Customer experience (CX) is an ongoing quest that isn’t likely to be ‘solved’ anytime soon. Customer experience expert Kerry Bodine says even companies already implementing CX initiatives are aware there’s some way to go.
“A fair number of companies that deliver a mediocre to poor customer experience actually think they have their act together. But if you talk to companies well known for delivering a great customer experience, they’ll be the first to tell you they have so much room for improvement. It’s an ongoing quest,” says Bodine, author of Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.
Speaking to Ashton Media ahead of her keynote presentation at the Customer 360 Symposium, Bodine was keen to highlight the strides made in the space but stressed there is still much work to be done.
“Even though companies have made improvements over the last few years, changing a corporate culture at a 100,000-person organisation – or even a 5,000-person organisation – is a long change management effort.
“Any company that wants to improve its customer experience should be thinking of this as a multiple decade initiative.”
Getting started with CX
There is a natural starting point for companies coming to realise the importance of their customers: journey mapping. The process of sitting down to figure out where your customers are coming from and where they then go during interactions with your brand is an invaluable source of rich customer insights.
Bodine says: “Journey mapping allows you to understand what customers really do, think, want, and need across their end-to-end experience. That research needs to be the starting point. You can run a 100 different customer experience improvement initiatives — but until you understand what your customers really want, how do you know you’re running the right ones? How do you know you’re investing your money in the right places?”
Whether or not companies have taken on the task of journey mapping, the CX movement tends to start small within most organisations. “It’s often through grassroots efforts, little pockets of people here and there before they become organised under a centralised customer experience team or a chief customer officer,” says Bodine.
The CX/Culture relationship
Regardless of how begins within your organisation, people are at the centre of it, from the consumer to the employees servicing them. It’s little surprise, then, that organisational culture is, as Bodine puts it, “key to delivering a great experience”.
From journey mapping, the next step is assessing the culture of an organisation. Bodine advises companies to take stock of internal culture and examine what’s helping to deliver a good customer experience, and what’s thwarting those efforts.
Bodine says: “Culture can be driven by a lot of things such as compensation, communication, training, and the actions of top executives. Looking at your company’s culture, what are some of the root causes of why certain problems seem to be bubbling up again and again and again for your customers?”
And marketing isn’t the only department within your company that can help with CX efforts. “I highly suggest working with your human resources department. Often marketing-based customer experience teams are disconnected from that part of the organisation. But when you are dealing with people, you want to enlist help from human resources. They focus on employees day in, day out,” says Bodine.
What’s next for CX?
Now you’re on the path to delivering a better customer experience, but as we have established, you’ve got to play the long game. Bodine says: “Even though these initiatives have a start, there’s no end in sight.”
Beyond the bare bones of CX, there’s a whole host of opportunities to consider. For one, Bodine sees great opportunity and challenges within the sharing economy. She gives the examples of Airbnb and Uber, two companies that have little control over the ultimate product being delivered to customers. Bodine says: “There is a lot of potential variation in one Uber driver picking you up versus another, or one Airbnb room and another Airbnb room.” Indeed, the media has quite a taste for tales of Airbnb bookings gone horribly wrong such as the tourist in Madrid who was locked in a fourth-floor apartment and assaulted by his host or a couple in San Francisco whose home was used for a raucous 18th birthday party.
Bodine is interested in how companies tapping into the sharing economy such as Airbnb tackle CX. “It’s hard enough to create a consistent customer experience when you employ everyone and you control all the processes, you control all the spaces. But how do you ensure a great customer experience when so much is out of your control? In 2016, 2017 and beyond, it’s going to be a growing issue that more and more companies are going to have to think about.”
Bodine also suggests companies not yet playing in the space start looking at how they could be. She says: “Most companies should be thinking about the sharing economy. Whether it’s lending in financial services, or in hospitality, transportation, or just about any other industry, the sharing economy is going to be taking over huge swaths of sectors that probably think they’re immune.”
Looking to another broad trend, Bodine says automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are on a crash course headed straight for CX. She says: “How will we deal with customer experiences that are increasingly automated? This is nothing new; we’ve been automating things such as getting a quote for our insurance online, banking through mobile apps, and many other daily functions for several decades now. But as more and more touch points are automated, what does that mean for brands that want to maintain a human touch with their customers?”
Like many in the industry, Bodine doesn’t see AI and automation taking over for humans entirely. She says: “I personally don’t believe that customers want fully automated everything. Even for a technology company like Apple, the Apple store is such a warm, welcoming environment because of the people that are in it.”
Still the rise and rise of machine learning and programmatic introduces a new breed of issues for CX. Bodine says: “How do we maintain brand consistency? How do we maintain true customer relationships in a world where everything is increasingly automated? That’s a big challenge.”
Catch Kerry Bodine’s keynote presentation at the upcoming Customer 360 Symposium.
Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media
Mark is Content Director at Ashton Media. It's his job to create interesting and engaging conference programs that stretch the thinking of our attendees. Mark works closely with our industry advisors to ensure the conference content is aligned with the needs and interests of our audiences.