Customer Experience Strategy: A Deliberate Road to Excellence

If excellence is your goal, let me point you toward the “yellow brick road”: the unrelenting pursuit of superior experience and value creation for customers, supported by crystal-clear strategy and transparent, company-wide performance accountability. Customer experience strategy enables companies of all sizes to live up to their brand promise, maximize revenues and profits, and optimize costs—in other words, to achieve excellence. To help set your company on that road, I’ve defined some of the key elements that I use to create a successful strategy.

1. Customer Executive and Strategist. Are you ready to place a leader in this role? This executive defines optimum customer priorities and targets, leads the development and implementation of strategy, and spearheads the overall execution of initiatives in the direction of customer experience excellence. A customer experience leader also fosters a customer-centric culture of shared accountability and customer-insight-driven decision-making, and promotes organizational transformation to disrupt chronic service issues, enhance profitability, and gain competitive advantage. In this video, Oracle’s SVP and Chief Customer Officer, Jeb Dasteel, talks about designing a customer experience strategy to enhance his company’s products, services, and relationships.

2. Mission, Vision, and Annual Planning. Defining objectives and outlining plans are necessary precursors for reaching customer success future state. Building on the company’s mission, the vision paints a clear picture of future success and establishes the priorities for driving a superior customer experience. Finally, purposeful annual planning defines each department’s near-term objectives and identifies who’s accountable for what to support the vision’s longer-term achievement.

Lori Carr Blog3. Customer Experience Journey Mapping. Outside-in mapping of the customer’s end-to-end journey through the entire lifecycle process, from product development to customer renewals—in every service channel—yields invaluable insight into the customer experience. These maps pinpoint customer emotions, frustrations, needless service complexities, and other problems; from the customer’s perspective, they identify where a company is meeting, exceeding, or failing expectations. Mapping also facilitates applying metrics and assigning responsibilities to ensure internal clarity, accountability, and performance throughout the entire company.

4. Service Simplicity. Customers need, want, and deserve an easy service experience—without exception! Streamlining your internal processes while offering easy service channel access, especially through self-service and social media venues, makes customers happy and reduces support costs. Complicated protocols lead to procedural noncompliance and increase errors, dissatisfying customers, employees, and the C-suite alike. Process simplification is a direct route to reduced customer effort and provides a faster, more consistent, higher-quality service experience at lower cost to the company.

5. Customer Retention and Loyalty. Whether you’re a mid-sized company or a Fortune 200 enterprise, high customer retention and loyalty are survival priorities in today’s business environment, and increasing retention is a crucial aspect of remaining competitive. Knowing that most of your future business will come from current customers and that the probability of selling to them is so much greater, company leaders must realize that relationships with their existing customer base can’t coast along on autopilot after initial acquisition. To earn their loyalty, customers require ongoing investment on the company’s part to nurture relationships and ensure fully realized value from the customer perspective.

6. Company-Wide Participation and Accountability. Given that the experience of a customer is impacted positively or negatively across all of a company’s various functions, processes, and policies, it makes good sense for leaders and staff all across the company to share accountability for that experience. Encouraging inter-departmental partnerships and shared performance incentives increases teamwork toward the common goal of creating superior customer experiences. Customer journey maps provide a foundation to align responsibilities with the “most accountable owners” in each company area, helping to ensure high levels of performance.

7. Voice of the Customer. Effective voice of the customer (VoC) programs use an ongoing, systemic, process to capture customer perspective continuously via surveys, social networks, call centers, forums, blogs, and frontline service and sales associates. This closed-loop feedback system enables data sharing, analyzing feedback, and developing solutions cross-functionally, with the aim of eradicating dissatisfiers and preserving satisfiers in all customer experience channels. Your picture of the future becomes much clearer when you understand what the customer wants. Let the customer lead you, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the places that your business can go.

Lori Carr Blog8. Profitable Customer Lifetime Value. Customer lifetime value (CLV) can be defined as the total worth of a customer-company relationship over time, which is assessed by using a set of business assumptions to understand a customer’s present value and then projecting it into the future to define their total lifetime value. CLV is very important for several reasons: First, it encourages companies to shift focus from quarterly sales and profits to longer-term customer health that generates profitable sales over the entire life of their existing relationships. Second, it helps employees to realize the significance of all customer interactions within the continuum of a total long-term relationship so that it can be nurtured and grown. Lastly, CLV can shift companies’ customer acquisition attitudes—away from merely attaining lots of customers as cheaply as possible, toward optimizing acquisition spending to maximize value by finding the right type of customers: those identified by the company as ideal customers. CLV strategy is replete with opportunities to streamline revenues, profits, and spending.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen the discipline of customer experience emerge, expand, evolve, and now begin to prove its tremendous value—and that value, along with a clear supporting strategy, should not be underestimated. The ability to champion customer experience excellence company-wide is, quite simply, the lynchpin to retaining, expanding, and acquiring new revenue. The creation of a customer experience strategy—and its unwavering, flawless execution—is vital to achieving a sustainable edge over competitors.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as I delve more deeply into these key elements. This eight-article series will give you valuable insights and guidance as you plan, develop, and implement your own customer experience strategy.

Ready to move forward more quickly? Interested in personal assistance? Let’s chat. Please sign up for my complimentary one-hour Customer Insight Strategy Session by calling our office at 617.848.4589 or emailing [email protected].

Lori Carr is a customer experience pioneer and expert. Working with Fortune 500 companies for the past 25 years, she helps popular brands and emerging brands to dramatically increase retention, loyalty, and profitable revenues.