs. Perhaps a silver lining to 2020 is that it has driven positive digital innovation and progress.

2. Keep Empathy at the Core of Your Values

Now, more than ever, brands must demonstrate empathy toward their customers and employees and pay attention to their frequently changing needs. What your customers required in June may no longer be relevant for them in December. It’s critical to stay in touch with your customers’ pulse, understand what their needs are, how these needs are evolving and remain both responsive and relevant to the changes. This is where agility comes into play.

For example, a prominent UK financial services brand has a robust CXM program in place to gather rich and timely feedback from its customers across a broad range of topics. Their customer insight community allows them to adapt to changes and understand how their customers’ needs are evolving. By gathering rich and continuous customer feedback, they are able to quickly respond to emerging trends or changes in customer behaviours with agility and empathy.

3. Operationalize and Unify Your CX

In many organizations, CX exists in its many little silos, whether in a functional department or a product business unit. Often various teams don’t work cohesively to bring together a 360-degree view of their common customers, resulting in a disjointed and incomplete picture of how customers view their brand.

While it’s important that there be a single, clear owner of a company’s CX initiatives, CX also needs to be a shared responsibility enterprise-wide. Therefore, a key role for a CX leader is to drive cross-functional alignment and collaboration, and ensure every leader understands how all functions in the company contribute to the customer experience. To drive great results, keep a constant focus on performance measurement and listen to your customers in real time.

4. Use Multiple Sources of Feedback To Gain Richer Insights

While direct feedback mechanisms like surveys and insight communities are useful, you must first understand the context of your customers to help inform the insights that they are giving you. How many years have they been your customer? Have they progressively increased the amount of money they spend with your company? Has there been a history of customer dissatisfaction issues? These are the questions you need to explore.

It’s essential to also use other sources to enrich customer insights, such as indirect and inferred feedback. These include gathering online reviews, social media sentiment data, call center data, etc. Look at the customer’s experience holistically and understand the context of every step of their journey because these aren’t one-time events.

5. Take Action on the Voice of Customer

While collecting customer feedback and insights are crucial to improving CX, none of that matters if you don’t put those insights into action. You need to take it further by continuously listening to your customers and promptly acting on the insights you uncover. This concept, known as closed-loop CXM, enables brands to act on their gathered insights both at the operational level — to address process issues across the company — and at an individual level to revive customer loyalty and turn detractors into promoters.

We’re in an era where customer expectations are higher — and more variable — than ever before. As customers continue to become more empowered, brands must focus on driving their CX maturity to create a positive impact on customer loyalty and revenue growth.