Over 23 million variations on a theme. At least, that’s how many links you’ve access to if you put “Definition of customer experience” into Google. There are only 3 million more links to “Definition of humanity”.
So it’s not surprising that to engage the corporate leadership team or those of a sceptical, short-term disposition in the importance of customer experience, it needs the clarity of a flawless diamond and the long-term vision to match. Anything less will not secure the ongoing resource and mindset needed.
I’ve seen many in-house customer experience teams who, despite best endeavours, focus nearly all their efforts on internal priorities that could, and realistically probably should, be dealt with by other teams – ‘customer care’, ‘customer service’, ‘compliance’ and so on. But at least they can say “We do customer experience” .
Much has been said about how reliant customer experience programmes are on managing emotions. Yet influencing a room full of cross-functional executives to change their own objectives to be based around how they make customers feel will at best be daunting, at worst a very short session. Nonetheless, making sure that root causes of complaints are stamped out and that the commitment to service standards are being maintained are certainly the minimum any enlightened organisation should strive for. But that’s not customer experience, that’s running a business efficiently.
So this dilution of what customer experience really means and the ability of its champions to articulate that clearly puts it – and therefore the advantages it brings – at risk of becoming a victim of its own success. The concept of Customer Experience is nothing new, so absent an absolute recognition of how it can help individuals, teams, departments and the organisation overall, there will still be dismissive conversation barriers such as “We’ve done all right so far”, “Yeah, heard of that, everyone’s doing it” and “C’mon, it’s just a fancy name for customer service”.
If Customer Experience is to demonstrate its true value and contribution to the bottom line it needs to keep up the momentum and avoid an unconscious drift into complacency. Those leading the charge need – more than ever – to talk the language of other business divisions, debunk myths and make it matter to every person.
For those championing the virtues and outcomes of a disciplined approach to customer experience, the challenge is to engage in a way that makes it clear that what the business does collectively today will determine what its individual customers, clients, passengers or patients will do tomorrow. It has to be about the right experiences, the ones that work in tandem to create the best, balanced outcomes for the business and the people who buy what it sells.
Customer Experience has proved to be a great discipline and catalyst for many companies to improve their commercial performance. But the label risks being over-used, misunderstood and not telling the full story. It’s not about the customer experience per se – it’s about how the right experiences will make customers want to choose us again and spend more next time.
As for the search for a definitive platitude about what customer experience is, I think that misses the point.
In the same way that corporate objectives and recruitment policies are individual to an organisation, so too is Customer Experience. It’s not a department. It’s cultural and therefore key to what it means for them and their customer strategy.
It’s only my opinion, but without continued effort behind landing the right messages to the right people, without a clarity of purpose matched by strong leadership, the tentacles of metric-driven, short-term objectives will creep back up the pecking order and we’ll wonder why we have to search so hard for good customer experiences again.