Is your customer experience program suffering bright shiny object syndrome?

Alex Allwood

Alex's focus is connecting customer and culture to empower customer-centric growth. Working with B2B2C, Alex helps improve experiences that enhance customer value and distinctively differentiate. With a 20 year track record in leadership, operations and marketing, Alex’s strength is developing customer experience strategy: customer understanding and empathy, experience vision and guiding principles and the customer narrative to enable collaboration and alignment. Alex is principal of the customer experience consultancy, All Work Together; has authored the book Customer Experience is the Brand, regularly facilitates Customer Journey Mapping workshops and is a speaker on customer-centric transformation.

You may have heard of ‘bright shiny object syndrome’. The term is used to describe new initiatives undertaken by organisations that either lack a strategic approach, or suffer from a failure to effectively implement.

Delivering a superior customer experience has become the latest ‘must have’. The result is that organisations are ending up with a bright shiny object they are calling a customer experience program.

The expectations from such initiatives are increased customer value, superior competitive advantage and accelerated growth. McKinsey & Company’s Executive Briefing research confirms customer experience excellence leads to revenue gains of 5-10 per cent and cost reductions of 15-25 per cent within 2-3 years.

However, chasing a bright shiny object without a customer-first purpose, strategy and competency to implement often proves to be ineffective at delivering any of this value.

While intentions are good, what’s missing is the fundamental element in leading and governing a successful customer experience program.

Ultimately, customer centricity starts at the top of the business with the belief that ‘what’s good for the customer is good for business’. This belief informs a set of behaviours that are developed as disciplines and weaved into the cultural fabric of the organisation.

Importantly, from the executive team down, the leadership must commit to serving as role models by demonstrating customer-first behaviours for the rest of the business to follow.

Their responsibility is to champion the customer across the business with the imperatives of delivering the customer experience goals, employee and customer metrics and employee recognition programs to align siloed business units to work together for the good of the customer.

More often than not, the new customer custodian role is the responsibility of the marketing team, which traditionally doesn’t have a seat at the boardroom table.

Today, the chief customer role needs to be influential cross-functionally in all departments including IT, finance and customer service. A failure to engage functional areas and align siloed business units causes customer experience program paralysis, making delivery effectively impossible.

The symptoms of ‘bright shiny object syndrome’ become apparent when there’s more posturing on customer experience efforts than investment into business-shifting activity. Such symptoms include customer experience efforts driven by assumptions and from a business viewpoint rather than from the customer’s perspective.

Econsultancy’s research paper, Customer Experience Maturity in Australia and New Zealand, shows only 23 per cent of businesses in this market are using journey mapping and only 19 per cent are utilising user experience analysis to improve their customers’ experience.

Organisations suffering the syndrome also tend to focus on single touchpoint innovation rather than the end-to-end journey. Leading customer-centric organisations focus instead on improving customers’ painpoints in their end-to-end journey rather than individual interactions.

Other symptoms may include: Little to no cross-functional collaboration in the planning process, no real understanding of the business’s high value customers, a lack of clarity on the journeys that matter, which metrics to utilise and how teams should be rewarded to shift behaviour and deliver customer experience excellence.

Chasing the ‘bright shiny object’ also affects employee engagement – through competing priorities, incongruent organisational behaviour, lack of cross-functional alignment and inconsistent communications. Leading customer-centric brands recognise the fundamental relationship between customer and employee engagement. Simply put, happy, engaged employees create happy, engaged customers.

Engaged employees understand their company’s customer experience aspirations, their customers’ needs, and the role they play in delivering the promise. Importantly, their voice is valued and contributes to a process of collaboration to improve the experience.

Essentially, when a customer has a great experience this not only impacts their current and future purchasing, but positively influences purchasing decisions of their friends and peers too.

In contrast, a bright shiny object masked as customer centricity only serves to disenfranchise your employees and your customers even further.

Tags: customer experience management

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