29 Mar Who Are CX Pilots, Where Do We Come From And What Are We Trying to Accomplish?
Several years ago, we spun a CX or customer experience consulting team out of a big enterprise content agency in Raleigh, NC with the goal of becoming a customer experience or CX specialist with a twist. Having worked with the world’s largest enterprise brands like IBM, Google, GE, we were no strangers to how global customer experience and marketing require a co-dependence that most top CX consultants overlook. Similarly, we understood that when CX is achieving its greatest possible outcomes, it’s because it is factoring the buyer experience—that state a customer goes through before they are your customer. Most call it marketing, business development, sales, demand generation or other. We call it the buyer’s experience. It’s different.
It’s not that we believe the existing ways of doing business are broken, it’s that we have been conditioned to bring a different perspective to it based on what we’ve experienced ourselves. I put a lot of credit on Gary Hamel.
We believe CX Pilots’ origin story is both interesting and relevant. As we were starting CX Pilots, I was thinking about what businesses are typically most challenged by customer experience and critically, the buyer experience (the pre-customer state). I was thinking about underserved sectors and verticals where the experience clients had with an organization was far more consequential. We were not interested in any way in the customer experience of retail or commodity offerings. Making a million people marginally happier for an incremental financial gain was boring—making 100 clients who make up 80 percent of a firm’s total revenue was a real challenge and full of the complexity that would fully engage a team like ours.
After nearly a year of deep research, we zeroed in on professional services firms with important client relationships—the types of relationships that were so important that if they were negatively impacted would show up on the company’s bottom line. That was it. We wanted to design a consulting business model that was to be built around professional services organizations that needed to protect and preserve critical client relationships. To us, professional services includes: architecture, engineering, construction, legal, accounting, IT/tech integrators, consultancies, financial services/investment banking, and insurance.
With a differentiated approach to CX consulting, a completely untouched segment focus (professional services) and standing in the shadows of the top customer experience specialists in the world, we got busy.
What are professional services companies doing right now in CX? If they are doing anything, how are they doing it? What are their principle gaps in customer or client service design and delivery? How can we address these gaps in a way that is attractive to them? Are we bringing value into this marketplace that aligns to how these firms interpret their pain and challenges? I knew we needed to prepare ourselves to answer the imminent client question, “how does this CX stuff differ from the client service we’ve been perfecting over the past 80 years?” And over time, we became impeccably prepared.
After devoting our first year to a deep and structured research phase we learned most professional services had a few entrenched challenges. Having spoken to over 200 firm executives in A/E/C, Legal, Accounting and Financial Services, we learned there were two through lines present everywhere we looked.
– Every firm we talked to conflated client service with client experience, leaving them to believe they were set up to reap the benefits of a client experience program when they were not.
– Over 90 percent of the firm executives we spoke to felt that CX was limited to collecting client feedback.
This was going to be a challenge. First, we had to help our clients understand the danger in conflating service delivery with experience management and second, we needed to find effective ways to help these firm executives to understand the broader value perspective in full-spectrum client experience management (not just collection of client feedback to tabulate an NPS ranking).
In our conversations with professional services executives (principally those who were accountable for client services, marketing, business development/sales, and HR) we found light at the end of the tunnel. The message was clear. These firm leaders were are all making the same declarations:
- UNDERSTAND OUR CLIENTS BETTER. They have to develop internal systems to know who their clients or customers really are through smarter, faster and more complete data and research. They wanted to build centralized customer data systems to feed the change toward CX.
- DEVELOP A PUBLISHING MINDSET. They have to develop a publishing mindset and platform so that they can take the customer research and create value and meaning from it, in an agile content system that are always on.
- MOVE TOWARD PERSONALIZATION. They have to develop models of personalization and pre-personalization so that the actions/reactions per touchpoint/engagement are contextual and the messages they’re sending and content they’re publishing resonates clearly on more of an individual level and in the most measurable way.
- AMPLIFY PINPOINTED CONTENT DISTRIBUTION. They have to learn how to activate or distribute their content in ways that maximizes the right coverage at the right times. They need to put more power behind getting content to individuals instead of massive segments.
- CENTER EFFORTS AROUND CX. They have create systems that allow them to understand the more complete customer experience spectrum so they can deliver more personalized, contiguous and consistent content that leads to measurably positive experiences regardless of the devices they are using.
- ELEVATE CONTENT. Develop a content marketing function that harnesses the org’s most valuable knowledge assets and find ways to distribute that content to tell the most powerful differentiation story.
- ENGAGE EMPLOYEES. Make employees excited about the change by relentlessly communicating with them and empowering them to take on greater accountability. Get them to understand and own more of the process by collectivizing their ambition.
- BE AGILE. They are looking for agile approaches to get more done in less time with fewer resources by focusing on broader ranges of accountability and intelligent speed.
- SIMPLIFY CHANGE. They have to change and the way they’ve been attaining results. They have to do this because they’re simply not organized to achieve the outcomes that mobile and social multiplied by measurable and manageable can now achieve.
So, we bundled these concerns up into one focus area and offer it as a way for organizations to start doing CX + marketing differently. Start with smaller, more simplified “pilots” and that help client success and firm marketers begin to organize in smaller more accountable tribes toward more meaningful ends.
We chose the word “Pilots” quite deliberately for its dual meaning. Pilots refers to both the nature of the more “modular” project-based work to be done and the consultative element of capitalizing on our valuable experience as advisors in this new era.
We are Pilots, creating pilots with future Pilots—and we’re focused on helping our clients center their organizations around their customers with simple, understandable and purposeful change.
This is a flight we believe to be really important. We look forward to helping every firm become the very best version of themselves. Won’t you join us?