2020 customer experienceCustomer value is the point of customer experience management, customer success, customer care, sales and marketing. In fact, customer value is the point of engineering, manufacturing, legal, HR, and all the other functions of an entity. Without constant customer value generation, budgets, salaries, jobs and dividends are affected.

2020s customer experience management is at a turning point. Get ahead by making significant turns in customer value emphasis now. Forces on customers and business may otherwise make some turns that leave you behind.

It’s a new decade where customer value will be characterized differently by social, economic, technology, legal and competitive forces.

It will be tempting to make your customer value plays at the surface: program-level adjustments. However, top winners will share a significant commonality: they’ll make their plays at their company’s foundations.

Here are 20 wishes for superior customer experience management in the 2020s:

1) Redefine Customer Experience

Customer experience is defined by customers. Customer experience management is defined by your company.

Customer experience (CX) is something that has always existed, from the first people on earth who bartered: does the recipient (customer) view their realities as matching/exceeding their expectations? If so, it’s good CX.

  • CX is cumulative, encompassing pre-sale and post-sale.
  • CX usually precedes — and extends beyond — interaction with your company.
  • CX goes beyond interactions to include customers’ behind-the-scenes decisions and uses.
  • CX involves numerous automatic evaluations by the customer, both functional and emotional.
  • Overall, CX is about the customer achieving something in their life/business.
    (e.g. “ultimate outcome” or “job-to-be-done” (what the customer “hires” your stuff to do for them))

Customer experience is customers’ realities compared to their expectations.

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2) Update Your Customer Experience Management Definition

Customer experience management (CXM) was developed in recent decades to increase customer lifetime value.

  • CXM includes customer success, customer care, customer relationship management, etc.
  • CXM must reflect CX holistically; otherwise it’s a misnomer.
  • CXM aims to overcome silos caused by the industrial revolution.
  • CXM closes the gap between value proposition and value delivery toward customers’ outcomes.
    (closing the brand-customer gap or matching realities and expectations per customers’ viewpoint)
  • CXM requires “intentional CX” as the north star for how your business is run.
  • Collaboration and trust internally produce seamlessness and relationship strength externally.

CX management syncs your company’s delivery of value to ensure customers’ realities match customers’ expectations.

3) Make Intentional Customer Experience Your North Star

Intentional CX describes how you want customers to feel across their journey with you.

  • How customers see your contribution to what they want in their life/business.
  • Crystal-clear performance for your core-growth customers, to firmly differentiate your brand.
  • Guides daily decisions and enterprise-wide structure, staffing, budgeting, policies, processes.
  • The most-loved brands made intentional CX sacred.

Intentional customer experience is your CEO’s north star for running the business.

4) Focus Top Management on CX Annuities

Annuities are resources that keep on giving.

  • Your company has resources dedicated in perpetuity to “Band-Aids®” for customers’ hassles.
  • Prevent recurrence of hassles to re-assign those resources to higher value.
  • You’ll reap higher value in perpetuity: customer experience annuities.
  • As you remove hassles you’ll build customer trust.
  • Trust opens the door for sustained revenue growth.

Profitability (cost savings) is the best path to CX-inspired growth.

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5) Align Top Management in Co-Owning CX Performance

Your CEO must be the ringleader of intentional CX as your firm’s North Star.

  • Every executive reporting to the CEO co-owns CX performance.
  • Nobody gets a pass: every functional area strengthens / weakens CX.
  • Conduct an annual offsite correcting what’s at-odds with intentional CX.

Every senior leadership team member co-owns CX management.

6) Reset CXM Roles as Facilitators of CX Accountability

A decision out-of-sync with intentional CX by one or a few employees can rapidly and severely erode customer trust, word-of-mouth, goodwill, and stock value. This is evident in numerous recent public relations fiascos.

Every employee has a fiduciary responsibility to your company — a legal or ethical relationship of trust with company resources. These resources include assets of all kinds (budget, facilities, tools, agreements, goodwill, and the well-being of all company relationships: fellow employees, suppliers, agents, channels, media, public, and customers.

Every employee has a ripple-effect on the customer experience. As Dr. Deming said, “What everyone in a company does can be reduced to one of two functions: to serve the customer or serve someone who does.”

The primary purpose of a Chief Customer Officer or customer experience manager is to facilitate all employees’ self-management of their ripple-effect on customer experience.

7) Know & Respect Your CX Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a circle of life. It’s a set of interdependent concentric circles.

  • Our 5-year study of CX practices indicated stronger business results when CX insights are a determinant of corporate strategy rather than a subset or unrelated.
  • CX strategy and company strategy are intertwined; potential of one is gated by the other.
  • Customer-facing roles communicate or deliver value.
  • Non-customer-facing groups create or limit value.
  • They control product, policies, processes, business models, affiliations, handoffs and employee experience.
  • Accordingly, customer churn may be high even when touch-points are 100% customer-friendly.

Learn to speak the language and know the pressures of every functional area in your firm.

8) Tie CX Insights into Your Firm’s Rhythms

When you get a new boss you pay attention to what turns them on or off, and you adjust your routines accordingly, right? Customers are the source of salaries, budgets and dividends. They’re your company’s boss.

Inject CX insights into your company’s routines: hiring, onboarding, training, reviews, advancement, recognition, succession, budgeting, requisitions, strategic planning, policies, workflows, ops reviews, staff meetings, etc. These routines are how you run the business. Although they are separate from making and delivering your product/service, they are your company’s central nervous system.

How would your customer-centricity improve if organizational charters and job descriptions were re-framed in terms of “why are customers paying for this”? How would intentional CX be strengthened by including “what difference are you making for customers” as a prerequisite on forms and as the opening agenda item for meetings?

Inject customers’ well-being in every aspect of the way you run your business.

9) Refocus on Workflow Leading Indicators 

Key driver analysis (advocacy index correlation analysis) opens the door to actionability.

  • Key drivers identify areas where non-customer-facing teams can make a difference.
  • Apply Pareto analysis to customer comments and operations data for each key driver.
  • Apply 5-why’s analysis to the critical few items identified by the Pareto analysis.
  • The 5th why identifies the workflow diamond to focus on.
  • Workflow diamonds (decisions to flow forward or circle back) are filters: they prevent poor outputs from reaching customers.
  • Workflow diamond metrics are true leading indicators of future customer experiences, sentiment and behaviors; business results follow suit.
  • Workflow changes provide enduring improvements your whole customer base rewards.
  • Employees no longer feel tempted to tell customers what ratings to give.
    (“give us a 10” practice makes your survey lose its validity, and; it wastes all parties’ time and money)

Use customer surveys to validate the workflow metrics tied to customer advocacy.

Build these capabilities among your CX, CS & Marketing teams!

Customer Value Exchange

10) Close the Loop with Your Customer Base

Closing the loop with Detractors is a good idea, but by definition it won’t lead to massive business results. Only a percentage of your customer base completes a survey, and only a percentage are Detractors. For ROI to be generated by your whole customer base, close the loop with your whole customer base.

Send a letter to all customers (or announce via newsletter or web page) letting them know what key drivers you’re focusing on. Let them know you’ll give them a progress report by X date within the next 3-9 months. Advantages:

  • Draws a line in the sand for internal momentum and accountability.
  • Compels cross-organizational groups to work together for true solutions.
  • Focuses groups on preventing recurrence of customers’ thorny issues.
  • Helps all customers reset their perceptions when you share internal progress metrics.
  • Shows customers you’re serious in acting on their feedback: improves survey response rates.
  • Prevents infinite allocation of resources to the heretofore thorny issues.
  • Re-allocate resources to higher value as a “customer experience annuity.”

Build customer trust by being transparent with your actions on their feedback.

11) Establish Massive Systematic Improvement

Take your survey read-out on a roadtrip globally, before your company’s strategic planning period.

  • Engage each business unit in their own workshop with business-savvy cross-functional representatives.
  • Zero-in on true root issues through Pareto and 5-why’s analysis in a cross-functional exercise.
  • Guide them in developing an action plan for the 5th why, and selection of a corresponding leading indicator (workflow diamond metric).
  • Give high visibility to their single-page strategy action plan and progress metric (e.g. at top of agenda for every ops review and staff meeting).

Make it a way of life to cross-functionally prevent CX issue recurrence.

12) Reward Proactive CX Improvements

Heroic, reactive and individual efforts are all counter to the definition of superior CX.

  • Customers want their experience to be right the first time and every time.
  • Proactive teamwork that prevents hassles = superior CX.
  • Publish clear requirements for categories associated with CX key drivers.
  • Encourage teams to submit their progress to a panel of cross-functional judges.
  • Teams missing the threshold learn from judges’ comments and resubmit in future.
  • Share lessons learned far and wide to influence employee behaviors.

What gets rewarded is the strongest shaper of company culture.

13) Emphasize Ease-of-Doing Business & Ease-of-Work

From customers’ viewpoint, ease-of-doing-business may be the ultimate metric.

  • “Ease” may mean effortless in some circumstances.
  • Ease definitely means hassle-free and worry-free in all circumstances.
  • Ease prevents non-positive surprises, delays, costs, etc.
  • Ease-of-work may be the ultimate metric from employees’ viewpoint.
  • It makes it a joy to serve customers and to serve those who serve customers.

Bridge silos of all kinds to maximize ease-of-doing-business and ease-of-work.

14) Use Customer Lifetime Value

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is cumulative profitability during their relationship with your brand.

  • Our 5-year global study of CX practices showed stronger business results when CLV is used.
  • To speak the language of managers, quantify sentiment from groups of customers by the money they represent (revenue, costs, etc.). This compels action on CX insights.
  • Start quick-and-dirty: just costs this period or just revenue this period.
  • Specify your assumptions as talking points to build consensus in defining CLV.
  • Allow several years to refine fixed and variable costs in CLV.
  • CLV is the whole point of NPS® and all CX work!

CLV shows managers the size of business at-risk or at-opportunity.

15) Make it Easy for Customers to Give Feedback

Allow customers to give you feedback anytime, any way they want, about whatever they want. We have the technology to do this. We can translate a variety of formats into cohesive reports to management.

  • Put a link (QR code, web page link, etc.) in your website footer, your email footer, your stationary/flyers/signs, and even in your product itself.
  • Use nearly-free sources of customer feedback as your baseline voice-of-customer: contact center comments, sales and service comments, community comments, customer-facing employees, etc.
  • Design surveys to answer what you can’t find from nearly-free sources.
  • Separate customer feedback into “expectations” and “validations”.
  • Identify what customers want you to do more vs. do less vs. keep doing.
  • Combine all sources of customer feedback for a single monthly report to each business unit.

Glean voice-of-customer comments for meaningful insights to every group in your company.

16) Ask for Feedback as Often as You Create Change

When I started as a voice-of-customer manager in 1991 I asked a winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award how often we should survey customers. The answers: “how often do your industry’s customers’ expectations change?” and “how quickly can you make changes that customers will notice?”

Use stratified random samples so you can extrapolate findings to your whole customer base with strong statistical validity.

  • Reduce time burdens on customers and managers alike.
  • Increase response rates.
  • Improve the experience of survey participants by focusing on vital moments-of-truth.
  • Increase relevancy of survey reports to managers.
  • Make it more manageable for managers to read customer comments.
  • Show clearer ties between CX insights and internal actions.

Use your resources efficiently to expand your bandwidth and impact.

17) Become a Master of Formal Change Management

As a CX professional, every group across your company is your customer.

  • Take a course in organizational change management.
  • Start change management months before any major change.
  • Dedicate a team meeting at least monthly to update change management templates.

Change management is key to maximizing buy-in and continual follow-through.

18) Use CJM, UX, DX, CRM, etc. as Means to an End

All CXM techniques are optional means toward syncing your company’s delivery of value to ensure customers’ realities match customers’ expectations.

  • With any method, focus on making an enduring difference.
  • The best-loved brands use intentional CX so well they can skip many CXM techniques.
  • The test of CXM maturity is not in the number of techniques or any specific technique employed.
  • CXM maturity is achieved when CX insights prevent occurrence of customer hassles.

Customer lifetime value, ease-of-doing-business and ease-of-work determine world-class CX.

19) Emphasize Prevention Over Resolution

Maximize business growth in top-line and bottom-line performance.

  • Staffing growth in customer support and customer success may indicate poor CXM accountability.
  • Organic customer engagement has highest viral power.
  • When non-customer-facing employees and partners can anticipate and prevent non-positive CX consequences to their decisions, you’ll see strongest business performance.

Aim for ease-of-doing-business consistently from customers’ viewpoint.

20) Manage CX as a Flow

Pillars and silos are contradictory to CX excellence.
customer experience maturity

  • Put the basics together across this flow from the start.
  • Strategy + culture first, fueled by voice-of-the-customer.
  • Customer engagement can be organic to the extent employees are engaged in making a difference for customers.
  • Enduring growth through CXM requires strong execution of “middleware” in this model.

Retention, loyalty, and business results are earned by syncing your business with CX insights.

You probably share my passion for CXM: to make the world a better place. Historically it’s been unnecessarily difficult to be a customer, and customers have become numb to many of the burdens that organizations of all kinds place on them. Let’s see how many of these 20 wishes can come true in mainstream practice of customer experience management. You’ll surely differentiate your brand by adopting any of them. These wishes are aimed at making you highly valued in your company and career. Here’s to a new decade of improving the well-being and success of your customers and companies alike.

Customer Experience Strategy Quiz

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Image licensed to ClearAction Continuum by Shutterstock.