Jeanne Bliss, a customer experience expert and Chief Customer Officer coach, recently did a webinar with Vision Critical on the rise of the chief customer officer. It’s not a new role; we’ve been hearing about it for a few years now. But maybe now, as customers become ever more empowered, organizations need to think about what it means to be customer centric and how that translates to how they do business.
The need to dive more deeply into customer experience requires someone in the organization (a least one person) mandated to think about the customer first. This is the role of the Chief Customer Officer.
To get started, let’s look at Bliss’s definition of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO):
The Chief Customer Officer (or Customer Leadership Executive) works with the organization to earn the right to customer-driven growth. This leader works with the board, the C-suite and across the organization to embed behaviors and actions that unite silo-based organizations in focusing on priorities in customers’ lives. This manner of doing business honors employees and customers, resulting in a sustainable, repeatable and deliberate one-company approach to growth.
Bliss said that organizations need to earn the right to grow, and that they do this by improving customers’ lives. Focusing on creating great customer experiences is how this is done. Unfortunately, Bliss said, most organizations are delivering random experiences.
From random to differentiated customer experiences
The goal is to get to the end state Bliss refers to as “desire” or “memory creation”. She said it’s not about loyalty, it’s about making the customer so happy they desire your products and services, and they want to talk about you. But getting to this stage takes time and a lot of work.
Most organizations need to start by creating reliable, consistent experiences, particularly at priority contact points that matter most to customers. Once you reach that stage, you can deliver differentiated experiences, the memories that set you apart from the competition. It’s from here that organizations can move to the desire stage.
It’s a growth path that makes sense, but it’s Bliss’s five leadership competencies that demonstrate how you move your company along that customer experience growth path.
Bliss’s five customer leadership competencies
In the webinar and her new book, Chief Customer Officer 2.0, Bliss offers five leadership competencies for the Chief Customer Officer (whether you carry that exact name or not, these competencies apply to you):
Honor and manage customers as assets – Bliss said the growth of customer experience comes the from addition or loss of customers. Treating customers as assets means your job is to grow the asset and the best way to do that is to demonstrate that you know them and understand the value they bring to your business. This is an attitude shift, not a dashboard, Bliss said. CCO’s need to care about the why and they must help their organization earn the right to growth.
Align around the experience – This one is straightforward: the customer journey map is the business decision blueprint. Every organization talks about customer journey mapping, and most are doing it. But Bliss said something very interesting: you don’t need to create massive, detailed journey maps, defining every possible touchpoint. The key is to start by defining the different stages of the customer journey and then within each stage, identifying priority touchpoints to focus on:
Image from customerbliss.com
Aligning around the experience means that accountability maps to the different stages, not to silos within the company. By aligning accountability around stages of the journey, you will bring together different areas of the organization to work together.
Build a customer listening path – It’s voice of the customer, but with a twist. Bliss said organizations need to reduce “survey score addiction.” A survey or a set of metrics per channel or department doesn’t tell you the customer story; it simply provides a glance into a customer’s overall perspective or a single element of the experience. To understand what they feel at each stage of the journey, you need to unify multiple sources of information to create “a balanced story of customer lives by stage.” Unite metrics, sections of surveys, questionnaires and so on to give you a complete picture of how the customer feels at each stage of their journey. With this perspective, you shift the focus to the customer and their story, not to individual channels, departments or processes (which is the organization’s perspective).
Embed proactive experience reliability and innovation: Bliss referred to this competency as “revenue erosion early warning system”. You want to know where you are unreliable before your customers tell you, so you need to find a way to know operationally where you have problems and resolve them. Bliss points out that customer experience development is just as critical as sales development or product development.
Establish one-company leadership and culture: Organizations need to change how accountability is driven. They need to give front-end employees the ability to deliver value, and that means having the power to get rid of old rules that no longer apply or make sense.
Customer experience for the right reasons
It all sounds good, right? But we know from the vast number of studies and case studies done that this refocus on the customer and their story is not easy.
A recent study (PDF link) commissioned by Sitecore and Avanade, both vendors in the CXM space, provided some key points that suggest most organizations have a long way to go to solidify customer experience strategies that truly focus on the needs of the customer.
What many in the survey agreed upon is that customer experience investments pay off. It was found that for every $1 spent on improving CX, there was a return of $3. This return came in the form of increased customer satisfaction, increase loyalty, retention and acquisition and an increase customer lifetime value (CLV).
But here’s something that might surprise you. Of those who said they were focusing on improving CX, 64% said competition, not customer feedback, was the key driver. What does that mean?
It means they are doing CX for the wrong reasons, and that might very well affect the quality and intent of their CX initiatives. Keeping up with the Jones’ might be okay for some, but this isn’t the true focus on the customer that Bliss talks about.
Check out the list of obstacles to delivering a good customer experience in the graph from the study below:
Image from Customer experience and your bottom line, by Sitecore and Avanade (PDF link)
The primary obstacle is technology, the second obstacle is skills to manage an end-to-end CX, and the third is creating a seamless experience across devices. I point these out for a couple of reasons:
- Many organizations seem to believe that bringing in more/better technology is going to improve CX. This can only be the case if the CX strategy is well understood and the technology is brought in to support key implementations of that strategy. This is not often the order that things happen. I liken this not so much to “cart before the horse”, but more like “brawn before the brain” – you can do it, and you might luck out and be successful. But the really smart companies put technology in its proper place.
- Seamless experiences across devices are hard to do, and may actually not be required at all. Altimeter pointed this out in their report on mobile only customer experiences. Maybe we need to stop thinking about seamless experiences across devices and focus instead on seamless, consistent experiences in each stage of the customer journey.
Bliss makes some key points in the webinar (which I do encourage you to watch – registration required). Here’s the one that sticks most in my mind. Loyalty is not about the customer. Loyalty is about the organization. What do you have to do to win and retain loyal customers? That’s a focus on the organization – getting customers to support the organization.
Focusing on customer desire is about the customer. It’s about putting in place the things the customer needs to be happy, get something done, fulfill a need. Your product(s) and service(s) support the customer. Every touchpoint you focus on is lead by a desire to make the customer satisfied.
Maybe to some, the difference seems subtle. But I think there’s a huge difference between loyalty and desire. And if you want to be successful at customer experience, you need to think so too.
Image credit - Slide images credited with links under each slide. Feature image - Office emotion © Kenishirotie - Fotolia.com.