Customer Experience (CX) Is a Journey
Are you a people person?
There are some people who are naturally drawn to interaction and conversation with others, always seeing things from a human perspective. My wife is like that. She can start a conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time. And I’m not talking about casual “nice weather we’re having” conversations either. I’ve seen people tell her about their impending surgeries or marital problems, all inside of a 60 second conversation in the checkout line.
In this third installment of Things CMOs Should Know About CX (part 1 and part 2), I’d like to address the fact that customer experience (CX) is a journey. Specifically, it’s a journey toward becoming a company that values dialog with its audience, and turning that dialog into loyal relationships. The goal is to create a company culture equivalent to my wife’s ability to connect, engage, and quickly turn strangers into friends. While some people (and companies) are naturally born with this ability, others, such as myself, need to work at it. Hence, the journey…
The Practical Aspects of the Journey
Building a CX culture takes time, commitment, and a bit of patience. There are a few practical reasons for this. First, it takes a financial commitment to ensure that you are connecting to your audience via surveys, research, events marketing, and online/offline feedback loops. Secondly, you may not even know where your customers are, requiring you to do a bit of digging just to uncover key touch points and the right way to engage. Third, it takes training to engage in a genuine and unbiased manner that delivers valid and actionable data. Finally, conversations must be transformed into actionable insights that make things better.
The Essence of the Journey
While most customer-driven cultures are unique, they do share a common set of attributes. They engage for the right reasons, they are respectful, and they don’t overstep their bounds. They also realize that it takes time to engender trust. They don’t rush things, and they stay in the moment.
They care about people. When I watch my wife connecting with someone, she’s focused and attentive. She doesn’t think ahead about what to say next, or try to sound smart or perceptive. She stays in the moment and doesn’t rush or try to direct things. Your company should adopt the same posture. When CS or tech reps engage with your audience, teach them to adopt a caring posture where your audience feels empowered and valued. Now, I’m not saying you should be overly emotional or cross boundaries, but the discussion should be about them, not about your brand.
They listen well. Occasionally my wife will tell me about a conversation where someone has revealed something personal, and I’ll respond with a litany of questions. I’ll ask her things like, “How long have they been this way… how much will it cost…when will that get it fixed?” She shrugs and says that she has no idea. She tells me that asking those questions would be intrusive and distracting. “I simply let them tell me what they want to tell me.” Listening is about making the other person the hero, and it builds amazing trust and loyalty. Those people may not have revealed every little detail, but they walked away feeling validated. As a result, the details will come out in the ensuing conversations (which are sure to occur… they WILL come back). Try to become a company that listens well and don’t be heavy handed as you try to learn about your audience. Just take what they give you.
They respond to what they hear. People tell you things for a variety of reasons. As a brand, they connect with you when they have a question, when something needs to be fixed, or when they want something. In those instances it’s pretty easy to determine what to do next.
But what about when you initiate the conversation? If you’re doing intercept interviews or detailed surveys and someone reveals something that they felt was significant, be prepared to respond. The response should be on two levels. On a personal level, be proactive; acknowledge the situation good or bad, look them in the eye, and acknowledge it. If necessary, make it right. This is the basis of true 1:1 marketing and a customer driven culture.
On a corporate level, find a way to capture recurring issues and make them go away. This is why commitment and planning are so important, as they create a framework to record and prioritize issues, and create a pattern of continuous improvement.
I’ve said it many times in my other posts: great CX is a series of small emotional transactions between a brand and its audience. Emotional transactions eventually reach a tipping point and become financial. If nurtured, these emotional and financial transactions become a loyal relationship. This is the journey, and it doesn’t happen if your company doesn’t transform itself into a “people person.” It takes time, planning, and patience, but like anything worthwhile, the results are well worth it.