Is “customer experience strategy” like the Wheel of Fortune spinner? The diversity of what it is in practice among companies today kind of feels that way. 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. Plug these into the spinner and see your fortune. More importantly, are these strategies or tactics?
Look up “strategy” definition 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.
As such, for instance, it’s a misnomer to claim 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 importantly, your customers and investors — of the enduring upside promised by customer experience management.
Even the combinations probably do 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.
But don’t confuse combined components as a plan for directing overall operations and movements.
Here are the prerequisites:
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 — what’s required from whom to fulfill your customers’ processes across the end-to-end customer life cycle:
- Daily work in support of customers’ processes is provided by the obvious stakeholders: customer-facing staff and owners of customer touch-points. (But surely they don’t have everything needed to fulfill customers’ processes.)
- Capabilities to support daily work are established by all of the other areas of your company. (They are ALL essential to customers’ processes (or certainly essential to customer-facing staff and owners of customer touch-points). Else, why would you (read: customers) 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 in accordance with customer inputs. Who really succeeds by being oblivious to their boss’ inputs? You need to guide everyone in doing their part (i.e. plan for directing overall operations and movement).
Customers plus all parties in your company (plus suppliers and partners) are the universal stakeholders for customer experience strategy.
Strategy Prerequisite #3: Be Bold
Remember that strategy is not tiptoeing! Strategy by definition is a grand plan. Since nobody is exempt, your plan for directing overall operations and movements is:
Center everything in your business and everyone’s decision-making and actions on customers’ well-being. Customer experience strategy is customer-centered business.
As stated in this article series’ first post, Customer-Centered Business: 10 Keys to Organic Growth:
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: Setup for Success
Setup 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 in your armor.
Start with “why”: Our target is X because voice-of-the-customer 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 talk and your walk. It indicates permissible workarounds: any means toward the end, or really be customer-centered?
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 at their own level.
Corporate strategy and customer experience strategy must be mirror images.
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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 and yourself and your partners: time, money, effort, turnover, stress. Always weight waste calculations with consequences to your customers as top priority. Their consequences have a domino effect to your consequences.
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 want to minimize the need for “Band-AidsTM“. 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. Scrutinize your alphabet soup accordingly.
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 do.
Your company’s goodwill 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.
Customer Experience Strategy Quiz
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*Alphabet soup = customer journey mapping (CJM), customer relationship management (CRM), voice-of-the-customer (VoC), user experience (UX), first contact resolution (FCR), Net Promoter ScoreTM (NPS), artificial intelligence (AI).
Originally published as an exclusive Advisors monthly column on CustomerThink.com as What is Customer Experience Strategy?