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How to Create a Better Customer Experience in 2020

Recently, Phase 5’s Stephan Sigaud had the opportunity to be a guest contributor for “In Partnership With” (IPW), a new community-based content series featuring expert contributors celebrating Canadian business & marketing perspectives. IPW Founder Tim Bishop recognized Customer Experience (and its evolving role in business strategy) as a hot topic in the industry, and reached out to current Board Member and Past Chair of the CXPA Stephan Sigaud for his expertise. Below are the key takeaways from their October 19th, 2020 interview.

Creating a Better Customer Experience

The service sector powers 80% of the Canadian economy. Most Canadians no longer "make a thing for customers," rather, they "offer customer experiences." Professions in the service sector include high-touch, high-tech and knowledge-intensive jobs, tourism, healthcare, retail and transportation, among others.

This is why creating a better customer experience (CX) is so critical. As an affluent country, Canadians seek services to improve and augment their lives, both professionally and personally. And it's this potential that has seen a renewed focus on CX recently, especially during COVID.

Customer experience as a focus area has risen to the top of executive goals and concerns. Global consultancy studies highlight this regularly. However, there's a concern that CX is evolving to be more tech-led vs. customer-led, resulting in fewer positive outcomes for customers.

Listening to the Voice of the Customer

As there is more and more CX automation, there is a stronger focus on metrics. This is generally a good thing but it can also get marketing and business leaders into trouble. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great example of this practice where there are infamous cases of companies "chasing the number" instead of focusing on the customer. Some leaders look to improve their NPS at all costs while forgetting that behind an NPS score are real customers with real issues and real stories.

A lot of people don't realize that CX is simply a means to an end. Organizations should focus on CX because they want to generate sustainable growth. 

Maximizing Customer Experience is a Mistake

Not every customer has the same value to an organization. Thanks to technology-enabled insights and automation, the marketing profession is moving towards more and more personalization to deliver the right experience to each person at the right time. Variables - such as lifetime value - can trigger and enable both strategic and tactical decisions. 

Organizations require the right staff training to ensure they are delivering the right experience to the right people, as opposed to the same experience to all people. Perhaps high value customers receive additional perks or benefits such as shorter call centre wait times, easier returns or more personalized services. These types of perks could enable top customers to enjoy their experience faster, easier or smoother and become more loyal.

Regarding corporate culture, all levels of an organization have to understand the need to manage CX properly. All companies need a clear and well-understood strategy. Finally, governance must be in place to have the right metrics to deliver upon it optimally, not maximally for every customer.

The ROI of CX

Organizations today are more and more financially driven, especially the publicly traded ones. But it's the alignment internally to a core mission that matters to ensure customers are serviced effectively. Some executives still ask to see a demonstrated, independent ROI from CX (isolated from all other variables), which can be frustrating. By asking that question, it seems clear they're not getting it. 

Empowering employees to meet CX goals ensures happier team members and therefore happier customers. We know that happier customers spend more and talk up such companies to their friends and family (which increases sales and profits further). Plus, when customers consider a repeat purchase, it's not only the experience they had last time, but the cumulative memory of related experiences that matters. Creating memorable experiences generates loyalty for the long term. Regardless of how it's measured, loyalty is the main goal.

Owning the CX Function Internally

"Who owns CX?" It doesn't matter who owns it, as long as there is a consensus among the executive team. That's where it should start since CX is all about delivering against the brand promise.

Marketing is in charge of defining the brand and communicating the brand promise; delivery of that brand promise is where the rubber meets the road with effective CX. The authenticity - or congruence - between the brand promise and the customer experience is one of the key success factors.

Typically an organization needs a CXO. This role is not necessarily forever, but a CXO must get the organization aligned cross-functionally (i.e. marketing, operations, finance, and HR) to deliver on the brand promise. In fact, a new CXO doesn't have to be anybody's boss, and a team of CX ambassadors doesn't need to be nested under marketing or vice versa. However, if there is going to be a CX conversation, marketing has to be at the table.

Customer Experience Changes During COVID

We've seen a lot of organizations pivot to get closer to their customers, and we've also seen the best organizations change their approach from typical satisfaction surveys. Before COVID, surveys focused on, "How are we doing in terms of meeting your needs?" Today, a better insight into a customer's mindset demands new questions. "How are you doing, Mr. or Ms. Customer? How can we help you?" That approach of empathy is core to delivering customer experience properly. 

We've also seen some negative examples recently. Some companies have put their entire CX program on hold. That often means no more surveys since the team is too busy, or the organization no longer has the means to support the CX team. This is puzzling, and raises the question:

If you're too busy now to care about your customers and their experience,

what else could you possibly be more focused on?

Organizations with a strong CX focus have demonstrated the ability to adapt to better serve their customers during COVID. Whenever we come out of this - and we will - those brands who have executed successful CX approaches will benefit from lasting positive effects. Those organizations that have reached out proactively to their customers in these times of crisis are already showing much better results in terms of business continuance and loyalty from their customers. 

If anything, COVID has exposed the need for CX and made it even more of a competitive differentiator than it ever was before. That's what makes CX the next competitive battlefield. The winners - especially in our service-dominated economy - will be the ones still standing.

Written by Phase 5