How important is a customer's experience with a business? What does customer experience (CX) mean to competitiveness and performance? Today's connected environment has made this metric incredibly important. Customers can exercise much more choice, and your competitors are often literally just a click away.
Why is CX so crucial to business success? According to Chris Larkins, Dell Business Unit Manager at Tarsus Distribution, it's about how we perceive a brand. Not the marketing of that brand, but our interactions with it. This is best illustrated by how we typically research a company, he says: "You're almost not expecting to see the good news. You go hunting for the bad. A bad experience, a shouting match with some customer service representative, or someone didn't get a response. I'm pretty brutal when it comes to bad service. I mean, if I don't like it, I just don't go back. And I think a lot of people do that."
Customers tend to push back against marketing activities. Marketing puts forward the company's best face, but potential customers are sceptical. This dynamic can vary depending on the type of market and customer: the sole supplier of certain goods to businesses has fewer CX concerns than a company actively competing to attract direct consumers. In some cases, the wrinkles are ironed out through sales relationships or expedient delivery. CX needs vary between organisations. But there is no doubt that it matters, especially if you a) have competition, and b) have customers who know about alternatives to what you offer.
How to improve your CX: CX is about data
How do you fix your CX? According to Larkins, you should look at your company's current behaviour around customer concerns: "Companies that take CX seriously will escalate a matter very quickly. They'll take the frontline out of the way and replace it with some sort of supervisor or middle-management layer that can have a more multi-dimensional conversation and get to the root of the problem. To get there, you've got to monitor and fix the bad, and then make sure that that's been eliminated. Then the default is it must be good, because I haven't found anything that was bad."
Metrics such as net promoter scores can provide early warnings or even clear examples of problem areas. But it's essential to get the right information in front of the right people. This is where data comes in.
"The first part of addressing CX would be the data. So, understand what data you need to start making informed decisions, and then find technology to help unpack that for you. Collect it, analyse it, report on it and get it to the right people so that they can actually turn it into being useful."
How to improve your CX with technology
Technology is critical to generate insights at the speed and variety that matches today's connected markets. As such, you should establish the ideal systems in the back office to do all that heavy lifting. If your business cannot operate at the speed of a connected world, you have no chance to catch up.
Yet Larkins emphasises the second part of his answer: to whom does the data go?
"I can automate anything in a technology stack. I can swing reports down and cut data in a million different ways. But have I identified somebody that needs to get that data and measure success? So, in a marketing environment, are those marketing campaigns successful? Are those reports going to the CMO? Are they getting the insights they need?"
There is a tendency to either try and improve CX without investing in technology, or going deep into digital solutions and expecting them to accomplish everything. But if, instead, we look at this differently – that data connects a company's capacity to improve CX with its efforts – the path is quite clear:
Recognise the importance of CX;
Establish a philosophy that propagates the appropriate CX for the business;
Involve the people who are best positioned to handle CX-related challenges; and
Use technology to bring business intelligence to them in ways they can wield change.
If CX still lacks some urgency for your business, here's a parting thought. CX has a significant impact on customer churn, and in the current austere market, it's vital to retain customers – especially the more profitable among them. A quarter of customers that leave a brand never return, leading to an estimated loss of $1 trillion among US companies (Accenture).
But you don't need big numbers to know that losing customers (and not knowing why, or addressing those causes) is bad for business. Yet get the right data to the right people, and you can change your customer experiences to be all about the good.