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CX — the Foolproof Framework for Good Decision Making

Customer experience - Harley Davidson on unSplash

We’re all used to making business decisions that make sense.  We do it daily.  We weigh the pros and cons, profit and loss, and ability to execute.  Then, we convince the right people, and get the job done.

If we’re good enough at what we do, we’re probably right… or close enough to it.  But, are we right in our customers’ eyes?  

Do we understand what matters to them, at critical moments in their lives and their interactions with our business?

Have we just made a decision that’s going to accelerate sales, or make them taper off, because we did something that worked for us but made life hard for our customers?

We’ve been conditioned to provide good customer service.  Prompt responses, a courteous tone, helpful intentions and apologies when things go sideways are never wrong.

But, we don’t live our lives just looking for courtesy and politeness.  That’s the minimum expected standard.  While it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t necessarily create a positive and memorable experience, for us as a customer.

That should act as a warning.

We're all customers. We’re acutely aware of our reactions and judgements about businesses we interact with. In fact, we can probably spot a poor experience at 50 paces. In a competitive landscape, doing the bare minimum simply isn’t enough for the kind of growth you’re aiming for.

Customer service is not customer experience

As a relatively new practice area, it’s worth spending some time defining Customer Experience (CX).

Customer experience is the totality of every single touchpoint your customer has with your business.  

And, not just in the linear progression many marketing teams like to think of as the customer journey.  Marketing will often map out touchpoints as if they’re separate elements; visiting a website, interacting with salespeople, making a purchase, contacting the service team with assistance, for example.  

While it’s common for marketing to “own” the customer experience, the reality is that they can only influence a few interactions and many of those are pre-purchase.  Once you’re a customer, marketing is often limited to regular newsy communication, and upsell campaigns.

That’s not customer experience — that’s marketing.

Likewise, the customer service team may feel they own the customer experience.  Again though, they control just some of the touchpoints.  Often, these are reactive touchpoints, when customers come inbound asking for help.

As good as your customer service may be — and this is easily measured with how did we do CSAT-type surveys — frequent contact with your services team isn’t likely to indicate that the overall customer experience is good.  On the contrary, it may well mean that your product isn’t easy enough to use, or that something’s gone wrong that needs technical support.

Your customer’s glowing review of your support is a measure of their relief that you fixed their problem, but depending on the situation, the fact they had a problem they needed you for can provide a very poor overall experience.

Customer Experience (CX) looks at every touchpoint through the lens of the customer, and works to make the critical touchpoints absolutely and consistently delightful.

For example, CX will acknowledge the services team’s glowing reviews and work to understand what frustrations are causing customers to contact them in the first place.  Then, the CX team will work with whoever controls those factors — the product team, or engineering, for example, to improve them.

They’ll look at the consistency of the experience at every touchpoint, and work with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure customers feel like they’re getting the best experience regardless of which area, or individual within the company, they’re dealing with.

CX will pay a close attention to products and services — the things that customers are actually paying for — and seek to understand not just how customers are using them, but also how they feel about using them.

As any good salesperson can tell you, buying anything is an emotional experience, regardless of how much we use logic to justify the decision we’ve just made.

Exactly the same is true for using anything.  If it just works, it makes us happy because it solves a problem we had — that’s why we bought it in the first place.  If it doesn’t do the job we expected it to do, and do it well, we run through emotions from frustration to outright anger and despair.

If the product works well, but dealing with the legal team for contracts, or the finance team for invoicing is painful, then that’s a poor customer experience.

The impact of poor decisions

Every touchpoint you offer your customers is affected by decisions made within your business.  Often, deep, deep, deep within your business.  So deep that their impact on your customers isn’t even considered.  

The finance team might create a process that works for them, but frustrates the heck out of customers.  When challenged, they’ll say they need the process.

The engineering team might make a product decision on the basis of the capabilities they have, bending the brief to suit their skills and timeframe, rather than figuring out how to deliver what the customer needs.

The people ops team might introduce a new commissions policy that unsettles and upsets the sales team, creating a knock-on effect to the customers they’re dealing with.

The marketing team might be brimming with ideas for campaigns, the product team might be wrestling with pricing, and looking to other companies in their space to figure out the best approach to take. 

Decisions that are made by us as a business, or a team, with our own best interests in mind, can have a very negative impact on customers.  

Decisions where there are multiple available options take an extended length of time to settle, because we’re trying to make educated guesses about what customers will tolerate.   

Taking too long to decide sets us back, while getting it wrong affects trust with our customers.

A framework for good decisions

For every choice, prioritizing the best possible customer experience will see better decisions made.

To do this, you need to deeply understand what matters to your customers, at the time that choice, or that process, is going to impact them.

Frequently, this is straightforward, even though it’s not superficial.  For example, nobody wants any process to take any longer than it needs to.  So, if your plan is to throw in additional steps that will affect your customer, because those steps work for you, find another way.  

Use smart technology to avoid customers having to do, say or write the same thing more than once.  Keep your internal paperwork and processes away from them.

If you’re revising pricing for subscription or renewable services, consider how this impacts your customer’s budgets, and how far in advance they need to know changes are coming.

If you’re puzzling over messaging that will resonate better with prospective customers, make it your mission to understand what they’re going through, at the time they’ll see your messaging.   When you know what their situation looks like to them, the nouns and verbs you need to use become clear. 

Good CX is something that everyone can get behind

When everyone in your business understands that delivering a good customer experience is key to your success, it’s a powerful uniting factor.

Not only does it empower every individual, and every team to strive to make decisions that work well for customers, it breaks down the silos that businesses are constantly battling.  It becomes obvious that the customer experience can only be good if the whole business is on board, because just one breakaway department, delivering one jarring experience, can change the whole tone of your customer relationship.

Good CX pays off in every possible way

Something magical happens when a customer realizes the intentional thoughtfulness that a business has put into making their life better, by ensuring a wonderful experience.

Whether that’s a deliberately shortened waiting time for service, a product specifically designed to be easy and intuitive to use, or a delightful array of self-service options, the trust and subsequent loyalty your thoughtfulness and good decisions can create cannot be overstated.  Nor can it be bought.

Good CX goes hand-in-hand with strong and growing revenues, it unites entire businesses, and it creates strong customer advocates.

It’s the reliable framework for good decision making, from product development to customer service, to internal processes… and all it takes is a deliberately customer-focused mindset.