“Customer experience has to be a priority, but more than that, it has to be built into the organizational culture, or it can be set aside when other priorities emerge,” said the president and CEO of a U.S.-based credit union, noting that it is something that both employees and business partners must espouse and bring to life every day. “Customer experience is something we have to focus on all the time to make sure that we never let it slip, because we always have new employees, new systems, new vendor relationships. The customer experience has to transcend all of that as a key focus.”
Well over 80 percent of respondents also said that having management and leadership buy-in, visibility into and understanding of the end-customer experience, and a clearly communicated customer experience strategy were critical components of delivering a winning customer experience. Yet less than half of them rated their companies’ performance in any of these areas as very effective.
But what companies are really struggling with is customer data and the technology foundation required to make sense of it all and distribute the resulting insight throughout the organization. Data and systems integration and visibility across the enterprise, giving employees the power to deliver and innovate around customer experience, and aligning IT decision-making with customer experience demands were all cited as extremely important in delivering a superior customer experience. Yet only around a quarter of respondents said their companies perform well in these areas.
The chief customer officer (CCO) at a multibillion-dollar institutional investment and benefits provider is beginning to address some of these issues by breaking down barriers between customer experience and IT strategy and execution. “We realized we weren’t moving fast enough, so our CIO handed 36 of his technologists to me,” said the CCO. “You can’t get meaningful customer work done if there are functional lines getting in the way. So we have arranged ourselves entirely around the customer under one structure. We make all the decisions—and we’re on the hook for the outcomes.”
Having senior leaders define ideal customer experiences and translate those into a well-thought-out strategy is also key. Ideally, executives convert these intended outcomes into a “detailed and prioritized customer experience initiative road map that incorporates a well-thought-out data strategy, integration of databases, and tools to provide a single view of the customer, the means of delivering the right intelligence to the frontline employees to manage customers’ experiences, and staff training,” said the senior vice president of strategic analytics for a marketing services firm. “When such an exercise hasn’t taken place, customer experience is only a ‘temperature-checking’ exercise without the ability to quantify how improvements in key engagement areas translate into improving customer experience and connecting those gains to economic results.”
Creating a customer-focused culture is easier in some industries than others. The head of process and technology innovation for a software development company—an industry not known for satisfied customers—said creating a customer-centric culture takes a targeted effort. “One of our challenges is bringing customer centricity into all levels of the organization. Most of our organization is made up of engineers; understanding customers is not something they are taught,” he said. “When we hire someone, we spend a great deal of time and money to get them to the place where they understand what is important [to the customer]. Once you have a customercentric culture in place, it’s easier. That’s a much more powerful tool than just training.”