How Can the Board Ensure CX Is a Strategic Priority?
There’s a misconception that digital transformation is the key to enhancing the entire organization’s customer experience (CX). While it can certainly help in improving processes, or harnessing more data, it will not address the companywide legacy barriers or cultural challenges that are disrupting the customer experience. In order to orchestrate a companywide CX transformation, does the responsibility reside within the executive team or should it be mandated by the board and the company’s leadership to ensure that CX is a strategic priority?
Prior to starting ScheinerInc., I was the chief brand and digital marketing officer of the SaaS technology platform Zipari, which was uniquely positioned as the first consumer experience platform for the insurance industry. The technology enabled payers and their service centers to have a centralized view into their customers as well as prospects driven by data-rich clicks and self-service tools. While the technology could potentially increase acquisition and reduce member churn, it didn’t necessarily solve the larger customer experience problem that tends to be the Achilles heel of the enterprise due to a lack of customer-centric strategy and/or a legacy culture.
Changing Technology and Shifting Behavior
This Harvard Business Review post made a very good case as to why executives need to invest in understanding the customer experience. They can achieve this by looking beyond the digital experience and websites that easily navigate the customer journey forward, but that may also work against the company by conveying an organization that isn’t empathetic to their customers or feels commercialized. The article said this: “CX needs to be recognized as more than presenting slick user interfaces or arming customer service staff with the latest and greatest analytics platforms. Rather, it is all-encompassing, focusing on not only on the mechanics of transactions and engagements, but also customers’ feelings about their time spent with a company. Was it surprise, joy, disappointment, or frustration? Or does it leave them feeling dirty dealing with this company? Within many organizations, hierarchical management structures, siloed information sources, and low levels of training and inadequate career development lead to subpar CX. This is where executives and managers need to step up and build organizations that are more responsive—and more empathetic—to customer needs.”
“CX needs to be recognized as more than presenting slick user interfaces or arming customer service staff with the latest and greatest analytics platforms.
Rather, it is all-encompassing, focusing on not only on the mechanics of transactions and engagements, but also customers’ feelings about their time spent with a company.”
While digital channels and new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are increasingly important in today’s business landscape, companies should not prioritize a “digital-first” approach at the expense of all other customer interactions. Instead, companies should strive to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels, whether digital or traditional. This means recognizing that customers have different preferences and needs when it comes to communication and engagement. Companies should therefore invest in providing an omnichannel experience that is driven by a customer-driven culture first that’s supported by various technology, allowing customers to seamlessly move between channels without losing context or having a disjointed experience.
“Companies should strive to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels, whether digital or traditional. This means recognizing that customers have different preferences and needs when it comes to communication and engagement.”
Ensuring CX Alignment: The Board’s Responsibility
This leads to a larger question about responsibility, or about why ensuring companywide CX alignment should commence at the board level. This post from CIO.com tends to agree with this thinking: “Exposing management to more information about CX, how it can be improved, and ensuring its alignment with overall corporate goals argues for creating a new board-level committee. This type of collaboration and data sharing is essential to a more positive CX. Now that CX is a metric-driven science and less of an “art form,” gaining input from other stakeholders is possible. CX can either positively or negatively impact financials, corporate reputation, and brand image. For these reasons, it’s worth acting. Board-level emphasis also helps drive internal changes and align all internal stakeholders around delivering a positive customer experience.”
“CX can either positively or negatively impact financials, corporate reputation, and brand image. For these reasons, it’s worth acting. Board-level emphasis also helps drive internal changes and align all internal stakeholders around delivering a positive customer experience.”
As shared in this Accenture study, only one in five companies are fully committed to service as a value center that improves customer relationships and drives sustainable growth. Companies that are customer committed generate 3.5x the revenue growth of companies managing service as a cost center. “These high-growth companies are spending an average of only 50 basis points more of their revenue on customer service.”
“Companies that are customer committed generate 3.5x the revenue growth of companies managing service as a cost center. These high-growth companies are spending an average of only 50 basis points more of their revenue on customer service.”
Board-level guidance can not only future-proof the organization, but can provide the leadership team with a plan of action to reshape the customer experience by focusing on the following key areas:
Understanding Customer Needs and Expectations: Companies should invest in not only understanding their customers’ needs, expectations and pain points, but where the organization can proactively remove these impediments.
Creating a Customer-centric Culture: Create a culture that puts the customer at the center of everything the company does. This means removing business silos and fostering more collaboration across marketing, sales and customer service that benefits the customer and incentivizes customer satisfaction.
Improving Customer Service: Institute companywide customer service training that focuses on being empathetic and efficient in interactions with customers.
Personalizing the Customer Experience: Use data and analytics to personalize the customer experience. This includes offering personalized product recommendations, targeted marketing messages and customized experiences based on customer preferences.
Streamlining the Customer Journey: Simplify and streamline the customer journey by reducing friction and eliminating unnecessary steps. This includes optimizing the checkout process, reducing wait times, and providing clear and concise information throughout the customer journey.
Realizing that Disruption Is an Everyday Threat
Boards can play a critical role in steering companies away from disruption by focusing on strategic planning, risk management, talent management, culture, and partnerships and collaborations. By ensuring that the company’s strategic plan includes a focus on fostering an innovative and adaptive customer-centric culture, boards can help companies position themselves for long-term success in an ever-changing marketplace.
In today’s business landscape, customer experience is a crucial factor that can either make or break a company’s financial success, reputation and perception. For this reason, it’s essential for boards to take the lead in prioritizing CX initiatives. Board-level emphasis helps in driving internal changes, but also aligns the entire enterprise towards delivering and executing an uninterrupted positive customer experience.
Questions? Feel free to email me here. As always, thank you for reading.