In a conference attended by customer experience managers, the breakout topic of ROI had five times as many attendees as any other topic. Some companies have disbanded their customer experience staff due to executives' frustrations about the value reaped. Others are deploying customer experience in a piecemeal fashion rather than a coherent system, hesitant to put their money where their mouth is, or impatient, or discounting the eagerness (and feasibility) of all employees to contribute to customer experience success.
Most customer experience efforts are aimed at near-term revenue growth: surveys, service, social media, references, loyalty programs and so forth. In fact, the push for ROI is so strong that in many cases the customer experience effort actually creates discomfort for customers and in reality serves the company more than the customer's well-being.
Customer experience ROI is often elusive due to overemphasis on silos rather than continuity and on revenue growth rather than prevention of bad costs. It is also elusive due to incorrect metric selection: lagging indicators are typically relied upon to predict other lagging indicators. A lagging indicator is something stakeholders already see, whereas a leading indicator is something a manager can see before its result is visible to stakeholders. One of the reasons why leading indicators are sparse is that customer experience efforts are frequently deployed without planning internal actionability and accountability.
ROI has been proven by numerous studies, and for companies that rise above these common pitfalls, they're seeing strong business results such as differentiation, market share growth, and increased profitability.
While new technologies and techniques increase opportunities for real-time insights and value creation, caution is warranted in assuming that customer experience business results can be significant and enduring with a narrow or silo focus. Some of the most popular today are customer journey mapping, digital marketing, social media, content marketing, self-service, and survey indexes such as Net Promoter®.
As an example, close inspection of the "customer experience strategy" offerings of some leading consulting agencies reveals a limitation to digital customer experience. This may be central to a digital business, yet the vast majority of companies' digital experience is certainly a mere fraction of the full customer experience. Another example is the claim of "full service offerings" by customer experience vendors: They offer full service for what they do, but probably not full service for what the buying company needs to fully manage their customers' experience.
Marketers at customer experience vendors frequently misuse customer experience terms, deviating from long-standing use of those terms by practitioners and business books and creating confusion and ultimately, skepticism and disillusion for the field as a whole. Customer experience conferences are often focused on a certain functional area, such as contact centers or user experience or digital marketing, giving newcomers to the customer experience role a narrow and inaccurate view of what's truly needed by their customers.
There is widespread agreement that unhappy employees do not allow happy customers. And as customer experience technologies have been deployed, managers are realizing the need for customer-focused culture, employees taking ownership for customer experience, and cross-organizational collaboration to resolve issues in customers' ease-of-doing-business.
Some managers believe that employee engagement per se is what's needed: being productive on the job, taking an interest in the company's success, recommending the company to potential job applicants, or participating in gamification, such as earning points for downloading customer experience webcasts. To grow customer experience business results, all of these engagement levels are necessary, yet insufficient.
Since salaries and budgets are made possible by customers, it stands to reason that the most profitable employee engagement is centered on improving customers' well-being. Hence, employee engagement in customer experience means that employees understand and proactively manage their personal and collective ripple effect on customers. It means that customer experience criteria – actionable at the employee level – are woven into job descriptions, performance reviews, training, team recognition, staff meetings, ops reviews, all-hands meetings, and executive messages, decision-making, and behaviors.
There is a growing awareness of six core competencies that are emphasized in the Customer Experience Professionals Association certification exam. These competencies include:
These competencies represent the full system needed to achieve enduring business results in the ongoing quest for customer experience excellence. While the CXPA and a recent book written by Forrester analysts have popularized these competencies, they are not new. The 1991 book by Richard Whiteley, "The Customer-Driven Company," also emphasized these six competencies, including an extensive self-assessment and worksheets for deployment.
The key to excelling in all six competencies is to view them as a sequential flow, with VoC driving strategy, culture, and experience design. Organizational adoption and metrics are involved in deployment of each of these competencies. The growing number of people achieving CXPA certification is a sign that the field is transitioning in the near future to embrace what's required for optimal customer experience ROI.
The use of change management, systems thinking, Lean Six Sigma, teamwork, and similar management tools is recognized by companies that are seeing greater business results through customer experience management. These business process improvement methods direct employees in systematic (step-by-step) analysis and resolution of customers’ issues. And they encourage systemic (holistic, cross-organizational) treatment of issues to fix weaknesses once and for all. In addition, these methods are being used to make customer-centered thinking and doing a way of life, and to create new value for customers and the company’s future growth.
Examples emphasizing business process improvement were evident in a study of best practices for business-to-business customer experience management conducted by ClearAction. Companies with best financial performance showed more commitment to centering employees and the business on customers. Their best-in-class differentiators stemmed from: