Two Challenges of Customer Experience and Its Executive Buy-In

In 2016, the questions of ownership and business impact of customer experience management are still open. Learn more from the CRM consulting perspective.

Customer Experience Management meeting

Many agree that the success of any corporate undertaking in customer experience heavily depends on whether CEOs and other key decision makers (can be board members or other) buy into it. They say executive buy-in makes for an easier road to the happy customer, thanks to allocated budgets and all-round support with resources.

There are plenty of strategies devised for beginning CX managers to get C-level approval, from business cases to pilot projects, but in these heated discussions about executive buy-in and customer experience management (CXM), there are yet two challenges still unresolved.

The first deals with dividing responsibilities and defining customer experience ownership, that is, identifying real people behind the very vague term of ‘CX practitioners’ as well as searching for the place that technology has come to occupy in the CXM governance models. The other challenge is fundamental, and it has to do with showing a quantifiable business impact of CX initiatives behind purely qualitative metrics of customer satisfaction or similar.

Challenge 1: Who should govern customer experience management?

Who should own customer experience? Who should be accountable for managing it? Who should drive customer experience initiatives and be the advocate of a customer-centered culture within the company?

The simple answer is – everyone.

The not-that-simple one is that customer experience is in essence cross-functional, so assigning the mission to anyone biased to a particular corporate domain (marketing, sales, operations, etc.) is likely to be narrow-minded at best and troublesome at worst.

It’s not accidental that C-level technologists are increasingly stepping into the picture as well. Technology started to permeate customer experience management, from digital experience and call centers to loyalty program management and beyond. Many important aspects of customer experience have deeply technological implications that cannot be managed by ‘analog’ methods any longer, such as customer segmentation, journey mapping, content personalization, satisfaction scoring, analytics, and one-silo customer data management that underpins it all.

Even the newly created positions of Chief Customer Officers or similar effectively blend business and technological thinking, so that the executives occupying them could align both legacy and state-of-the-art systems with the overall vision and bring their company into the future. This all means that whoever owns CXM at a company needs to speak the language of IT solutions just as much as the language of business metrics.

Instead of tailing marketing and sales departments, technology decision-makers, be it CIOs or other, should step up and proactively engage in outlining the strategy that will be feasible and most effective with contemporary tools. CIOs are starting to recognize this challenge as well. Luckily, they are seeing an ever warmer welcome from their cross-departmental colleagues from marketing, sales and operations, who recognize CIOs’ privileged position at the intersection of empowering technologies and strategic vision.

In case of CXM, we talk about adopting and leveraging high-end IT solutions that are designed to match a company’s business processes. These solutions traditionally evolve from larger disciplines of business intelligence, operations management, enterprise document management and more, and it is in-house technology evangelists who are in the power to initiate effective actions in the CXM direction, knowing the ins and outs of today’s offerings on the market.

Challenge 2: Where is the value?

Somehow, many business bloggers still think that executive boards need to be convinced of how important the customer is in their business ecosystem. They need not, for they all know and easily agree with it – at the end of the day, customers are their revenue-generating audience. In 2016 no one has the luxury of ignoring the customer anymore if they want to stay competitive and not to be ridden out of the market by more far-sighted rivals. What does need to be communicated properly to the executives on the brink of launching into customer experience management, is the business value of it.

CEOs have hard times allocating investments for dubious, not reasonably justified projects where they can’t be sure of business results. They understand the language of hard facts most of all. They need them to make reasonable decisions about any investments and commitments to the cause, because they know it can either make it or break it. When it comes to customer experience, they are most likely to be aware of all the hype surrounding it.

But the question to be answered by CXM owners and promoters is whether it is all worth it. In this case, showing figures, measurable business results (or the possibility to measure them) upfront is bound to encourage executives’ long-term commitment rather than one-off engagement followed by frustration or outright disappointment.

One of the recommended ways to ensure such a long-standing cooperation is to align customer experience metrics directly with business results, for example, correlating the introduction of self-checkouts or a recent staff training on customer culture to same-store sales.

Traditional metrics can work just as well: scoring customer satisfaction and leaving the results to gather dust won’t lead to anything, but tracing down how increased scores relate to customer retention rates, repeat sales, and referrals will help to get CX owners’ foot in the door to proceed with positive changes. It’s also crucial to communicate customer feedback to CXM sponsors at all times, to create a two-way road as well as keep them in the picture of their company’s brand health.

Has CXM matured just enough?

Seems like customer experience has been on managers’ mind forever, but in fact it’s quite a recent phenomenon. Those who consult on customer relationship management had hardly finished to re-imagine modern CRM systems to win more fans for this long compromised and bulky technology, before the focus shifted considerably to how these systems could support customers’ cross-channel journeys beyond lead management and record keeping.

But apart from the new lingo, the young CXM discipline calls for major changes to corporate governance and analytics if brands want to gain notable financial returns. This means that the two challenges still unresolved today should garner more attention from both CX thinkers and executives who want to create or reinvigorate their organizational culture when it comes to customer experience.

About the Author

Abby Adams is Senior Business Analyst at Itransition.

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