Outcomes are the next evolution of Customer Experience

Mathew Sweezey Profile picture for user matthewsweezey March 2, 2021
Outcomes are the new customer experience, say Salesforce's Matthew Sweezey and Karen Mangia.

Customer Experience

'How is COVID-19 shifting the Customer Experience?'

A simple question with profound implications that we posed to Chief Experience Officers and Chief Customer Officers from a diverse group of organizations. Regardless of industry, size or go-to-market model, one North Star emerged - outcomes are the new experiences.

Knowing the outcomes your customers aspire to achieve isn't enough. What separates organizations that define success from those that deliver success is foundational - organizational structure. 

When customer outcomes become the load-bearing wall, experience executives have to examine how to redistribute the weight effectively across the organization. What emerges is a new blueprint for how decisions are made, how teams interact and how success is measured.

Breaking down walls that limit line of sight to customers is the first step toward operating as an expansive, outcomes oriented organisation. Seeing beyond your own siloed measures of success to how your customers measure success is the first design principle to consider, according to the experience executives we interviewed.

Creating clear visibility from your actions through to your customers' outcomes requires dismantling dated metrics designed to isolate rather than to align. As a result, the leading organizations we interviewed are moving from traditional experience metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) toward outcome-oriented metrics like Time To Value (TTV).

One leading edge executive went so far as to define a new formula for measuring Customer Success - Customer Success = Customer Outcomes / Customer Experiences, where outcomes are weighted heavier than experiences.

Yes, experiences still matter. What's changed is those experiences must now correlate with customers' desired outcomes. One executive explained: 

We have happy customers with great experience leave all the time and unhappy ones with bad experiences stay. The difference is the outcomes they realize. 

In other words, experiences become the method by which outcomes are obtained.

Shifting the focus

Shifting your organisation's focus from experiences to outcomes - which may seem intuitive - is easier said than done.  What separates organizations who acknowledge this inflection point from those who act on this inflection point is full executive sponsorship and support. 

Even with such support, expect progress to be slow. The Experience executives we interviewed detailed transformation journeys lasting up to six years. To sustain momentum across a multi-year horizon, successful organizations designated a single, accountable leader. We found the title was less important than what accompanied the title - budget, decision making authority, and clear measures of success. The message is clear - influence without authority stalls progress.

After creating clear accountability and authority, successful organizations deployed deep listening. Customer conversations and listening posts became opportunities to detect outcomes customers desired to achieve. And conversations with unhappy customers uncovered opportunities to innovate. 

The intersection of outcomes customers want to achieve and experiences organizations want to deliver signals an opportunity to pilot. One Global Customer Support Services SVP recalled:

We moved from offering Professional Services as Statements of Work (SoW) to Outcomes as the first step in our transformation. That became the catalyst to transform to outcome-based pricing models, outcome-based selling models, and outcome-based support models over time.

More than happy 

A focus on outcomes creates more than happy customers. It creates a significant competitive advantage and the opportunity to go to market in new ways. One Enterprise B2B CXO believed they’ve become so proficient at delivering outcomes that the next step is a 'freemium' go-to-market model bypassing traditional sales channels entirely.  Meanwhile one multi-national agricultural company is experimenting with selling and compensating for outcomes. Rather than sell products to farmers, they now commit to produce a higher yield and compensate based on the percentage increase realized.

It's clear a new world of Customer Experience is emerging. COVID has been the catalyst for companies to focus on their customers’ outcomes and that focus in turn has created opportunities to disrupt long standing competitors and go-to-market models. The outcome for customers and companies is a new era of experience measured itself in outcomes.

Image credit - Pixabay

Disclosure - This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, Vice President, Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Karen focuses on strategies for personal and professional success, and regularly works with executives, managers and future leaders at companies of all sizes globally. She published two books in 2020: Listen Up! How to Tune In To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise and Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work For You - both from Wiley. She has been featured in Forbes and regularly writes for Thrive Global and ZDNet. Committed to diversity and inclusion, she serves on her company’s Racial Equality and Justice Task Force. She is a TEDx speaker and the author of Success With Less, a book that chronicles her own personal journey through a life-threatening health crisis. Her high-impact keynotes help organizations to access the future of work via innovative insights around the voice of the customer.

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