hand holding a "practice kindness" bumper sticker — another version of the "golden rule"
PHOTO: Sandrachile .

Everyone has a different approach to what works and why when it comes to the nuances of customer experience (CX), but the foundation boils down to: human-centered design, data-driven insights, and value creation. These pillars are paramount to getting the necessary support, ensuring effective execution, and delivering value to your stakeholders and business.

In fact, the above elements are more than pillars — they’re golden rules. By focusing on them you can help ensure the CX gains resulting from your efforts will result in your desired outcome. On the surface, those elements are easy enough to agree to. But to really make them work in practice takes a more disciplined process and higher level investment of time and resources than people think.

We’ll break down what each of those pieces means, and how we guide our clients through our proven process framework.

3 Golden Rules of Customer Experience

Human-Centered Design

We believe CX starts with human-centered design, and it asks a basic question: Who is consuming the experience you want to create? You must frame problems through the lens of the end user — customers, employees and partners all have very different needs profiles. Plan to spend a considerable amount of time talking to these people, preferably face-to-face. This is where you have to walk the proverbial “mile in their shoes” and try to see the world as they see it. Work with your intended users to not only learn about their problems, but leverage their insights to inform the new experience. Your users are your best resource to co-create a successful solution design.

Taking steps such as using Voice of Customer data from end users will help you develop a deep understanding of their needs. You can use those insights to drive design to avoid implementing a solution that might not ultimately solve their problem. Teams should approach their work iteratively, launching and improving technical systems based on constant feedback from users.

Related Article: Use Design Thinking to Put Yourself in Your Customers' Shoes

Data-Driven Insights

Next, focusing on data-driven insights can, if done properly, help you remove bias from decision-making. Design data collection and analysis so you have ongoing, accurate, fact-based information from which you can assess whether you’re accomplishing your goals.

Many companies are flooded with data but struggle to separate the signal from the noise and put insights into action. One of the biggest problems is customer data streams are often siloed and disconnected, making it difficult to mine for meaningful insights. Product usage data is separated from survey feedback, which is separate from in-person focus groups. These disconnected repositories of customer data are one of the biggest stumbling blocks for a company’s ability to extract the value out of data. A master data management effort focuses on how to stitch disparate data streams together to strengthen data-based decision making. Lastly, a framework for managing data should include the purpose of collecting, using and storing data in an appropriate way.

data driven results

Related Article: The Data-Driven Organization Is an Endangered Species

Value Creation

Lastly, base all CX efforts on value creation. At the outset of any CX process, it’s important to define the desired final outcome in specific, quantifiable terms. Doing so will not only help set up your efforts for success, it will also go a long way to convincing internal stakeholders and winning the budget to be able to invest accordingly. You must answer the “Why?” and not the “What?”

For example: If a call center is having problems with overloading, dropped calls and customer complaints — instead of jumping right in with a software solution like Salesforce (the WHAT?) — ask WHY you need such a solution. What are the business outcomes you hope to achieve? Why is the problem occurring in the first place? Who are the stakeholders involved? By specifically articulating your hoped-for business outcomes, you can architect iterative experiments to test new efforts against their results.

Related Article: Connect Customer Experience to Business Value With a Balanced Scorecard and Value Framework

How to Implement the Golden Rules: The DEEPEN Methodology

At West Monroe, we put the three golden rules into action through our DEEPEN methodology. This framework helps ensure that all three principles are baked into your strategic-planning efforts.

DEEPEN stands for:

Define: Identify and agree upon the customer problem(s) to solve. Define a vision. Align customer goals with company objectives and determine success metrics that will drive value.

Empathize: Understand the current customer experience and operational environment that delivers it, through a human-centric lens. Identify key insights.

Envision: Ideate on the future experience and operating model. Rapidly prototype, test ideas and learn. Develop a roadmap of prioritized future-state capabilities and implementation approaches across people, process and technology.

Plan: Construct detailed plans for implementation across people, process and technology. Develop prioritized user stories and requirements aligned to vision and value. Outline a high-level solution approach.

Enact: Iteratively build and integrate feedback. Validate that the solution aligns to vision and value. Roll out to the user community.

Nurture: Track and measure results against previously defined outcome goals. Identify how activities are impacting results. Use feedback to drive iterations and continuously optimize. 

By using a framework such as DEEPEN, the hope is to take the guesswork out of CX by utilizing a structured, yet flexible process which can be successfully applied to any CX challenge. We have also seen many companies attempt to short-circuit this process and dive right into Step 5: Enact without considering the prior planning necessary to ensure results. The bottom line is there are no shortcuts if you’re serious about developing a company culture, and operational engine able to continually track customer (and employee and partner) satisfaction and make the right changes to yield desired results.

The days of throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks are over. It’s time to embrace human centricity, data supremacy and defined metrics that demonstrate business value.