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Exhilaration and Confusion: Stage 4 (Respond) of CXEvolution

As CX programs mature, they become more central and integral to the companies that use them. MaritzCX’s Organizational CX Maturity Model, CXEvolution, has eight stages, as illustrated below.

As they evolve through each of the eight stages, companies increase the integration of customer centricity into their operations and strategies. Today, I am going to talk about the fourth stage in the model – Respond.

Evolving to the Respond Stage

Prior to Respond there are three stages to MaritzCX’s Organizational CX Maturity Model: Apathetic, Investigate, and Measure. These stages take a company from having no systematic customer experience evaluation in place, to the beginning of collecting data and responding to customers.

The Measure stage immediately precedes the Respond stage, so it is helpful to understand more specifically what a company is experiencing at this point. During the Measure stage, organizations have started developing a genuine interest in the customer experience. They typically are collecting voice of the customer (VoC) data. However, while some service standards are in place, they are not consistently applied, and customer data is not made widely available throughout the company. Overall, there is moderate support for the customer experience. At this stage, efficiency continues to trump a customer focus.

In order to evolve from the Measure to the Respond stage, companies need to put in place a clear system for responding to customers. Designing and launching such a system represents a dramatic change for any organization, as well as a large investment both financially and in terms of employee hours to operate the system.

The Respond Stage

At the fourth stage of organizational customer experience maturity, Respond, organizations finally have consistent information on customers that they can use to help them to provide a better customer experience. Instead of just making their best guess about what is upsetting customers and using common sense to remedy problems, they now have more detailed information that should make the task easier. Right? Well, maybe.

On the plus side, detailed voice of the customer data gives frontline employees resources they need to respond to customer problems. Having information ahead of time is huge, because the employee making contact with an unsatisfied customer is not going into the situation blind. The VoC information should provide a clear understanding of the customer’s entire experience, including what went well and what did not. Armed with this information, the employee can devise a strategy for solving the customer’s problem prior to picking up a telephone or writing an email or letter.

Having this level of information can be very empowering to the employee charged with reaching out to unsatisfied customers. It can greatly reduce anxiety, and can also reduce the amount of time needed to deal with each customer’s problem, thus making customer service representatives more efficient. However, though we often say that “information is power,” there are limits to this proposition.

Keep in mind that the Respond stage of CX evolution is the fourth of eight stages in an evolutionary journey. As such, while information may be flowing from a VoC program, the company will most likely struggle with how to use it. For example:

  • Using feedback on a specific customer problem may suggest a clear-cut solution to the problem. However, such a solution may be too expensive to actually put in place.
  • A customer’s feedback may suggest that your company needs to replace a part on a newly purchased appliance. However, existing policies and procedures or even the culturally dictated “this is how we always do things” may suggest the exact opposite conclusion.
  • Sometimes customer complaints are not taken seriously. A company may have had a problem reported many times, but the company feels that a complaint is a “customer problem,” rather than a “company problem.”

Based on what we expect to happen in the Respond stage of customer experience maturity, organizations need to be prepared for the initial exhilaration and confusion.

Organizations should celebrate the growing focus on customer-oriented processes in the Respond stage. They should underscore the growth in consistency, standardizing the way that VoC information is to be used throughout the organization. In addition, training and hiring practices should stress that creating a positive customer-oriented approach to the customer experience is a creative task to be shared by all members of the organization.

Challenges Beyond the Respond Stage

After Respond come four further stages of CX maturity: Standardize, Solve, Align, and Enculturate. As an organization goes through these stages, it gradually integrates all the tools it needs to become a customer experience leader, at the top of its game. The end game is an organization in which customer experience is fully embedded in the culture.

However, an organization must also let its employees know that customer experience evolution is a work in progress. This often means admitting that “we do not have all the answers yet,” sometimes a difficult positon for a company’s senior leadership to take. Still, it is an honest stance, and reflects the growth created by frontline employees’ increasing access to customer information. Management should encourage employees to bring customer issues without an obvious resolution forward so that responses to these issues can become more standardized.

In short, the Respond stage of the customer experience journey can be a very creative time for an organization. With systematic detailed feedback coming in on how clients view the company, leadership will have a great deal to think about. Of course, at the same time, the company will struggle with integrating this information into its culture and perhaps run into road blocks created by long-held practices and traditions. This is to be expected. In fact, the particularly creative part of the Respond stage is the work companies do to bring a more customer-centric culture throughout the organization. Exhilarating? Yes. Confusing and frustrating? Yes. However, this work is essential as companies’ CX programs and strategies progress and evolve.