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Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Redefined: Insights From Chief Customer Officers on the Frontlines

In early 2020, the world as we know it changed. A myriad of social, political, and environmental factors upended the natural order and delivered the world a major challenge. The radical speed, scale, and effect of these events prompted Customer Experience executives to reimagine Customer Success in a new context. 

To discover how Customer Experience is evolving and to gain insights into what’s on the horizon, we conducted over a dozen deep dive interviews with Customer Experience executives from high tech, professional services, agribusiness, manufacturing and more.  The series of in-depth conversations illuminated what’s changed and the implications of the pandemic every organization must consider now to light a path to the future.  

From disparate circumstances and perspectives, five clear themes emerged that transcend industry, geography, Go-To-Market model, and company size.  Here’s what’s trending in Customer Experience 2020 and what’s driving Customer Experience transformation in the next normal.

Back to the basics: Who is our customer now?

The only thing the pandemic changed is everything. Customer Experience Executives highlighted the need to press pause on personas and first ask a more fundamental question: Who is our customer now? Within that shift is a gift: the opportunity to go from broad-based, dated personas to narrow, deep narratives that influence buying decisions and redefine value.  A refreshed answer to ‘Who is our customer now?’ becomes a tool to create greater alignment between organizational resources and customer outcomes.

The only thing the pandemic changed is everything

As budgets contract, greater consideration is given to every investment. This has led to more decision makers in every deal. One Chief Experience Officer at a global technology company we spoke with said, “We are used to selling to CIO’s, but now Chief Revenue Officers (CRO’s) are becoming a key part of the decision making process for customers. We are having to justify our value to a new persona.”

To influence these new decision makers, Experience Executives are creating new thought leadership frameworks built on collaborative workshops and hyper focused executive communities rather than on traditional content marketing and surveys.  Refreshed thought leadership becomes a tool to create competitive differentiation and gain access to today’s executive buyers in service of building trusted advisor relationships.

Outcomes +  Experiences: The keys to driving customer success  

While Customer Experience measurements like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) metrics are still leveraged as the primary predictor of customer relationship health, our research found outcomes are as critical as experience to drive customer success. 

One executive described how outcomes influenced the evolution of their Customer Success formula.  “We now measure customer success as Customer Success (CS) = Customer Outcomes (CO) /  Customer Experience (CX), with outcomes carrying more weight than experience.” 

Outcome orientation now guides Go-To-Market strategy and influences product and service portfolios.  From outcome-based selling to outcome-based Professional Services contracts and pricing models, vendors are moving towards shared risk/reward models. Outcome based alignment for pre and post sales motions is the next step for many organizations, while outcome based pricing is still on the distant horizon for most.  As one Chief Customer Officer stated, “We’re moving in that direction”. 

The clock ticks faster on Time to Value 

Tight budgets and economic uncertainty mean customers need to realize value from their investments as quickly as possible.  Accelerating Time to Value (TTV) is top of mind, and new methods are emerging to translate this aspiration to action.  

The creation of a new job role, the Customer Success Planner (CSP), is one of the most progressive investments we discovered. 

The creation of a new job role, the Customer Success Planner (CSP), is one of the most progressive investments we discovered.  The CSP bridges the gap between pre and post sales, and is accountable to deliver on business case commitments and measures. “We’ve stopped seeing grenades thrown over the wall,” one executive vividly described.  Early evidence suggests this new role is effective at minimizing post sales support surprises and improving customer satisfaction.  

In addition to new roles, another progressive approach is to measure TTV by persona and then benchmark TTV against the customer’s maturity level.  This approach helped one mid-sized services organization reduce TTV by 65% in a matter of months. 

From pyramids to circles: A new organizational shape emerges

Moving at the speed of relevance is reshaping the organizational structure, too. Experience Executives no longer rely on the traditional pyramid hierarchy to deliver decisions with layers of approvers. Clear outcomes and clear accountability enable teams to move out of their silo’s and align around key customer moments of truth. 

An organizational shift of that magnitude is significant and may take years to fully realize, so many organizations are investing in foundational building blocks now.  Building a common language across the organization is a key enablement tool, and agile is the prevailing method.  One executive identified a “fatal flaw” in their use of agile that is likely as lethal for other organizations.  “When each department uses a different agile approach, working together reverts back to a disjointed waterfall process”. The move to a new structure will take time, require full executive support and demand a common language. 

Co-creation is a transcendent business skill

Experience Executives prize and prioritize co-creation as an inclusive design tool for architecting customer outcomes across each stage of the customer journey.  Co-creation workshops bring companies and customers together to explore and to define outcomes ranging from the art of the possible to deliverables based action plans.  Co-creation, much like agile, provides a common language to describe shared expectations and shared success.  

The shift from crafting moments to co-creating outcomes for and with customers becomes a key driver to transform from a product centric culture to a customer centric culture.  

The unlikely source of co-creation opportunity one High Tech Senior Experience Executive revealed is unhappy customers.  “Unhappy customers are willing to co-create new solutions to find better ways to solve their problems.”  The shift from crafting moments to co-creating outcomes for and with customers becomes a key driver to transform from a product centric culture to a customer centric culture.  

In Conclusion

The future of Customer Experience and Customer Success hinges on outcomes. Organizations whose senior leaders create a culture that prioritizes co-creation, shared outcomes and agile action will position themselves to deliver what customers want most:  results.  

We invite you to dive deeper and take action using the slide deck here.