What do the Customer Experience (CX) leaders do differently?

Leading-edge companies outperformed lagging companies on business outcomes like profitability, quality, growth, market share, and customer retention rate.

Source: HBR 


Seven out of ten leading-edge companies say that customer experience is a strategic priority, while nearly half of the lagging companies don’t consider customer experience important. 


This seems to have affected not just customer satisfaction scores and net promoter scores but also the intangibles like stock price and profitability. 


What are the leading-edge companies doing right? 

While building their customer experience programs, leading-edge companies allocate sufficient budgets, systems, processes, and plans. 


Some of the critical things that customer experience leaders do include: 


  1. Develop the proper organization and skills to provide systematic customer experience management. 
  2. Set up the right tools and systems to make data-driven customer experience decisions. 
  3. Optimizing the processes to leverage inputs from customer experience support tools. For instance, they have processes in place to manage customer dissatisfaction and, if the issue is hot, they have processes to escalate to the senior management
  4. The CX leaders don’t rely on past behaviors and patterns. Instead, they focus on the process. They understand and map the whole flow of the customer experience so that there is a true understanding of all the touchpoints
  5. They respond to individual customers based on their feedback about an experience

The biggest lesson that you can take out of CX leaders is that they think like the customers. A host of different people can impact customer experience. You need to put it all in the customer’s voice from the get-go, not just for the frontline employees but for all the support personnel as well. 


Here is an example.

One of the leaders in the CX space makes their leaders taking phone calls from customers. This allows them to understand what it’s like to be a customer and what it’s like to support that customer. This starts a change in the customer experience culture of the organization. 


Here is another. 

A CX leader created centers of customer excellence within each business group. This is not just another flavor of the week kind of message, but true customer service champions lead them – not just at the VP level but also deeper. 


While the customer experience champions the initiative, it eventually turns out to be a business initiative. After all, the customer journey is not limited to one or two functions, but it is pervasive. 


Everyone plays a key role in effective customer experience management. 

Do customers have a choice in their customer experience with brands?

I recently wanted to switch my Internet connection from one location to another. I called up the customer care facility and gave my request. This process took me about 20 minutes. 


The service provider accepted my request and suggested that they would check the feasibility of migrating the connection to the new location. The new site did not have additional ports, and hence they could not fulfill my request. It took them 72 hours to come back with this information. However, they did not offer any solution. 


So, I called them again and asked them about the next steps. 


They mentioned that they would add ports and provide me connection at the new location in 72 hours. I had to be on the phone for 20 minutes to get this done. I waited 72 hours, and nothing happened. 


So, I tried reaching them three more times. Every time, it took me 20 minutes to speak to an agent, and every time they promised me immediate resolution. However, they did not migrate the connection. 


Then, I decided to cancel the Internet connection, and despite trying repeatedly, I could not do that on the phone or their official mobile app. So, I went to their experience center and went through all the Covid formalities before meeting with a representative. I filed my request for disconnection, and they accepted it. 


Then, as soon as I reached home, I received a call from their disconnection team asking me to reconsider my decision. They also suggested that they’d waive my charges during the period of inactivity due to this migration. Also, they made sure that the new connection was up and running in the new location within four hours. 


What does this teach you? 

This means that you have ways and means by which you can deliver excellent customer experiences, but your process does not allow you to do so. 


You end up creating friction at every stage of your customer journey. 


Let us look at all the friction in this journey of mine:


  1. Friction 1 – there was no automated menu option for shifting my connection to a different location. There wasn’t an option for me to reach a customer service representative directly. I had to go through the entire IVR menu that was unnecessary for me before speaking to a live representative. This process took me 20 minutes. 
  2. Friction 2 – the feasibility took about 72 hours, which ideally should have taken only a couple of hours. Even after figuring out that it is not feasible, they did not offer a solution. 
  3. Friction 3 – I tried reaching them multiple times, and every time I had to wait for 20 minutes before contacting a representative. Instead, if they let me key in a complaint number, they can address my queries faster
  4. Friction 4 – there was no choice for me to disconnect on their official app or the customer care number. This requires an OTP authentication, and that never happened.
  5. Friction 5 – I had to take time out to visit their experience center to file my disconnection request. That took me about 90 minutes, including travel time. 

After all this, they were able to fix my issue within four hours. 


Is it that difficult for a service provider to map this journey in a way that I feel delighted? 

I understand that organizations are trying to make the customer experience a self-service process and automate more than 80% of the tasks. While this would save the service provider money and make things easy for the customer, is it being implemented correctly? 


In my case, they should have just provided me the choice to speak to an agent directly when my request is not a part of your automated customer service process. This would have eased things and reduced the friction. 


As a service provider, with any automation or intelligence that you add to your customer experience journey, you have to ensure zero friction. Else, it would affect the customer journey and result in dissatisfied customers. 

Is Customer Experience (CX) the new brand differentiator?

Gone are the days when people competed on product’s capabilities and pricing alone. Today’s customers have thousands of overwhelming choices, making purchasing decisions challenging to choose. 


The entire ecosystem has become commoditized, and how do you differentiate yourself from the pack? 


It has to be through Customer Experience (CX) and not just Customer Service. CX is the total sum of customer’s perception of how a brand treats them. These perceptions affect behaviors that lead to customer loyalty. 


Do we agree that CX is going to be the differentiator? 

Let us look at some of the CX numbers:


  1. Gartner says that 89 percent of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience 
  2. A Walker study reveals that by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator
  3. The Temkin Group found that companies earning $1 billion can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in CX

Bain reports that although 80 percent of companies believe that they deliver awesome experiences, a mere 8 percent of customers agree. 


This means that companies have a long way to go. Delivering excellent customer experiences can be a tremendous opportunity to disrupt a competitor and gain market share. 


Focusing on customer experience management may be the most critical investment a brand can make in today’s business environment. 


How do you provide remarkable customer experiences? 

There is no silver bullet to this question. However, there are two critical elements that you should be aware of, and they are: 


1. Personalize everything

Personalized experiences win over customers every single time. This means that the company remembers you, anticipates your needs, and delivers relevant and timely information. What does this do? 


Forty-nine percent of customers have bought items that they did not intend to buy due to personalized recommendations from brands. 


Besides, brands should create a one-view of their customers across all channels. McKinsey reports that only 1 percent of the data collected is ever used, stressing the disparity between the potential of data and the company’s ability to convert it into value. 


When you set out to turn data into value, that would help improve customer experience. 


2. Focus on the customer journey and not touchpoints

The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that the customers go through while interacting with your brand – awareness, pre-sales, purchase, post-sales support, and repurchase. 


Each journey consists of multiple online and offline touchpoints. While each touchpoint is important, the sum is always greater than the parts. The experiences will have to be consistent, and for that, you need to have integrated systems and channels. 


Aberdeen Group states that the companies with the strongest omnichannel CX report an average customer retention rate of 89 percent versus 33 percent for businesses with a weaker presence.