A while back, I was having a conversation with the VP of Customer Service for a big international corporation regarding his group’s CX strategy. He was getting a little agitated as I kept inquiring about his approach and trying to nail him down. Getting a bit frustrated, at one point he kind of threw up his hands and said, “Well, Z, I dunno. We could just give every customer a Ferrari, and then they’d be happy.” Now, this guy is British by birth, so I figured he’d appreciate my paraphrasing the old joke (probably apocryphal, but still valuable to have right there at hand) about Winston Churchill. “Well, now,” I said, “we’re just haggling over the price.”
The problem we were slowly, layer by layer, uncovering was that the organization was lacking in actual CX strategy. They had all sorts of words about the customer on banners around the place, and on splash-screens when people logged in every morning. But they weren’t very actionable. When people don’t get strategy spelled out deliberately, it can lead to confusion, missteps, and a lot of wasted energy. Too broadly stated, the CX strategy can mean anything or nothing.
CX Strategy is not just words
But he and his organization weren’t alone. Lots of people boil “CX strategy” down to a catchphrase. I don’t just mean that they labor over the just perfect words to use to describe their CX strategy-that’s actually an important part of it. What I mean is that they approach the whole strategy as simply the words themselves. So, they just pick one: Are Customers #1? Are they at “the Heart” of everything, or are they at “the Front” of everything? Or are they the only thing? Should we redraw the organizational chart upside-down and put the Customers on top? Well then, they won’t really be at the heart anymore, at least not graphically.
Don’t get me wrong… I understand the utility of a good CX culture campaign, and I know the importance of good messaging to the team to better understand where you’re headed. But if the extent to that “Where you’re headed” conversation is nothing more than, “We Love Our Customers!”, don’t be surprised if team members end up scratching their heads wondering what any of that means in reality…let alone how to act on it. After all, if you’re a front-line employee, how does knowing your customers are very very important and very very special to your company help you in making an on-the-fly decision about what to do in any given moment?
The bottom line is, you’re not doing your team members any help in their day-to-day work if the articulation of your “CX Strategy” is simply, “We strive to deliver the best-in-class support to every Customer, every time.” You may think that’s bold and inspiring, but what the heck does it mean? If I’m on the phone with a customer, how do I enact that strategy? How am I to know that the unique circumstances of a particular Customer’s experience are egregious enough-in any one particular case-to warrant an immediate refund of the purchase? What level of concierge service is appropriate for which situation? At what point should I hand-hold my customer through a process, and when should I direct the Customer to the FAQs on the website? Surely, you can draw up contingencies and flowcharts, scripts and procedures for your front-line staff, but there will be situations (all the time, guaranteed) where all the pieces don’t fit quite perfectly into your predetermined scenarios. What then? And don’t say escalation. Even the supervisors have to make judgment calls.
CX Strategy as a guide
Keep in mind that the purpose of strategy in the first place is to answer these unasked questions; to give people guidance in making the close-call decisions and what to do when in uncharted territory, not addressed in the rule book. Strategy is what allows your employees to use the corporate judgment instead of their own when there’s a question about what to do next. If your CX strategy simply is that “We Love Our Customers More Than Anything,” a scrambling employee, searching for a solution to an irate Customer may mean a call to the Ferrari dealership. How was the contact center agent not to understand that you don’t actually love your customers more than, say, the financial viability of the company itself? Sorry, Boss, I was only following your strategy.
This is why it’s so important to tie your CX strategy directly and deliberately to your overall corporate strategy. You know, the mission and vision, values and principles, that you have etched in marble downstairs in the lobby: that probably already mentions the Customer in the first place! Anchor your CX strategy in that and it’s a good start. Define what you want to be to your customers, the place you strive to hold in their lives, the part you want to play. Call that your Brand Promise. Then build on that to create your CX strategy.
For example, if your Brand Promise is to simplify the lives of your customers, you’ve probably built your products and/or services around that central goal already. It’s your goal that people choose your brand over others when and because they don’t want the hassle of dealing with your competitors’ products and processes. Maybe you’ve created proprietary packaging that’s easier to open and re-close. Maybe your website is completely dummy-proof (I’ll be the judge of that!). You’ve probably streamlined the ordering or scheduling process so your customers can avail themselves of your goods and amenities simply and readily. In this instance, Easy is the name of the game. From day-one on the job, as a front-line agent, I know that a Ferrari is never going to be the solution to a customer inquiry or issue, because it doesn’t line up with the Brand Promise of ease-of-use-especially not with those complicated double-clutch transmissions!
CX Strategy brings your Brand Promise to life
I could do this all day with other Brand Promises, whether it be saving your customers money or time, being a one-stop solution, offering luxury and exquisite products and services, being of the highest quality in your line of business, or whatever niche you’re looking to fill in the market (or market you’re looking to create for yourself).
The problem comes when this Brand Promise isn’t reflected in the CX strategy you’ve chosen for your company, possibly because your “CX strategy” isn’t much more than some fluffy-sounding words about how you really really dig your customers. It’s important to deliberately reflect that Brand Promise as it pertains to CX so that everybody understands that the specific experience you want your customers to have when they interact with your brand is supportive of-and in fact advances-that promise.
Sure, you do want your customers to be at the heart, on top, at the front, and all those other things. Yes, you do want to be #1 with your customers (and them with you). These are all wonderful messages to put on those banners around the office. We’re here to serve our customers and make their lives a little better. But if there’s nothing more behind that (How do you intend to make your customers’ lives better?), you’re not helping advance your company’s overall strategy with your CX endeavors…you’re just throwing words around.
So, consider your CX strategy: Is it pabulum-based? Or is it the sort of thing that, on day-one of the job, any new team member could easily make a judgement call about what to do in any situation? If not, you may want to keep Ferrari on speed-dial.