Mastering the rudiments or basics of just about any pursuit can be critical to overall success. That certainly, and especially, applies to the skills and competencies required in the basic elements of managing Customer Experience (CX). Could the difference between a customer experience professional and a customer experience novice simply be that the expert is much better and more effective at the rudiments—the basic tasks that are fundamental to that skill? Think about it for a moment. All professionals are fundamentally students. However, the higher they progress within their area of expertise and the further they explore their discipline, the more they need to become self-learners. Novices benefit from learning from more experienced practitioners and that all stems from mastering the basics.
Some years ago, I decided to take up drum lessons. Having been a guitarist for most of my life and later in life a singer/songwriter, I fancied creating my own music and recording a solo CD of original songs. Learning to play the drums would fill in that missing musical element and make it possible for me to complete the project all on my own using my own equipment and recording within my home studio. I initially went out and bought myself a nice looking sparkling drumkit, equipped with all the shiny cymbals and accessories possible like I’d seen other professional drummers playing on stage. When I approached my first drum lesson, my instructor told me that for the next year or so, all I would need was my snare drum and a pair of sticks. He then handed me a book entitled Stick Control for the Snare Drummer by George Lawrence Stone—first published in 1935 and considered the bible of drumming.
Perhaps a little disappointed that I wasn’t about to attack and enjoy my complete drumkit all at once, I followed the lessons with dedication and precision and focused on my right-hand and left-hand coordination along with paradiddles, rolls, and flams. Long story short, in a year hence, I achieved my goal of recording a set of original songs where I played all instruments including vocals. Was I a master drummer at that point? Hardly so. But what I learned was critical and the biggest lesson was realizing how much those basics were essential to what I able to accomplish. I was still a novice but had elevated myself above beginner status which would have never happened without learning and mastering the basics.
In applying the power of rudiments to Customer Experience and the management of CX, what are those essential building blocks that must be considered in order to achieve overall mastery and success? Here’s how we at HorizonCX see the basic elements.
Building a CX Strategy
Customer experience is as much a cultural aspect within any organization than it is any specific set of practices and it all begins there. Organizations must be ready for this as it often requires a cultural shift or at least a shift in mindset from being product-centered to becoming more customer-centered. This doesn’t necessarily happen overnight and the vision for this must be set by leadership within the organization. Therefore, it’s important as a foundation to build a business case for CX along with the setting of reasonable and achievable goals for the long-term.
Systems Thinking (the big picture)
As with any system and especially within organizational systems, there are many functions and moving parts. To the extent that a decision is made in one part of the organization, it can also affect another part of the organization either positively or negatively. Therefore, it’s important to be considering the whole organization and not just one aspect as often unintended consequences will result. Using a systems lens reveals how patterns of behavior can be identified and dealt with as an organization readies itself to evolve into a more customer-focused business.
Leadership must embrace, endorse, and actively support any movement toward instilling a customer-experience mindset among employees within an organization. This can take many forms, but the most common one is the establishment of a governing body to lead the discussion as to how the organization must act and behave differently to be perceived by their customers as one that is completely focused on them. This is the outside-in approach to business versus inside-out. Governance structures can and should be established as a foundation to both designing and creating desired customer experiences as well as handling the resulting feedback that invariably customers will provide.
In order to move forward with a customer-first mentality and associated customer-centric behaviors, organizations must first understand their current status along these lines, and maturity assessments are among the most common tools used to determine that. A palette of choices exists to assess an organization’s maturity around CX and where they fall on the CX maturity curve. Within the context of maturity, individual employees, and business competencies that are essential in delivering memorable customer experiences will emerge.
Customer Journey Management
Customer Journey Management is one of the most critical and basic tools within the customer experience managers toolkit. It begins with understanding the current customer experience from the customer’s perspective which is neither simple nor easy. Much is written about the Customer Journey Mapping process, but the map itself is merely a graphic representation of the real intent, which is all about change—changing from what IS to what is desired. Becoming customer-centric requires an understanding of the mapping process which can have the most immediate effect. This also must be a dynamic process because as customer needs change to do expectations around their experiences.
Metrics and Measurement
When measuring the voice-of-the-customer (VoC) there is a palette of common metrics that can be applied. Among them is the Net Promoter Score, (NPS) the overall customer satisfaction score, (CSAT) the Customer Effort Score (CES). A single metric may not be enough and, in many cases, a combination of metrics can be used—the effectiveness of which often depends on the industry. Other considerations are rating scales, sampling effects, international scoring and weighting, the use of rolling averages, benchmarks, and benchmarking studies.
Data analysis is the task of deriving insights from customer feedback that would cause an organization to want to react and act in a way that would alleviate any customer pain-points and improve the customer experience. Data analysis fundamentals include both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The use of data segmentation techniques, key driver analysis, regression and correlation analysis, and predictive analytics must be understood and considered. From a qualitative data analysis perspective, text analytics, word-clouds, sentiment analysis, and comment coding are among the basic knowledge and skills required.
Survey Design & Development
Creating surveys involves an equal amount of art and science and the results from a well-designed and well-developed survey instrument can often constitute the difference between success and failure. The major types of surveys commonly used need to be well understood—relationship, transactional, focused, research-based, and how to achieve a good survey structure within each of them.
Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) Platforms
A VoC platform is typically chosen on which surveys are programmed and readied for electronic distribution to the segment of customers chosen for a specific study. There are many options in terms of VoC platforms available to the CX practitioner that can range from simple and inexpensive (sometimes free) to ones that are sophisticated, highly capable, and complex enough in nature that may require assistance or help in setting them up. Capabilities, features, and pricing are among the considerations of those commonly available VoC platforms—question types, validation and logic, design capabilities, case management, quarantine settings, data integration, and security. Post survey capabilities of these systems are also a factor in the choice—reports, dashboards, advanced analytical capabilities, text-analytics, and integration with other marketing technologies.
Survey deployment requires considerable and careful planning and includes advanced communication strategies, properly announcing the intent of surveys, internal socialization, timing of deployments, list cleansing, crafting effective survey invitations, and subject lines that will result in higher open-rates and response-rates. Survey deployment methods must also be considered—email, snail-mail, web-enabled, etc., as are effective ways to ensure responsiveness and reducing or eliminating survey-fatigue. The role of closing-the-loop with customers that participate in the survey process is also critical as that becomes an effective way of ensuring and maintaining good current and future response rates.
Closed-Loop Systems Processes
Closing the loop within a system such as Customer Experience Management is one of the best ways an organization can demonstrate its commitment to CX as a living and breathing part of their culture. The process must be targeted to each customer in order to personalize the response, only asking for customer feedback that organizations are willing and prepared to act upon, automating the closed-loop process to allow for more prompt follow-up and communication, using case-management tools effectively to provide added transparency and solving the internal issues that are causing customer problems in the first place.
Change and change management represents the holy grail of any focus on customer experience and is the real goal of CX. Without change, nothing significant ever improves and the status quo prevails. There are two well-known models of change—the Kotter 8-Step Change Model and the ADKAR model. Both are widely used within the business and represent fundamental tools that can be applied to the process of acting on customer feedback. The choice of change model often depends on the organization’s culture and readiness for change.
Assessing and Measuring Success
As with any systematic process of design, development, deployment, measurement, responsiveness, application, change-management, there needs to be a mechanism in place to continually measure program or initiative success over time. Several methods are available for the CX practitioner to employ and gauge overall success and where interventions may be required where the program falls short. Repeated applications of a maturity model can often provide a more holistic view of CX progress among a wider employee population.
Whether you’re talking about playing an instrument, playing chess, playing sports, practicing yoga, or becoming a CX professional, a good foundation is crucial to accomplishment. Getting caught up in the details is all too easy when we become enamored with the next shiny object. But sticking to the basics and first and foremost will help ensure that you reach your goals and perhaps even excel in the process.
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Karl Sharicz – Founder, CEO – HorizonCX, LLC. | August 2020