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3 Tips for Creating a Customer Experience Advantage
CX can be your best path to a sustainable competitive edge
For the rest of the February 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here

I recently met someone at an upscale coffee shop for a casual networking meeting, and he was curious to know more about the customer experience (CX) profession. As I described the work of CX professionals, I explained that when you design and deliver an exceptional experience, it is difficult, at times impossible, for others to duplicate it. The experience we were having was a perfect example. We could have met at my office, but we chose the coffee shop—and to spend more money—largely because we like the experience.

CORPORATE LEADERS KNOW CX IS CRUCIAL

In 2016, Walker Information did an ambitious study to understand what CEOs really think of customer experience initiatives. The study included insights from more than 500 CEOs, and they overwhelmingly indicated that customer experience is the most effective method for creating a competitive advantage, picking it by a nearly two-to-one margin over the next closest choice, as you can see in the chart.

The study revealed that companies with the highest growth rates are also most effective at leveraging the customer experience to create an advantage.

Corporate leaders recognize that lowering your price or even releasing new products isn’t enough. Delivering a better CX that encompasses all the ways customers interact with you can be the best way to stand out.

Unfortunately, getting there isn’t so easy.

The Walker study revealed just how difficult it can be. While almost all (97 percent) CX professionals agree their strategies have at least some impact, they also struggle to outdo competitors. Only 22 percent say their company is effectively leveraging customer experience, and they say the same about their competitors. But among CX professionals who consider their efforts’ impact to be “substantial,” two thirds say their company does a very good job of leveraging customer experience, and only 22 percent of them feel their competitors can match them.

Companies seeking a CX advantage, then, can’t be merely average or good in their strategy execution. To enjoy a sustainable competitive edge, they have to excel.

CREATING THE EXPERIENCE ADVANTAGE

This is a tough challenge for CX professionals; they must do more than gather insights from customers and deliver reports throughout the organization. Here are three actions CX pros should take to create a true advantage:

1. Get employees fired up about CX. Most large companies have many employees who rarely interact with customers. While their work is important and affects the experiences of customers, they have little concept of what customers are actually going through. CX professionals need to institute initiatives to help employees understand what it is like to be a customer. With this understanding, engaged employees will naturally change the way they do things to deliver a better customer experience.

2. Take the lead on experience innovation. Too often when we hear the word innovation, we think of new products or features. But we must also consider the most innovative ways to enhance the experience we deliver to customers. For instance, in some Hilton Hotels you can skip the front desk and use a mobile app that allows you to check in, select your room, and even use your phone to enter the room. CX professionals need to engage in this type of innovation, designing an ideal experience that will really stand out from those of their competitors.

3. Align customer initiatives to business outcomes. While CX professionals have many tasks to juggle, they must ensure that all of their work is centered on areas that will make a difference to customers. Focusing on the right business objectives and armed with a strategy to meet them, CX professionals must be able to show how their work impacts the business.

Developing a sustainable competitive advantage by delivering an exceptional customer experience certainly has its challenges. But it could ultimately be the best way to ensure your company succeeds.


Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a customer experience consulting firm. You can read his blog at http://blog.walkerinfo.com/blog/engaging-the-enterprise. He can be reached at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.

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