Companies that deliver exceptional customer experiences get loyal customers and brand advocates. They gain a significant competitive advantage over their competitors. Conversely, falling short on customer expectations adversely affects the business. Companies that rank poorly on customer experiences have lower profits and lesser market share, compared to companies that rank high in customer experiences.
However, delivering exceptional customer experience (CX) is not easy. Many businesses, even while understanding the importance of CX, do not know how to deliver good CX. Those who know how to deliver often face budget and skill issues, inhibiting the rollout of CX initiatives. At times, investing to improve the customer experience may not appear to make sense financially.
Customer Experience (CX) maturity assessment reveals where enterprise stands in customer-centrality. CX Maturity models measure the extent to which the company matches customer expectations, while fulfilling business objectives.
Enterprises with high CX maturity keep the customer at the center of all processes. They devise or reorient systems to place the customer first. For such companies, the focus is on how the process will make things easy for the customer. Satisfied customers spend more and become loyal brand advocates. The enterprise makes better profits with such an approach. They consider the extra spend for improving the customer experience as an investment.
Assessing the CX Maturity
The first step towards becoming a mature customer-centric enterprise is to assess the state of CX maturity – to identify the present state of CX, compare it to the desired state, and identify the gaps to overcome.
Assessing and improving the CX maturity of an enterprise is a continuous cyclical loop rather than a one-off project. The business ecosystem is always dynamic. Customer profiles and customers change. Employees leave and new ones take their place. Corporate policies and product positioning also change. Such changes mandate constant evaluation and improvement of the company’s CX approach.
Several experts have developed various CX maturity models and frameworks over the years. These CX maturity frameworks enable companies to assess how they fare in CX and gain insights into specific aspects that affects CX.
Each CX Maturity model takes a unique approach. However, all of them break customer experience into the following broad areas:
- Delivery (process improvement)
Each model assesses enterprises according to the level of competencies in the above areas. They make explicit the state of the customer experience as it exists. Understanding the present stage is the base to set improvement goals, and reach the desired state.
Most enterprises in the last decade followed the Customer Experience Management (CXM) approach. This model is, however, reactive, and hence inadequate in today’s fast-paced era. Many companies now embrace the Customer Experience Maturity Model (CXMM).
The relatively new Customer Experience Maturity Model (CEMM) breaks down customer experience into five domains – data, design, delivery, measurement, and culture. Each domain has different statements and scores. The report drills down to specific areas where the enterprise excels and the areas that needs to improve. The model gives an actionable framework to measure and evolve the customer experience program. A customer’s experience depends on each interaction with the company. CEMM allows the company to form statements that measure specific customer engagement points in all these areas.
Forrester’s CX prioritization model considers customer impact, business impact, and feasibility. Advanced CX prioritization factors in risk and return on investment
Leveraging Data to Boost CX Maturity
The basic step towards delivering an exceptional customer experience is to understand the customer. In today’s digital age, where all transactions and engagements leave a trail, data reveals everything about a customer.
The maturity of the customer experience depends on how well they leverage customer data. Many companies think they know their customers well. But in reality, they may have only a superficial understanding of what the customer wants, what is important to them, and what they expect.
Identify all relevant sources of customer data, and capture data from such sources. The obvious sources are billing information, website forms and cookies, landing pages, support tickets, emails, ad campaigns, and other customer touchpoints.
Best-in-breed brands take direct feedback from the customer. They use email, WhatsApp, phone surveys, and other customer touch-points. For instance, they offer the option to rate the experience at the end of a customer support chat. They also invest in social media listening. The time spent by the customer on a webpage, clicking through to a landing page, posting a comment on the company’s social media post, and other social behaviors generate valuable cues on customer behavior.
Measure the impact of the various interactions customers have with the company. Find out how such interactions shape customer perceptions.
There is no rigid list for the “right” customer data. The right data depends on the nature of the business and the customer profile. Some generic data, useful for all analysis, include:
- Customer demographics, especially age, gender, and location. Other desirable demographic information includes vocation, annual income, and so on.
- How the customer rates specific experiences.
- Open-ended data describing the good and bad experiences.
Invest in tools to capture the latest data, and cleanse it.
Build customer personas using the collected data.
Deploy analytical tools to track customer behavior. Track the data to understand how customers interact and what triggers various actions. Use analytic tools to decipher customer behavior. For instance, if a customer enters the company website repeatedly, they may have difficulty in finding the information they need.
Connect the customer voice to operational data to gather customer intelligence. Give priority to customers based on customer lifetime value. CX pros measure if the journey delivers value for customers and the company.
How to Design Processes to Improve CX Maturity
Understanding the state of the customer experience is the first step. The next step is to pinpoint areas of weakness and create an action plan for improvement. Data makes explicit the state of the CX in the enterprise. Making improvements requires changes to the design.
Design the ideal customer experience vision. Benchmark against industry peers and competitors. Identify gaps in competitor CX strategy, and improve on it to become the industry leader. Involve key team members, and take feedback from everyone in the loop, when designing the vision.
There is no quick fix to overhaul customer experience and propel it to the ideal state. Use the Customer Experience Maturity Model as a roadmap and a benchmark, and focus on areas where the company is weak in understanding the customer.
Reconcile the ideal CX state with business realities and needs. Avoid implementing feedback in isolation, without considering the impact on the overall experience. Giving customers everything they say may make revenues unviable and damage the customer experience in the long run.
- Create actionable intelligence from voice-of-the-customer. For instance, if the customer enters the webpage repeatedly, rework the website, to make it simple. Or engage with the customer to find out what they want.
- Design the customer experience from a holistic perspective, rather than compile up a laundry list of items. Improving the customer experience maturity needs a concerted roadmap. A roadmap enables making specific interventions, fixing responsibility, and providing ownership of the required changes to stakeholders.
- Encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Creativity and innovation can deliver great CX. Promote a culture of innovation to engage with customers in different ways, and/or to reposition products and services.
- Prioritize areas and create an action plan. Develop clear and easily implementable CX standards based on such an action plan. Communicate the same to everyone. A good design helps to understand the experience customers prefer and the levels of experience the business can afford to deliver.
- Leverage the power of simplicity. The best CX initiatives are simple and measurable.
How to Deliver Process improvement for CX Maturity
The crunch comes when implementing CX design. A high-quality customer experience maturity model requires systems thinking and a shared vision. Attaining CX maturity requires the entire enterprise ecosystem to take planned steps in a coordinated way.
Develop a consensus among the rank-and-file on the acceptable standards when engaging with customers. Involve product managers, sales leads, customer support executives, field agents, and business advisors.
Define the desirable activities for each employee, especially customer-facing employees. Each employee contributes to the overall customer experience. Even back-end employees, having no direct interface with the customer, impact customer experience. For instance, if a warehouse driver slacks off, product movement gets delayed. Customers wait longer to get the product, degrading the experience.
- Invest in the appropriate tools to make jobs easier. When employees struggle to do their jobs well, it ultimately boils down to degraded customer experience.
- Design new processes for efficiency. Make sure such processes deliver measurable business outcomes, apart from satisfying the customer. Focus on designing experiences that drive customer loyalty, rather than mere transactions.
- Set expectations and accountability. Support employees to do their part. Give them ownership of tasks. Offer training to employees who need it.
- Schedule the desired practices into workflows. Structure a clear communication system to encourage transparent information flows, and reinforce desirable customer satisfaction traits.
- Make customer satisfaction the focus of employee appraisals. Offer feedback loops to help employees.
How Technology Contributes to CX Maturity
Technology is now a key factor in determining the CX maturity of an enterprise. In most cases, enterprises cannot satisfy their customers without investing in the latest tech tools.
Companies with high CX maturity integrate their CX tools into the wider enterprise IT ecosystem, to create new, seamless experiences for the customer. For instance, they offer a customer self-service app to enable the customer to access service, check their account details, make bookings, pay for the product or service, and track deliveries. A seamless customer-facing app integrates to various enterprise systems, such as inventory systems, accounting systems, and field service platforms. Connectors pull in real-time data from such enterprise systems and make available live information to the customer. Customers who make a service request may track the repair technician’s progress through the app connected to the GPS-enabled enterprise field service platform. When the customer uses the e-commerce portal to make a purchase, the backend integrates with the inventory suite to check on the availability of the stock and the expected delivery times.
A combination of self-service portals, automated SMS, and chatbots have become the bare minimum to deliver exceptional CX. Today’s customers prefer immediate solutions to their issues. Calling up customer support, and waiting hours on an IVR system is a sure way to annoy them. While they prefer self-service channels, going overboard with automated digital systems is also a risk. Some customers still value the human touch.
CX maturity invariably requires migrating to the cloud. Some companies still operate with on-premise technology. But for most companies, enabling anywhere, anytime access to information is indispensable to keep customers happy. Today, 81% of enterprises operate on multi-cloud landscapes, and have at least some infrastructures in the cloud.
Enterprises seeking to improve their CX maturity levels need to:
- Invest in multi-channel customer service platforms, and aim for omnichannel engagement with customers. Design scalable and affordable options using the latest infrastructure.
- Find the right balance between human and digital service channels, and integrate seamlessly.
The Importance of Culture Change to Attain CX Maturity
The CX maturity of an enterprise depends on the culture. Evolution to a customer-centric organization needs change to mindsets and behaviors. The rank-and-file employees need to move towards an active awareness of the customer experience.
A culture of openness and transparency correlates to high CX maturity. When all employees access relevant data, customer-facing employees can provide information to customers without hassles. A culture of secrecy, where employees hoard data for power, causes delays, or even outright inability to access the information to serve customers well. If the company culture makes employees unhappy, the negativity spreads to the way they engage with the customer. CX suffers.
Enterprises on a journey to improve their CX maturity need to take the following action steps:
- Frame core values upfront. Company culture depends on the core values of the enterprise. Initiate steps to ensure that the rank-and-file employees adhere to such core values and stick to them.
- Work to change employee habits. Merely reinforcing the message will not suffice. Have team leaders and other influencers pave the way to integrate new habits and routines into day-to-day work. Such habits could be as simple as saying “thank you” to the customer.
- Hire people with empathic skills. A big part of reinforcing the culture lies in recruitment – to hire employees who have shared values with the enterprise culture. Include scenario questions during recruitment interviews to identify how the prospective employee will react when dealing with customers.
- Offer rewards to reinforce the culture. Tie employee rewards with customer satisfaction scores.
How Leadership Shapes CX Maturity
Improving the CX maturity score is impossible without effective leadership. Lack of top management support or buy-in makes it impossible for managers and rank-and-file employees to please the customer, even when motivated.
Enterprises starting in their CX journey, or companies with low CX maturity scores, in most cases, do not have a defined CX strategy. The reason for the lack of coherent strategy is almost always a lack of commitment from senior leadership.
Improving the CX maturity often needs dismantling old ways of working, and introducing new CX-focused ways. The onus is on the top management to lead from the front and shepherd the change initiative. They have to make sure the change drives up efficiencies, competencies, and delivers business results.
The onus is on the top management to:
- Define a strategy for CX, including a clear vision and commitment to become customer-centric.
- Provide budget for the CX initiatives, especially for new technology adoption, training interventions. The key stumbling block often is not the will, but a lack of budget and sufficient skill-sets.
- Remove the structural obstacles to improving CX, such as poor interdepartmental collaboration.
- Empower customer-facing team to act on customer feedback and insight.
- Motivate employees to perform at their best. Top performers naturally go the extra mile to please customers. Demotivated employees do the minimum to get by. The business goes on, but customers who engage in transactions are rarely happy. They seek alternatives next time when they want a similar service.
Customer experience ROI comes from investing wisely to add value for all stakeholders, including the investors, top management, rank and file employees, partners, and customers. Enterprises with high CX maturity rank high in performance, employee morale, customer satisfaction, profitability, and all other desirable metrics.