Many companies have spent the last few years making concerted efforts and investments into their customer experience programs, but customers still aren’t very satisfied. Despite the time, resources and money being poured into their programs, many still fail to deliver. A new report from Gartner found the reason for the disconnect is that leaders aren’t fully expressing the importance of CX to the organization. If executives and other employees don’t see the value and importance of customer experience, no amount of money can solve the problem and creating sustainable results.
Brands with the strongest customer experiences don’t just let it happen—they are proactive and innovative to create forward-thinking customer solutions.
Modern customer experience is an inverted pyramid that is resting on a shaky base instead of a firm foundation. Leaders are often pulled between the expectations of their business and the demands of customers. The vast majority (81%) of CX leaders say their companies will compete nearly solely on experience within the next few years, but the percentage of companies that have an established relationship between CX and business outcomes is significantly lower. The inverted pyramid continues to shrink until it is teetering on the base of just 22% of leaders saying their efforts have exceeded customer expectations.
In order for customer experience efforts to really make a difference, they must begin with a firm foundation. Turn that inverted pyramid upside down and start by providing information customers can use. Supplying the right information in the right channels increases marketing flow and decreases call volume because customers get can answers on their own. From there, the next level on the pyramid solves the brand’s problem when the customer asks by increasing efficiency and improving the company’s brand.
Experience continues to improve as the brand moves up the pyramid to solve customers’ problems when they ask. In order to make this happen, brands must be aware of customer needs and show that they really care. The next level on the pyramid is when a brand provides what a customer needs without them even asking. Gartner cites the example of Nest, which created smart thermostats that automatically adjust to changing temperatures and user preferences. Customers weren’t asking for the product, but it solves a need they didn’t know they had and creates a great experience.
The highest level on the pyramid for the pinnacle of customer experience is when a brand makes customers safer, better or more powerful.
When a customer interacts with these types of brands, they become a better version of themselves and their lives are vastly improved.
Each level on the pyramid improves the customer experience but also requires that brands put in more effort to truly understand customer needs. Brands can work through Gartner’s pyramid to see where their customers fall in each step of the buying journey. A customer may start researching online to see what type of vacuum cleaner they want to buy. Brands that have achieved the first level of the pyramid have supplied useful information. A brand that has reached the third level is available to answer customer questions, and a brand that has reached the top helps customers feel safer and more powerful by creating a vacuum and experience that transforms their lives.
Brands shouldn’t expect to be able to climb the customer experience pyramid overnight.
It takes a conscious effort to align business objectives with experience to improve how customers interact and connect with the brand on different levels. The first step is to gain more data and insights into customers, preferences and trends. Without this information, customer experience can’t get off the ground to provide real solutions. You can’t solve problems if you don’t know they exist.
Companies also need to expand their vision to include the entire customer journey.
Customer experience doesn’t start when the customer makes a purchase—their interactions and perception of the brand start as soon as they hear about a product or begin to research.
Use the vision to build strategic initiatives and then test and adapt them as necessary to meet changing customer demands.
So many of the best laid CX plans fall short because brands are using an inverted pyramid instead of driving growth and strategic experience initiatives with the correct pyramid thinking. By following the steps and moving up the pyramid, brands can showcase the importance of experience to leaders and created engaged, loyal customers for life.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and author of “More Is More.” Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.