This is truly a momentous year for customer experience. It’s a year when more and more companies are coming to terms with the fact that delivering a better customer experience is more important and more valuable than ever before. No longer is it viewed as a nice to have, but a must have. This commitment is evident in the increased number of attendees, spanning all levels — from CEO down and across — who attended the 2011 Forrester Customer Experience conference.
While there is serious commitment to the cause, the buzz at this conference, and in our own client conversations, is around the challenges faced by those who attempt to take on big customer experience improvement movements. People are asking, and many great presentations are about, developing a well-orchestrated approach to delivering high quality customer experiences that drive business results.
Here are five key themes that we often discuss with our clients, and that have been highlights across many great presentations at this conference:
1. Centralizing leadership and cross functional ambassadors
Any great cause needs a leader who isn’t afraid to shake things up and overcome resistance. A customer experience movement requires a leader who is ultimately responsible and empowered to do what’s right from a customer perspective at the enterprise level. Cross-functional ambassadors who are dedicated to the cause from all parts of the organization must be partners to influence the breakdown of old practices and the introduction of new ones. Ultimately, ambassadors will help to get cooperation and inspire required cultural changes.
2. Defining the brand’s customer experience strategy
In the past, brand strategy primarily informed communications. Brand strategy now needs to inspire a vision for what the entire customer experience should be. This strategy must be relevant, authentic, differentiating, and clearly understood by employees and customers. A clearly defined customer experience strategy sets the stage for organizational behavior that executes and delivers the desired experience.
3. Uncovering actionable customer insights
It’s not just about collecting data. It’s about analyzing data from various sources to understand details important to key audience segments: What makes them tick, what is most relevant and fulfilling to them, and how they want to be served through a multitude of channels. Customers should be observed and brought into one-on-one discussions. Mapping their journey reveals opportunities for improvement. All of this sheds light on what drives their decisions and level of loyalty. If monitored and acted on, relationships with these customers will grow stronger.
4. Orchestrating a well-designed and deliberate experience
Often times many customer interactions happen completely independently of one another. From a customer perspective, the experience is very disjointed, and honestly they don’t care about company silos. The customer experience strategy and customer experience team should guide a well-coordinated, well-designed, and consistent approach to serving customers: What are the most appealing products, services and features for which the brand should be known? How will customer-facing environments and channels be staged to bring the brand to life and serve customers throughout their journey? How will communications whet appetites? And how will employees need to be informed, engaged, and aligned to do what’s in the best interests of the brand and deliver the desired customer experience?
5. Remembering that customer-centricity is not an initiative
Customer experience improvement is an ongoing effort that requires long-term commitment, because the bar is constantly moving. It makes great sense to start small and build momentum, but ultimate success will be realized when a customer-centric approach is fundamental to how the company operates. This requires cultural changes, ongoing insight generation, KPI monitoring, and a dedicated team to coordinate the organizational efforts required to exceed customer expectations.
In one of the most impressive case history presentations at the conference, Kevin A. Peters, President North American Retail at Office Depot said, “It’s long overdue for people to be saying that the customer is the most important thing we should focus on, and it’s great to see so many people here focused on just that.”
I couldn’t agree more.