Not so long ago, the term customer experience (CX) wasn’t exactly on the minds or lips of, well, anyone. Customer satisfaction? Sure. Customer service? Of course! But the broader concept of customer experience – which considers the buyer’s end-to-end interactions across multiple channels – has become the new focus, and appropriately so. That’s because rapid innovation in smart technology in combination with creative marketing schemes has caused customer expectations to rise in radical fashion. This has put the onus on all companies – not just those in B2C environments – to scramble to rise to the challenge.
As a result, plenty of large organizations have dedicated a great deal of time, energy, and money towards getting their CX programs off the ground. But despite concerted efforts and the best intentions, many organizations still struggle to create and execute CX strategies that make it past the runway.
As a recent Qualtrics report on the state of customer experience management demonstrates, there are plenty of reasons for a failure to launch: Nearly 60% of companies indicate that other competing priorities interfere with their CX efforts, while 48% report limited funding as a primary obstacle, and 45% point to a lack of a clear CX strategy.
At Navigate, we’ve encountered all of the above and more in our work with some of the largest and most complex organizations in our region, including major global players in pharma and life sciences. One particularly frequent problem is the tendency for CX to wind up in a silo—often, but not always, marketing—where it doesn’t get the structural support it needs to flourish. CMOs and their teams are expert at many things, but overseeing an enterprise’s entire customer experience strategy isn’t exactly their bread and butter (nor should it be). In other cases, M&A activity can create confusion, preventing the merging entities from establishing a cohesive strategy. We often find that CX lacks support from the right leadership and can be considered difficult to measure. Without a path to ROI, executive leaders aren’t likely to become the customer experience champions you need them to be.
Whatever the particular pain point is, CX improvement demands operational change across the business if it’s going to be successful, which requires buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders, from the C-suite to customer-facing employees to customers themselves. Before your program can really fly, it’s important to assemble the right crew, test, tweak, and measure your approach, and chart a clear path forward.
Take Your Seats: Encourage Participation and Solicit Feedback
Like most large-scale strategic initiatives, CX transformation can’t happen in a vacuum. Gaining buy-in, encouraging participation, and soliciting feedback from the right stakeholders needs to occur early and often in the process to ensure each group remains engaged and accountable.
So, who exactly are the “right” stakeholders? There are several, and their roles are wide-reaching and varied, including:
- The C-suite and other operational leaders—CX requires a willingness to change and try new things (i.e., new ways of working), making it critical for leaders of all stripes to roll up their sleeves and do the work.
- Marketing team members—Given their proximity to the customer and focus on brand experience, marketing leaders often have a handle on how you can drive insights throughout the rest of the organization. It’s important to note that marketing can be a strategic partner, but they’re not the only source of truth on the customer experience.
- Customer-facing employees—If they’re on the front lines interacting with customers or fielding their questions, requests, and complaints, chances are your customer-facing employees have firsthand CX knowledge that’s worth tapping into.
- Customers themselves—Whether you rely on NPS scores or devise a system of your own for soliciting feedback, look no further than your actual customers for intel into what’s working and what isn’t.
Your customers are arguably your most important participant—your business would cease to exist without them! We’ve personally seen some of our clients’ biggest CX wins when the voice of the customer was central to every conversation. In the case of a large life sciences organization, their focus was on transformation that “put their customers’ needs and expectations—not the company’s products—at the center.” Think about how you might engage customer segments in new ways to explore new value-sharing opportunities. Build and integrate them as partners in the process. The benefits will be mutual and your efforts will be reciprocated.
Testing, Testing: Design, Test, and Measure Pilot Programs
Once you’ve got the right crew on board, it’s time to start designing your CX pilot programs and testing capabilities. While it may be tempting to tackle this from a global perspective, don’t try to boil the ocean—pick a particular service or offering and start small. If your initial plans are too broad, customer demand will likely have changed by the time you’re ready to roll out the initiative.
Designing the pilot is an integral step, but testing, learning from, and measuring results is paramount. Translation: Establish specific metrics for pilot programs at the outset—having data, even if it’s qualitative, is what creates a watertight case for further investment.
As you co-create strategies with customer input and cross-functional collaboration, you’ll inevitably be using technology to streamline your efforts, but be forewarned: Don’t attempt to use technology alone to “solve” the CX challenge. A platform will never be a perfect solution off the shelf, nor will it solve deeper rooted cultural or leadership issues. Rather, view the use of tech as a tool to help your organization listen and learn, but keep in mind it won’t be the only aspect to drive success.
Flightmaps in Hand: Chart a Course Forward
Flightmap, roadmap, whatever you want to call it, be sure it focuses on and engages all of the necessary stakeholder groups, including leaders, employees, and customers. The pilot programs you create can’t take flight solo—they require full buy-in from leaders across the operational spectrum.
If you need ideas, take a page out of this life sciences company’s playbook and create a “SWAT team” capable of mapping the strategy and implementing it. By onboarding one large, high-value segment of their customer base rather than all customer types at once, the organization was able to improve upon their CX program incrementally and secure quick wins. Solutions were piloted with a small group before any consideration of a full rollout, mitigating disruption, enabling rapid learning, and building confidence with key stakeholders.
With positive early results in hand, there’s only one direction to go, and that’s up.