My peers and I on the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team are planning a new primary research study to learn how marketers are approaching, measuring and executing their customer experience (CX) management programs. One of the challenges we have had to address is how to distinguish those professionals who lead or are involved with CX as a disciplined and strategic practice versus those who merely execute tactics to improve customer experiences. The difference is one that is lost on many business leaders, and it is the reason so many CX programs grapple to deliver demonstrable results.
Put simply, if we ask business executives, “are you involved with efforts to improve customer experience?,” who wouldn’t answer in the affirmative? Everyone from the call center representative to the product manager to the content marketing leader to the CMO would claim they are enriching customer experiences. But how many of those would be involved in or leading a methodical, strategic practice to understand, define and improve their brands’ CX? Customer experience management is not defined by intentions or even a few choice actions but by the commitment to an analytical, deliberate, organized CX approach.
A metaphor may help to explain what I mean. If I volunteer to speak in front of a classroom for an organization like Junior Achievement (a wonderful experience I recommend for every professional, by the way), does that make me a teacher? No, the fact I give an hour a week to help students, while being a positive contribution, is very different from being a teacher. Teaching is a full-time job and a discipline that includes processes like developing curricula, assigning and documenting grades, meeting with parents, and creating a safe and disciplined learning environment. Contributing in the classroom is not the same as being a teacher, and in fact, if you volunteer for JA, one thing you’ll learn is how your role in the classroom contrasts with the teacher’s.
Likewise, wanting to improve the customer experience and even acting to improve it are not the same as executing a systematic, organized CX program. Changing an app to be more usable or authoring content to answer customer questions is no more proof of organized customer experience management than is speaking to students a determining factor of teaching. CX is not defined by intentions and actions but by processes, scope, focus, data, goals, and metrics. Many CX efforts and programs are not built to succeed because they neglect to recognize that difference.
Is your CX program built to succeed or to fail? That is not a simple question with a simple answer, but here is a list of items that tend to describe those CX management practices that increase hurdles. The greater the number of items on this list that describe your CX program, the more struggles you will face in improving your brand’s customer experience in meaningful, valuable and measurable ways. (The links presented are to research notes, available to Gartner subscribers, that can help to solve the specified challenge.) Your CX program may be designed to fail if:
- You do not have a Voice of the Customer or customer feedback program available to provide data that allows you understand your brand’s customer experiences from their perspective.
- Your primary goals for improving customer experience are to increase the marketing funnel or sales rather than to lift leading indicators of brand success such as satisfaction, loyalty, and brand advocacy.
- You execute CX programs within teams or departments without collaboration across organizational silos.
- You attempt to be all things to all people, seeking to improve CX for a generic, representative customer rather than for the unique and valuable segments or personas your brand serves.
- You start your CX efforts with channels (i.e., mobile or email), products (i.e., mortgages, oncology, or business-class airline service) or processes (i.e., application process, medical appointment process or plane boarding) rather than with end-to-end journeys that seek to comprehend all customer needs and goals.
- When you map customer journeys, you begin when a customer enters one of your digital or physical properties and not earlier. Or, you end with people using your product or service rather than with customers who are loyal to your brand and active in telling others about it.
- When you map your customers’ journeys, you start with your existing processes and not from the outside-in, learning the customers’ desired or expected experiences.
- You seek to identify and solve problems with your current touchpoints rather than trying to understand how your products, services, policies, practices, and processes must change to better serve customer needs and wants (or how those wants and needs can be expected to evolve in the future.)
- Most of the CX changes you make are to things your brand says (advertisements, website copy, and marketing content) and not what your brand does.
The CX programs that are the most mature and successful change how companies operate, strengthen relationships with customers, and result in durable, healthier, and more profitable brands. That does not happen by accident or with disparate, disjointed, and reactive CX programs. Only by committing to proactive, data-oriented, collaborative CX programs designed to improve customer sentiment can organizations enjoy the benefits promised by customer experience management.
I look forward to gathering, analyzing, and sharing the results of our CX survey. If you’d like to learn more, please continue to watch my blog, as well as those by Jane-Anne Mennella, Jake Sorofman, and my other peers.