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Fast, Faster, and Other Thoughts on CX Direction

In today’s business environment, speed trumps all.  Consumers live in a world of immediacy, and businesses must leave reactive CX efforts behind and begin predicting their way towards more conversions, recoveries, and perfect customer experiences.

As a longtime CX practitioner, I have loved seeing organizations work to mature their approach to customer experience.  Specifically, the past two years have been more fascinating as customer experience has become such an integral part of just about every organizational strategy and conversation.

Unfortunately, with few exceptions, most organizations remain at the beginning of their journey towards CX maturity.  While laboring to create a foundation of a strong CX program through engaged leadership, organizational structure, talent and company culture, digital innovations continues to outpace the adoption of technology within CX teams.  Brian Solis, a well known figure in CX, digital marketing and social media, calls this “Digital Darwinism.”  As Brian states, “Digital Darwinism is the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than the ability to adapt.” I couldn’t agree more, sadly.  This isn’t for a lack of effort on CX practitioners part, because it is not easy to get that foundation set.

PERSPECTIVE: THE DIGITAL MATURITY SCALE

Consider the digital maturity scale (figure below).proccess

Across the spectrum of the scale, beginning with “analog systems” at the lowest point and progression upward to “mass personalization” at the highest point. Consumer expectations are getting closer to the top every day.  The way products are designed, and the way you shop for these products, or even interact with employees selling them, are all becoming VERY personalized.

Take for example, buying and paying for insurance for your car.  How has that changed in just the past five years?   How about ordering Pizza?  That process alone has become super personalized.  Dominos now lets you initiate a pizza order by sending an emoticon in a text message.  The value proposition to the consumer is time (and some element of social vanity in today’s world), so people are willing to give more personalized information to Dominos to enable it.

In a separate example, consider the car buying experience.  Tesla has redefined the automotive shopping experience by moving beyond a simple (and frustrating) transaction at the dealership.  Buying a car with Tesla is an entire design exercise enabled by technology.  This experience will become even more disruptive to traditional dealerships as it becomes broadly exposed to buyers at more practical price points.

What about CX practitioners and programs then?  Where do they fall on the maturity scale?  Based on my experience, most are still running transactional systems.  Customers interact and a survey follows, usually in an emailed invitation and probably after details of the experience could be easily recalled by the customer.  Sadly, this means of collecting customer feedback is not part of the experience–it is an extension beyond the experience.

In a world of immediacy, the lost time between the interaction, and any needed intervention, creates a situation of “too little, too late.”  Simply catching up to collection in digital channels isn’t enough as well, customers expect you to know how they feel.

THE TRUTH FOR ALL CX

No matter where a business sits along the path to CX and digital maturity, one thing holds true for all relationships between companies and customers–we call it the CX causal chain. The CX causal chain is as follows:

INTERACTIONS elicit EMOTIONS that drive BEHAVIORS that result in FINANCIAL OUTCOMES.

Let’s run through this chain in more detail.

THE CHAIN

On the front side of the chain, we believe that interactions (indirect or direct) elicit emotions. Those emotions, whether they are understood in basic sentiment or deeper into the full wheel of emotions, alongside consumer needs and expectations, drive behaviors. The behaviors can be simply defined as buying, advocating or buying more. Or it could be the complete opposite when things go wrong.  And, depending on growth or change of those three behaviors, financial outcomes are realized in the form of new business, repeat business, or lost business.

We believe this chain is the simple core to every customers’ experience.  The big challenge here?  Compression of time.

WHY SPEED MATTERS MORE THAN EVER

In the fast pace of today’s world, time-to-value is one of the single biggest drivers for nearly every product or brand. Coupled with consumer expectations (the immediacy of everything), the duration of time that runs across the CX causal chain has been significantly reduced. Whether the goal is to increase conversions, recover customers, or create perfectly-timed customer engagements—businesses are discovering just how important it is to speedily influence behaviors by creating or correcting designed interactions. Companies no longer have time to play reactive CX.  Customers go away, either to your current competition, or to a new product that provides faster time-to-value.  Just ask taxi companies in New York City.

IMPACT TO CX LEADERS

So what does this all mean to practitioners?  Well, it means two things.  We have to bridge the gap between consumer digital maturity (expectations) and CX digital maturity, and, even more importantly, we must go faster.

To address the first challenge, feedback collection must be designed to be part the experience, real-time, and complimentary to the settings that make the most sense for the product or experience.  This also means the structure of feedback will change–more conversations and less survey diagnostics.  Which translates to even more reliance on unstructured data analysis, too.

To address the second, however, we need to create an environment where we can be predictive about emotions and behaviors in real-time.

PREDICTION

As mentioned, given the pressure for immediacy, PoS, CRM and other engagement systems can’t rely on reactive CX cycle to happen.  What this really means is that surveys, in addition to traditional CX practices, must be used as a basis of modeling predictive behaviors.  No, surveys aren’t dying, as much as this seems to be the provocative statement CX practitioners like to use today……they are simply evolving (digitally maturing) to support the immediacy of business.  I do believe that businesses will soon be able to successfully compliment, and eventually replace in some instances, sentiment data from surveys with emotional data from wearables, facial recognition technology, etc.  But, for now, the next step for most businesses will be using survey data for prediction.  In the end, the whole goal should be to understand emotion elicited interactions and then focus those emotions that are connected to your target behaviors.  From there, follow the emotions backwards, adjust the dials on the interaction(s) to increase or decrease the emotions in focus.  And, by the way, do it in real-time.  It’s all easier said than done, but that’s where we’re headed.

CX IMPACT

Think about the four steps in the CX causal chain.  Interactions are captured in your engagement platforms (App, Web, CRM, PoS, etc).  Emotions are captured from your CX platform from solicited and unsolicited sources.  Behaviors show up again in your transactional and engagement platforms, and the Financial Outcomes have their home too.  Compression of these steps will continue to apply pressure for consolidation, partnerships and integrations across these industries and platforms.  This also begins to reinforce and have dependency on organizational structures – the inevitable collision of VOC teams, marketing, brand and market research.

As the CX causal chain compresses, the bigger environment is impacted too.  The first area where this is happening is inside organizations.  We’re seeing CX teams get closer to marketing, brand and market research, especially in more mature CX practices.  In parallel, their consolidation and/or integration of engagement systems and CX platforms.  We’ve already seen some of this as CX platforms have deeper integrations with engagement systems, and some CRM solutions are even adding feedback collection to their product mix.  Thirdly, integration of CX platforms and traditional research companies. The formation of MaritzCX between Allegiance and Maritz is one of the best examples.  Lastly, and later than the first two, is the transition of CX platforms into curators of data (or “Insight Brokers” as has been coined), simply taking in data, adding the emotional component, and giving it back to the systems of engagement for action.

A side note: Atop these four steps lives a service offering that is still very much alive.  As much as immediacy forces real-time, prediction and needed technology, it will not completely substitute the whole process of CX.  Service experts will still be needed for program design, experience design, experience quantification and more. Few companies have talent that matches the experience and knowledge of seasoned CX industry experts who have helped multiple businesses.  At the same time, as compression impacts all, service experts are being very thoughtful about how they can “productize” many of the exercises and offerings.  A small example of this would be through journey mapping, now showing up as a product feature as much as it is an exercise.

IN THE END

Whichever end of CX maturity your organization finds itself, think carefully about your program–where it is, where it isn’t, and where it needs to be on the maturity scale.  Compression is happening as technology speeds everything up, whether we like it or not.  Ensure your program, platform(s) and partnerships recognize this and respect the same.