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Customer Strategist Journal
Innovative strategies for building more profitable customer relationships. Published quarterly online and in print.
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A Conversation About Social Media

A Powerful Business Driver

Customer experience is more than the buzz phrase du jour. It is, in fact, a powerful business driver.

Customer experience is "the customer's perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effects of interactions with a supplier's employees, channels, systems, or products," as defined by Gartner. As such, it is a persuasive influencer, and in many cases the ultimate decider, as to whether customers will conduct business with a provider in the future, whether they will recommend for or against it, whether that firm's profits will increase or decline.

Considering this, it's not surprising that 80 percent of executives think customer experience is more important than it was three years ago and 97 percent of business leaders surveyed see it as the next competitive battleground, according to Strativity Group.

A focus on customer experience, then, will certainly deliver a competitive advantage to the organization that embraces it. But don't expect to add what Martha Rogers, Ph.D., calls "random acts of customer service" to your business strategy and move to the next project. Yes, small changes can add up to big wins. Ultimately, however, customer experience management is a complex process fraught with challenges like organizational silos and misaligned compensation.

Creating a loyalty-building, profit-driving customer experience begins like many strategies do, with a project owner. Whether that owner is one person or a cross-function team, there must be an ability to drive real change, assign accountability, and reorganize processes to support the strategy. Once ownership is in place, it's time to find out what customers need and expect, and then compare that with what the organization needs and what employees and partners expect. Use that insight to help create a customer experience roadmap, and to prioritize the elements within it. Focus on such issues as creating consistency across channels, aligning strategic goals and compensation, and developing action plans based on customer needs and value. Include specific goals and supporting metrics.

Selling managers not directly involved in developing the strategy means building a business case that specifically relates to how improving the customer experience could benefit their group. As much as possible translate that to hard dollar benefits to their department, as well as to overall corporate benefits like customer profitability improvements. Ensure that employees understand how their role impacts the customer experience, especially when their job may not be customer facing--and ensure that their compensation is aligned with customer experience goals and metrics.

Remember, customer experience management is an evolution. Continue to involve customers and employees in its ongoing development; their feedback is invaluable. And continue to incorporate new interaction points, like social media, into the customer experience mix. The results of a comprehensive, well-executed customer experience strategy will be a corresponding increase in customer engagement and profitability.

The outlook on customer experience? An investment worth making.