Navigating to CX excellence


Why are some companies just so much better at customer experience? Last week’s #SASchat explored the defining characteristics of CX champions. As a member of the Global Practice Customer Intelligence team, I found this to be a very interesting discussion, and I certainly learned a lot. Here are my key takeaways from the chat.

Different ways to improve CX – but a common core

The first question – about what dimensions of CX companies should target to improve – drew many different responses. However, there was also a common theme in many of these answers. They all described the importance of having a holistic strategy for customer engagement. They also recognised the importance of customer engagement and experience being part of the overall digital strategy.

An omnichannel approach with seamless integration is absolutely crucial to a good customer experience. This, of course, puts responsibility for CX on everyone, not just a few people. This includes the C-suite and executives, who must lead from the front and put effort into driving change.

Investing in analytics key to customer engagement

CX champions are generally more likely to use analytics to improve customer experience. These companies are reported to be investing heavily in consumer data platforms that will automate data collection, analytics, decisioning engines and real-time contextual communications. However, investments in analytics alone will not provide the necessary return in terms of improved customer experience. To deliver that, your investments must be part of an overall strategy. This means a solid understanding of how the tools will be used – and a real appetite for their use across the company. This may require a genuine culture change.

Technology alone does not make a CX champion

On a similar note, it is no good committing random acts of technology. To become a CX champion, you need to invest in technology wisely. You need a genuine understanding of why you want the technology, how you will use it and, most especially, how you will roll it out within the company for correct and effective use. Each new piece of technology must be part of a clear and consistent strategy and tech stack. Tools and technologies are only enablers of change. Creating value from investments needs a proper strategy.This must be based on understanding your customers and designing the customer experience around their needs.

Positioning CX as enterprise-level strategy takes effort

It must be seen as a whole-enterprise effort – which is likely to mean making it a part of the culture. It is no good giving the responsibility to one or two people per team. In practice, there will need to be enterprise-level goals and KPIs. Having these will spread awareness and interest through the organization. Ideally, you should align CX with the overall business strategy, which includes the strategy for digital transformation. In turn, this means that the CEO must fully focus on improving the customer experience and drive the improvement through the top management team.

CX champions have particular leadership approaches

There are some very real differences in leadership style and approach between CX champions and other businesses. A recent survey found that CX champions value skills associated with distributed leadership, especially soft skills such as communication. This is in stark contrast to followers and laggards in the CX space, who tend to value "tougher" skills, such as decisiveness.

The environment is also more empowering for CX champions. In practice, you might see flatter hierarchical structures, especially in customer-facing departments. This can improve accountability for customer experience, as well as increase empowerment of front-line employees. Overall, the responsibility for customer experience is spread across the organization. It is reflected in every aspect of the business, and everyone takes responsibility for it.

Improving customer experience has a ripple effect

I think there is likely to be a high level of correlation between being a CX champion and being proactive and innovative in other areas of business. There is no question that CX champions are leaders, not followers. They are not afraid to disrupt business. When you couple this with customer-centricity, you have a real recipe for success. As one of my colleagues said during the #SASchat, an innovative, customer-centered culture is the key. If you have that, everything else simply falls into place.

If you want to find out more about competing with CX offerings and the returns on CX technology investments, download the latest MIT SMR Connections report, Delivering Experiences That Win Business and Build Loyalty, which delves into the specifics of what distinguishes CX champions from the rest of the pack.


About Author

Nihan Yami

Nihan Yami is a Solutions Architect at SAS on Global Practice Customer Intelligence team. She specialises on Advanced Marketing Analytics applications and serves customers across a variety of industries. She is a "SAS® Certified Professional: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning". She also holds AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her adorable cats.

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