Customer Experience: The Ultimate Goal Is Sustainable Results

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting the highlights of our 2018 Customer Experience Study at our first, and very well received, CX event in Luton, UK. Today, let me share a few highlights of our study. And next time, we’ll discuss what customer experience has to do with sales enablement. Now, let’s establish a foundation first.

Why is customer experience getting more important every day?

One reason is that selling does not end when a deal has been closed – especially not in the age of the customer. Instead, professional selling is now about adding value in each interaction, with all involved buyer roles, at each stage of the customer’s path. And that means adding value in the early awareness phase, during the buying phase and when customers are going to implement and use your products and services. You get the point. Customer experience, good or bad, is created throughout the entire customer’s path, and that covers marketing, sales and services and delivery.

Another reason is that winning and retaining customers based on the latest cool product or lowest price does not create a differentiating and lasting advantage to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. And it’s not a sustainable strategy either. And, as we see year over year in our Sales-Relationship-Process Matrix, it’s also not a useful strategy for improving your customer relationship level from, for example, an easily replaceable vendor to a strategic contributor or trusted partner.

Customer experience is how your customers perceive their interactions with your organization. And most important, an outstanding customer experience is not about meeting the customers’ expectations; it’s about exceeding their expectations.

“Exceeding their expectations” makes investing in an improved customer experience a challenging endeavor. But the investments are worth it, as we see in our data. We found that there is a group of CX “leader” organizations (55%) that were able to improve their customer satisfaction during the previous year, and another group of CX “laggard” organizations (45%) that reported the same or a decreased customer experience.

CX leader organizations create a CX culture; they walk the talk and focus on proven practices to put strategies into action. Also, CX leaders make the customer’s path their main design point for “all things CX” and they also enable an effective cross-functional collaboration. Furthermore, they follow a holistic approach when it comes to talent. A few more details here:

  • CX Culture:
    Their senior leaders strongly view customer loyalty as core to the success of our business. As a consequence, they make budget and resources available to continuously improve customer experience, and they also focus on a senior executive role that is accountable for customer experience.
  • CX Execution:
    The single most important finding in this category is that the leaders do see the link between positive customer experience and business outcomes. This message is critical to success, because if CX leaders don’t translate their strategies and actions into tangible outcomes and put that into comprehensive business cases, executive leaders could lose interest and move on to new, more promising initiatives. In addition, when the alignment between marketing and sales and service pays off, CX leaders deliver a consistent customer experience that lives up to and aligns with their brand promise. That requires, obviously, that a vision of the desired customer experience has been developed and communicated. This practice is so important that it was one of the Top 12 practices of world-class sales organizations in our 2017 World-Class Practices Study.
  • CX Journey Maps:
    I always hammer home the idea of making the customer’s path the main design point in sales enablement. For customer experience, it’s exactly the same best practice. Continuous customer experience success requires taking an “outside-in” perspective by walking in your customers’ shoes along their customer’s path to understand their perceptions, then acting to deliver an improved experience. Each interaction consists of a multitude of “defining moments” where a customer forms an impression of you. Most are neutral, and some are negative and some are positive, depending on how they compare to the customer’s expectations. CX leader organizations follow a holistic approach, learning from positive AND negative customer experiences.
  • CX Talent:
    CX leader organizations are significantly more focused on hiring the right talent to begin with, assessing performance, implementing improvement plans, and terminating poor performers. Only about one in five laggard organizations agreed they were doing an effective job in people management, versus about half of those in the Leader segment. In a nutshell, it’s a process of hiring the right talent, developing this talent and provide an ongoing and tailored coaching practice.

 

Customer experience becomes more important every day, and the data suggests that there are proven practices the successful CX leader organizations focus on. The challenge for strategic sales enablement leaders is not only how to connect the dots between sales and marketing, but also and even more important, between sales and service, to ensure a seamless, excellent customer experience.

 

Questions for you:

  • Who is responsible for customer experience in your organization?
  • How do you ensure that sales and service are aligned to ensure a seamless customer experience?
  • Who is responsible for enablement service professionals in your organization?

 

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