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Secrets to Customer Experience Success, Part I: Process v. Project Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on March 31st, 2016

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Secrets to Customer Experience Success, Part I: Process v. Project

Customer Experience

This is the first of a four-part series exploring in more detail the ideas presented in Four Surprising Pitfalls in the Way of Great Customer Experience. In that article, we identified four common pitfalls organizations encounter during the complex process of achieving customer experience (CX) maturation:

  • Pitfall #1: Seeing CX management (CXM) as a project rather than a process
  • Pitfall #2: Not having a viable, defensible way of prioritizing CX tactics
  • Pitfall #3: Failing to spread the investment into CXM across the entire organization
  • Pitfall #4: Thinking of cloud and SaaS solutions as a “magic bullet”

Let’s look a bit more closely at the first pitfall, project versus process.

Enterprises tend to address problems with projects. They see an issue, such as excessive customer attrition, so they appoint or hire someone (an individual or group) to study and define the problem, research and present possible solutions, and implement the selected solution. Done. It’s a tried-and-true method for getting stuff done.

Unfortunately, some problems – like customer experience – are hugely complex and continually evolving business needs that affect literally everyone in the organization. These can’t be solved with a finite project-like approach; a new hire or two and a tech purchase won’t tie it up in a tidy little bow. Instead, managing CX (or CXM) has to be embraced as an iterative, ongoing investment of people, processes and technologies throughout the organization. It will take several years to reach equilibrium and require ongoing monitoring and adjustment forever after if the company is to remain competitive.

customer experience improvement is a long process

Digital customer experience improvement is a marathon, not a sprint.

Define Digital Experience Strategy Before Technology

In “Your Digital Experience Technology Strategy Starts with a Customer Journey Map,” Forrester analyst Ted Schadler lays out guidelines for getting started. First and foremost, he emphasizes the need for having a DX strategy in place before you make your technology acquisition plan. Then he lists four factors that will provide focus for your digital experience (DX) technology strategy:

  1. It’s a digital experience program, not a web or mobile technology project.
  2. Customer journey maps bring relevancy to your investments.
  3. Four technology inevitabilities shape your vendor choices (cloud-hosted, mobile-first, insights-driven, and loosely coupled).
  4. Digital experience platforms direct your technology investments.

The first factor reiterates our point that you have to see CXM as an ongoing process rather than a project. The second factor emphasizes the need to always, always, always understand the customer’s point of view and make CXM technology decisions based directly on your customers’ needs and expectations – not your own. If an investment can’t be justified in terms of bringing direct value to customers through their interactions with you, it’s a waste of money.

The third and fourth factors are about how to choose flexible, scalable, integratable software solutions that will lay a foundation for the future. You probably don’t know all the pieces you’ll eventually need in place in order to build out a fully balanced DX platform that serves CX in all three areas of marketing, commerce and service. So you need to choose your tech for integration capabilities first and foremost so that it’ll work well with other solutions you’ll be adding to your architecture over time. That’s critical to success, and surprisingly few vendors are addressing that obvious need, placing the burden on their customers to use brute force integration strategies with varying outcomes.

Just Because You Have a Strategy Doesn’t Mean You Have a Plan

Schadler’s recommendation is to prioritize and fund technology solutions that provide direct value to customers – and then to you. That’s the beginning of your plan. Other factors include getting CEO and CFO buy-in on the budget and organization-wide allocation of resources, getting broad business and tech executive involvement, and training employees to use the tools you invest in. Schadler further recommends using quantifiable milestones as investment hurdles to build in accountability and encourage responsive and agile execution over time – if an investment isn’t generating the expected returns, it’s not a good investment. Move on.

Agile and Responsive CXM

Just like with software development, building a CX architecture is best when it’s done in agile, responsive phases rather than as one monolithic undertaking. It all starts with setting a baseline understanding of how customers are interacting with you. You need to know the frequency of interactions, why customers are coming to you, how they’re choosing to interact with you, and what they expect to result from their contact with you. You need to solve their problems to solve yours.

And since it’s a process, not a project, you’ll need to revisit those customer journeys often and re-evaluate. Customers’ devices, preferred channels, problems and expectations will continue to change rapidly, as they have for the past several years. Today it’s mobile, cloud and SaaS. What will it be next year? Will you be ready to support it? Will your CX architecture be flexible enough to handle it? Choose thoughtfully now, and your chances of staying ahead of your competitors in the future will improve.

Looking forward to Secrets to CX Success, parts 2-4? Subscribe to our blog to get notifications when new posts come out.

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About John Zimmerer

John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.

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