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Customer experience awards, Customer experience strategy, Customer journey, Customer journey mapping, customer-centric, customer-first, Qualitative research

We recently had the pleasure of judging at the UK CX Awards at Wembley – a great experience, which reaffirmed how far Customer Experience (CX) has come over the last few years. With CX now widely-recognised as a key competitive differentiator, most organisations have established CX programmes, strategies, and/or teams in place – and the CX Awards are a great way to gain external recognition for your CX investments.  But how do you prove and articulate the impact of your CX initiatives, with a view to gain such recognition? 

Below we share our thoughts around what we can learn from this year’s finalists and winners, plus some key considerations for businesses looking to take their CX to the next level…

#1      Inside-out versus outside-in thinking

Examples of both inside-out and outside-in thinking were evident across this year’s entries:

  • Inside-out thinking – a focus on commercial and operational objectives and internal processes/ systems/ products
    • E.g. Several entries focused on the outsourcing of contact centre operations and associated impacts, with the initial decision driven by factors such as rapid business growth
  • Outside-in thinking – looking at your business from a customer perspective and designing products and services around customer goals and needs
    • E.g. The winner of the Utilities category described how they designed a Tracker and associated comms. to provide transparency and address issues around consumer trust in Utilities providers

Both approaches can have positive impacts on the CX, even if these impacts were not the initial aspiration or driver of the business decision.  However, it is those businesses who apply outside-in thinking, and have a genuinely customer-centric approach, who really stand out for CX.

Key considerations:  Do you have a clear CX strategy that considers your business from the ‘outside in’ – i.e. in terms of what customers are trying to achieve with your brand?  Does your business consider the customer throughout planning and implementing change? A strategy that is underpinned by a clear set of CX principles, and is supported by tools such as customer personas, will help to ensure that customer impact is at the core of decision-making processes.

#2      Connecting insight around the customer journey

Insight that can help to shape and optimise the CX comes in many forms in terms of types of data/ data sources and what’s actually being measured.  Many of the finalists are now using the end-to-end customer journey as a framework to connect insight, enabling businesses to cut across verticals, draw comparisons at different levels of the organisation, and unite around a more connected view of the customer. 

Key considerations:  Customer journey management is the future of CX optimisation and is key to driving customer-led change.  Have you clearly defined your customer journeys? Are these journeys defined by the customer perspective, not just your operational processes? Are your customer journeys being used as a framework to consistently manage your CX?

#3      The importance of customer input

Although many organisations hold a wealth of knowledge and insight on the customer journey, the most important rule of journey mapping is to use primary research to understand and define the journey from a customer perspective – in terms of customers’ goals and pathways/ routes taken.  However, it seems that some customer journeys are still being defined on an assumptive basis – i.e. how the business sees them.  Without customer input and leading with the customer perspective, businesses risk making decisions that are made on sizeable assumptions about what customers think, feel, want, and need.

Key considerations:  Are you getting customer input/ feedback on your proposition, brand, and experience when it matters most? Are you using the customer perspective to drive decision making across the business?

#4      Stories as well as statistics

Over the last few years there has been much debate about which is the ‘right’ CX metric – NPS/ CSAT/ CES, etc., with organisations coming to realise that there is no ‘perfect’ metric; rather a range of measures are needed to gain a holistic understanding of on-going CX performance.  This includes the growing emphasis placed on independent customer review sites, specifically Trust Pilot, with many of the finalists using their rating as a key customer metric across their organisation.

However, to really sell the positive impact of CX initiatives, statistics need to be accompanied with the art of storytelling – we often only get our message across when we can understand how various touch-points are experienced by, and emotionally impact upon, a real individual customer (ideally one who we can relate to). 

Key considerations: The role of customer immersion in facilitating on-going customer closeness/ understanding, and in providing impactful stories, cannot be understated.  To what extent does your business draw on qualitative research (including techniques such as co-creation and ethnography) to engage the business with the true impact of CX performance?

#5      A focus on the extremities of the experience

The Awards highlighted plenty of best practice examples that we can learn from when it comes to the extremities of the CX (i.e. focusing on the beginning and end of the customer lifecycle and/or particularly positive and negative experiences), such as:

  • Effective resolution and complaints handling
  • Proactive acquisition and retention strategies – e.g. recommend a friend schemes, loyalty programmes, and personalised marketing informed by customer segmentation and a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) model
  • Leveraging Promoters – e.g. encouraging them to write reviews on consumer sites via links at the end of a customer survey
  • Understanding the issues affecting Detractors, e.g. via text analytics and root cause analysis

Key considerations:  What is your business doing in relation to these areas? What are you doing to maintain and optimise the CX for those customers in the middle?  And how do you ensure that you’re not resting on your laurels – i.e. how can you shift your CX from ‘good’ to ‘great’?

#6      Employee engagement

When it comes to CX, we know it’s not just customers who are important. The Awards presentations included great examples of employee engagement initiatives – from ‘employee recognition Friday,’ to dedicated areas (e.g. feedback walls) for employees to make suggestions, to Facebook pages to reach frontline teams. 

To deliver a consistent and branded CX, your employees also need to really understand your CX vision/ brand values (and what they mean in practice) – and need to have a reason to deliver that experience.  For example, the winners of the Hospitality, Leisure & Travel category now include their new values within their employee appraisal process.

Key considerations:  Have you equipped, empowered and motivated your employees to deliver on your CX vision?  Do your employees have all the tools they need to deliver a consistent, branded CX?

If you’d like to discuss any of these areas in more detail and consider how you might set yourself up for entering for an award in 2018, please just get in touch – hello@thisislens.co.uk

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