How CX leaders can broaden their scope of impact

Forrester CX senior analyst shares ways that customer experience professionals can better prove and educate around their business impact

It’s time for customer experience leaders to open the aperture and think more broadly about the ways they can impact, align with and accelerate key business initiatives, says Forrester’s CX executive partner and senior analyst, Su Doyle.

Speaking to CMO ahead of the analyst firm’s CX APAC conference in Sydney on 10-11 May, Doyle said the trajectory of customer experience leadership maturity today is following a similar path to marketing leadership in terms of demonstrating value of widespread business benefit.

“CX is arguably less mature than marketing and has even more of a role to educate what CX does for a business,” Doyle said. “Most of us understand what finance, sales, operations and to some degree marketing does. But often, CX continues to be perceived as surveying people, or customer support. That’s a disservice to CX and it’s a disservice to the company as they are ignoring a competitive advantage that can have lot of impact on top-line numbers.”

Doyle noted several clients who hold chief customer officer and customer experience titles today have professional backgrounds in more structured remits such as operations, sales, marketing or business line management. These professionals are struggling with perceived intangibility of CX initiatives on the financial bottom line.

“Many are saying CX feels nebulous, that previously they had hard numbers and knew how to measure performance. Now they’re not sure how to do that,” Doyle said. “They’re playing the long game but don’t know how to show results quickly. It’s a big educational effort for them to teach others in the organisation what CX is.” 

Doyle also agreed a comparison between tying CX to business outcomes is as challenging as the age-old art of articulating brand value.

“People know in their hearts CX is a good thing, but they can’t quite articulate it and are less clear on how to demonstrate value,” she said.

Finding the right CX metrics

In looking at the common CX metrics deployed to date, Doyle noted the rise of Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a north star and way of bringing people together. Yet many still use these scores either as trophies or homework scores rather than actionable insights. While NPS is increasingly becoming a measure of CX status across executives and boards today, it’s also clear many either don’t understand how to take this information and translate it to business outcomes or list of what to do next.

As a start, Doyle advised going beyond NPS as a whole, but by segment. “For example, it could be small businesses don’t feel the same way about your company as your top accounts, or millennials versus baby boomers. It’s about being able to segment NPS and tell a story around it tells you where to focus efforts and what to things,” she said.

“Otherwise it’s like getting your school marks. How do you then improve? There has to be a proven method.”

But more broadly, Doyle advocated translating CX into business-oriented language. “What we understand now is education is much easier if you are speaking in everyone else’s language, and the language of the executive,” she said.

“It’s one thing to educate around what NPS means, and that’s necessary. But it’s so much better to align CX to how it’s increasing your ability to bring new customers onboard, or how CX increases the ability to innovate, or decreases supply chain risk. These things are top of mind to executives.”   

A case in point is discussions with the CFO. Doyle said commonly a question would be: Is a CX initiative an asset delivering value over time, or is it more associated with income statement?

“We have to think in the mind of the CFO as they’re likely to be the CX leader’s toughest customer,” she said.

An appetite for CX

There’s no doubt CX as a topic and area of focus is alive and well. Forrester recently surveyed the global top 100 companies about CX practices and found 75 of the 100 had made some sort of statement, such as “customers are important to us”.

“But we also found 36 went further to link CX to business strategy and/or financial reporting and were talking to shareholders about what CX is going to do. That’s telling in itself,” Doyle said.

“Some of it is nuanced, of course. You’d be hard pressed to find an executive that doesn’t care about customers. But sometimes, statements frankly come off as ‘we love customers because they bring us money’. It’s seen as a means to an end, as opposed to the end in itself.

“CX has to be balanced and a win/win or both sides. We have multiple constituents to keep happy but sometimes it’s customers that get lost in the mix.”  

To achieve this, Doyle again said more work needs to done by CX leaders around widening the definition of CX. One of the challenges she pointed to is how organisations perceive ‘the CX budget’.

“Does it have to come out of a separate budget, or can it come out of the product, innovation, employee experience or sustainability budget?” Doyle asked. “The point of being a CX leader is not to run a self-sufficient empire. If this [CX] truly is an enterprise transformation, it needs to align with other business units and other key business initiatives. That, in turn, is CX budget. There is ability to borrow from other budgets as it’s a shared goal.”

Doyle’s other big call to action for CX leaders is to broaden thinking around impact. Forrester has identified 14 main categories of CX impact in an organisation. But right now, most CX efforts relate to just two: Retention and keeping existing customer happy; or cost to serve.

“CX can help improve resiliency, generate revenue, efficiencies and more. What I’m asking CX leaders to do is open the aperture a bit and think of all the ways they can make impact, align with and accelerate key initiatives,” Doyle said.

“Just think about the fact many companies are running digital-first initiatives. If you don’t look at impacting that through CX, you will end up with more calls to the contact centre as people end up dissatisfied. CX can help de-risk big bets a company is making. I want CX leaders to rethink the impact they can have.”  

By way of example of digital versus CX, Doyle pointed to a retailer that built a great mobile app so customers can make appointments in the retail store, but then forgot to ready in-store staff to expect them.

“They never made the handshake between the app and the store. We talk about omnichannel, but customers don’t talk about that, they talk about dealing with a brand and how the brand should know me. If I made an appointment, they better be expecting me,” Doyle said.

It’s not just retailers that have this imperative either. According to Doyle, CX is a competitive advantage even for low-choice sectors such as utilities or health insurance where consumers don’t have as many choices.

“You might wonder why bother if you’re in utilities. But utility markets are becoming more competitive, and most have an opportunity to sell ancillary products and services, such as for electric vehicles, Internet services or increase their service area. If customers are unhappy, regulators are far less likely to give them more territory than if customers are happy with the services received,” she said.

As a result, Doyle urged CX leaders to feel emboldened. “CX is an accelerator, it’s not a function or a nice-to have,” she said.

“Businesses not taking advantage of it are missing the opportunity and missing the point.”

Doyle will be at this year’s Forrester CX APAC event in Sydney on 10-11 May 2022 to share her insights into how CX leaders can better focus on outcomes and communicate the value of their efforts from a stakeholder perspective. Use the special CMO code ‘save’ to get a $200 discount on your ticket by registering now here.


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