We have put together a list of five best practice solutions to help companies avoid the most dangerous pitfall of all: investing in improvements that customers don’t care about.

Involve Senior Leaders

Keeping senior leaders involved is critical to staying on the right track. The more your executives and leaders can hear the voice of the customer in their head, the easier it is for you and for them to build the case for customer-centricity. While reading quotes from customers is fine, it is eclipsed by the power and vibrancy of truly hearing customers firsthand and engaging with them. Once an executive hears a customer speak in their own words about their needs and issues, they aren’t likely to forget it.

Here are some ways to get senior leaders engaged:

  • Make it easy for your company’s senior leaders to spend time withactual customers
  • Assign executives to follow up with unhappy customers. This is “closed loop management,” which means your company will take action within 24 hours when a customer gives low ratings or shares negative comments on a survey. This is a great listening exercise.
  • Provide each executive with personally-branded CX recognition cards. Executives who have heard customer issues are often motivated to reach out and send short, hand-written notes to show they are actually listening and care about customers.
  • Recruit a benchmark company CEO to mentor your CEO. Think about a benchmark company, keeping in mind it doesn’t have to be in your industry, but should be a company whose business purpose aligns with yours. Are you trying to grow market share? Make a point about lifetime value of a customer? For example, if you are focused on reliability, you could benchmark against FedEx.
  • Finally, present your CX business case only after executives have seen or heard a relevant example from a best practice company

Understand the Customer Journey

Make sure you take the time to map out your customer journey. Develop a draft map, gather input, and refine and validate your map and key moments of truth.

Benchmark Industry Leaders and Disruptors

Depending on what parts of the experience you need to improve – find the best organization in the world that delivers on those attributes. It doesn’t have to be an obvious choice, but it could be just what you need to inform a CX investment that might make all the difference. For example, if you want to improve on-time arrival and professionalism, you could study 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

Build Customer Engagement Platforms

Nike+ is a good example that you may be familiar with. The platform is a partnership with Apple that links three technologies – a smart sensor in the shoe that beams to a wireless receiver on an iPod, the accelerometer of the iPhone or Nike’s own Fuelband, which are supported by a dedicated website. Customers jointly create running-related experiences of value through this platform. This might involve other runners in its online community, the runner’s trainer, coach or social network. The value stems from interactions around the data generated from the runner’s actual run, including social interactions over and beyond the run itself.

By the end of 2015 Nike had captured 60% of the $3.6 billion U.S. running shoe market and this doesn’t include sales of all the other products that go along with this success such as iPod Sport Kits and Sport Bands. It is also worth mentioning that by 2009 150 million miles had been logged by runners and 14 billion calories had been burned.

As one Nike executive said: “In the past the product was the end point of the consumer experience as the company viewed it, but now it’s the starting point.”

Think of your company’s own products. If you treated them as the beginning of the story, what other chapters could you write?

Start Co-creating with Customers

Think how about you can get in the pool and start co-creating solutions with your customers. The model below is just one way to think about it. Think about co-creation in terms of self vs. others (top vs bottom) and look at the level from full creation to more participation on the right.

A graph of four types of customer co-creation

There are four types of co-creation, and innovative companies generating connection to customers in four different domains. Look at the graphic, consider the companies and their efforts, and see what you can develop for your company.

Each type rests on a different type of customer motivation.

  1. Participation for self(bottom right corner) – Southwest is an example of an experience shaped with the customers via their boarding process.
  2. Creation for self(bottom left corner) – The Nike ID is a good example of this. Via Nike ID you can create your own custom shoe – colors, materials. It’s an immersive experience. Shoes I designed for a friend on the Nike ID site are still her favorite running shoes.
  3. Participation for others– There is a great not–for-profit called Girls Who Code. They work hard to build communities where those who understand technology can come in and help girls learn technology skills. This is a model of participating to help others.
  4. Creation with others– Harley Davidson uses their legendary HOG (Harley Davidson Owner Group) to co-create an amazing experience for their customers. Another example is Domino’s pizza co-creating a new pizza delivery vehicle. Check out their story here: http://www.dominosdxp.com/

We hope this has been helpful. Share your ideas and additions to our list in the comment section below.