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How Will A Customer Experience Specialist Benefit Your Company?

Last month, I, as a Customer Experience specialist, had a rude wake up call from a home renovation project specialist. This past month I began renovating my basement. It’s big, it’s old, it’s trapped in the ‘70s. Long story short, I thought through my past experience I could do it myself but after reaching out to a few contractors to get bids, I learned a lot about what I didn’t know. In fact, after these conversations with specialist that do full-scale renovations like mine, all day every day, it scared me to think that I even considered taking on something I soon realized, I knew nothing about.

We experience these same scenarios on the other side of the table as a customer experience specialists. When a terrific organization approaches us at CX Pilots, they typically come with a lot of confidence about a few things they want CX to accomplish for their business. Most aren’t contacting us because they want to transform their organizations into experience-led businesses right out of the gate. But when we start asking basic questions, the whole dynamic normally shifts, revealing gaps in their holistic understanding of how CX can and should benefit their organizations. Our objective is not to shake their plans or foundations, it is to get a strong idea of where they are today and where they want to go. The challenge is they aren’t aware of the possibilities and are likely looking at CX strategy through a very small and limited window.

Case Study: Hiring the Wrong CX Specialist

Let’s examine one example from last year. A midsized accounting firm contacted us looking for a client journey mapping facilitator with experience running virtual mapping projects allowing them to include people across their 12 offices in North America. Their stated objective was to “improve customer service, user experience, customer support and ultimately customer satisfaction.” They were confident that client journey mapping was what they needed to accomplish those goals, and they were only interested in learning our process, technology capabilities, cost for running the project and the concrete deliverables that would result. Okay, great. We get this exact call several times a month. In almost 100 percent of these calls, we learn it’s not journey mapping they need but a CX strategy, a unified view on CX (typically and CX Vision or Purpose), a CX Charter communicating the purpose to employees in a way that can boost engagement, a clear roadmap that helps everyone know when and how they fit into the larger picture, value planning to understand what they want CX to yield, etc. You get the picture, all the stuff that lays the foundation for journey mapping to have maximal impact.

So, in this example from last year, we asked the accounting firm these preliminary questions to gauge how well prepared we felt they were to undergo journey mapping. Unlike most companies we speak to, the woman from the firm explained how it was only journey mapping they needed and that was the end of the story. We answered her questions as cordially as we could but explained that for journey mapping to produce successful outcomes it had to focus on one client segment (persona) at a time and be limited to either current state (mapping what it is like today—not what we want it to be like in the future). We when asked if they had selected a client segment she froze. “What do you mean by segment? We just want to map our clients. Why is this so difficult? I thought you said you guys could do that.” Ouch. Not what we wanted to hear. It seemed that either they didn’t want to hear what we had to say, or our communication skills fell short on this. Either way, it didn’t look good.

After two weeks of back and forth conversations, trying to help them lay the groundwork for a successful journey mapping project, we received an email from the firm executive we’d been talking to stating they had found a much cheaper journey mapping company who was much easier to work with despite their higher fees. Yikes! All we could do at this point was wish them the very best of luck.

Fast forward to last month, 11 months later. A junior executive from that same firm contacted us asking for a quote to come in and lay the proper foundations to approach client experience the right way. He specifically said, “we really screwed the pooch on this one and require a seasoned customer experience specialist to not only show us how to do this but also be here with us to walk us through the process. “

I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask—what does ‘screw the pooch mean?’ What specifically happened with the journey mapping project the firm inquired about last year? In a nutshell, he told me it was a disaster and now leadership was involved and wanted it done right. He went to say the firm had spent over $100,000 and had very little to nothing of value to show for it. The firm’s Partner in Charge, whom I was told was extremely disappointed, was later sent three CX Pilots’ documents stating clearly why over 80% of client journey mapping efforts fail to produce actionable outcomes. He wrote in a leadership memo that they didn’t map customer journeys on proper strategic foundations in a culture that can adequately embrace the intention of the mapping effort.” So, he said, “We need to bring that firm back in to lay the proper foundations and help us prepare our culture to embrace this effort with strong communication as a part of a larger CX/EX (client experience/employee experience) program.”

We were on the ground the following week sitting down with the firm’s leadership planning the approach and doing live strategic road mapping and CX management program budgeting to help them understand how to balance their customer experience equation.

Bottom line on the story above, it was hastily contracted, and poorly executed because someone in the firm wanted it done without asking (and answering) the questions necessary to create the right starting conditions that would have made them successful. They allowed the loudest voices in the room to steamroll the effort. Unfortunately, it was done untethered to a CX strategy that should have given a proper time, place and context for journey mapping with a facilitator that could keep everyone on track and honest about really and authentically seeing the world through their customer’s lens.

Top 5 Ways Hiring a CX Specialist Can Benefit Your Company

So, to answer the question, “How can a Customer Experience Specialist benefit your company?” Let’s count the top five ways;

  1. It can prevent you from wasting $100,000 in false starts that aggravate everyone involved and lose a year in the process.
  2. It can help your company lay down the right foundations upon which you can begin developing valuable and measurable progress toward outcomes you want to achieve.
  3. It can prevent the firm’s employees and leaders from becoming more skeptical and jaded about the undeniable benefits of an experience-led business.
  4. It can immediately bring leading practices to the firm’s awareness of how best to approach CX. Why not learn from those who’ve come before you and invested $millions cracking the code.
  5. It can remove layers of subjective biases that tend to keep firms in status quo, allowing you to approach experience-led growth with objective truth as the pilot.   

What is a Customer Experience or CX Strategy? CX Strategy Best Practices

Above we mention that the firm’s journey mapping failed in large part due to not being adequately tethered to a CX strategy. But what is a CX strategy? What is in a customer experience strategy? And how can a company tether their customer journey mapping to a CX strategy?

A customer experience strategy is a formally structured body of planning. It informs a company’s leadership and employees what they plan to do with specific resources over a specific period of time. It details what is to be accomplished leading to specific outcomes so that the organization stands to gain the benefits they want to achieve in becoming experience led or measurably more customer centric. Oftentimes, the larger the company, the more detailed the customer experience or CX strategy. Too often, we see very vague and non-committal strategies that are actually a list of objectives disconnected from time and team accountability.   

The very best customer experience strategies we’ve created and seen from other customer experience specialists have most of the following elements in common:

  • Strong introduction stating what the customer experience strategy is setting out to accomplish, why it is worth the company’s investment, and everyone’s role in pulling together to achieve it.
  • Clear problem statement that plainly and simply articulates the problem, challenge or obstacle the company is aiming to address with the customer experience strategy.
  • Customer Experience Vision that boldly and clearly states how the company would like all employees to envision an improved future for having done the work. These statements often try to help differentiate the company by virtue of their customer centricity or customer obsession.
  • Customer Experience Goals help everyone involved meet the Customer Experience Vision. It lists the key accomplishments the company needs to manage and achieve and should be broken up into phases/stages/initiatives/projects/tasks with clear ownership and accountability across each of these levels.
  • The strategy. What the organization is specifically setting out to accomplish with its investment in resources. It should go into deep detail about what the organization is doing to improve its customer-centricity. It should also incorporate both internal and external targeted objectives. It is imperative the CX or customer experience strategy be aligned to a roadmap or timeframe for expected outcomes.
  • Roles-based Accountability models help team members understand their respective responsibilities as they relate to customer needs and expectations. The best customer experience goal statements make sure all team members, support teams and Leadership understand their role in all systems, to proactively measure, monitor, report, and improve the customer experience over a specified timeframe—in order to meet the goals. Pro tip- don’t just state the org diagram. List out accountabilities across the whole program.   
  • A CX proclamation on better knowing and understanding customers and their journeys. This customer experience proclamation should lie at the center of any good customer experience strategy. The company has to center all of its efforts initially on how it plans to better understand its customers and their journeys so it can serve them more and better value in ways other cannot. Critically, it needs to detail the ‘why.’
  • Functional Alignment Plans help Leadership and team members orient operations and the internal management infrastructure to increase focus on the customer experience and the journeys they take. These plans lay out how operations and management will align to focus on changes in process, measurement, reporting, in a customer experience governance structure.
  • Plan to improve decision-making with data. Make sure the customer experience strategy lists what customer information or data points are needed to support the customer experience or CX goals. Where is the data coming from, how and when is to be sourced, and who is responsible for it? Once you have the data, what processes need to be followed to ensure the data can be converted into insights that drive measurably better decisions. Pro tip: Work backward: what decisions will need to be made. What types of insights are needed to drive those decisions? What customer data or other customer relationship information (maybe from your CRM) is needed to support those insights? How and where do we get that data?    
  • Leadership and strategy oversight should detail who is in charge of using the strategy to meet organizational goals. This person is the single most accountable team member in charge of the strategy’s success.
  • A communications approach should be incorporated that lays out specifics regarding what in the strategy work needs to be communicated, to whom, along what specific milestones. This communications approach should also detail who is accountable for each communication activity and which medium (email, video, blog, memo, etc.) will be used to achieve all the strategy’s communications needs.   
  • Risks and obstacles need to be addressed in a good CX or customer experience strategy.

A good customer experience specialist or consultant will help your organization make sure each of these elements is incorporated into your customer experience strategy, and strong communication to support its success.

What Is a Customer Experience Specialist?

Here is most of what you need to know when hiring a customer experience specialist. A customer experience specialist is a person or group of people that understand how to help companies follow their unique pathway to achieve improvements in systematically meeting the varied needs and expectations of their customers through customer experience management programs (also known as CEM or CXM programs). They should have significant demonstrable experience in designing and implementing these CX/EX (employee experience) programs in organizations like yours. They understand the role of laying customer experience into your operational environment and how that should be aligned to your business model. They’re familiar with the tenets of change management and understand the critical role your culture has in embracing customer experience and can help you embed CX in ways that increase broad adoption and willingness in the most skeptical working environments. They are adept at developing and embedding measures, metrics or KPI into a CX governance team that protects the work you have done and ensures the organization, as a whole, makes significant and steady advancements along a prescribed CX maturity index.

Optimally, a perfect customer experience specialist will have deep experience in the pre-customer phase of the CX management program.  If so, they can help your organization reap the benefits of the ‘buyer’s experience’ (where CX is aligned to your sales and marketing function) in addition to the customer experience. This means they can help your company leverage CX to boost your HR/recruiting, sales/business development, marketing/content/demand generation, and unique onboarding efforts in ways that clearly differentiate your company from competitors.  In a nutshell, the optimal customer experience specialist will be able to understand and align all aspects of your unique brand to those people who are at any stage of customer interaction, experience or engagement with your company.

How to Hire a Good Customer Experience Specialist

When reaching out to customer experience specialists, or interviewing prospective CX consultants, you should ask questions to see where they stand on certain issues relative to your industry, brand and business model. Here’s why—many CX practitioners aren’t actually CX practitioners or customer experience specialists at all. They can lack the depth required to move your specific company forward. The best examples are agencies or firms that have decades of experience in public relations, marketing or advertising and pick up customer journey mapping as a quick way to add another service line to their portfolio of offerings. In some cases, this can set your company back a few years if you aren’t seeing the outcomes your expected from the effort. Worse yet, they can reveal false positives that drive your company down into unproductive rabbit holes while your competition is investing in outcome-oriented journey mapping allowing them to make pivotal and innovative service quality changes that drive your customers toward them (this, unfortunately, is a real story).   

Top interview questions to ask prospective CX consultants or customer experience specialists:

  • Given what you’ve learned about us, what customer experience outcomes do you think we could expect within six months, one year, two years?
  • How do you help companies who suffer from initiative fatigue or institutional skepticism, embed CX into their cultures?
  • How, in specific terms, do you support our internal customer success team?  
  • What customer segments do you believe we should focus our resources on first, second, etc.?
  • How much internal cost (our financial investment + our teams’ collective time) typically is involved in a CX effort like this?
  • What is the difference between a CX program and CX transformation? How would you approach each? What specific benefits do you suggest we could gain from either?
  • How long have you been a customer experience specialist? What other CX transformations have you done and for whom?
  • What role do CX measurements play in your approach? Can you tell us how you’ve approached CX metrics in the past?
  • What role does customer and employee feedback have in your recommended CX approach for our company? How will you help us achieve that?   
  • How do you integrate CX into organizations to be successful? How are customer experience, HR, Operations, Marketing, Sales and Finance to work together in your approach?

What is customer experience?

In order to get good input from customer experience specialists, you’re going to need to have a pretty strong definition of what CX or customer experience means to you and your company. This is probably something you should have already done—if not, you may want to start first with establishing your org’s definitive concept of CX or customer experience.  We suggest using our definition until you are able to establish one that is uniquely yours.

A customer experience is the set of highly subjective experiences that lie in a person’s memory or are experienced in the moment, that both influence and are influenced by logical + emotional drives that, in turn, may lead to specific behaviors.   

The more specific you get here with your definition, the better your company will be at developing the right long-term CX or customer experience solutions that have the best of all possible outcomes for your employees, customers and bottom line.  So, with that, you may be asking, how should I look at CX or customer experience solutions?

What is a customer experience solution?

A CX solution is a remedy to a problem revolving around the experience a customer has had, has currently, or can have in the future with a company. The clearest example is a CX Management Program. A CX Management Program is a solution to a company’s lack of consistently actionable information about the experience customers have with its brand—so they can make necessary improvements. Such a solution would enable a company to institute strategic enhancements that improve customer experiences and subsequently; increase loyalty, improve retention, drive revenue or enhance the company’s overall brand.  As a customer experience solutions provider, we focus all of our attention on making sure this happens at all costs in a well-orchestrated string of strategic pilot projects that allow a company to drive positive outcomes from a customer experience management program.

What is a good customer experience?

A good customer experience is what the typical organization targets with CX. Think of it as one measurable unit of CX. We believe a better question is, what is your ideal customer experience? What should your organization strive for?

First, you have to define what an ideal customer is by closely examining your customer base and applying the work of customer segmentation to sort different types of customers into categories who may be looking for different types of experiences. From that, you can begin to see patterns of ideal customers—those with whom you want to interact more closely and frequently.

Your ideal customer is one who shares enough of your values to develop an affinity for your offering over others despite the fact you may charge a premium over the alternative options. They like who you are, what you do, and how you do it more than they like your competitors because they like who they are when they do business with you. In fact, they like their experience with you and your brand to the extent they voluntarily share their account of the interactions they experienced with others in ways that are able to outperform any marketing you may be able to do.

Their ideal customer experience is the way you make them feel when your offering helps simplify their lives, solves their problem and makes them want to brag about using your offering over alternatives because they are only aligned with the best. Their customer experience is made better in that unique way your company’s offering makes them feel even though they may have to drive farther, pay more, wait longer, accept some compromises or work a little harder. The ideal customer experience can therefore be summed up as: that experience a customer is willing to trade-up to have with your brand because it exceeds the value they can get elsewhere and makes them feel better for having had the opportunity to experience it with you/your brand.

Hopefully this information will be helpful to you as you plan for, reach out to, and ultimately engage a CX or customer experience specialist to guide you in the right direction.

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