Under the leadership of Pericles, from 495 to 429 B.C., the Athenian Golden Age blossomed. Pericles was responsible for many of the buildings that still sit atop the acropolis today, including the Parthenon, and was known for democratizing many aspects of society, including subsidizing theater admissions for the poorer citizens of Athens and instituting pay for jury duty. In a famous speech, Pericles praised democratic principles and noted that when decisions were in the hands of the many instead of the few, excellence was often attained. 

A growing number of companies are democratizing CX, which is taking customer data, insights, engagement activity and interaction results and putting them in the hands of the many — including all departments, stakeholders and employees in an effort to improve customer experience.

Three Actions to Take for Democratizing CX

Before gaining any benefits from democratizing CX, there are three initial actions brands must take, according to Jonathan Moran, SAS head of martech solutions marketing and a CMSWire Contributor:

  1. Democratize data through a unified customer data repository. If customer data isn’t shared across the organization, the ripple effects are nearly impossible to overcome. Customer communication is ad-hoc, internal expectations are set and then missed, and customer dissatisfaction abounds. Creating and maintaining a centralized data repository, such as a customer data platform to enable all customer data to be imported, appended and then acted on. Many brands still struggle to complete this task.
  2. Similarly, the brand needs to democratize insights for all employees. That means providing them with insight into customer sentiment, customer value, customer loyalty scores and other metrics. Knowing this information will result in much smoother CX. For instance, knowing a customer has called five times in the last week to inquire about an out-of-stock item or product defect will change the tone and handling of the conversation.
  3. Democratize the ability to act. Front-line employees should have the ability to act — in order to improve CX. These actions could include providing a discount, overriding a process, waiving a fee and expediting a claim.

Related Article: Put Your Things Together for an Awesome Customer Experience

Democratize the Customer Experience Technology Stack

According to Kelsey Balimtas, HubSpot global CX manager, "Democratizing CX means embedding insights about the customer's experience into every element of your business and empowering each of your employees — regardless of where in the organization they sit — to solve for the customer.” She added, “At HubSpot, we take this so seriously that we've even turned Solved for the Customer into its own acronym, SFTC.”

In addition to the items mentioned by Moran, Balimtas suggested implementing a CX technology portfolio as the next step toward democratizing CX across an organization. These technologies may report on and collect specific customer data (e.g., a survey tool), analyze existing customer data (e.g., a text analytics tool), or manage customer experiences (e.g., a chat tool or calling technology). A solid CX tech stack enables a brand to have closed-loop reporting, critical for CX.

“If you’re going to continuously improve CX processes, you need to have access to the customer data captured in your systems,” Balimtas said.

Democratization Is a Strategic Customer Experience Imperative

Jim Kalbach, Chief Evangelist at Mural, emphasizes the importance of democratizing CX by focusing on the employee experience. “‘Everyone is responsible for the customer experience,’ or so they say. If that’s true, then democratization of CX isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a strategic imperative," he added.

Kalbach said improving the employee experience affects the customer experience. Kalbach cites Southwest Airlines and its philosophy: “Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Increased Business/Profits = Happy Shareholders! We believe that, if we treat our Employees right, they will treat our Customers right, and in turn that results in increased business and profits that make everyone happy.” 

To be customer-obsessed, you have to be employee-obsessed, Kalbach explained. 

Related Article: A Deep Dive on a Customer Experience Priority: Customer Understanding

Benefits of Democratizing VoC

A Gartner report on the democratization of Voice of the Customer (VoC) also highlights the benefits of democratizing CX.

According to Emil Kunkin, Gartner senior specialist in research, many companies instituted VoC programs to enhance marketing, and increasing end-user access to voice of the customer data can accelerate enterprisewide customer experience improvements. 

Learning Opportunities

“VoC has evolved to serve as a resource for the entire organization to become more customer-centric,” Kunkin said. “As VoC programs become central hubs of customer data and insight, democratizing access to and the sharing of VoC data across the enterprise is critical for true customer understanding.”

Effectively sharing VoC data with relevant stakeholders can reduce information silos between functions, empower staff to be more customer-centric and make individual functions more accountable to CX metrics, Kunkin added. While VoC democratization benefits the entire organization, implementing it involves trade-offs regarding access, security and relevance to end users.

Failure to distribute VoC hinders CX results, Kunkin said. Closed or undemocratized VoC data decreases customer-centricity and alignment on customer understanding and CX goals while reinforcing information silos, Kunkin added. “More is not always more. Simply scaling VoC by providing unrestricted access risks data misuse and misinterpretation by end users.”

However, Kunkin cautioned that one size doesn’t fit all. While a role-based permissions model of VoC democratization is appropriate for many organizations, some may not need all of the features or be able to justify the greater costs.

Concerns About Securing Data When Democratizing CX

One of the reasons that some organizations have been hesitant to fully democratize CX is concern over data security. The more people who have access to the data, the more risk that it can be misused (i.e., divulging personal identifiable information data) or otherwise compromised (i.e., via personal device being hacked).

To protect data, Kunkin recommended using a role-based permissions model, with role-based permissions that limit access to data according to sets of defined roles. Though he was specifically addressing VoC democratization, the same strategy can be used to help secure other customer data. 

Conclusion: Democratizing CX Is All Hands on Customer Deck

Democratizing CX can have a powerful effect on businesses. When everyone is responsible for the customer experience, the chance of aligning with what the customer wants and needs goes up exponentially.

Though there are some concerns about data security, taking action to democratize CX can lead to true customer understanding and can make companies better off in many ways — all from putting CX into the hands of the many.