Customer Experience North StarIn a time when customer attitudes and behaviors are shifting and evolving rapidly, companies are finding customer intelligence uses — across all functions enterprise-wide — to be vital to survival. Along with widespread thirst for customer insights is the heightened realization that mis-alignment to customers is wasteful and precarious. The best way to be nimble and lean — to grow — is to tightly align with customers. This requires a vivid vision characterizing intentional customer experience: how you want your customers to feel across their end-to-end journey with your brand.

Will the dynamics behind this recent trend lessen going forward in the 2020s? Not likely. This decade ushered in changes that are here to stay, along with even more rapid change. The human-to-human (H2H) emphasis of brands in the early days of stay-at-home was overdue: “Prior to the pandemic, PwC’s customer intelligence series found that 59% of people believe that companies have lost touch with the human element by focusing too much on technology.”1 Empathy-infused H2H has been a weakness historically, and it will take concerted efforts for it to remain prominent.

How is H2H embedded in your firm’s practices? (your comments are welcome below)

Forces on customers are dictating digital experience and employee experience, along with investor experience, supplier experience, and community experience. Business’ recent shift to replacing shareholder capitalism with stakeholder capitalism — orientation of corporations to serve the interests of all their stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, local communities) — is being put to the test:

  • In the short period since January 2020, trust has risen to record high levels in business, government, media, and NGOs, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer — but there is “falling trust in CEOs, who rank last among leaders in how well they have performed during Covid-19. Only 44% believe that companies are protecting their employees sufficiently from Covid-19. Under half (45%) think that business is doing a good job developing solutions to the pandemic and only 50% believe it is putting people before profits. Business is being questioned about both its ability and its integrity, the key building blocks of trust.”2
  • “The changes we’ve recently witnessed in customer behavior have left some companies feeling as though they’ve been dropped in the middle of the woods without a compass,” observed the authors of a recent HBR article. “The classic ‘Who is our customer?’ question has suddenly become harder than ever to answer. . . . . Even businesses that had amassed great volumes of customer data before Covid-19 are finding themselves in the same cold-start position as businesses venturing into unknown markets or reaching out to new audiences.3
  • “Some companies are going to struggle to really start adapting and incorporating the voice of the customer into their strategic objectives and internal KPIs and core goals,” commented Samantha Ziesel, former Group Director of VoC at Meggitt. “There will be some juggling and resistance as decisions are made on what needs to change and why. Risks will have to be weighed, pro’s and con’s debated. Not all organizations will find the need to adapt an easy change. Old habits die hard!”4

Dynamics we all experienced in March-May 2020 will persist through 2021, strengthening or crippling organizations to the degree that they continue to align or mis-align with customers, not only at customer touch-points, but also enterprise-wide.

How is your firm aligning with customers, even beyond touch-points?

Customer Experience North Star

Staying on top of these wild rapids requires a North Star. “In business, the North Star represents a company’s unwavering definition of its purpose,” explained Greg Shepard, Chief Strategy Officer of Pepperjam. “Nearly all pitfalls, which include loss of focus, lack of passion, and disharmony among team and investors, can be avoided if a company has the proper sense of focus: if it establishes and aligns its strategies with its ‘North Star.’5

In practice to-date, a compelling vision is referred to as an organization’s North Star. The vision is typically product-centered or ego-centered, and less often truly customer-centered. Your organization’s North Star is not to be confused with the term “North Star Metric”, which is a single metric that focuses on your products core value.6

With today’s dynamics, Intentional Customer Experience is your crucial, customer-centered North Star.

How is your firm’s North Star a compelling customer-centered vision?

Intentional Customer Experience

“Intentional Customer Experience takes typical notions of CX up a notch“, explained Krista Sheridan from TELUS in my talk show. Instead of treating customer experience as interactions with customer touch-points, treat CX as a lens for decisions by all functional areas, to prevent hassles for customers and to generate greater value for customers.

She continued: “Intentional Customer Experience means you know what you do, and more importantly, why you do it, and you bake the what and why into all aspects of your business — policies, processes, how you hire and review and reward, how you build products and send invoices, and so forth — very deliberately.”7

Has your CEO characterized a vivid Intentional Customer Experience, particularly for your core-growth customer segment?

Investor and customer interests are balanced by Intentional Customer Experience. Sheridan explains: “What customers experience is built many steps upward from customer touch-points, from the way you designed and built and launched the product/service. So you have a lot of solving to do on the other end when your product doesn’t deliver. When your customers are getting what was promised, you’re much more productive — it’s like ‘measure twice to cut only once’. By preventing the need for remedial efforts you gain more time to be creative. From a shareholder perspective, right the first time provides a financial reward.”7

“At TELUS, our customer experience efforts were going well, but we wanted to perform better than industry norms. A higher level of customer experience excellence is ‘a team sport’, and to achieve that, everyone needs to know how to put customers first through deliberate behaviors by each individual.”7

“We asked team members, end to end, top to bottom across our company: What are things we can all do everyday to bring our Customers First promise to life? Through forums and workshops across the country, we asked what each function can do to put the customer first.”7

“With those thousands of ideas we summarized the key things relatable to everybody. This established our 4 Customer Commitments. We wanted to get really specific to help each role know what behaviors and activities they should adopt day-to-day, so we repeated the forums and workshops across the country. Using the collective genius of the organization, we turned this into training and a practical, simple toolkit.”7

“Intentional Customer Experience is so much more than a number. It’s hard for people further away from the customer to get excited about a customer score. Our CEO sends out stories about what people are doing toward Intentional Customer Experience. For most things requiring approvals, employees must specify in writing its contribution to customer experience and employee experience.”7

“In the first 15 months we saw double-digit increases in employee engagement and customer experience results. I’m proud we’ve been able to maintain that Intentional Customer Experience over many years since we started on this path.”7

Here’s some evidence that Intentional Customer Experience as North Star yields stellar results:

Setup for Intentional Customer Experience

Here’s what you can do now to outperform your industry in 2021:

  1. Nurture company-wide thirst for customer insights.
    • Customer Experience ContextRemind everyone that their payroll is provided by satisfied customers.
    • Mine customer comments from your contact center and other sources.
    • Provide a steady cadence of relevant, actionable customer insights to every group throughout your firm.
    • Make suggestions, tailored for each functional area, for specific ways they might use these insights in their daily decisions and hand-offs.
    • Re-allocate your CX management resources in budget, people and time to support the above.
  2. Establish Intentional CX as North Star.
    • Among your core-growth customers, what do customer insights reveal about the necessary Intentional Customer Experience? Characterize this vividly as your banner and top objective.
    • Ask an independent facilitator to help your C-Team assess: Is our company vision, cap-ex, op-ex, policies, structure, etc. truly customer-centered?
    • Use inverted SWOT analysis in your strategic planning: What opportunities and threats do customers see, and what does that imply about our strengths and weaknesses?
    • Add to department charters and job descriptions: Why is the customer paying for this, and how does this apply to Customers First?
    • Deploy cascaded objectives in your strategic planning to align horizontally and vertically with the fine-tuning above.
    • Add Intentional Customer Experience criteria for succession, bonus, recognition, budget, etc.
    • In meetings, encourage managers to ask: What’s our intention? How does this match our Intentional Customer Experience?

We’re in flux for an extended period in the future. If you’ve already established your 2021 strategies, weave-in the list above as you conduct rolling updates to your strategies and processes.

The window of opportunity is wide open now for inserting these practices into what’s already being overhauled for work-from-home and related needs. Yes, people are overwhelmed and everyone wants things to be simple and “normal”. Even so, you’ll find that Intentional Customer Experience as North Star is an anchor of trust, goodwill, and energy both internally and externally.

Set your compass to true north. Mis-alignment to customers is wasteful and precarious. The best way to be nimble and lean — to grow — is to tightly align with customers. In 2021, it’s mission-critical.

Will 2021 be your Year of Intentional CX as North Star?

1Responding to Customer Behaviour, PWC.
2Moment of Reckoning, Edelman.
3Retailers Face a Data Deficit in the Wake of the Pandemic, HBR.
4Adapting to the Necessary Growth Mindset of 2020s, LinkedIn.
5Never Too Early to Establish North Star, Chief Executive.
6An Introduction to North Star Metrics, Mobile Jetpack.
7Intentional Customer Experience, ClearAction.

Image licensed to ClearAction Continuum by Shutterstock. Originally published on by Lynn Hunsaker.

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