Ask 10 companies what their customer experience strategy is and you’ll likely get 10 very different combinations of alphabet soup: CJM, CRM, VoC, UX, FCR, NPS, AI, self-service, digital marketing, word-of-mouth, customer success, retention programs, loyalty programs, and so forth. But are these strategies or tactics?
Look up the definition of “strategy” and you’ll see: master plan, grand design, game plan, a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim, a plan for directing overall operations and movements.
Given that definition, it’s a misnomer to claim, for example, that digital marketing is customer experience strategy. It’s misleading to claim that any one of the alphabet soup is a strategy. It’s cheating yourself and others—most important, your customers and investors—of the enduring benefits promised by customer experience management.
Even combining all the tactics probably does not truly add up to “a master plan” or “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.” All of these are tactics—components of what should be a master plan.
Don’t confuse combined components with a plan for directing overall operations and movements.
Here’s what it takes to build a strategy.
Strategy prerequisite #1: Scope accurately
Know the true scope of what you’re creating a master plan for. We all know from customer journey maps that customer experience is much more than a moment in time. It’s much more than an interaction. It spans the end-to-end customer life cycle. That’s the universal scope for customer experience strategy.
Strategy prerequisite #2: Identify stakeholders
Know the players required in your master plan. Stakeholders are all parties who affect or are affected by customer experience. Consider your ultimate stakeholder first—define what’s required from whom to fulfill your customers’ needs across all processes in the end-to-end customer life cycle, including the following.
- Daily work in support of customer processes is provided by the obvious stakeholders: customer-facing staff and owners of customer touch-points. (But do they have everything needed to guide customer processes?)
- Capabilities to support daily work are established by all of the other areas of your company. (They are all essential to customer processes, or certainly essential to customer-facing staff and owners of customer touch-points. Otherwise, why would you fund them?)
This means nobody is exempt from playing a role in your customer experience strategy. Whether they knew it or not before now, they already are playing a role. They may or may not be playing their role in accordance with customer inputs. Who really succeeds by being oblivious to their boss’s input? You need to guide everyone in doing their part (i.e. plan for directing overall operations and movement).
Customers plus everyone in your company (plus suppliers and partners) are the universal stakeholders for customer experience strategy.
Strategy prerequisite #3: Be bold
Remember that executing a strategy does not mean tiptoeing into action. Strategy by definition is a grand plan. Since nobody is exempt, your plan for directing overall operations and movements is to center everything in your business and everyone’s decision-making and actions on customers’ well-being. Customer experience strategy is having a customer-centered business.
Customer-centered means that your management decisions and actions in all facets of your business are centered on customers’ well-being as the path to your well-being. Customer well-being requires a balance between the benefits they receive from your company and the collective costs they incur: money, time, effort and stress.
By definition of “end-to-end customer experience” itself, customer-centered business is the universal aim of customer experience strategy — your plan for directing overall operations and movement.
Strategy prerequisite #4: Set up for success
Setting up for success means removing gaps. Create shared vision and shared ownership. State your corporate objectives for financial growth, employee retention and productivity, and so forth, within the context of what your primary target market wants. Any objective treated as an exception is a massive vulnerability.
Start with “why”: Our target is X because voice-of-the-customer research revealed that the key drivers for customer experience success are Y (or because we are committed to solve Z for our customers).
Your motives are more transparent than you may suppose. Your stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, channel partners, etc.) read a lot into your priorities by the context you provide through your behavior.
Require cascaded objectives (also known as Hoshin Kanri) in your annual planning process so that every tier and department within your company follows suit, creating transparency and alignment in how they are supporting the company’s overall goals. Ask each department to state their goals in terms of what customers want at the corporate level and from their own department or function.
Corporate strategy and customer experience strategy must be mirror images.
Strategy prerequisite #5: Drive ROI
Sustained, profitable business growth is the ultimate aim of a solid strategy. When it comes to the alphabet soup of customer experience management techniques, emphasize the ones that prevent waste. You want to prevent waste for your customers, yourself and your partners, including waste of time, money, effort, turnover and stress. Always weigh waste calculations with consequences to your customers as a top priority. Their consequences have a domino effect.
You want to make your customers’ experience of participating in your customer experience management as seamless and enjoyable as possible. You want this participation to create immediate and lasting value for them. Scrutinize your alphabet soup accordingly.
You also want to minimize the need for Band-Aids. Many customer experience management techniques are used to make up for someone dropping the ball somewhere along your company’s internal value chain. Funneling precious resources into remedial efforts is not about creating sustained profitable business growth.
You want to expand employee engagement in your customer experience management techniques. Think about who else could be using data you’re amassing. Help them see how they can use it. Make it easy for them to integrate into their existing routines.
Always remember the definition of strategy: directing overall operations and movements.
Why genuine customer experience strategy matters
Your strategy indicates your goals. Goals set the stage for the way people think and act.
Your company’s store of goodwill with your customers is at stake. You want to strengthen relationships with your customers to minimize turnover. You want to do it to maximize positive word-of-mouth. You want these things because it’s more profitable to keep your customers. You want to maximize customer relationship strength because it makes you an obvious leader to investors and future customers.
True customer experience strategy—not the knockoffs of yesteryear—is your key to ongoing organic growth.
This article first appeared on the Clear Action website here. It is reprinted here with permission.