While the term CX was first coined in 1998, it’s only really taken off in the past 15 years. This is in large part thanks to the massive technical boom that fundamentally changed everything in the early 2000s. Many businesses born before this time now battle to stay relevant, while newcomers nip at their heels, taking their slice of pie from right under their noses. While certainly a cliché, the world of informed and connected consumers really did change how and why we do business today.
My conversation with Ian Golding, author of the book “Customer What?” takes a deep dive into CX, highlighting how effective it can be for businesses that get it right, and how ineffective it can be for those who don’t.
His book loosely tackles CX in four parts, each equal in importance and practice:
- CX’s need to find a firm footing in the organisation to truly start any meaningful transformation
- Understanding a business’s culture and finding effective ways to connect its people to a CX strategy is essential
- Which are the right CX tools to use when inside the business and what can they yield
- How are CX programmes sustained within an organisation, long after the strategy is defined
Realizing customer-centric change
It’s not easy. Especially when a business has yet to buy into having a CX strategy in the first place.
Ian’s advice, and on-the-job observations, is that CX needs an advocate within the business, even if a formalized customer experience role has yet to exist. Often these customer advocates will forge the way for the creation of the centralized customer experience function within their organization. For those who are interested in customer experience, but don’t see a clear career path, Ian advises looking for opportunities to get involved and elevate the topic of customer experience from your current role.
So how do CX practitioners (or avid customer advocates) make a meaningful argument to the C-Suite that focus on why customer experience is needed, especially when there is a strong demand from shareholders to perform: through the numbers! There is a strong case of the long-term benefit of a focus on customer experience, but CX initiatives bet on the “long game” of profit contribution through improved customer loyalty and retention. This isn’t something that happens overnight, CX efforts may not yield ROI within the short-term horizon of quarterly earnings cycles. To overcome this Ian suggests developing an engagement plan that allows leadership to understand the importance of dialogue and also articulate the message to shareholders that ultimately will benefit them (from the business) in the medium to long term.
Ian considers Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as an excellent example. For years, Amazon didn’t make a profit because Bezos was obsessed with reinvesting everything Amazon did to improve the customer experience. His shareholders didn’t like him much at the start, in fact they hated him! But now they are reaping the benefit and will continue to do so in the long term. A major win for CX and a major win for Amazon.
The growing CX community
Besides these key take-aways on helping executives engage with shareholders, Ian and I also spoke about the role of the Customer experience Professionals’ Association (CXPA) as a unifying force within the growing CX community. Ian and I are both active members of the CXPA, and Ian spoke about how this member-run non-profit industry body is helping pave the pathway for the future of our profession. The CXPA both regulates performance and best practice but also provides a community of sharing and learning. Watch this space.
During our conversation, Ian and I discussed several resources for anyone who is interested in learning more about customer experience. Here is our reading list:
- Customer What? The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience
- Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine (The author, Jeanne Bliss, also has an excellent blog)
- Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business
Blogs and online resources
- My Customer
- Customer Think
- Customer Experience Magazine (UK)
- Customer Experience Professional’s Association (CXPA)
- Harvard Business Review’s coverage of customer-related topics
Fellow CX practitioner Ricardo Saltz Gulko has also curated reading list an excellent reading list of his top 30 CX books.
Decoding the Customer is a customer experience podcast created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. She is one of Southern Africa’s foremost experts in Customer Experience Management. For more information about Julia’s services, click here. To hear other episodes of Decoding the Customer, click here.