Customer Experience Non-Trends for 2016
In This Issue
It's the beginning of a new year, which means it's time for pundits and prognosticators to pull out their crystal balls and make predictions about the twelve months to come.
Bruce Temkin, for example, has published his 11 Customer Experience Trends for 2016 (why 11? Presumably because it's one better than ten). He has identified such things as Journey Designing, Empathy Training, and Predictive Analytics as areas to watch, and declared that 2016 will be The Year of Emotion.
Who am I to disagree?
But in my view, such trend articles miss the bigger picture, which is that the important facts of the Customer Experience profession will be pretty much the same in 2016 as they were in 2015 and earlier years. These are the non-trends, the things that don't change, and most of them are more important than the trends.
So here I present my Customer Experience Non-Trends for 2016. Not only are most of these non-trends more important to the average CX professional than the Trends, you can read these safe in the knowledge that in January 2017 I can just republish this same article with a different date.
Non-Trend 1: Engaged Leadership Is The Single Most Important Element in CX
The companies delivering a great customer experience almost always have leadership actively engaged in continuously trying to deliver a better experience. Conversely, companies where leadership views CX as a one-time project, or something to delegate, generally don't succeed in delivering a superior experience.
The lesson here is simple: if you want to improve the customer experience in your organization, the most important thing you can do is get the senior leadership to care and make it a personal priority.
Non-Trend 2: Great CX Is About Getting a Thousand Things Right
Sweat the details. A grand strategy or a new piece of technology will not, by themselves, move the needle on your customer experience (though the right strategy and tools definitely make the job easier).
Unfortunately, "sweat the details" is not a sexy message and it doesn't help sell software and services. Many vendors make the empty promise that their solution will, by itself, transform your CX effort. Don't believe it. There is no magic bullet.
Non-Trend 3: Customer Experience Professionals Often Have a Tough Job
The field of Customer Experience has made great strides over the last decade or so, but it's still not easy. We've finally gotten to the point where most companies will at least say that the Customer Experience is a priority, but many of them have yet to internalize it. The leadership doesn't yet care enough to dedicate the needed resources, or they think that because they have a CX team the problem is solved and they can mostly ignore it.
So in a lot of places, the role of the CX professional will continue to revolve around getting leadership attention, finding the easy wins, and internal evangelism. This, unfortunately, is not likely to change any time soon.
Non-Trend 4: Great CX Drives Customer and Employee Passion, Which Creates Better CX
The sweet spot of customer experience is when your whole organization is focused on creating a better experience for customers, which makes customers want to do more business with you, and that makes employees want to help customers even more. Customer Experience becomes a positive feedback loop.
The unacknowledged truth is that most employees genuinely want to do a good job and have a positive impact on their customers. It's one of the most satisfying things we can do in our careers. A strong focus on CX creates not just more satisfied customers but also more satisfied employees.
Here's hoping for a terrific 2016!
It's easy to do a survey, but it's hard to run an effective customer feedback program that leads to changes in a company's actions and improved customer experience. There are a number of common mistakes: so common that nearly all companies make at least one of these mistakes, and some companies manage to hit the entire list:
Not Understanding the Purpose of the Customer Survey
If you don't know what you expect to accomplish through a customer feedback program, it's hard to structure it in a way that will meet your goals. For example, a survey designed to help improve the performance of customer-facing employees will be very different than one merely intended to track metrics. When I ask companies why they are running a survey, often I hear answers like, "To collect customer feedback," or "Because it's a best practice." Answers like that tell me that they don't have a clear sense of why they need a survey, other than for the sake of having a survey.
Asking Too Many Questions
Long surveys generally have a poorer response rate than shorter surveys, can leave the customer with a bad feeling about the survey, and often don't produce any more useful feedback than shorter surveys. In many cases, there is no good reason to ask a lot of questions, other than a need to appease a large group of internal stakeholders each of whom is overly attached to his or her favorite question or metric. It's easy to find the questions you don't need on your survey: go through all the questions and ask yourself, "Have we ever actually taken any action based on this question?" If the answer is no, the question should go.
Focusing on Metrics, Not Customers
Metrics are easy to fit into a numbers-driven business culture, but metrics are not customers. At best, metrics are grossly oversimplified measurements of your aggregate performance across thousands (or millions) of customer interactions. Behind those numbers are thousands (or millions) of actual human beings, each of whom had their own experience. Many companies focus solely on the metrics and forget the customers behind them. Metrics make sense as a progress marker, but the goal is not to improve metrics but to improve customer experiences.
Not Pushing Useful Data to the Front Lines Fast Enough
In many cases, creating a great customer experience isn't about installing the right platform or systems, it's making sure that thousands of little decisions all across the company are made the right way. The people making those decisions need to know how their individual performance is contributing to the overall customer experience, and the best way to do that is give them access to immediate, impactful feedback from customers. Too often, though, customer feedback gets filtered through a centralized reporting team, or boiled down to dry statistics, or delivered in a way that masks the individual employee's contribution to the whole.
Not Closing the Loop
Closed-loop feedback is one of the most powerful tools for making sure a customer survey inspires action in the company, yet even today most companies do not have a formal system in place to close the loop with customers. There are actually three loops that need to be closed: you need to close the loop with the customer, with the business, and with the survey. If you're not closing all three loops, then your survey is not providing the value you should be expecting.
Always Using the Same Survey
Companies change and evolve. Markets shift. Customer's expectations are not static. Entire industries transform themselves in just a few years. So why do so many customer surveys remain unchanged for years (or decades)? Surveys should be structured to respond to changing business needs and evolve over time, otherwise you're not collecting feedback that's relevant to current business problems. Surveys that never change quickly become irrelevant.
Not Appreciating Customers' For Their Feedback
Finally, a lot of companies forget that when they do a survey they are asking a customer--a human being--to take time out of their day to help out. And they're asking for hundreds or thousands of these favors on an ongoing basis. But when the reports come out and the statistics are compiled, all those individual bits of human helpfulness are lost in the data machine. I know it's not practical to individually and personally thank thousands of customers for doing a survey, but it's not that hard to let customers know that you're listening to them and taking their feedback seriously. All too often the customer experience of completing a survey involves taking several minutes to answer a lot of questions and provide thoughtful feedback, and then it disappears into a black hole. You don't need to pay customers for taking a survey (in fact, that's often a bad idea), but you should at least make some effort to thank your customers and appreciate their efforts.