By Rob Sherrell
Sparks Grove Founding Partner, Global CX Leader
5 min read time
From the Regal LA LIVE cinema at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, to a mid-size Marriott in the Nashville suburbs, to one of the largest hotels and conference centers in Atlanta, the topic virtually every business wants to talk about–no matter the venue−appears to be the same: Customer Experience, or “CX.” And they REALLY want to talk about HOW to deliver a great, differentiated customer experience. Especially in an era where everyone else is trying to do the same thing.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a CX panel discussion in Los Angeles, sit on a CX panel in Nashville, and participate on a panel at the annual Customer Experience Professional’s Association (CXPA) meeting in Atlanta (where I also had the opportunity to deliver a presentation on “The Evolution of Experience” and relive how we all got here).
I’ve heard from panel members and CX leaders from Global Fortune 500 organizations. Companies like Wells Fargo, Nissan, Caterpillar and AT&T. I’ve heard what health insurance companies, health care providers and health care technology vendors are doing (or hope to do) in order to improve patient experience. I know what several leading CX technology providers think, and even what pro sports teams like the LA Clippers are up to related to fan experience. From being so immersed in CX, I’m seeing several patterns emerge.
So what did I hear from all these folks who span industries and companies with wildly varying maturity levels in their CX efforts? What is everyone still wrestling with, and what do we as a CX industry do about it? Here are three questions being asked from coast to coast, and a quick perspective on each:
1) “How do I learn more about my customers’ needs and expectations?”
We know a lot already, and methodologies to gain customer insights abound. So what’s new in this space? A lot of companies are beginning to overtly measure emotion and sentiment across their experience ecosystem. Text and voice analysis are very much en vogue –with good reason. Most companies have a wealth of data at their fingertips; from customer emails to open-ended survey responses to call center transcripts and audio. There’s a lot to learn – and tools are prevalent. But turning that into worthwhile analysis that paints a richer human picture of the customer–one which informs truly differentiated experiences that grab hearts and minds of customers–still remains elusive.
- Future forward note: The data funnel opens further when you begin to think about applying the emotional view into voice of the employee and employee experience; no one’s talking about that yet. I think they will be soon.
2) “How do I gain support internally for investments in CX?”
The search for a silver bullet continues. Gaining approval for large investment in corporate America (or anywhere) is not a CX issue. It’s a “how do I make a difference in a big organization?” issue. Progress and real change requires taking principle-based risks when the outcome is not assured.
Are you willing to take that risk? There’s good news if you are. The market and our experience has proven CX investment is rewarded on multiple fronts.
Use the rising tide: build a clear, focused business case based on best available information, gain peer support and amass their political influence with yours, then go forward and upward to the highest levels of your organization and confidently sell the need with the power of authentic personal conviction. And anchor high.
- How to be a change agent for CX in your organization: Combine compelling financial data with personal conviction and alignment from your peers, and it’s hard to deny. From 2007 to 2014 CX leaders’ cumulative returns were 49% greater than the S&P 500 Index, while CX laggards underperformed the index by 162. 2015, Forrester Research
3) “In a world of rapid change, how do we move faster to make a CX impact?”
Interestingly, many CX professionals I heard from over the last few weeks find themselves somewhere in between two eras: the way we used to work and the way we’ll work in the future. Many are at least beginning to pursue contemporary design approaches (e.g., co-creating with customers and clients, service blueprinting, jobs-to-be-done design, etc.) but the vast majority have not yet adopted (and, more notably, are not yet championing) more contemporary ways of working within and across their organizations.
The leading CX edge is pursuing lean and agile methods, with rapid prototyping, MVP testing, iterative processes and collaborative governance. These methods and methodologies are no longer the domain of software and tech development. CX professionals, business strategists, experience designers, solution architects, product owners, technologists and functional experts are all coming together with similar mindsets and similar execution and delivery models to make a real difference through the customer experience. But it’s only happening at bleeding-edge companies. That needs to change.
Those are three of the big questions on the minds of CX professionals, and often functional leaders who may not be CX experts at all but are being tasked with delivering results. As I take a brief respite until our next cross-country and global CX event tour (excited to head to San Francisco, Seattle and London in the next several weeks), I remained thrilled about the state of the industry.
There is an intense focus on differentiating through experience and a thirst for knowledge out there. I remain convinced that the practice of CX will continue to change at a dizzying pace. The next era of experience will be based on the ability of companies to adapt quickly, use predictive data to enhance their understanding of their customers, and move beyond the commercial to more human relationships. I’m looking forward to helping our clients get there.
See additional insights from the recent Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) conference from our North Highland partners here.