How to Overcome Customer Experience Blindspots

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Martech Advisors blog here.

The basis of competition today isn’t about your products or competitors. It’s about how well you fully meet customer expectations, across all channels. That’s it. Pretty simple.

Actually it’s always been that way but we got sidetracked decades ago with feature-binging, sexed up product advertising, and mass product variations all in the name of customer choice.

When the concept of customer experience came on the scene years ago, the discussion started around how to get back to what customers want – a trusted, meaningful relationship without all the bluster and hype. It was about a need to align strategy, people, process and technology outward to enable meeting customer expectations. But that discussion got hijacked into a tactical one about how technology can automate the journeys brands want customers to take in order to drive more sales.

Today, the conversation is coming back around – customer experience is a mindset shift and corporate transformation. The question companies are asking is no longer which technology in the bloated Martech landscape can automate ‘customer delight’ but rather what is the right approach, organization structure, culture and employee enablement that motivates people to build trusted, meaningful customer relationships. Companies are realizing that technology, yet again, is not a silver bullet, the quick fix, or short cut to the end goal. The role of technology is to institutionalize new behaviors, processes, values, data collection/analysis and decision making so employees can rapidly and nimbly understand how to act in ways that fully meet individual customer expectations.

In the C-Suites of my clients, the light bulbs are popping on as they realize the gaps between how well they think they know their customers and what is holding them back from competing on the quality of the relationship.

“There’s a big disconnect. Companies want their business strategies to revolve around the customer and they often have the data they need, yet many of them are either ignoring key sources of customer data altogether or keeping it siloed. Because of this, they’re not getting a holistic view of the customer, which prevents them from offering a truly differentiated customer experience. For example, with multiple communication channels coming into contact centers companies are rich with customer data, but they aren’t sharing these insights organization-wide to improve their customer engagement strategies.”

– Tom Goodmanson, CEO of Calabrio

These ‘ah-ha’s gain momentum when supported by an insightful study that reinforces the conclusions leaders are reaching on their own. Calabrio, a customer experience software company, recently announced the findings of a study it sponsored in the USA and UK that explored the missing links in customer-centric C-suites.

One of the most striking findings is that 100% of the respondents across all company sizes stated that the customer was their company’s top priority, over sales and revenue. 52% of senior leadership considered customer experience as critical to differentiating their brand. And they measured customer experience success by customer retention (64%).

customer experience metricsInterestingly, among senior leaders, customer retention also surpassed profit (13%) and product development (8%) as their highest priority. To enable their organizations to act in ways that lead to retention, study participants valued customer sentiment and having real time insights about customer behavior. For leaders, “the ability to analyze behaviors in real time opens a world of new insights, helps instill best practices and guarantees better outcomes.”

And here is where the gaps show up. While companies acknowledge the value of real time insights, they aren’t capturing them. “We’ve seen the increased focus on customer experience, but it was eye-opening to see how many brands simply aren’t capturing the real-time customer insights that are at their fingertips – and how many are using antiquated methods to gauge customer sentiment,” added Goodmanson.

Over half of the companies relied on surveys and 37% on customer user groups for that insight information; methods that are not real-time, holistic, unbiased, or qualitative or in formats that can be rapidly analyzed and widely disseminated across an organization.

Digging deeper, the study found this gap was tied to ownership. “30% of respondents placed confusion around responsibility for the customer experience as a key hurdle.” While the customer is the number one priority, ownership is scattered between CMOs, chief customer officers and CEOs, each with their own limitations in how best to guide the organization through the customer alignment transformation.

35% of CMOs believed that using customer data insights is their responsibility, while only 29% of chief customer officers claimed ownership and only 37% of CEOs felt they were responsible. Calabrio nailed it with the statement “the lack of ownership within the C-suite combined with siloed customer data and increasing customer expectations, has created tensions within many organizations.”

Despite countless articles from thought leaders and practitioners stating the CEOs must own the customer experience and customer-alignment transformation, the study found ownership falling to the CMO or chief customer officer. It also highlighted that these two roles are not as complimentary as one might like them to be.

57% of the respondents felt the chief customer role came into being because the CMO lacked the support and expertise to take on this responsibility. There wasn’t consensus among study respondents on whether the chief customer officer is the right ‘fix’ for the situation. From my experience, I have not seen chief customer officers be wildly successful in driving cross-functional alignment and accountability down the organization.

Introduction of a chief customer officer sets up a confrontational dynamic in the C-Suite, especially with the CMO, CIO and Field Sales/Service. It also takes the organization’s eye off the ball – capturing and analyzing real time data to drive cross-functional decision making that supports customer expectations. The ‘silver bullet’ technology mindset then creeps back in. The study found that 56% of US respondents expect to better align the customer experience across all touch points only when technology capabilities improve. 33% expect artificial intelligence will help automate processes that result in improved experiences.

There is real opportunity for organizations to capture real-time insights and share them across the organization. Something they can do today, right now.

  1. Tap into the wealth of information already collected by call centers, field service agents, etc. Use it sentiment analysis, identify sub-performing touchpoints, journey map, issues that are impacting CSAT, retention, referral/influence and other scores.
  2. Define the granular customer data you’re missing and modify existing systems and interaction points to capture where possible. Don’t know where to ‘house’ that data? Write it to a data warehouse for mining.
  3. Qualitatively journey map your strategic customer segments and conduct a gap analysis for loyal customers, those that have abandoned you (against your wishes), etc. to learn where your blindspots and gaps are.
  4. Metrics define what you manage, so get clear on what your customer experience metrics should be. It’s not NPS or revenue.
Christine Crandell
Christine Crandell
Chief Customer Strategist & President

Christine is a recognized thought leader, practitioner, speaker and author on corporate strategy, customer experience and emerging technology. As President of New Business Strategies, a customer alignment strategy consultancy, her teams have helped clients including Oracle, Great Place to Work Institute, Santa Clara University, PayScale, Selligent, New Pig Corporation, Prime Therapeutics, Lithium and McKesson to directly contribute to creating over $2.7B in value for clients. A frequent speaker, she has been published in BusinessWeek, Investor Business Daily, CMO.com and quoted in several books on marketing and technology. Christine has keynoted and spoken at over thirty conferences on topics including customer experience, emerging technology and business strategy. She writes for Forbes, CMSWire, CustomerTHINK and HuffingtonPost. Her approach to marketing and strategy has led to recognition in 2016 as Best Customer Engagement and Strategy Consulting Firm by Corporate America News, and Best B2B Customer Experience Consulting Firm by TMT. In 2105 Christine was recognized by SDL as a CX Master, in 2014 as one of 50 most influential people in Sales Lead Management, in 2013 as one of three “B2B Luminary” by MarketingProfs. In 2012 she was recognized as one of the top 20 women in Sales and Marketing by the Sales Lead Management Association, one of the top 15 leaders in social selling, and in 2010 as one of Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
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