A global survey has found that customer experience (CX) is once again top of the agenda for those working in digital industries despite many organisations struggling to implement a clear strategy.
Econsultancy’s 2018 Digital Trends report, which is published in association with Adobe, surveyed around 13,000 marketing, creative and technology professionals across EMEA, North America and Asia Pacific to find out the most significant trends impacting companies in the short to medium term.
When asked which one area is the most exciting opportunity for their organisation or clients, the leading answer was CX with just under a fifth (19%) or respondents choosing ‘optimising the customer experience.’
The report noted that although this is actually a drop from 22% in 2017, this doesn’t mean that CX has lessened in importance. In fact, the opposite is probably true, with many companies simply focusing on other more specific opportunities which aim to improve CX.
For example, year on year the option for ‘data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual’, which combines key CX trends of big data and personalisation, increased by 5 percentage points to 17% in 2018.
“Companies continue to reap the benefits of a data-driven approach to marketing, with a more rigorous and scientific approach helping marketers to spend their precious budgets more effectively, and to justify the impact of their investment to safeguard and increase their budgets in the future,” the report said.
Not knowing where to start is a key issue
The report also found that having a clear strategy is paramount to success in CX, as organisations that have a cohesive plan, long-term view and executive support for the future of their customer are more than twice as likely to significantly outperform competitors (27% vs 13%). According to the report, just under two-thirds (62%) agree they have such a plan in place.
Unfortunately, it is the planning aspect that is lacking for many organisations. While it is obvious to everyone that CX really matters in 2018 and beyond, the question is ‘what do we do about it?’
“Too many brands become paralysed by not knowing where to start or how to approach the adoption of a customer-centric strategy,” said Head of Product Marketing for Adobe Experience Cloud in EMEA Jamie Brighton. “Essentially, digital transformation is about people, process and technology, and you need the right mix of skills and an environment for people to flourish in, as well as the right technology to enable them.”
The issue is not unique to digital marketing as similar problems plague other verticals.
Fifth Quadrant’s 2018 Australian Contact Centre Industry Benchmark Report revealed that while almost three quarters of contact centres are striving to improve CX, almost a third (31%) feel they lack the resources to do so and research by Salmat has found that Australian retailers are failing to adapt the strategies required to improve CX.
Define what you want to achieve
The first thing organisations need to do is to define what great CX would look like for them. To do this, they must first understand the difference between customer service and CX. Put simply, customer service is one component of CX. The former is the immediate advice or assistance you get when you buy something, the latter is the entire journey.
In the case of retail, customer service is your interactions with employees in a brand’s flagship store, CX is the total journey including the unboxing, use of the product and any post-purchase service you receive.
Having established that, organisations must understand what their customers want and come up with an appropriate mission statement.
Global consulting firm McKinsey gives the example of an airport, which aspired “to provide the most enjoyable and efficient way possible for travellers to get from one destination to another.”
Setting the mission statement is a ‘top-down approach’ which must then be communicated throughout the organisation. Implementing a strategy means wanting to change, and this must start from the leadership.
Know thy customer
The next phase involves large amounts of research. In the first instance, organisations need to figure out what the current CX is before they can attempt to fix or improve it. The traditional way to do this is through the mapping of customer journeys.
This can involve both qualitative research, in the form of customer interviews and quantitative research, such as sales data, market research and other metrics.
In the case of the airport, the team gathered more than a million data points in several weeks, including passengers tracking data obtained via Wi-Fi and employee focus groups which concentrated on key issues affecting both them and their customers.
Following this, organisations can create customer personas for each different type of customer they might have. These personas may be based on age, gender, income or other typical demographics by which we segment the population.
In the age of personalisation taking a one size fits all approach to customers is sure to fail. The creation of customer personas allows organisations to create a more tailored experience that will differ depending on a customer’s needs and desires.
Don’t forget EX
The flip-side of CX is employee experience (EX). An organisation can come up with all the fancy strategies in the world, but the only way it will be executed is via its employees.
The execution of great CX starts with employees who understand the mission, care about the mission and have the tools/ability to complete it.
Going back to the example of the airport, in the research stage the CX team found that many employees were avoiding customers by bowing their heads, pulling down their hats or removing their work badges as they moved through the building.
It was later revealed through focus groups that employees were doing this because they had no answers for customers as a result of inadequate training. The takeaway is that organisations should not put all their attention on CX at the expense of EX. These elements need to be taken as a whole and employees have to be on board with the organisations’ aspirations and be empowered to achieve them.
As a result of the definition of a strategy and research into CX and EX, the airport made a number of changes to its operations. These included the development of new apps to navigate the airport, new forms of entertainment, layout changes and a ‘CX code of conduct’ for employees.
“Not one of the frontline employees needed to understand the complex regressions used to identify customer preferences,” McKinsey observed. “They could simplify what was needed so well that all of them, regardless of employer, could follow through with effective action.”
Much like CX itself, A CX strategy does not end when the execution phase is complete. Organisations must monitor the results and effectiveness of changes they make and tweak the strategy as required.
Average retail spending at the airport increased more than 15 per cent post-CX transformation and EX improved across the board. The CEO and leadership team spend more time on the front lines interacting with employees and encouraging them to realise the organisation’s goals.
It is important for organisations to continue to take the pulse of their customers' experience to ensure they are not drifting away from the mission statement established in the definition phase. In some cases, they may need to update their mission statement to reflect changes in their industry. As the pace of technology, disruption and customer expectations accelerate, remaining agile is one of the keys to success.
Do you have a CX mission statement? Fifth Quadrant conducts research that empowers companies to improve their CX. To learn more about how Fifth Quadrant can assist your organisation, contact us today.