In today's highly competitive environment, it's tough to acquire new customers and it's becoming even more difficult to keep existing customers happy. That's why many organizations are making a commitment to better serve their customers, investing in the organizational capabilities to consistently deliver memorable, differentiated experiences. This doesn't happen overnight -- it requires leaders to stay committed for a long-term journey. But the results are worth it: Loyal customers that recommend you to their friends.
Smart companies want to deliver the best customer experience (CX) possible because they understand that good experience is the key driver of customer loyalty.
But most companies are still in the early stages of their journey toward CX excellence -- only 4% of the 206 companies surveyed in a recent study received “excellent” ratings.
The journey to customer experience maturity requires a six-step process of rethinking the role of the company in society and how it operates daily to enhance its customers’ lives.
Stage 1: Ignore
Not every company has been bitten by the CX bug. In this stage, companies don’t view CX as a strategic imperative.
Key obstacle to advancement: Generating awareness and interest.
Stage 2: Explore
Companies typically start their journey when a senior executive decides that CX is important to their business success. This initial stage of CX activity usually starts with the establishment of an ad-hoc group to understand what the company needs to focus on.
Key obstacle to advancement: Gaining alignment of key executives across the organization.
Stage 3: Mobilize
Once companies make a commitment to CX, they typically appoint a senior executive to run their CX efforts and to build a full-time CX staff. In this stage of maturity, companies often invest in customer journey maps and build voice of the customer programs.
Key obstacle to advancement: Making trade-offs against other competing priorities.
Stage 4: Operationalize
With a CX organization and cross-functional governance in place, companies begin to redesign their operating processes and make widespread changes to how the business runs. In this stage, firms actively use CX metrics and focus on engaging the entire workforce.
Key obstacle to advancement: Overcoming inertia of middle managers.
Stage 5: Align
As a company takes on customer-centric behaviors, it needs to put in place structures to reinforce and sustain them. In this advanced stage of CX maturity, companies develop strong measurements and HR practices that reinforce the good CX behaviors.
Key obstacle to advancement: Staying focused on customers as other priorities and issues arise.
Stage 6: Embed
In the final stage of CX maturity, companies don't focus on CX as an independent activity. Great CX is a byproduct of the company delivering on its strong brand mission.
Key obstacle to advancement: Maintaining and renewing the brand identity as the company evolves.
Assessing your customer experience competency
A recent survey shows that very few firms have reached high levels of maturity, but many are beginning to make progress.
An assessment can aid in benchmarking your capabilities and in charting a course for an improved CX journey. Here are a number of ways that it can be used:
Self-assessments. These will determine the strengths and weaknesses of your organization.
Group discussions. Use a self-test in a group exercise and discuss the strengths and weaknesses identified, as well as the areas of agreement and disagreement in the results.
Benchmarking. Compare the results to the data provided by customer experience measurement rankings.
Action planning. Develop plans for making progress toward being a Customer-Centric Organization.
Progress tracking. Repeat the self-test every six months to track your progress.
As companies make progress, customers will quickly get used to the better treatment and become even less forgiving of those organizations that fall behind. So it's time to chart your customer experience journey. While it will take several years to reach the higher levels of maturity, you don't want to fall behind.