Emotion and Management Are Key to CX Success

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There is a customer experience (CX) leadership gap that hasn’t closed in a number of years, Forrester Research reported in its 2017 U.S. Customer Experience Index, because companies haven’t been making the vital emotional connections their customers want. 

The report ranked 314 companies across 21 industries and found that most are stagnating when it comes to CX: Scores for the top 5 percent of companies in the entire index—identified as elite brands—stayed flat.

Companies simply haven’t been spending enough time thinking about consumer emotions and how they tie into the overall customer experience, says Rick Parrish, Forrester’s principal analyst serving customer experience professionals and author of the report.

In the report, Parrish identified emotion as essential to CX success, with elite brands delivering an average of 17 emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience, and the lowest-performing 5 percent of companies providing just two emotionally positive experiences for each negative one.

“We identified three dimensions of every customer experience: emotion, ease, and effectiveness; and emotion is the most important,” Parrish explains. “You can have the easiest, most effective customer experience in the world, but unless it has the right emotional quotient, people won’t think it’s great. Companies don’t get that, and even the companies that do don’t focus on it. You have to focus on emotion or you won’t have a good customer experience.”

An emotionally positive customer experience is one where the customer feels good about the experience, but “it’s not just as simple as like or not like, happy or sad,” Parrish cautions. “There’s much more nuance to it than that. Positive emotions differ depending on the industry, the touch point, [and] the customer’s goal. When you walk out of Disney World, you’ll have a very different emotional reaction than you do when you walk through a really good TSA checkpoint—both positive emotions, but very different ones.” 

To succeed at CX, companies should also focus on what Forrester calls CX management, according to Parrish. That involves the following six competencies:

Research—developing an in-depth understanding of customers and communicating it to employees and partners. This can be done using both quantitative methods (surveys and web analytics) and qualitative methods (interviews and ethnography). And when completed, companies should summarize findings and share them across the company.

Prioritization—focusing on what’s most important for customer experiences and business success. This involves identifying and ranking the most important customer groups, journeys, and interactions and then allocating company resources based on what matters most to customers and the company.

Design—defining and refining experiences based on an overall vision and a research-based understanding of customers. This requires both quantitative and qualitative research and should involve generating ideas, prototyping, and testing many times before deciding on a final design.

Enablement—ensuring that employees and partners have the resources they need to deliver the right experiences. Companies should provide all employees with the training, information, and tools needed for their roles and then confirm via direct observation that the company and its partners provide or support the intended experience across all touch points.

Measurement—quantifying experience quality and connecting it to broad organizational metrics. This step requires companies to track and analyze customer interactions, how they perceive those interactions, and what they do as a result, and then sharing those insights with employees and partners.

Culture—fostering shared values and behaviors that promote the delivery of great experiences. This means educating employees about customers, the CX vision, and their roles in that vision, while also reinforcing customer-centric behaviors with routines, celebrations, and rewards aligned to CX metrics.

“Most of the time, when companies provide good customer experiences, they do it very inefficiently or they do it accidentally,” Parrish says. “But if you want to provide great customer experiences reliably and improve in a systematic and efficient way, you have to get good at customer experience management.”  

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