Customer Experience Is Not Important Enough

In our recent research, The Current State Of Customer Experience, we asked survey respondents to identify significant obstacles to their companies’ customer experience efforts. Here are the issues they selected:

My take: In an earlier post, I showed that most companies want to become customer experience leaders in their industry. Despite those ambitions, 71% of respondents say that “other competing priorities” is a significant obstacle to their customer experience efforts. After that, then next three obstacles on the list were picked by about half of the companies: lack of a clear customer experience strategy, conflict across internal organizations, and a lack of funding.

What are the chances of actually becoming a customer experience leader in the face of these issues? Slim.

If customer experience is really important to a company, then it needs to be dealt with like other important corporatewide efforts – and given the priority it needs. The changes necessary to be a customer experience leader are not superficial; companies need to develop four competencies:

  1. Purposeful Leadership
  2. Compelling Brand Values
  3. Employee Engagement
  4. Customer Connectedness

    The bottom line: It’s time to really make customer experience a priority

    About Bruce Temkin
    I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

    11 Responses to Customer Experience Is Not Important Enough

    1. Ray Brown says:

      These are interesting statistics Bruce. You can look at it two ways, its a disaster area or what an opportunity. The latter being the choice if you are interested in developing customer related competencies. Surely what’s required is some agreement about actual best practice and an answer to the question “so what dio I do with this on Monday morning ?” If we were in the HR or accountancy fields we would have stopped arguing about the “how” a long time ago.

    2. Kancha says:

      Maybe its worth considering what are the competing priorities and why are they seen as more important.
      For me, this stat underlines the need to make the ‘improve customer experience = growth’ equation as simple as ‘sell more + cut costs = more profit’.
      Customer experience leaders/believers/advocates already know already this is simply common sense.
      Unfortunately, ‘le sens commun est fort rare’ (Voltaire)
      By putting greater focus on Bruce’s 4 competencies, what are the competencies or indeed the behaviours which have less focus in a customer experience leader organisation ?

    3. jim Shamlin says:

      I’m also curious about the “competing priorities” to customer experience – but I strongly expect that they come down to one thing: short-term performance.

      If your goal is to boost sales or cut costs, and you’re going to be punished for failing to make your numbers this quarter or this year, then customer experience takes a back seat – whether it’s pushing products, reducing quality, increasing price, establishing practices that are more efficient for the company, or any of a number of “tricks” that are commonly used to reduce time and cost to business without consideration of their impact on the customer.

      Companies that lead customer experience recognize the need to “sacrifice” short-term gains because, in the long run, customer service will win out. Satisfied customers are loyal customers, and if you go the extra mile and can turn them into delighted customers, they attract other customers.

      The problem is largely cultural: so long as top management is paying attention to the numbers, and whipping their subordinates to make short-term goals, customer experience will suffer for it … and in the long run, so will the company.

      On the other hand, customers will accept a lot of compromise for the sake of a cheap price – so a company can get away with a lot before customers begin to defect. So it’s not an easy “sell” within a numbers-oriented company whose gaze is fixed on the end of the fiscal quarter.

    4. Ann O'Daniel says:

      Bruce, Great, if depressing post. As someone who is trying to carve out a consulting niche in CEM implementation, I’ve come up against the same issues. Do you believe transforming an organization to become more customer centric can only be acheived with total C-level commitment? I’ve seen some companies make gradual change when a smart and brave SVP level executive carefully plans, secures funding for and successfully executes a pilot program with pre and post metrics that prove the bottom line benefits. It can be done but it needs the backing of at least one executive sponsor. That being said do you see any real movement towards more CEM “enlightenment”? How do these numbers compare to what you’ve seen in the past? Is there some backlash to CRM failures influencing a downward trend? As usual your posts are very appreciated and I look forward to more insights on this subject.

      As usual,

    5. Bruce–

      This is the biggest “A-Ha” in business today!

      My take is that CE Strategy is easy to say, and supposed progress backed up with isolated anecdotes. But no sustainable progress is made because no real action is ever undertaken. “Conflicting Priorities” might also mean that operations are being outsourced and off-shored, and R&D is focusing development resources on design and next generation features.

      In short, companies may say they want Service Leadership, but never give up on Cost Leadership and Feature Leadership activities. They are not commited to any strategy.

      Low cost or product feature leadership is a lot more quantifiable in the short-term. Executives hide behind the “CE Leadership Strategy” mantra because they can.

      Thank you Bruce for continuing to shine a light on those companies that get it, and those who are pretending!

    6. I love this dialogue, that in of itself is a reflection of how far we have come. From my perspective the obstacles are the symptoms of the barrier we come up against and focus on the symptoms will only make us strong enough to achieve modest improvements. I believe the barrier is the corporate environment and the health of the corporate environment set’s your potentiality for success. There are numerous elements that make up our corporate environment all of which can create pervasive problems for customer experience initiatives. I have developed a corporate diagnostic chart that explores the 7 elements of a corporate environment and am posting a 7 part series to dig deeper into each element. I would love to have some discussions around this approach. http://dawnamaclean.com/2010/06/29/what-is-your-companys-basic-potentiality/

      Thanks Bruce great discussion as always!

    7. orangeguru says:

      I am not a bit surprised about these numbers.

      CE / UX or good Design in general are to subtle or abstract for most corporate drones. It’s a lack of understanding as well as a lack for passion to deal with the dirty details.

      I have been in many meetings when that little “extra” to make sites more “customer friendly” lost when the “team” had to some effort to make it work. But the “team” is always eager to cover it’s ass … so it’s all about their job security, not about “serving the customer”.

      Most companies often don’t really know how to deal with their customers – either directly or via the web. The customer is often viewed as an annoying nuisance (because some of them really are).

      The software industry has deeply planted the idea of total automation in most people heads. From robotic mailings to CRMs and online shops everybody thinks web business is an automatic money machine. There is a huge lack of passion and compassion for the being on the other side of the screen …

    8. Stewart Nash says:

      Bruce,

      Great post. The statistics are really interesting. But, when I look at your top four it seems to me they are resource related (i.e. lack of resource related). In other words in an environment where more resources existed, I would think your respondents would be doing more vis-a-vis CEM. Since resources are tight, other priorities predominate.

      I’m wondering if it’s possible that the respondents in your survey universe are projecting high resource requirements for changing their CEM approaches / cultures? And, that in the context of resource intensive perceptions “other competing priorities” are considered more important?

      As a participant in the CEM “industry” I’ve seen that costs for acquiring and implementing solutions for monitoring and managing customer experience can be quite high (often 6 figures or more). Especially, when a consultant led vendor approach is applied. I’ve also seen timeframes for CEM impacts being measured in quarters or longer. I’d be interested to learn how your data might change if the perceived costs of implementing CEM were lower or were on a scale of some kind (500K, etc.).

    9. raybrown99 says:

      I’m reading Lior Arussy’s new book Customer Experience Strategy and I think he makes a number of good point that are relevant to this discussion. Businesses are very competent at calculating ROI from various commercial initiatives. They are not good however at calculating the RON (return on nothing) being “the negative financial outcome as a result of not investing in customer experience” In terms of customer experience many firms do adopt a RON strategy (as evidenced by your stats Bruce). Lior does a fairly good job at identifying the key numbers to be monitored e.g. new customers, lost customers, referral rates, customer profitability, loyalty measures etc. Two quotes which I think get close “Too many top executives don’t understand that customer experience is a financial strategy. They see it as an add-on , and don’t understand the damage of doing nothing” and “the costs associated with customer strategy investments are often unknown because they’re spread across different departments. As such, organisations frequently make decisions outside the requisite context of the complete customer experience journey”.

    10. Pingback: Customer Experience Leaders Make A Difference « Customer Experience Matters

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