Customer experience (or Cx) continues to receive a lot of attention from technology vendors, event organizers, and customer strategy and operations practitioners. For the latter, the interest stems from what customer experience metrics reveal to their company and the way Cx supports customer economics (i.e. a 1.2 increase in positive customer experience results in x dollars in revenue). If you haven’t read it yet, take time to pick up a copy of “Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business” by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine. Customer experience, as defined by the authors “is, quite simply, how your customers perceive their every interaction with your company.” Personally I am a big fan of the book. I attend many customer experience events as a speaker and a panelist, and support thought leaders like Harley, Kerry, Bruce Temkin, and Jeanne Bliss. Customer experience is not going away. However, it is at risk of undergoing the painful transition many strategies and practices go through when initially introduced (although Cx has been around for a while). No disrespect to my technology partner friends, but the customer technology industry has a habit of jumping on concepts like Cx (in the past it has been CRM, CEM, CIM, Social) like a vitamin salesman who knows little about health but is eager to ride the wave of health consciousness. It is a fitting analogy for companies (in general) that do not approach customer strategies holistically but instead zoom in to adopt the “flavor of the month” as if it were the answer to all their customer problems.

With Cx we have a unique opportunity to change that. But we have to disconnect from this dangerous thinking that Cx is an all-encompassing strategy. Cx is, in fact, the best way to rate our customer interactions. But there are six other components equally important to the health of your customer acquisition and retention efforts:

Relationship – CRM has not gone away. CRM strategies and tools still help you make the right decisions about the customers in whom you should invest. CRM can manage your interactions; not only does it maintain a centralized record of interactions with customers but it also evaluates if you are investing in the right ones. Managing the “relationship” helps you make interactions reciprocal through action AND influence.
Engagement – CEM is about more than the channels you use to communicate with customers. It is also more than what you do at your contact centers. Customer engagement is the strategy that evaluates the channels customers need and even prefer to do business with you. Effective engagement holds the customer’s attention and induces him to participate in the buying process.
Centricity – Customer-centricity is not a strategy disjointed from CRM nor does it replace it. It is the component within the customer strategy that addresses the individual needs and preferences of customers. It is the strategy that insures the customer is your reason for being in business and the central driver for every business decision you make. There are two Greek words that drive the centricity concept: “kentron”, which means “center”, and “kentrikos” which means “of the center”. Customers are the “kentron” of your business. Customer Centricity ensures your business continually evaluate the aspects of the customer relationship (the “kentrikos”) you should personalize to create a great experience (or make it functional, accessible, or engaging).
Service – Service is the commitment you make to your customers. Simple as that. Sometimes it is through an SLA and sometimes it is through your brand promises and guaranties. Service strategies protect the customer and hold you to your commitment to serve them under the agreements and contracts you made with them.
Support – Beyond service is an even more important commitment you should make to your customers; support. Service is what you do proactively for customers. Support is how you treat them in those reactive and unexpected moments when they need you.
Transparency – A lot of people are talking about transparency as a strategy for building omni-channel experiences that help customers see your brand as a single unified experience. That is true. But transparency is also about how you show customers that the products and services you sell, your interactions with them, and the service and support you provide are free from pretense or deceit. It is how you show customers that they can trust you.
Experience – It is with a clear understanding of the strategies that, together, create great customer experiences, that we can rate them. Now we can evaluate the functionality, accessibility, and emotional connection of our customer experiences. Like with every relationship (business and personal), customers are evaluating the risks and rewards of doing business with you at EVERY interaction. Customer experience helps you determine if customers will buy, continue to buy, recommend you to others, or leave you based on the customer experience index introduced by Harley and Kerry. But is the end result of a unified approach to the customer strategies you may already have in practice at your company; strategies many companies implement in silos.

The new edition of my book is out in March and it has an increased focus on how these seven “unified strategies” work together. Let’s start building customer relationships through a unified and collaborative approach that leads to amazing customer experiences.

JC