If my answers frighten you, then you should cease asking scary questions.
– Jules Winnfield
74.8. That was the baseline measure of the National American Customer Satisfaction Index at its inception in quarter 3 of 1994. In the same quarter of 2015 it was 73.8. That’s more than 20 years with no improvement in customer satisfaction. Almost 3 out of 4 CX practitioners also agree that their efforts do not have the impact they would like to see on business outcomes. That begs the question…
Well, it hasn’t been for lack of effort. We have spent billions of dollars trying to improve the customer experience. We have rated and stack ranked every company, product, and service in every industry in every conceivable way. We have been generous in handing out awards to encourage organizations to strive to do better. In some cases those awards create the motivation to do something, but the durability of those effects are short-lived.
We have also been treated to an alphabet soup of acronyms in the hope of creating a tidy summarization of the customer experience. ACSI, CSI, SSI, CES and others can all be used as a short hand to understand the customer experience. They too have helped organizations focus on improving by providing metrics to which organizational stakeholders are held accountable.
An unfortunate and unintended consequence of this use of indices is that often those who are indebted to them get too focused on chasing scores rather than improving the experience. I can’t say I blame them. With big money, and sometimes jobs on the line, people will do what they need to do to make their goal. It’s human behavior.
This approach is not necessarily a dead end; for the right organizations at the right time it can be quite effective if done correctly. More interestingly though is it foreshadows another area of promise for improving the customer experience. That overlooked area is:
In our intense focus on the customer we have slighted the second actor in this relationship; the organization that creates and delivers products and services to customers.
Sure we’ve been great at identifying “opportunity areas” or even identifying customers who are in need of help. That’s great, admirable, and necessary. But after that, the endless PowerPoint decks and dashboards grow silent. After the smoke clears the question organizations are left to answer is:
What do we do?
To answer that question, we first must hold a mirror up to the organization and understand how ready it is to deliver a great customer experience in its totality. This can be a painful, but necessary step.
A customers’ experience is the outcome of what the organization produces; whether that’s product design, a manufacturing issue, or service delivery. It is the complete gestalt of the brand. Customers can typically tell us what they don’t like and can occasionally tell us what they want. However, they cannot reliably tell us how to make it better. That’s our job.
For that we need to look inward and ask some scary questions. We have found there are about 14 scary questions you have to ask your organization to understand its preparedness for CX excellence. Some of those questions are:
Are our processes designed with the customer journey in mind rather than just efficiency?
Are we collecting the right customer information at the right time from the right people?
Are we reacting, responding, or anticipating customer wants and needs?
Are we attracting and selecting the right people? Are we training and motivating them appropriately to do that right thing for the customer?
Are we organized to be responsive to the customer or are we hopelessly siloed?
Do we have a customer centric culture? Does our senior management walk the walk as well as talk the talk?
The act of answering those questions by organizational stakeholders often helps break up what Donald Sull calls “Active Inertia”. When organizations are confronted with disruption, oftentimes rather than taking real steps toward organizational change they react by doing more of what worked in the past; and in so doing begin a long and painful decline. This is more common than what anyone would hope. By provoking this internal dialog and driving toward consensus on reality we have a solid starting point for improvement and breaking up active inertia. This also creates a common framework and vernacular for discussion and planning for the future.
After achieving some mild form of alignment on the answers to those scary questions, we can then start paving a roadmap to the future for an organization. In my role here at MaritzCX we started building out about 6 months ago what we now call CXEvolution™. It is based on accepted organizational theory, my and my staff’s applied experience, and empirical validation from a global study of 4,300 CX professionals. Using this evidence we were able to create a model to help guide organizational change that has a known and predictable impact on reducing churn and increasing financial outcomes.
We designed the model to be very transparent with organizations moving through 1 of 8 stages based on their organizational practices. There is no “guesses” about why you are at a stage as it is guided by feedback from your organization. Each stage is associated with very specific practices we call “competencies”. These are, in fact, your organization’s answers to the scary questions.
In this way organizations can simply chart a path to what they should work to improve their customer experience and reap the rewards of that improvement. Our research indicated that those who are in the highest level of maturity are reaping three times the financial and retention benefits of those in the lowest four stages.
Of course, this is not a panacea. There is more reflection that needs to be than done than what just an assessment can provide. Also, there is that little task of actually doing something. However, this approach it holds everyone accountable for action and helps organizations avoid active inertia and strategic blinders represented by the ‘solving-by-measurement’ trap our industry has been caught in for the last 20 years. Measurement is a necessary pre-requisite for improvement, but not an end state.
If you are interested in learning more and want take the complimentary CX assessment you can do so by visiting www.test.maritzcx.com/assessment. In this brief self-service assessment you can take a look at your organization’s maturity from your perspective and also benchmark yourself to thousands of other organizations globally.
By honestly answering the scary questions we can help move organizations to a better place in creating and delivering great experiences to customers. We can finally bring the organizational aspects of customer experience to the prominence that is needed to create enduring change and holding those for doing so accountable. As Gandhi once said, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world…as in being able to remake ourselves.” Likewise, for your organization to change the customer experience, you must first change your own organization.