I often see customer experience (CX) programs that connect point A directly to point B, equating the actions the brand does to the value it derives from those actions. A straightforward example of this is when a martech vendor claims, “We improve the brand’s CX by enhancing offers and ‘next best actions,’ resulting in more clickthroughs and conversions.” Or, you might hear an executive say, “We improved our CX by implementing self-service, which reduced call volume and headcount, thus saving us money.”
Those are both excellent business outcomes, but is either a CX outcome? In neither of those examples do we know the impact on the customer. Are customers happier? Do they perceive more value? Have we changed their attitude toward the brand or themselves? Are they more likely to be loyal or tell others? We don’t know because, in both of those examples, we skipped the customer. If you are doing CX, you cannot go from point A–what we do–to point B–what we get–without going through point C–the customer.
When we skip the customer and tie our “CX” projects only to the value the brand receives, we convert our customers into objects rather than the subjects of our efforts. In your life, objects fit into one of three broad categories: They are tools for you to exploit, barriers for you to overcome, or they are nothing. In those examples, we made the customer a tool (a wallet for us to pluck) and a barrier (an annoyance for us to eliminate). In neither case did we treat customers as people: Human beings with wants, needs, and expectations. Nor did we, in either example, measure (or even care about) the impact on the customer.
To make the customer the subject of what you do and not merely an object that is acted upon to get what your brand wants, go from point A to C to B. That means connecting what you do to how it changes customer perception, and then recognizing how those changes in perception drive behavioral shifts that deliver long-term brand value. That may sound complicated, but it’s not. We just have to listen to customer perception and tie that to the loyalty behaviors that drive brand value, such as retention, sales growth, purchase frequency, the cost to serve or retain, and brand advocacy and WOM.
If you start with what you want (more sales or lower costs), develop a plan to enhance your brand’s immediate financial outcomes, and measure only brand impact and not how or if customer perception has changed, you may deliver short-term ROI but cannot know if you’ve provided a better customer experience. More to the point, you cannot know if you’ve traded improved financial results today for powerful, lasting relationships that drive growth, margin, and profit tomorrow. Instead, you must connect point A and B by going through C:To change the customer from an object to the subject of your CX program, start with what customers want and need, develop a plan to lift customer satisfaction, and measure how you improve the customer and their relationship with your brand. Here’s how (along with links to relevant research reports for Garter subscribers):
- Listen to customer needs, perceptions, and feedback. (Clients of Gartner for Marketing Leaders can learn more from the report, “Build a Voice-of-the-Customer Strategy to Harness the Power of Customer Data“).
- Bring your attitudinal and behavioral data together to understand the ROI of CX (“Tailor Customer Experience Data and Metrics to Improve Customer Centricity, Drive Action and Validate Business Outcomes“).
- Start with customer wants and needs by developing the right personas (“How to Make Your Customer Personas Actionable Using Data-Driven Insights“).
- Collaborate across functional silos to understand and identify customers’ desired journeys (“How to Turn Persona-Driven Customer Journey Maps Into an Actionable, Cross-Functional Customer Experience Plan“).
- Measure impact on customers and not merely the effect on your brand (“How Much Customer Satisfaction Is Enough to Foster Loyalty and Differentiate Your Brand?“).