Gartner: What it takes to be a top-tier CX player

Trio of analysts detail the different pillars of CX success, from early proven practices through to the bold steps the world's top 5 per cent of CX-led organisations are taking

From left: Don Scheibenreif, Michael Chiu and Ed Thompson
From left: Don Scheibenreif, Michael Chiu and Ed Thompson


The top customer experience-focused organisations globally are the ones who recognise they’re the problem, can act boldly, and are even willing to reduce their product lines to make things easier for customers.

That’s the view of Gartner distinguished VP analyst, Ed Thompson, one of a trio of analysts opening this week’s Gartner CX Technologies event in Sydney. He was joined by distinguished VP analyst, Don Scheibenreif, who talked through the earlier stages of building customer experience as a business principle, and senior director analyst, Michael Chiu, who highlighted several “surprising” practices those mid-way up the CX maturity curve commit to.

Based on Gartner research and observations, Thompson said the top 5 per cent of CX-led organisations are “being bold”, drastically reducing product lines, upping their non-IT staff’s digital dexterity and accelerating processes by a manner of 10x to challenge the status quo.

“The best companies are saying we’re the problem – we’ve done all the customer listening. Now it’s about fixing ourselves within,” he told attendees.

Radical product reduction is a part of such a process, and Thompson pointed to companies like Thomson Reuters, Ford, Tesco, Orange, P&G and Unilever slashing product lines by as much as 50 per cent. In addition, top quartile retail banks in last couple of years have cut their products by 57 per cent, while Apple can fit its products all on one boardroom table.

“They’re not doing it for fun, they’re doing it because it specifically improves the customer experience. The reason is it’s difficult for customers when there are too many choices,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the average revenue hit over three years is 4-5 per cent. There’s also the challenge of migrating customers over to other products and services, along with cultural commitments internally. But the benefits pay big dividends and stretch from reduced IT technical debt to lifting the burden on sales people, he said.

The second bold thing top-tier CX companies are doing is accelerating processes at a magnitude of 10x, Thompson continued. By way of example, he noted Australia leads the world on how fast you can open a bank account, and a record on the number of accounts being opened. A specific company example meanwhile is Shiseido, which is aiming to cut beauty product development from 100 weeks to 10 weeks.

“This is about differentiating on these experiences,” he said. “Pick one process at a time to move 10 times quicker.”  

The third string to the advanced CX bow is digital dexterity. Thompson said leading organisations are encouraging non-IT staff to develop and configure software. There’s also a trend towards citizen data scientists. 

“Notice I haven’t mentioned the word customer here. If you want to be the best, ignore the customer – focus on products, processes and employees,” Thompson added. “The best are saying we’re the problem; we’ve done all the stuff outside-in, now we’re fixing ourselves.”  

Getting up the maturity spectrum

For organisations still at the lower end of the CX maturity spectrum, Gartner’s advice was to stick to “proven practices”.

“If you’re starting a CX program, yes it’s wonderful to launch fabulous digital experiences, chatbots or something wonderful. But my advice is don’t do that,” Scheibenreif said. “The big thing we have learned is to walk before you run. Start with the basics. Use proven practices. Good CX organisations start by moving from chaos to coordination, make individuals accountable and moving in one direction.”

Scheibenreif compared getting your CX house in order to the human body with different body parts and functions that have to be coordinated to see, hear, think, listen and move. He noted organisations have on average 12 people directly responsible for CX, and 86 people on average touching the customer.

Read more: Gartner report: CX is a people issue

Gartner: Why humans will still be at the core of great CX

“The centre of gravity used to be customer service but it’s since moved to marketing department. The reality is CX can’t be managed by any one function, it’s become everybody’s job,” he said.

To get there, Scheibenreif advised creating a CX committee or council to bring all voices to the table and coordinate efforts.  The second must is making individuals accountable. Scheibenreif recommended using metrics to drive accountability and that can connect CX strategy and execution to value. Gartner groups metrics into five camps: Business engagement, quality, customer satisfaction, loyalty and churn, and advocacy.

“The right and important investments at this point are measurement and voice of customer,” he explained, adding voice of customer can be grouped into direct, indirect and inferred buckets. “We recommend starting with 3-5 metrics first, then growing.”

As a case study of a company great at listening to customers, Scheibenreif detailed online clothing recommendations site, Stitch Fix. Customers fill in a style profile, and an algorithm uses those preferences plus key occasions to identify choices. A human stylist then augments this with fashion expertise, resulting in a carefully curated personal shopping experience.

Scheibenreif’s third pillar is direction. This requires building out your customer journey map and prioritising projects accordingly.

Once these proven practices are in order, CX becomes about “surprising successes”, Chiu said. Gartner research shows CX winners have common traits, such as patience, trust, ROI are open to outside thinking, empathetic and culturally aligned to the customer.

For Chiu, the keys here are being effortless, imitating and correlating. For instance, while delight can be a CX factor, what customers are more likely to reward is low-effort experiences.

To get there, don’t innovate, but instead, imitate the customer, Chiu said. What’s more, “don’t correlate the data hoping for blinding insight. Instead, focus on getting the jobs that need to be done, done,” he concluded.

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