How to Sell Customer Experience to a Tough Crowd: Your Colleagues

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When it comes to the products we purchase, we all want proof that they'll deliver what they say they will, whether it's whiter teeth, cleaner clothes, or better-tasting food. To help persuade us, marketers use documented research, awards, testimonials from reputable sources, and so on.

The same holds for selling customer experience (CX) initiatives internally. Colleagues will want assurances the effort toward gathering customer intelligence and launching improvement initiatives is worth it; in fact, they'll probably also want to know what's in it for them, and whether the campaign will add to their already overwhelming workloads.

Front-line employees will likely say they already know their customers. Marketers will claim they already have a handle on the market. And executives will want to hear the projected return on investment.

In other words, when customer experience professionals launch their CX strategies, they don't always get exceptionally warm support. They must constantly prove the worth of their efforts. In fact, they must sell it to their colleagues.

The question is, how? Here are four common approaches to selling an investment in CX, along with the objections to anticipate for each:

It's the right thing to do. CX professionals can state the obvious—every company should listen to their customers for altruistic reasons. In fact, one could even say companies have an obligation to listen and make changes based on their input.

But that may not go far in today’s business environment. The reality is there are lots of things we should do, but we simply can't do everything. Customer experience initiatives for the sake of good feelings will probably fall flat with most colleagues.

It's been shown to improve the bottom line. Another approach is to point to research that shows that companies with strong customer experience initiatives perform better in their respective markets. My own company tracks an index of our publicly traded clients that invest in CX initiatives. We compare their performance with the major stock indices and find that these customer-focused companies outperform the market by more than six to one! Hard to argue with, right?

And yet, people tend to look at industry research and question if it actually applies to their company. While this is better than the right-thing-to-do approach, a natural skepticism can emerge when we toss around such numbers.

We can increase customer scores. The third approach is to cite the ability to increase customer metrics such as satisfaction, loyalty, or Net Promoter Scores. After all, plenty of examples show the benefits of loyal customers—they resist competitive offerings, increase their spending, and are more willing to recommend a company's products or services.

This is clearly a step in the right direction, but some will counter that the scores are too vague and question whether increasing scores really correlates to better business performance. Also, after a while, focusing on such a metric runs its course and begins to feel stale.

We can optimize the most important customer experiences. Likely the best approach is to focus on optimizing a specific customer experience that truly matters and measure the impact of the improvement. Because this is tangible and measureable, CX professionals will have a much better chance of garnering support.

A market-leading distributor provides an excellent example of a company optimizing a critical customer experience. Upon launching a refreshed CX initiative, the customer experience team spearheaded an extensive journey mapping exercise to document customer touch points and identify key moments of truth. The team could have focused on dozens of things to tweak, but instead its efforts were laser-focused on one—optimizing the first ordering experience by new customers. Team members studied this experience carefully and knew that adjusting it would make a big difference. Sure enough, by focusing on this one experience, the company more than doubled the retention rate of new customers, and new customer orders increased by 25 percent.

This example shows how optimizing a single important experience can pay big dividends. And in today's what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business environment, that makes selling CX initiatives internally a whole lot easier.

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading 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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